Mar. 10, 2008 -- For the last 1,500 years or so, the world of sin has been fairly simple.
Wrath and lust are two biggies on the list of the "seven deadly sins" proclaimed by Pope Gregory in the 6th century, and made famous by Dante in the "Divine Comedy" — an Italian poem that portrayed the Christian after-life in the 1300s.
But these days, according to a Vatican official, anger management and a cold shower might not be enough to keep you sin-free — not if you litter.
In a newspaper interview, the number two Vatican official in the area of sins and penances says that environmental irresponsibility is one of the new forms of sins we should all be aware of.
He suggested the old seven deadly sins were largely individualistic: lust, wrath, gluttony, sloth, greed, pride, and envy. But in the modern world, modern sins have a much bigger social impact.
"We have shown a constant ability to find new ways to offend God's law," said John Wauk, who is a priest at Opus Dei and literature professor at Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
The biggest new concern the "sin official" listed is genetic engineering. Things like cloning are decidedly 21st century issues that he says violate fundamental human rights, and produce consequences difficult to foresee and control.
Also on the list are drug abuse, and huge inequality of wealth with the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer. Some hedge fund billionaires better start brushing up on their Dante.
According to Catholic doctrine, mortal sins are a grave violation of God's law, and can bring about eternal damnation if you don't confess. It's unclear which of the newer sins are mortal, but either way, it's a pretty big impetus to pick up your trash.
The old sins still hold — lust is still a no-no. Just ask N.Y. Gov. Eliot Spitzer. It is just that new developments, new advances, mean new ways of sinning — could it be long before loud cell phone conversations make the list?
"The prospects for sin are very good. If that past is any indication, sin will be around for a long time," Wauk said.
At a basic level, say experts, sin is about damaging your relationship between God and other humans. So, while the methods may change, the sin remains the same.