----------------From the Christchurch "Press" 10 Oct 1992 --------------
Catholic Church redefines sin for the '90s
From Patricia Clough in Rome
for the "Independent"
EVADING TAXES, taking bribes, speculating on prices, and wrecking
the environment are grave sins and those who commit them are in danger
of burning in hell, according to a new Roman Catholic catechism. It
is also sinful to read horoscopes, consult astrologers, and take part
in seances. It is "blasphemous" to wear amulets or talismen.
These are some of the teachings contained in a new "universal
catechism" ordered by the Pope for the world's 960 million Roman
Catholics and due to be published, after translation into many
languages, at the end of the year.
Excerpts, said by Church sources to be accurate, have been leaked
by an Italian news agency. It is the Catholic Church's first general
catechism in more than 80 years and was designed to bring its
teachings, in particular the Ten Commandments, into the context of the
modern world. Thus, duelling is no longer mentioned: its place has
been taken by, among other things, terrorism.
Hell still exists and its flames await those guilty of "grave
sins"--a term that now replaces the older "mortal sins", but at the
same time the Church appears to have softened its position on sins
prompted by social problems.
"Grave sins" are many and varied, from "exploiting natural,
mineral, and animal resources" to "influencing public opinions against
moral values", commercial fraud, and producing, distributing or using
drugs. Abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and food are considered "excesses".
But endangering others by drunken driving or by driving too fast is
condemned as "grave".
The political and financial scandals that have rocked Italy seem
to have penetrated the Vatican walls because the seven cardinals, 15
bishops, and other eminent figures who drew up the catechism have
included corrup- tion, speculation, appropriation of public property,
tax-dodging, and waste. Sexual sins, dealt with by the old catechism
in seven lines (do not fornicate, do not commit impure acts, beware of
immoral books or plays, preserve the sanctity of the body) occupy 10
pages in the new one.
Couples who live together outside marriage are in a state of
"grave sin" and are excluded from the sacraments. Sex within marriage
is a "source of joy and pleasure", but must bring "fecundity to the
marriage". If done "for good reasons" family planning is allowed but
only using "natural" methods (i.e., not contraceptives). The
catechism encourages Catholics to have large families.
Homosexuals must live in chastity, but should be "treated
with respect, compassion, and delicacy. Unjust discrimination
against them is to be avoided."
Adultery, divorce, and incest (described as a "regression to the
animal state") are "offences against the dignity of marriage".
Pornography, masturbation, fornication, prostitution, and sexual
violence are "offences against chastity".
But the Church shows some understanding for such sinners: at
confession priests should consider "psychological and social factors"
that lead to masturbation, while prostitution is less of a sin if
caused by "poverty, blackmail or social pressure". The Church still
regards abortion as murder, but at the same time it continues to
sanction the taking of life in the death penalty, "just" wars, and
armed revolts under certain circumstances.
Suicide, formerly considered so serious that those who killed
themselves were refused a religious burial, now also meets with
understanding if provoked by serious psychological problems, grave
suffering, or torture.