The Sins of Affluence (and Effluents)


Bloomberg reports that the Vatican has drawn up a list of "seven social sins" to complement the more traditional (and more fun) seven deadly sins. Farting, singing along with your iPod, and going on and on about your adorable children did not make the cut.

The seven social sins are:

1. "Bioethical" violations such as birth control

2. "Morally dubious" experiments such as stem cell research

3. Drug abuse

4. Polluting the environment

5. Contributing to widening divide between rich and poor

6. Excessive wealth

7. Creating poverty

Clearly, there are some definitional problems here. When, for example, does drug use become drug abuse? Does it have to cause demonstrable problems, or does the Vatican agree with drug warriors the world over that any use of an illegal intoxicant automatically qualifies as abuse? And how do you know when your wealth is "excessive"? Does the dollar figure vary from country to country, and does it depend on how expensive your tastes are?

Several of these sins seem to overlap. Couldn't "bioethical violations" and "morally dubious experiments" be collapsed into one category? Then again, the Vatican shows admirable sensitivity to the hectic schedules of successful businessmen: If a wealthy entrepreneur fires an unproductive employee, he not only increases the efficiency of his business; he maximizes his sins as well, potentially committing 5, 6, and 7 simultaneously. And if his business is birth control devices or fetal stem cells, which he produces while generating pollution and snorting cocaine to compensate for his lack of sleep, he can be damned to Hell by lunchtime.