3.10.2008

Contraception now one of the "Seven Deadly Sins"

WARNING: Poor journalism follows...

Vatican Adds Seven New Deadly Sins Including Abortion, Contraception and Drug-Dealing

After 1,500 years the Vatican has brought the seven deadly sins up to date by adding seven new ones for the age of globalization. The list, published yesterday in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, came as the Pope deplored the “decreasing sense of sin” in today’s “secularized world” and the falling numbers of Roman Catholics going to confession.

The Catholic Church divides sins into venial, or less serious, sins and mortal sins, which threaten the soul with eternal damnation unless absolved before death through confession and penitence.

It holds mortal sins to be “grave violations of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes,” including murder, contraception, abortion, perjury, adultery and lust.


UPDATE: Get Religion has provided a fog cutter post on this sensationalist story.

But all kidding aside, I wonder if the Vatican would even include NFP, when used for a reason not approved by the papacy. Many, even Roman Catholics themselves, don't realize that they are not even supposed to use NFP except in extreme circumstances.

I have made the argument here on L&C that from a Lutheran perspective, NFP is potentially a more dangerous sin than some other "spur of the moment" contraceptive methods. NFP requires one to be very active in the process every day of the month. There's a difference between stumbling into sins we struggle with (even if we stumble into the same sin often) and the kind of sin that is "lived in" - i.e. the sinful activity that you constantly accept and are active in. NFP is not something you can just "stumble" into. It takes a great deal of premeditative effort and active discipline.

But of everything I read in this story, this statement from the Pope really caught my attention:

Those who trust in themselves and in their own merits are, as it were, blinded by their own "I", and their hearts harden in sin. Those who recognize themselves as weak and sinful entrust themselves to God, and from Him obtain grace and forgiveness.


WOW! The undiscerning might actually hear the pure Gospel in that statement. But this story left out the rest of what the Pope said. Here is the context. It doesn't sound quite as Lutheran once you understand what else is involved. As Lutherans, we are blessed to know that it isn't "confession" that brings us the joy of God's forgiveness, but rather the unconditional absolution which follows it! The Pope speaks out of both sides of his mouth when he continues what he said above with this:

"...What is most important is to make it clear that in the Sacrament of Penance - whatever the sin committed - if sinners recognize it humbly and entrust themselves to the priest confessor, they will always experience the soothing joy of God's forgiveness"

Penance (specifically, that part called "satisfactions") is one of the serious abuses of the Roman Catholic Church. In a RC sacramental understanding of the term, "penance" applies to the whole activity from confession to absolution, much of which we do not differ on in practice. Generally speaking, however, the word "penance" is used to characterize the works of satisfaction imposed or recommended by the priest on or to the penitent. It ultimately directs one to make his own satisfactions for his sins rather than trusting in Christ's perfect and complete atonement. For more on the disagreement regarding this matter between Lutherans and Roman Catholics, read here.

13 comments:

Occasus said...

John 20:21-23 (KJV):

21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

Anonymous said...

I am not Catholic, but in fairness to the Vatican, I don't believe it was identifying new sins or reclassifying some previous venial sins as mortal. It was, rather, making it clear that some actions which many Catholics might not understand as sins at all or, at least consider of minor consequences are, in fact, grave sins. This is really not a change in the definition of sin. What the story illustrates is the obtuseness of the journalist writing it and of the person who created the headline. Catchy, but inaccurate.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I agree, Anon, and I personally applaud the Vatican for pointing out some of the sins that seem to go right past the radar of well-intending Christians. It's just too bad that they get the cure for sin all wrong.

I admit to capitalizing on the sensationalism the secular media has attached to this announcement from the Vatican.

Anonymous said...

Are all of our sins—past, present, and future—forgiven once and for all when we become Christians? Not according to the Bible or the early Church Fathers. Scripture nowhere states that our future sins are forgiven; instead, it teaches us to pray, "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matt. 6:12).

The means by which God forgives sins after baptism is confession: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Minor or venial sins can be confessed directly to God, but for grave or mortal sins, which crush the spiritual life out of the soul, God has instituted a different means for obtaining forgiveness—the sacrament known popularly as confession, penance, or reconciliation.

This sacrament is rooted in the mission God gave to Christ in his capacity as the Son of man on earth to go and forgive sins (cf. Matt. 9:6). Thus, the crowds who witnessed this new power "glorified God, who had given such authority to men" (Matt. 9:8; note the plural "men"). After his resurrection, Jesus passed on his mission to forgive sins to his ministers, telling them, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. . . . Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:21–23).

