THE BLOG
03/28/2008 02:48 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

My Spiritual Journey: Thoughts On Sin

So, the Vatican updated their seven deadly sins to include some present-day trespasses that fall a little more in line with the issues facing us in the twenty-first century.

I have to give the Catholic Church some credit for this. It feels like it's the first legitimate stab at modernization they've taken in a long time, or at least in my lifetime.

But I also question what the point is. I don't really understand why someone would need a church to tell them what is right and wrong in the first place. We all have an inherent and utterly human ability to tell the difference between right and wrong. And if you happen to be missing what is arguably the single most defining trait of the human race, well, then, I'm pretty sure you're not listening to the (or a) Church anyway.

Within the Catholic Church, the yin to a sin's yang is confession -- a concept which I'm a little torn on. Personally, I don't feel the need. I know damn well when I've done something wrong, and I think I do a good enough job guilting myself (or, at the very least, rationalizing my guilt out the door, but hey, at least I'm aware of it) to negate the need for a priest. But then again, I also had / have an irrational fear of confession, so much so that I would actively make up sins just to avoid confessing own. I mean, what is that, meta-sinning?

Maybe it's just that the act of confession makes it all the more real. You know how they say the best way to start getting rid of debt is to admit how much you have? Or how addicts have to admit they're addicts? Maybe that's the point of confession - it forces people to come to terms with their wrong-doing. OK. I can be down with that. But I don't really understand Catholic penance. If I say five Hail Mary's, then my sin is absolved? What about actually doing something to make up for the sin?

I also understand that some people need someone, be it an authority figure or a higher power, to answer to. But the idea of that just makes me feel like I'm four years old again and my mom has to explain to me why I can't just take a pack of watermelon Bubblicious gum from the checkout counter. But let's move on.

Let's take a look at the list: Polluting, genetic engineering, obscene riches, taking drugs, abortion, pedophilia, and causing social injustice. Hmm. Take out abortion (I'm staunchly pro-choice), genetic engineering (I'm not sure, but I'm not ready to call it a sin), and drugs (contrary to popular belief, I wouldn't define "taking drugs" as a mortal sin, it's more of a personal choice), and then, yes, you have, in my eyes, a solidly "bad" list. Oh, except for "obscene riches". That one has me a little confused. What if you use those riches to do good things? Is Bill Gates a sinner? Because he's most definitely obscenely rich, but I would argue that he does a lot of good as well. Or Oprah. Lord knows I love me some Oprah, and if she's wrong, then I don't want to be right.

And therein lies the problem. I personalized the list. Because I'm not willing to blindly believe or follow what a church (not capitalized) defines as wrong. I take no issue with those who do believe these things are wrong - feel free to think that abortion is a sin, it's most definitely a complicated idea - but just don't take away my right to think they might be OK. But all this does is bring me back to the idea of human understanding of right and wrong; we all know, in a highly simplified way, what is right and wrong. And some of these issues, like abortion, genetic engineering, and drugs, are not quite simple at all, and it worries me that other people will just follow the Church's mandates, without thinking about what's actually wrong and right for them.

So, I appreciate the effort, but I'm not entirely sure what it's going to accomplish.

And lastly, the Apostolic Penitentiary -- the department within the Vatican in charge of these sorts of things -- has me entirely befuddled. It sounds like something that would exist at the Ministry of Magic in the Harry Potter books. But, then again, maybe that's the point.