New sins? Hardly.

It’s always amusing to work in our newsroom on days like today when other news outlets are misinterpreting — or purposely hyping out of proportion — a story involving the church. Today’s case in point, if you have not heard, is the interview a Vatican official gave to the Vatican newspaper on the social impact of sin in a globalized society.

Among today’s headlines: “Vatican introduces more ways to sin“, “Seven More Sins, Thanks to Vatican“, “New sins as bad as the old sins — Vatican official“, “Vatican Updates Its Thou-Shalt-Not List“, and my personal favorite, “Recycle or go to Hell, warns Vatican.”

Granted, some of these are simply headline writers having fun (a “sin” many of us in the business can admit to). But it of course begs the question of whether there is a catalogue of sins someone can look up, besides the Ten Commandments or the seven deadly sins. (Not even the Catechism of the Catholic Church has an index of sins, though it does have a great index of subjects that it covers.)

The amusement is in the phone calls that come in on a day like today, like the call I took from one Catholic communications official trying to track down the story because she had heard from a local reporter who thought that the addition of new sins to the existing “list” was one of the biggest stories of the year, something akin to an addition to the list of crimes eligible for the death penalty.

And that’s also why we urge readers to check with us to get the unadulterated version of a story getting heavy play in the mainstream media — we add no artificial ingredients. (And if you’ve gone this far without reading how we reported this story, you can click on the link here.)

UPDATE: Another good summary on how this story was wrongly reported is on the blog of America magazine. And it reminds me of last fall’s rumor du jour, the allegation that Bibles were being banned for the Beijing Olympics.

Why Catholics leave (continued) …

More Catholic press reaction to the release late last month of the landmark study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life on the religious affiliation of U.S. adults, this time from Our Sunday Visitor.  Editor John Norton wrote a column on one aspect of the study — the fact that Catholics are leaving the church “in droves” — and says in a second column that he was inundated with responses. One that he highlights was from a Michigan deacon who listed a variety of reasons Catholics leave, based on his pastoral experience. You can read those here.

Blogging on the theme of the papal visit

The USCCB today announced the launching of its papal visit blog, “an inside view of papal visit preparations, views from the pew, and reflections on the meaning of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States.”

One of those reflections is a look at the trip’s theme, “Christ Our Hope.” But this is not your ordinary (read: boring) essay on the philosophical or theological meaning of three words that many who follow the trip won’t even remember. Instead, Helen Osman, USCCB secretary of communications, tells a real-life story of Christian hope:

“Christ Our Hope:” Seems like a safe theme for the 2008 papal visit, doesn’t it? Hope is a nice word; the politicians have grabbed on to it; it’s a great Scripture for newlyweds.

But hope can be a very dangerous word, if you really believe in Christian hope. Just ask Martha Sweed Walker.

Read on to discover what it can really mean.