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NON-News Flash: Pollution is a Sin!

By Karina | March 17, 2008

This isn’t a news flash, or anything – it happened last week but I was just so busy I didn’t get a chance to write about it. One of my coworkers came into my office at the end of the day and said “did you hear? the Pope declared pollution a sin!” You can read some of the more timely reports here or here.

I’m not Catholic, but there have been a lot of murmurings in organized Christianity lately (and some that have started quite some time ago) about taking a clearer role on environmental stewardship. We touched briefly in the comments over here about the varied types of people who espouse environmentalism – and I am pretty excited that even more varied groups are coming to the table. Plus, this is a direct (and positive!) contrast to some of the discussion and hypothesis a few years ago about why so many US conservatives were so anti-environment.

I will admit to a secret anticipation of some kind of change. I tried to figure out how many Fortune 500 companies have Catholic CEOs, but I didn’t have any luck. On the other hand, very very very few companies would ever admit that yes, they ARE polluting the environment. There is (believe it or not) some disagreement on whether or not CO2 is an environmental pollutant, you know? So while I secretly hope that some good and some change come from this, more logically, I guess I don’t expect very much.

From NPR:

The New Mortal Sins

1.) genetic modification

2.) carrying out experiments on humans

3.) polluting the environment

4.) causing social injustice

5.) causing poverty

6.) becoming obscenely wealthy

7.) taking drugs

I will keep this discussion to environmental issues (though I really love No. 5 too!) – No. 3 is pretty straight-forward yet open to interpretation, but No. 1 can be applied to genetic modification of food… and there’s really no way that big companies like Monsanto can ever say they’re not genetically modifying food.

What do you think? Will these new sin classifications cause any change in the world?

photo from Time.

Topics: General | 13 Comments »

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2008-03-17 09:53:53

Good question. Will they cause any change? Well, it sure can’t hurt and I’d like to think that it will cause people to think more carefully about the impact of their actions.

Comment by Karina
2008-03-17 14:19:15

at very least it’s bringing some authority to the issue, and sticking it under everyone’s noses!

Comment by Brandy
2008-03-17 13:02:03

here is a documentary on the subject: http://renewalproject.net/

haven’t seen it myself, but it looks interesting :)

Comment by Karina
2008-03-17 14:22:43

I have this documentary flagged as a to-watch! it looks great.

Comment by PaperDollyGirl
2008-03-17 13:53:47

Ugh – not Tiny Choices too! I am so tired of this new sin crapola. Sure, social justice might be a new sin if, say, a person had never read any of the Hebrew Scriptures where God assures God’s people he will care for the orphan, the widow, and the stranger, or the New Testament, where we get the Beatitudes from Jesus and exhortations to love our neighbors as ourselves. These are not new sins – they are merely putting modern language out there to help people understand how serious those practices are. They are emphasizing social sins in contrast to individual sins to get people to understand that sin hurts an entire community, not simply the person involved. This is not new theology.

I definitely consider stewardship as part of my commitment to live the Catholic faith. I don’t eat meat or fish mainly for that reason, and I keep all of my and my husband’s retirement money in socially conscious mutual funds. The TC survey asks about making sacrifices for the environment. Sacrifice has its origins as a religious word, meaning to make something holy. So yes, I do make sacrifices for the environment, to honor it as a holy thing.

I really hope that the modern language and discussion of sin as a community justice issue really helps people to see that like it or not, we are all in this together, and it matters what each of us chooses to do.

Comment by Karina
2008-03-17 14:18:12

oh no! yes, tiny choices too! I don’t think that these sins are “new sins,” I mean, just look at the Catholic churches history of liberation theology with issues of poverty and equity. Maybe I shouldn’t have followed the popular media’s rhetoric so closely – I agree with your comment!

I think that the value of this discussion is that so many people are very status quo (insert any number of religions here). Having someone talk about “new sins” recontextualizes many of the teachings that are convenient to ignore because they don’t fit in with our lifestyle. And much of what the Pope said was that our lifestyles were becoming overly consumerist, which is something that TC also agrees on.

Comment by PaperDollyGirl
2008-03-17 14:20:05

recontextualizes many of the teachings that are convenient to ignore because they don’t fit in with our lifestyle

YES! that is the point. I also love that more and more people are questioning the consumerist lifestyle.

Comment by michelle
2008-03-17 14:26:51

there have been various nationally representative studies in the U.S. of the increasing connection between religiosity and environmentalism (in sociology journals) over the past few years. it will be interesting to track to see if there is a change and if the mainstream media presents some of these studies, rather than having them confined to dorky social researchers (like me).

Comment by Mickey Z.
2008-03-17 14:34:10

I say it’s high time we start praising the Catholic Church for doing its greenest by attempting to rid the planet of condoms. (insert rimshot here)

Comment by Jenn
2008-03-17 20:04:53

See? A very noble cause, given the condom reef disaster

Comment by matt
2008-03-18 19:38:36

My hope? The Pope’s comments carry weight, and all offenders flip the switch and change their polluting ways. I’m not holding my breath on that, but I do see incremental changes happening. I’m not a catholic, and I don’t really know how these proclamations will affect people. But I think there are enough Catholics out there who will absolutely take this to heart. Put it this way: is there harm created by this statement by the Pope?

2008-03-22 15:56:12

Having been raised catholic and went to catholic schools for 12 years (although am not catholic anymore) I can say that when something is taught as a “sin”, people absolutely take it to heart…they’ll even take it to extremes. And in the case of environmentalism, getting extremely serious about being good to the earth seems awesome. Kudos to the new pope for bringing the planet’s health into religion. :) I wonder if school kids will tease each other that they are going to hell for not recycling ?

2008-03-23 06:04:30

[...] NON-News Flash: Pollution is a Sin! [...]


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