Updated list of mortal sins

Originally posted on 20 March 2008, updated in April 2010

NEW COMMENT (April 2010): With the Catholic church, and the Pope personally currently mired in a controversy about child sex abuse, it is interesting to be considering what the church does or does not consider to be truly grave sins. Here is something from two years ago…

This past week, the Pope has released an updated list of mortal sins. Well, actually it was announced by Gianfranco Girotti, the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary (basically, the Vatican’s department of sin, confessions and absolution). While I am not a huge fan of the continued use of guilt that underlies the application of Roman Catholic Christianity (as it does in Jewish thought, too), I am thrilled with the mindset behind this list.

The new additions to the “seven deadly sins” are:

  • drug dealing
  • causing social injustice
  • causing poverty
  • polluting
  • becoming obscenely wealthy

The list was published in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, and was accompanied by the Pope’s concerns for a “decreasing sense of sin” in today’s “securalised world” and the falling numbers of Roman Catholics going to confession.

In addition to the new sins listed, the Vatican took the opportunity to reiterate its concern about abortion and paedophilia.


The original concept of mortal sins is over 1,500 years old. Mortal sins are “grave violations of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes”, including murder, contraception, abortion, perjury, adultery and lust. There is no definitive list of mortal sins. Commonly, though, people refer to the seven deadly sins or capital vices laid down in the 6th century by Pope Gregory the Great and popularised in the Middle Ages by Dante in The Inferno: lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, anger, envy and pride.

In releasing the new list, Cardinal Girotti told reporters that priests must take account of “new sins which have appeared on the horizon of humanity as a corollary of the unstoppable process of globalisation”. Whereas sin in the past was thought of as being an individual matter, it now had “social resonance”.

“You offend God not only by stealing, blaspheming or coveting your neighbour’s wife, but also by ruining the environment, carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments, or allowing genetic manipulations which alter DNA or compromise embryos,” he said.

An interesting new list indeed. I do not agree with it completely, but I like that at least some parts of the church is entering into this arena of public debate and awareness. If only evangelicals would also acknowledge social sins!

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