Since it is not possible to confess all of our many daily faults, we know that sacramental reconciliation is required only for grave or mortal sins—but it is required, or Christ would not have commanded it.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Anonymous 2,

Thank you for giving what I take to be a very succinct explanation of the Roman Catholic position on how forgiveness is obtained. In reading your comment, I assure you that the differences are clear to Lutherans, who are the main audience of this blog. We disagree, and our disagreement has so many points that it is beyond the scope of this forum to answer them all.

I provided a link at the end of my post to a succinct explanation of the differences between the Lutheran and Roman Catholic position on this question. Basing our position upon Scripture alone, let it suffice to say that we certainly disagree on the interpretation and application of the verses of Scripture you cite.

Your comment begins with a question: "Are all of our sins—past, present, and future—forgiven once and for all when we become Christians?"

To be succinct in my answer, let me say this: All of the sins of the entire world - past, present, and future - were taken to the cross by Jesus Christ where he earned complete forgiveness for them all. They remain forever buried in the grave from which he rose. That forgiveness is applied to the individual believer through the means of grace: The Word (the Gospel) and the Sacraments (Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and Absolution). It is the Word of God which brings about the repentance and faith through which Christians receive forgiveness.

The particular point in this discussion is concerned only with what is referred to as "Confession." Rome has three parts: contrition, confession, and works of satisfaction (the lack of which would have been made up in purgatory). We Lutherans hold two parts, corresponding to the Law and the Gospel: contrition and faith. Both are seen by Lutherans as the work of the Word - the Law working genuine terror of conscience that feels the wrath of God against sin, and the Gospel working trust in the heart that we are justified by grace for Jesus' sake.

For a more detailed explanation of how we differ on the means of grace through which we receive forgiveness, read the Lutheran Confessions, esp. the Defense of the Augsburg Confession on:

Confession,

Repentance,

Confession and Satisfaction,

and The Number and Use of the Sacraments.

There is a problem, however, a Roman Catholic will find in that you will almost certainly misunderstand a lot of what is said in the Confessions because of the very different ways Lutherans and Roman Catholics define words like "grace." Lutherans define them according to their use in Scripture. Roman Catholics define them according to the canonists. To clear up that differentiation, one only need read Justification and Rome by Robert Preus.

Blessings and Peace to you during this shared penitential season of Lent. May you find the fullness of the peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that rings forth freely on Easter morn from the empty tomb, echoing the joyous chorus of angels who sang at Christmas: "Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men!"

Banquo's Ghost said...

Well said, both Anon 2 and Erich. A good exchange that succinctly highlights some important differences between Roman catholics and evangelical catholics.

Erich, I wish you lived here in Hillsdale. We need your Reformation voice down here!

Blessings,

Rob Olson

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

P.S. Just to clarify for non-Lutheran readers who might not know much about Lutheranism...

Lutherans retain the practice of private confession and absolution, some perhaps practicing it even more frequently than many Roman Catholics. The disagreement between us is less on practice and more on what merits the forgiveness of sins. We Lutherans believe Christ's atonement is the ONLY merit in which we may and can trust. It is more than sufficient satisfaction for all sin. Christ is our only propitiation, the only Redeemer. Therefore we omit the Romanist error of making satisfactions of our own through "penance."

Lutherans hold that private absolution is one of the Sacraments by which the forgiveness won by Christ once and for all is applied to the individual Christian who receives this grace passively in the faith which is itself a gift from God. [Eph. 2:8]

"If we call Sacraments rites which have the command of God, and to which the promise of grace has been added, it is easy to decide what are properly Sacraments. For rites instituted by men will not in this way be Sacraments properly so called. For it does not belong to human authority to promise grace. Therefore signs instituted without God's command are not sure signs of grace, even though they perhaps instruct the rude [children or the uncultivated], or admonish as to something [as a painted cross]. Therefore Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and Absolution, which is the Sacrament of Repentance, are truly Sacraments. For these rites have God's command and the promise of grace, which is peculiar to the New Testament. For when we are baptized, when we eat the Lord's body, when we are absolved, our hearts must be firmly assured that God truly forgives us for Christ's sake. And God, at the same time, by the Word and by the rite, moves hearts to believe and conceive faith, just as Paul says, Rom. 10, 17: Faith cometh by hearing. But just as the Word enters the ear in order to strike our heart, so the rite itself strikes the eye, in order to move the heart. The effect of the Word and of the rite is the same, as it has been well said by Augustine that a Sacrament is a visible word, because the rite is received by the eyes, and is, as it were, a picture of the Word, signifying the same thing as the Word."

