Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

Sinners, repent!

About 1,400 years ago, Pope Gregory the Great (image below) enumerated the Seven Deadly Sins — sins that cut the sinner off from God. Now, Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti has drawn up a new list of Seven Deadly Sins for modern times.

“To sin is to violate the relationship of man with God”, stated Archbishop Girotti. So, his new list has paid special attention to what one could call “social sins” that are linked to “the phenomenon of globalization”. This is how the ”">BBC listed the new deadly sins:

Environmental pollution

Genetic manipulation

Accumulating excessive wealth

Inflicting poverty

Drug trafficking and consumption

Morally debatable experiments

Violation of fundamental rights of human nature

Wait a minute, though. Genetic manipulation? Surely not! So, does this mean that, if someone successfully cures a congenital disease using gene therapy, this person will go to Hell? I hope not. Otherwise, the Italian authors of a paper we published over a year ago may be a bit too close to the Vatican for comfort.

And morally debatable experiments? Aren’t all experiments morally debatable? I admit that I don’t know all the details of what the ‘Osservatore Romano’, the official newspaper of the Vatican, published, but hopefully there is some clarification for the benefit of those of us Catholics who had to learn to live by the law of the original deadly sins. Do morally debatable experiments refer only to experiments in embryonic stem cells, or are there other experiments one needs to be worried about?

Sure, one can see where the Catholic church is coming from with their proclamations of the new sins. But to place a good number of fine scientists twice in such an eclectic list and in the company of drug traffickers strikes me as somewhat disturbing. Good thing I’m no longer a practicing scientist. Otherwise, I would need to do a lot of explaining next time I visit my mom.



  1. Report this comment

    Alan Dove said:

    The whole list looks pretty vague, really. Am I guilty of “environmental pollution” for driving to the grocery store instead of bicycling? And is everyone involved in the pharmaceutical industry engaged in “drug trafficking and consumption,” since some of their products are addictive?

  2. Report this comment

    JCL said:

    I agree with Alan. It would seem that this world is really going to the dogs.

    That being said, is it not the case that the original Seven Deadly Sins are (and have always been) also ubiquitous?

    Maybe I should switch religions…

  3. Report this comment

    Catherine Clarke said:

    Being a practising Catholic that was having doubts anyway, this latest move really makes my mind up. I certainly won’t be practising anymore. I can’t believe that the genetic manipulations I make everyday in the search of answers to human health problems makes me an evil sinner. Surely Catholic Scientists out there should make a stand about this?