Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


Inventing new sins ….

November 15th, 2019, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Can you envision it? “Bless me Father, for I have sinned . . . . I used 4 plastic straws last week, threw out some food that had rotted, reused 7 thin-wall plastic grocery bags, and forgot to shut off the lights three times when I left a room.”  Ummmm, no. I can’t envision it. That is because we don’t sin against the environment; sin is only against God.

Only? Well, yes, when we consider King David’s words found in Psalm 51:  “My offences truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against You, You alone, have I sinned; what is evil in Your sight I have done.” (Against God alone, he says, after having committed adultery and murder!) It is an important point because the loss of the sense of sin is one of the causes of such immorality in the world today. (See Comment #4 below, for more detail on this matter.)

And, now, it is reported that Pope Francis wants to add ecological sin to the Catechism. Again, I would point out that this is exactly the reason in the series “Sheltering in Place” that the point is emphasized — stock up on Catechisms and bibles while they are undefiled (by either religious or civil authority.)

LifeSiteNews (author Dorothy Cummings McLean) has reported that Pope Francis told the International Association of Penal Law Congress that he “is thinking about adding the ‘ecological sin against our common home’ to the Catechism.” Here are some excerpts from the LSN story.

Last month, Pope Francis published a book titled “Our Mother Earth,” … where he stresses the protection of the environment. The title is particularly irritating, implying that Pope Francis isn’t planning to apologize and repent for the pachamama worship at all, but rather that he is doubling down. Now THAT sounds like something that needs confessing.


15 Responses to “Inventing new sins ….”

  1. avatar Mary-Kathleen says:

    I am burning my copy of the current Catholic catechism. The Baltimore Catechism is good enough for me, as are the Catechism of Pope Saint Pius X and the Catechism of the Council of Trent.

  2. avatar BigE says:

    If sinning against God’s creation isn’t a sin….then please define what a sin against God IS?

  3. avatar Diane Harris says:

    OK — here is an example of a sin against God: admitting idols into holy places, nodding or bowing to give idols ‘recognition,’ and/or praying to “Mother Earth” instead of to the Triune God. Idolatry is indeed an extreme sin against God.

  4. avatar Diane Harris says:

    The following is intended to help further in differentiating sin against God from incurring ‘debts’ against other humans:

    There are two versions of the Lord’s Prayer (also called “The Our Father”) in the Bible. The more familiar version which is used in the Mass is in Matthew, Chapter 6 and the other is in Luke, Chapter 11.

    In the original Matthian Greek text, we find the word “opheilema”, which is best translated “debts,” and so we ask the Father to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

    In Luke the Greek uses two different words. The first is hamartia, clearly meaning “sins.” The second is the same opheilema of Matthew, meaning debts. Thus, the closer Lucan translation would be “forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us.”

    In the English translation of the Latin Mass, we see words much closer to Matthew for the Our Father, and using the word closer in English to debts (or to a debit in accounting.) We say “forgive us our debts” and conclude the sentence with “as we forgive our debtors.” The text is: “et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.”

    Again, this seem not to be a substitute or implication of sin, as there is the perfectly good Latin root word for sin: pecco, peccare, peccavi, peccatus. The familiar words from the Latin Mass may be the priest’s intoning: “Nobis quoque peccatoribus.” Thus, what we do observe would seem to be some effort to keep the concept of sin as being against God, and on the more earthly level as debts to be forgiven between humans, which we are instructed to do. Hope this helps.

  5. avatar BigE says:

    I wasn’t really interested in examples.
    I’m interested in your “definition” of sin.
    i.e. – is stealing not a sin? Because sin can only be against God – and when we steal; it’s from another person and not God?

  6. avatar Diane Harris says:

    My definition of sin is the same as the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s, paragraphs 1849 and 1850:

    1849: “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as ‘an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.’ (St. Thomas Aquinas).”

    1850: “Sin is an offense against God: ‘Against you, you alone have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.’ (Psalm 51:4). Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become ‘like gods’ (Gen 3:5) knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus ‘love of oneself even to contempt of God” (St. Augustine, City of God). In this proud self-exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.”

    For those who would like some biblical data, here is a quick review: In the RSV translation, there are 752 mentions of sin. Of these, 583 are translated as sin and sins, and 67 as sinner/sinners, and 102 as sinned. Taking only the Gospels, there are a total in these categories of 91, and all those use the standard term hamartino for ‘sin.’ A quick look-through those 91 indicates only five in which the object of the ‘sin’ seems not to be only God: Matthew 18:21, Matthew 27:4, Luke 15:18 and 15:21, and Luke 17:4.

    Matthew 18:21 and Luke 17:4 are related to the same matter: Peter asks how many times he must forgive a brother who might “sin” against him. Luke 15:18 and 15:21 relates to the prodigal son going home to his father and confessing his sinfulness. But what is interesting about the translation is that the son does not say (as some translations have it) that he has sinned against his father, but only in the “sight of” his father. Notice the similarity of “in the sight of” to the language from King David’s Psalm 51! Finally the 5th use, in Matthew 27:4, is in the words of a desperate man to the Jewish leaders: “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” And that sin IS obviously against God.

