Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sins of the high-tech, modern age

Some issues to ponder this Holy Week.

The so-called seven deadly sins are certainly no longer just seven and there could be deadlier sins than what had traditionally been known as the signposts that lead to damnation.

But contrary to what came out in the news recently, the Vatican did not issue a list of new sins. The remarks of Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, regent of the tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary, were misinterpreted by the media as a Vatican update to the seven deadly sins laid out by Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century.
(These seven deadly sins are pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth.)

Today these sins are often looked upon as personal when compared with the more devastating “social” sins that violate a huge number of people and creation., an online news organization devoted to Vatican affairs, denied there was a new list by quoting what Girotti had said that led to the news about “new sins”.

“There are various areas in which today we can see sinful attitudes in relation to individual and social rights.

“Above all in the area of bioethics, in which we cannot fail to denounce certain fundamental rights of human nature, by way of experiments, genetic manipulation, the effects of which are difficult to prevent and control.

“Another area, a social issue, is the issue of drug use, which debilitates the psyche and darkens the intelligence, leaving many youth outside the ecclesial circuit.”

The bishop also zeroed in on social inequality “by which the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer, feeding an unsustainable social injustice” and the “area of ecology.”

Based on Girotti’s utterances, the media came up with the news on the “new” sins, namely, excessive wealth, drug dealing, abortion, pedophilia, genetic manipulation, social inequality and pollution.

We sought out some individuals for their thoughts on some so-called “new sins”.

Bro. Ceci M. Hojilla, FSC, Lasallian Brother animator:

“If the wages of sin is death, the worst victim of ‘excessive wealth’ is the rich man himself. One only has to recall the gospel story of the suffering beggar, Lazarus, and the wealthy but ‘unaware’ and nameless ‘party man’. Perhaps the Church finds it necessary to remind every one that there is more to the popular slogan ‘Live simply so others may simply live’ than dole-out charity.

“Pangit, di tama. (It’s ugly, not right.) Even kids react when they realize the disparity between the few who are rich and the many who are poor. This is true especially when the young discover that there is actually a ‘cause and effect’ relationship between the two seemingly separate and independent realities.

“I am reminded of a quotation I once read in a Franciscan Monastery in Assisi. ‘The justice some men seek is the change others fear.’

Sr. Aida Velasquez, OSB, coordinator of Lingkod Tao-Kalikasan:

“Pope John Paul II said that ‘Christians, in particular, realize that their responsibility within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential path of their faith.’

“If one looks at our planet, one realizes that humanity has disappointed the divine expectation. In our time, man has devastated wooded plains and valleys, polluted the waters, deformed the earth’s habitat, made the air unbreathable, upset the hydrogeological and atmospheric system, implemented uncontrolled forms of industrialization, humiliating—to use an image form Dante’s ‘Paradiso’—‘the earth, that flower-bed that is our dwelling.’

“On genetic manipulation. At present there are four questionable varieties of GMO corn approved and planted in the country. Since 2006, people have been worried about the sale of imported US rice contaminated with GMO rice. The Dept. of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry and the National Food Authority have not settled the grave questions.”

Dr. Angeles Tan-Alora, former dean of University of Santo Tomas College of Medicine:

“Genetic engineering is an advance in science which allows man to manipulate body characteristics. Now specific segments of the DNA can be cut, switched and matched. How much ethical pain are we willing to pay for scientific gain?

“One must consider the motive, means, utilization and consequences.

“Is it for good, to cure or prevent a disease, to improve health? But is to grow taller, be whiter, having a higher IQ and run faster good for the person, his parents and society? Correction of deficiencies of chromosomes is desirable, provided it is directed to the true promotion of personal well-being.

“Not enough is scientifically known. Mortality rates and risk of abnormalities resulting from the procedure could be high, both for the individual who was manipulated and for his/her descendants. The embryo cannot be used merely as a means, or altered to become what parents like. There is no consent from the embryo or the succeeding offspring.

“Genetic manipulation violates justice. Only the rich can afford the procedure. The poor handicapped will be further discriminated against.

“The destruction of the integrity of genetic patrimony is an attack on human nature or dignity. Every individual has the right to an intact genetic heritage.

“Genetic engineering may make us slide down from enhancement to eugenics. Who will decide what to redesign? Which traits to be enhanced?

“Pope John Paul II said: ‘The dignity of the human being transcends his or her biological condition. Genetic manipulation becomes arbitrary and unjust when it reduces life to an object, when it forgets that it is dealing with human subjects capable of intelligence and freedom, worthy of respect whatever may be their limits.’”