Cardinal: The Greatest Sin Is . . .

CardinalmurphyoconnorcrestCardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the departing Archbishop of Westminster, had a few things to say about sin this week in welcoming his replacement. It turns out that the greatest sin is not clergy child abuse, war crimes, ethnic cleansing or the like. The greatest sin? Atheism.

Not only did the Cardinal identify atheism as the greatest sin but blamed atheism for past wars — ignoring of course that more people have been killed in the name of God than any other cause. The good Cardinal has also said in the past that atheists are “not fully human.”

Described as “the greatest of evils,” the cleric used the two-hour Mass to denounced those evil people who do not subscribe to a divine faith.

But furious reaction to comments that Archbishop Nichols had made about child abuse in Ireland threatened to cast a shadow over the installation. Referring to the report published on Wednesday that exposed decades of child abuse by Catholic priests and nuns in Ireland, the Archbishop had said that it took courage for religious orders and clergy to “face the facts from their past”. He also warned that the report threatened to overshadow the good done by the religious orders, chiefly the Christian Brothers and Sisters of Mercy.

What is most crucial is the prayer that we express every day in the Our Father, when we say ‘deliver us from evil’. The evil we ask to be delivered from is not essentially the evil of sin, though that is clear, but in the mind of Jesus it is more importantly a loss of faith. For Jesus, the inability to believe in God and to live by faith is the greatest of evils.” It is always good to see cleric speaking for Jesus in denouncing other humans. What does it say about God that he is most aggrieved by a lack of faith rather than murder and other offenses. This would put atheists lower in God’s book than the 9-11 hijackers or Al Qaeda who professed total devotion to the Almighty.

This unbelievable sermon occurred only days after Ireland’s Child Abuse Commission released its report showing that “thousands” of children had been abused by priests and lay persons at institutions of disadvantaged, neglected and abandoned children. It also comes the week that a new book by Archbishop Weakland explained that he and others did not know sex with children was a crime or that it was really harmful to children.

Ultimately, the priorities of the Cardinal seem a bit twisted and frankly unChristian:

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13

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30 thoughts on “Cardinal: The Greatest Sin Is . . .”

  1. lee,

    I think you are on a very slippery slope with respect to belief. We all believe things – since there are many things that we simply cannot know for a fact it is necessary to make leaps of faith. A personal example: As I implied above, I am a atheist but that doesn’t mean that I there is nothing I believe in without proof. In fact, my career (I’m a scientist) is built around the belief that the scientific method is correct. While this belief has produced great results, I have no proof that it is unquestionably true that the universe is objective (the foundational principle of the scientific method). Instead of arguing against belief (which to my mind is just a step below arguing against oxygen), instead people should be educated to examine their beliefs. Subjecting beliefs to rational examination is, in my opinion, the best way to fight against belief structures which are counterproductive to our persons and our society.

  2. With all the Church cover-ups (anyone remember Cardinal Bernhard Law from Boston?) it seems to me that these leaders of churches (and other religious institutions) are primarily concerned with maintaining positions of power and with avoiding justice in this world with little worry for any supernatural observer.

    President George H.W. Bush once said that he didn’t consider atheists to be American citizens.

  3. What I realize is it is long past time the religion delusion be addressed as a society. A delusion is a belief in something that does not exist. That is by definition a mental illness. If you start off any discussion with the words “I believe” you have lost. No belief should be respected and there are quite a lot of beliefs that should not be tolerated. As a society we do not tolerate racism. As a society the day will come when we will no longer tolerate religion and any attending delusions. It is my deepest regret that I will likely not live to see such a day.

  4. Lee,

    You realize that you’re being just as obnoxious as the Cardinal or Cherry?

  5. I love this argument. There is no sin because there is no authority judging you. I am curious as to why we put people under medical supervision when they hear voices but if those voices are named god we let them wander around, hold jobs and have children. I long for the day when this delusion is recognized for what it is, a mental illness. Those refusing treatment would be locked up. The State seems awfully concerned about a child’s welfare. Why are we allowing these people to keep their children?

  6. Gnostic, I guess I need to do some research. My recollection is that the sin against the Holy Spirit was somehow related to despair. Gyges made the same point you did.

  7. Mike, I agree with your views, but want to note that in the gospels the only unforgivable sin is the sin against the holy ghost, and no one knows what that is. Mk, 3:28:
    Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven all their sins and all the blasphemies they utter. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin

  8. As one who was born and raised a Catholic and even served a brief stint in a Jesuit novitiate, I find the remarks of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor to be, well, stupid. From a purely technical standpoint, he is also incorrect. Traditional Catholic theology teaches that the only unforgivable sin is suicide. But more to the point, far from taking a hard look at themselves, the Catholic hierarchy has been dragged kicking and screaming before the bar of justice. The truth about abuse has largely emerged in spite of the efforts to suppress it in the interest of avoiding scandal and harming the faith of the laity. Indeed, it has required the herculean efforts of the trial bar, that most maligned of species, to force the Church to look at itself. The belief in a Supreme Being is hardly a prerequisite for good parenting, and the report issued in Ireland this past week proves once again that religious faith can be used as a cruel and vicious weapon against children.

  9. cherry

    I doubt you actually want to get into a serious discussion of all the reasons to wonder about the intelligence of those of you deluded by theism, but there are plenty of us atheists here to engage you if you so choose. And for the record, I completely reject the absurd notion that Christ or anyone else died for my or anyone else’s sins.

  10. As, apparently, one of the worst sinners in the world, I wish there was a Hell for all of the child-raping priests, torturers, crusaders, etc. to burn in. The sooner our society is freed from the backward, midieval, irrational clutches of Christian dogma, the better (Note: I have nothing but great respect for people who try to live their lives by the teachings of Jesus, it’s just a pity there are so few of them – remember, Jesus was a socialist not a capitalist – I hope all of those rich republicans are using their money to try and find a way to fit a camel through the eye of a needle ;-)).


    It’s a good thing the church is so big on forgiveness, since it has so much it needs to be forgiven for.

  11. “Not only did the Cardinal identify atheism as the greatest sin but … the good Cardinal has also said in the past that atheists are “not fully human.”

    Atheism is the greatest sin? Where’s the scienter if the “not fully human” are simply ignorant?

    Silly Cardinal, everyone knows that the greatest sin is White Castle.

  12. He is right. Everything else you can be forgiven for. Christ died for your sins and all you have to do is accept his forgiveness. But if you are an atheist you obviously wouldn’t ask for, expect, or even accept his glorious forgiveness of your sins.

    Come on Jonathan Turley. You are such a clown atheist it stinks. I pity children brought up by atheists.

  13. Blaming a minority for society’s ills is one of the oldest trick in the book. The Catholic Church has a long history of persecuting minorities in order to prevent the masses from seeing just how corrupt and devious they truly are.

  14. Lee,

    Actually it’s specifically Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that was supposedly unforgivable. That’s a whole different ball game than not believing in God.

  15. Not that I’m defending what he said because I’m not, I do believe the basis for the Cardinal’s assertion is that in the Bible, Jesus says that the “only” unforivable sin is not to believe in God. Starting from that point one could conceivably end up where the Cardinal has. This, of course, doesn’t in any way diminish the foolishness of the statement, it only provides a biblical reference for it.

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