    In sum, I see no reason in the biblical texts to presume sin is against anyone but God. That is not to say individuals can’t commit crimes, abuse, injury to innocent parties. And that is not to say that such crimes, abuses and injuries don’t also incur the justifiable wrath of God, who loves all His children. But keeping the word “sin” for exactly what is against God gives recognition to the fact that sin is in an entirely different category because of Whom it is against. When we lump all offenses into the word sin, in essence the horror of its impact, and the rupture of our relationship with the divine is mitigated to a social apology rather than reparation and atonement.

  7. avatar BigE says:

    Well, then not taking care of our environment WOULD seem to meet the definition of sin.
    – it’s not of right conscience.
    – trashing the gift of what God has given us would show a genuine failure to love God.
    – and it is certainly shows a genuine lack of love for neighbor.

    And the CCC expands the definition of sin beyond just a sin against God:

    CCC1853: “Sins can be distinguished according to their objects, as can every human act; or according to the virtues they oppose, by excess or defect; or according to the commandments they violate. THEY CAN ALSO BE CLASSED ACCORDING TO WHETHER THEY CONCERN GOD, NEIGHBOR, OR ONESELF…

  8. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Big E, your additional quotes from the Catechism make the point exactly. CCC 1853 does not “expand the definition of sin”. Rather, it “distinguishes” sins against God as also sometimes being direct crimes (offenses, etc.) against a neighbor.

    God gave us the law “Do not steal.” Stealing is thus a sin against God. It is not a “sin against the supermarket” from which the product is stolen, but it certainly is an offense, and depending on the size and importance of what is stolen, society classifies it as crime, felony, misdemeanor or infraction of some other type. But it is NOT a “sin” against the supermarket from which the drugs are stolen (for nefarious resale and further serious sins against God; e.g.) But if what is stolen is baby formula to keep an infant alive, the sin is greatly diminished even if not the civil consequences in some societies.

    I have not debated the point that sins against God also may injure our neighbor, nor that we are accountable for injuries to our neighbor. But if we really understood what “sin” is (and I do not personally claim to offer it more than a passing gasp!) we would understand how inapplicable the word ‘sin’ is to the environment. It puts the environment on a level, at least in speaking, of God Himself. Which is exactly why elevating the environment in such a way leads directly to idolatry.

    This is not nit-picking a 3-letter word; it is holding ourselves accountable for capitalizing “God” in every way in our lives. Or, perhaps more to the point of recognizing “sin” as only being against God (as both Psalm 51 AND the Catechism say), consider for the moment the word “blasphemy” which is the subject of the Second Commandment. If we call a brother or sister “Thou fool” we know that God sees it as a punishable offense, subject to the fire of Gehenna. Serious stuff. But we would never say that one person “blasphemed” against the other. No, that word properly only applies to God. So, too, does the word “sin.”

  9. avatar raymondfrice says:

    Mary-Kathleen says:
    November 16, 2019 at 2:58 AM

    You should not make decisions like this at this hour of the morning!!

  10. avatar BigE says:

    I agree with your definition.
    And a sin against the environment IS a sin against God (by abusing his gift)
    And it’s also a sin against God in that does injure our neighbor.
    – when someone pollutes or otherwise harms the environment – it hurts others.

    “A definition of “ecological sin” as bad stewardship and injustice to others, “especially future generations” would be consistent with the social teaching of all Church fathers to Pope Benedict XVI, who taught in Caritas in Veritate: “The way humanity treats the environment influences the way it treats itself, and vice versa” (CV, 51),” Brugger told LifeSiteNews.

    So I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. But obviously your view of this issue is not “the” view. It’s yours.

  11. avatar Diane Harris says:

    What I said is what the Catechism said, “Sin is an offense against God.” Not just my view. Catechism doesn’t use terms like you do; e.g. the phrase “a sin against the environment.”
    That is the point of disagreement. One can’t sin against the environment, or a supermarket. We should be very careful how we use the word sin. I’ll take the detente for the moment. Thanks for the volleys.

  12. avatar Mary-Kathleen says:


    My hours are out of the norm. (I worked nightshift for years.)
    Believe me, I can make the same statement as I did at 3pm.

  13. avatar BigE says:

    Yes, it is your view.
    It becomes your (vs my) interpretation of what constitutes an “offense against God”.
    You don’t believe dumping garbage in a beautiful and pristine lake is a sin against God.
    I do.

  14. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Big E,
    I didn’t write anything about pristine lakes and garbage; you did. What I object to, based on the Catechism and other Church Teaching, is using the expression “sin against the environment.” What you describe is abuse of the environment. Sin can only be against God. I didn’t say that environmental abuse can’t also be a sin against God; what I said is that we do not “sin” against things. And using the word sin so broadly contributes to this culture’s loss of the ‘sense of sin,” a prime evil of our times, not just mere sloppiness in using “sin” as a word against everything from lakes to pachamamas. Is everything which is against things also a sin? No, of course not. Throwing pachamamas into the Tiber is service to God, not a sin against Him, whether it pollutes the Tiber or not. But you are going to persist in using “sin” in ways the Church doesn’t use it. So, misleading readers is on you. I don’t think I have anything further to add at this point. Maybe other readers want to add comments?

  15. avatar BigE says:

    Lol…as that famous line from Cool Hand Luke states: “What we have here is a failure to communicate….”
    I agree we can’t sin against “things”.
    You seem to agree that environmental abuse can be a sin “against God”.
    So if the latter is true, then there can be such a thing as ecological sin (against God).
    Which was the point I was trying to make.

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