“This is not a new Vatican edict..”

The blood-crazed ferret Telegraph blogger, and editor-in-chief of The Catholic Herald, Damian Thompson, provides a useful corrective to the recent wide-spread coverage of the story that “the Vatican has brought up to date the traditional seven deadly sins by adding seven modern mortal sins”. Local media outlets, and not so local, including otherwise excellent bloggers [Adds who adds his own corrective] – and here – also carried the story. Damian Thompson’s Holy Smoke blog notes the Catholic Communications Network statement

The statement adds: “This is not a new Vatican edict. The story originated from an interview that Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti gave to the L’Osservatore Romano in which he was questioned about new forms of social sins in this age of globalisation. Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti is not the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary; he is the regent (official). The Major Penitentiary is Cardinal James Francis Stafford.”

There is still a story there, but it’s not necessarily the reported one.It’s worth noting that whilst the current RTÉ online article reports it straight, that’s not what happened in the archived radio report on the day.

The item which stands out in the supposed list of new ‘mortal sins’, in particular, is “Genetic manipulation”

Michael White, indirectly, points out why that’s significant

But MPs are gearing up for another battle in the shape of a bill that mingles a host of distinct and complex issues, practical, ethical and religious. That formidable alliance, the Catholic church and the Daily Mail, is on the warpath, seeking to use the human fertilisation and embryology bill to curb abortion rights, from 24 to 20 weeks.

The less grabby issues in headline terms range from parental rights arising from same-sex marriage (social), to rules on donor consent on the use of embryo material (legal) and pressure (scientific) to create “inter-species” embryos such as human DNA injected into empty cows’ eggs to create a hybrid, albeit one which is 99.9% human in genetic terms.

Scientists have demanded this right since 2006, and the regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, gave the go-ahead in January, to the annoyance of politicians who believe voters want parliament to decide such matters. It is in the bill.

And as Michael White also points out

The bill, which updates the 1990 act in the light of evolving science and public attitudes, has already had a little-reported passage through the Lords, where science and faith slugged it out more gently than ministers led by Lord Darzi had feared.

Complaints were heard and Lord Darzi sent out a conciliatory letter, but few changes were made. When the Lib Dem Catholic peer David Alton moved to curb hybrid embryo research, he was defeated by 268 to 96. Only the Tories narrowly backed him, by 52 to 42. The Lib Dems were 42 to nine against, Labour 136 to eight against, and crossbenchers 45 to 24 against. Even the bishops backed science two to one.

Time for a ‘mortal [sin]’ intervention, then?

It ties in with a comment I made in Mick’s seemingly unrelated post here

It’s all part of [Benedict’s] wider campaign..

Which could be characterised as an attempt to re-assert the imperial influence of Constantine’s over-rated medieval entity.

Adds Sound advice from Crooked Timber’s Jon Mandle

As far as I can tell, in an interview Bishop Gianfranco Girotti commented: “If yesterday sin had a rather individualistic dimension, today it has a weight, a resonance, that’s especially social, rather than individual.” And he gave some examples (although I admit to being a little unclear about how they are social in a new way). But it doesn’t seem that he gave seven examples. And, frankly, I can’t even tell if he intended his examples to be of mortal sins. My advice: avoid anything that is “morally dubious” until the situation is clarified.