'Fessing up to our sins

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By The Staff

Just when you may have thought you finally had a handle on the seven deadly sins - lust, gluttony, avarice (greed), sloth, anger, envy and pride - the Vatican added seven more.

Although Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said there's nothing new under the sun, it seems not even he imagined these "new" sins.

Now, along with all the soul-corrupting and relationship-destroying sins that 14th century Dante described during his account of a visit to hell in his "Divine Comedy," we can now include sins against the environment as being particularly egregious.

The other new sins include genetic manipulation that alters DNA or compromises embryos (cloning or embryonic stem cell research), illegal drug trafficking, excessive accumulation of wealth by a few, abortion and pedophilia.

At the same time that the Vatican announced these "new" sins, Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, which oversees confessions, noted that confessions are down.

According to a study conducted by Milan's Catholic University, 60 percent of Catholics in Italy no longer come to church to confess their sins to a priest and 30 percent of Italian Catholics believe there's no need for a priest to hear their confession as an intermediary between them and God.

Twenty percent said they felt uncomfortable talking about their sins to another person. The study didn't include Americans, so who knows how we would fare.

Just my observation, but I think most people like to do their sins but they don't like talking about them, at least not in the context of confession, as in "what I'm doing is wrong and I don't want to do it anymore."

The best sinning is done privately or among fellow sinning cronies who won't call what you're doing "sin." Nobody likes to be called a sinner. Once, the cousin of Jesus told King Herod that it was wrong for him to cheat with his brother's wife and ended up with his head chopped off and served on a platter.

I doubt being called excessively rich or an environmental polluter would provoke someone into a murderous rage, but you never know.

The whole concept of sin, both the old, standard ones and the newer 21st-century upgrades, is unsavory and makes for impolite dinner conversation. For example, asking, "So, how's that whole sloth thing going for you?" would be considered boorish.

Now that I've made light of the subject, can we get serious? Because sin is serious. It's what caused the death of the only one who never sinned, the one who actually became sin and then suffered the wrath of God as a substitute for those who would believe. That's the beautiful story of Christ's passion - his death, burial and resurrection.

Lots of people love the passion of Christ, but not too many love acknowledging their part in it. I sin - that's my part. That's your part, too, whether you like it or not. Whether you like confession or not.

Actually, confession is liberating. As they say, it's good for the soul.

Remember Jim Bakker, the fallen TV evangelist who got caught in all kinds of sex and money scandals? Upon his release from five years in prison he told an interviewer he was glad all his sins were made public because now he can go anywhere and be with anybody without raising eyebrows. He's admitted his sins and has tasted the liberation that comes with being honest with who he is. He knows he's a sinner and isn't hiding it any longer.

"People have already talked, and I don't have any reputation to hurt," he said. "It doesn't matter anymore. I'm free!"

There really is no new sin. It all stems from a desire to find meaning apart from God and life apart from his Son. From gluttony to genetic engineering, it's all symptomatic of people wanting to be their own final authority.

The problem is, whatever we do still creates guilt and shame and the destruction of our souls. The problem is, sin is real and nothing can be done about it until or unless we admit it.

One of my favorite Bible verses says that if we confess our sins, God is faithful to not only forgive us, but cleanse us completely. I love that! I love being forgiven and I love being clean.

Another verse encourages confessing to one another, be it to a priest or pastor or to a friend, so that we may be healed.

Forgiven, cleansed, healed. Who doesn't want that?