This is going to be perhaps one of the stranger posts here.
First of all, I'm not Catholic (was raised a Presbyterian, but they do fine on guilt as well) and am most certainly no theologian.
Mortal sins: what are they? They're also called deadly sins, and the Catholic Church has categorized seven of these: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride.
Since I don't want to go into great detail, let's keep on moving: there are also, according to St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, degress of sin: pardonable, near-pardonable, non-mortal, near the non-mortal, between the mortal and non-mortal, near the mortal and mortal. He also stipulates seven conditions: who is the doer, what sin was committed, in what manner, at what time/age, where and how many times it was committed.
As you can see, the Catholic Church tends to take sin seriously. Were that we were all to do so.
What is, after all, a sin, and what does it have to do at all with the body politic and the way forward?
Put simply: a sin is the conscious deed of something evil. What, then, is evil?
Were that this could be so simply answered. For most religions that even contemplate evil, evil is negation: Pure being, unlimited realization of potential, is what the Catholics understand to be the true essence of God: hence anything that takes away from that is, per definitio, evil.
There is physical evil (torture, denying the starving food), moral evil (deviation from moral orders) and metaphysical evil (the way the world hinders good).
Now, where the sinner commits his sin, where becomes evil, is the point where the sinner makes the decision to sin, where free will stands against the moral order and transgresses. Indeed the three major religions all point to this: for the Jews and the Christians, the Sin of Adam is the first and foremost sin, the disobedience to God's word; for the Moslems, the greatest sin is that of the apostate, the one who rejects submission to Allah.
It is the errors of mankind that are the root of all evil. Does this make mankind evil?
Certainly not: it makes no sense to condemn mankind for its errors, insofar as these were not taken deliberately.
There is the rub: those acts taken in error, in awareness that they were errors, are sins.
So why this long and tedious exegesis?
It has to do with the Body Politic, not merely in the US, but most importantly there.
The fundamental difference, it seems to me, between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in the US is the degree to which either side is willing to make deliberate errors to achieve their goals.
In other words, how much they are willing to lie, to commit sins and do wrongs.
It has long been a favorite catechism of the Left in the US that President Bush sinned when he called for the invasion of Iraq in 2002/2003, that the war was hence fundamentally wrong and evil.
This is where their understanding of sin fails. Part of the argument - and by no means the entire argument, despite the claims of the Left - for invading Iraq was the apparent Iraqi commitment to develop weapons of mass destruction. We know now that this was in error: but we also know that the error was honest, that even Saddam Hussein wanted everyone to think that he had such programs, so as to appear strong.
An honest error is not a sin.
But choosing to lie is. We see that today in the political discussions about the environment, about health care. We see, if we bother to look, how those committed to a path of political action chose to suppress evidence and manipulate numbers to further their goals; how the environmentalists admit that they exaggerate trends in order to scare people to get action.
That is a sin: it is not an honest error.
The biggest criticism people have today about politicians - and the reason for their extremely low levels of public respect and admiration - is that they all seem to be corrupt and lying. and indeed all parties have been guilty of failures.
But the failures of the right, of the Republican party, have been either personal failures (sex and bribery scandals) or honest errors: that perhaps a war was fought based on faulty information that might have been avoided if more due diligence had been exercised (of course, in perfect hindsight).
The failures of the Left are more endemic: they are less personal failures (indeed, personal failing in a Democrat is virtually automatically expected and hence pardoned by the Press) as much more deliberately choosing to be misleading, of choosing to lie and mislead in order to reach their goals. The shroud of misinformation and deliberate obfuscation surrounding what has happened to the TARP monies, the continued belief in things like the Hockey Stick of Global Warming (thoroughly discredited to all but the truest of believers), are all deliberate choices to further a political agenda.
This is the state of the body politic, one of the reasons why the Republican Party appears to be in such dire straits: they continue to not believe that the Democratic Party has deliberately chosen to be so deliberately misleading.
Of course, this is a polemic.
How to move forward from here?
Simple: to show the sins and show the sinners the error of their ways.
Republicans need to simply state the truth of the situation: that the Democrats continue to be tax and spend liberals incapable of understanding how they further the problems they claim to solve; that global warming is, at best, a natural process and is being used to assume control of vast portions of the world's economy in the name of saving the world (while plundering the accounts); that purported health care reform will leave most significantly worse off, but politicians and lawyers rather better off; that whatever the Democratic Party and its supporters touch ends up being corrupted and hurts those that should be helped.
It's time to stop pretending that "politicians" are all the same and to take the moral high road, to admit honest error but never, ever accepting dishonest error. It may not win elections tomorrow, but the consistent stance that the Democratic Party has been, in its soul, corrupted and has become, fundamentally, evil, is the best way to fight that evil. The sins of the Democrats aren't mortal sins (yet), but rather capital sins, where the end is so desirable and the rewards so great that it drives all other sins.
Look at that list of sins again: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride.
Those are the things that should no longer be tolerated in civil society. No more sex scandals; no tolerance of those who obsess with food (and hence what we eat); no tolerance for bribery; no tolerance for refusing to do something (and despair); no tolerance for anger outbursts and "rage against the machine"; no tolerance for envy politics; no tolerance for narcissistic behavior.
There are, instead, the list of seven virtues: Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness and Humility.
One virtue for each of the sins.
Regardless of whether you're Jewish, Christian, Muslim or any other religion: the world would generally be a vastly better place if the virtues were taught and praised, instead of the vices being held up in the media as the way to behave.