[Quoted from the article on The Number and Use of the Sacraments linked in my comment above.]

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Thanks, Rob. Will your Banquo's Ghost be with you tomorrow here at Zion in Marshall to receive the Sacrament of the Lord's body and blood so that he can thus be justly banished from your shoulder? He does not belong in the seat of the King!

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

In my post above I wondered whether or not Roman Catholicism would classify NFP as a mortal sin when used in unapproved circumstances.

I wonder how accurate this answer to my question is. It certainly has the telltale Romish sound to it. ;-)

Do you notice how important it is in their understanding of justification to classify sins? In order to prescribe the right cure it must be classified. For Roman Catholics, venial and mortal sins have different requirements for satisfaction. In Lutheranism, we confess that Christ's atonement made complete satisfaction for ALL sin.

A Writer's Heart said...

I find it interesting that you took this article off of Fox News' website but failed to include one important sentance and twist it to your own advantage...

"The new deadly sins include polluting, genetic engineering, being obscenely rich, drug dealing, abortion, pedophilia and causing social injustice."

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,336330,00.html


Nowhere in that sentence does it say that contraception is now one of the "Seven Deadly Sins"--If you are going to write about the Catholic Church at least get your facts straight.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Dear Writer's Heart,

It was the initial point of my post that the title was NOT accurate.

I'm sorry, but you have misunderstood my post. My initial point was intended to be precisely what you have pointed out. The Vatican said no such thing as what the title of my post (and many media outlets) said. That was my warning in red right below the title:

"WARNING: Poor journalism follows..."

Contraception was already considered a mortal sin by Rome. Nothing new came out of the Vatican's statement with regard to contraception. Incidentally, the story at Fox News was updated after I posted it here, correcting the erroneous statement I quoted in my title.

I thought I made it clear in my post that the title was wrong. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear enough. I thought the link I provided to "Get Religion" provided a great "fog-cutter" on this, showing precisely what you have pointed out.

"...twisting it to my own advantage?"

I did no such thing. I'll admit that I went on into an obvious tangent not addressed in the story: "But all kidding aside, I wonder if the Vatican would even include NFP, when used for a reason not approved by the papacy." etc...

I was simply speaking as a Lutheran about Rome's true official position on contraception despite the poor examples of journalism that followed the Vatican's statement on the Seven Deadly Sins.

Given these clarifications, is there something further you think I am misinformed about regarding Rome's position on contraception? I seek the truth.

Thank you for your comment and the opportunity to clarify this.

A Writer's Heart said...

I apologize for apparently not getting your point with the article.

I do know that the Catholic church is against contraception, however I know a lot of Catholic's including myself who need birth control for medical reasons and have gone on thinking that if they take it they will go to Hell. In this case the Catholic Church is not against contraception.

I honestly feel it is important for all people to realize this, especially Catholic's, so that they don't go on feeling guilty about it.

Rob Olson said...

Dear Sister:

To understand what the Roman Catholic Church is and "is not", one should not look to individual members who approach the Church of Rome like a spiritual smorgasbord. Sadly, there are thousands or even millions of "Roman Catholics" who personally espouse teachings or opinions that Rome condemns, especially among individualistic American Catholics.

Having encountered many Roman Catholics who are more concerned about avoiding guilt than what is true, I have realized that there is a name for such unfortunate folks: Protestant. Should you not instead direct us poor Lutherans to the Magisterium instead of to your own feelings or experiences? As a grateful son of the Reformation, I have had to read what Rome really teaches in order to consider my own Confession, for our Book of Concord condemns many of its teachings and practices.

There may, indeed, be a medical necessity for contraception -- the lesser of evils -- but first begin with what the Holy Scriptures or at least, if one is Roman Catholic, the official teachings of the Church.

Of course, guilt about the lesser of two evils does have a cure -- in the pure unadulterated Gospel of Christ crucified for you with no strings attached. But if you make it your goal to avoid guilt at all costs, then as C.S. Lewis said at the very end of Mere Christianity, you will find neither comfort nor hope.

Blessings.