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PADUA, Italy (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis is brushing aside the Catholic Church's canon of the seven deadly sins, opting instead for a "politically correct" version of vices in a new series for Italian television.
The newer catalog of Francis' capital sins substitutes five of the canonical capital sins for the vices of despair, folly, inconstancy, injustice, and infidelity.
Only two vices — wrath and envy — remain the same in the older list and the newer list.
The seven virtues expounded by Francis in the series will remain the same as taught in the Church's tradition — the Catechism's four "cardinal virtues" of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance and the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity enumerated by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 — both seamlessly stitched together by St. Thomas Aquinas.
Francis justifies his alternative list of capital sins by claiming the authority of the setting of Arena Chapel (also known as the Scrovegni Chapel) in Padua where the series is filmed, Church Militant has learned.
The chapel features seven allegorical representations of the virtues and seven allegorical representations of the vices painted by the 14th century Florentine artist Giotto di Bondone, who departs from Catholic tradition and invents his own list of vices.
"Non-canonical 'vices' had always existed and Giotto creates this 'new' list because his patron the Paduan banker Enrico Scrovegni (a usurer who Dante puts in Hell) asked him to do so," writes Italian art historian Andrea Cionci.
Speaking to Church Militant, Cionci said it wasn't clear why "Francis had chosen to speak on the vices represented by the Scrovegni Chapel since there are no particular anniversaries or events, as confirmed by the administrators of the Paduan monument."
"It would be as if when preaching on the Ten Commandments, Francis had selected an alternative set of paintings, at least eight of which were completely different from the biblical commandments," Cionci remarked.
The art historian and writer elaborated:
One fact is certain: Giotto's seven vices are more "politically correct" and spare Francis the serious burden of tackling a thorny issue, that of Lust, which he often leaves in the background as a sin/vice (in the rare cases in which he speaks of sin). We recall his words from Sep. 2020 about "sex as a gift from God" failing to specify within which tracks, for Catholic doctrine, it must be exercised.
Cionci noted that the pope's omission of "lust" was significant as "the degradation of human sexuality in its most imaginative forms, pornography, pedophilia, prostitution and sexual exploitation are among the most serious and monstrous aberrations of our times."
The historian also warned that the substitution of an alternative list of vices would lead to confusion among the faithful and the secular public as "for several blogs and newspapers the deadly sins have become anger, despair, inconstancy, envy, infidelity, injustice, and foolishness."
"It's much easier to talk about jealousy, inconstancy, or despair, citing the platitude redolent of Origen's heresies that 'God forgives everything even without repentance,'" Cionci lamented.
Art historians and theologians have explained how "Giotto's list of vices is, so far as can be determined, original to the painter and does not have antecedents in either philosophical or religious texts."
Giotto selects a new set of vices to "contrast most clearly and directly with the virtues," writes Shawn Tucker in The Virtues and Vices in the Arts: A Sourcebook, with images of the virtues and vices on the side walls leading up to the scene of Christ's final judgment scene at the back of the chapel.
The virtues and vices pass by in paired opposites: Prudence and Folly, Fortitude and Inconstancy, Temperance and Anger, Justice and Injustice, Faith and Infidelity, Charity and Envy, and Hope and Despair.
Giotto's final virtue of hope looks upwards to his painted heaven, while despair, the last deadly sin, looks downwards into the painted fires of hell.
"For all his adaptation of Giotto's vices, viewers can be sure Pope Francis isn't going to take hell literally and warn people to repent of their sins and turn to Christ before the final judgement," literary scholar Elisabetta Sala told Church Militant.
"I see this papal exposition of vices as a new seed of confusion falling into a soil of ignorance," the Milanese academic said.
"Many Catholics have been deprived of authentic Catholic teaching and will forget a tradition they barely know in favor of what they watch on this television series," lamented Sala, author of L'enigma di Shakespeare: Cortigiano o dissidente?
"The media are already doing this and will erase the Catholic tradition of the deadly sins. Of course, it will be their mistake, because the pope never told them to do so. As always, it is a case of not directly preaching error but promoting it behind the scenes," Sala remarked.
Nove television has released a short preview of the series. In a clip, Francis says cryptically to his interlocutor Fr. Pozza: "We have fallen into the culture of the adjective, we have forgotten the nouns."
"We do not forget that you are a person, you are a man, you are a woman. It is more important to be a man or a woman than not to have these vices and virtues. God does not love the adjective of the person, he loves the person, as he is."
"This is simply more weaponized ambiguity from a pontiff who has made doublespeak the leitmotif of his pontificate," Sala laments. "One hopes this is simply a teaser and there will be more clarity and robust doctrine in the series."
"If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for war? Unless ye give a distinct speech, how shall it be known what is spoken?" she stresses, citing St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians.