Vatican says men and women even sin differently

BlogHer Original Post

The Vatican hit a Trifecta this week, after a rough month, with the affirmation of a survey done by a 97 year old priest that men and women sin differently. Men are more lustful. Women are more prideful. NB: Pride is considered the worst of the Seven Deadly Sinslifting the excommunication of a priest who had been being too conservative on liturgical issues. (The British-born Richard Williamson, is the same bishop who has also made many denials of the Nazi Holocaust, even saying that "there were no gas chambers.") Even the German government cried out at that.

Next, our Speaker of the House, Pelosi visits the Pope, and the Vatican said that they raised the issue of Catholic politicians and abortion again. Pelosi said they talked about other things.

So the blogosphere was well tuned up to be humming about this most recent issue, the survey.

First, who is this priest that did the study? And who is affirming it?

The priest is Fr Roberto Busa, a 95-year-old Jesuit scholar, and one of the pioneers in the usage of computers for linguistic and literary analysis, especially of St Thomas Aquinas. The affirming priest is Dominican Father Wojciech Giertych, the personal theologian to the Pope, and an Aquinas scholar.

No less than The Catholic News reports Giertych as saying:

The priest said personal experience seemed to confirm these theories.

"In convents, women religious are often envious of each other over little things, but when the church bell rings, everyone goes to the chapel to sing vespers," he said.

"Monks, however, aren't often interested in each other and, therefore, aren't jealous, but when the church bell rings, few take part in common prayer," he said.

He said St. Thomas Aquinas taught that pride is humanity's greatest enemy because it leads a person to believe he or she is self-sufficient and "hinders a person from having a relationship with God."

Lust and "the sins against chastity are less dangerous because they are accompanied by a strong sense of humiliation and, as such, can be an occasion to return to God," said Father Giertych.

OK, by now we all need to take a deep breath, pause and review.




We don't know much about the actual survey. We do know that the Bible never mentions the Seven Deadly Sins, but they were listed by Pope Gregory I in 590AD.

The Vatican affirms that, according to this survey, women are prone to worse sins than men.

They do not say how big the study was, under what conditions it was made. They do not say if the study was of laypeople or of priests and nuns, or of all mixed. They do not say what they classified as a "sin of pride" and a "sin of lust". (For those of you who may not have experienced a Catholic confessional, people do not generally say "I committed the sin of pride." They are more likely to say that they got angry, or took God's name in vain, or had impure thoughts, etc.")

There is no suggestion of how they collected the data. Was it confession-specific? (i.e. Did a variety of confessors fill out data forms while the confession was happening or soon after that listed everything confessed?)

Or, was the data collected as anecdotal? (i.e. Did they ask priests how they would rank the Seven Deadly Sins by sex? Were they asking impressions or getting facts?)

Oh, and did any women have a chance to analyze the results of whatever data was at hand?

The Vatican has said that they affirm the results.

But what does that mean? Is there some recently surfaced need to affirm the differences between men and women? Is this heralding a return to more Aquinian theology?

Aquinas is often credited for establishing the groundwork philosophically for the forbidding of female ordination in the Catholic Church. Will this be another brick in that wall?

It puzzles me. Why would the Roman Catholic church want to make these points now?

(Lest anyone think I am aiming at the RCC, it was my birth-church, and I am thankful for that, although I have departed its ranks. I am equally capable of being mystified by the official statements of any church body. Organized religion, despite its charm, often has me shaking my head. THIS study, however, is one step short of turning me into a bobble-headed doll.)

So, folks, I turn to you. What do YOU think of this?

The official breakdown of the 7 by sex is as follows:

For men: lust, gluttony, sloth, anger, pride, envy and greed.

For women: pride, envy, anger, lust, gluttony, greed and sloth.

Now, does it do the world any good to know this? What if it is true (although I cannot imagine how one might know this). Isn't it just confirming old stereotypes to say that men are lusty and women are vain?

I found a lot in various blogs about this. Some merely report it. Some say it is mildly interesting. Some make sport. Some are outraged. But no one yet has pointed out how the study may be useful. It is not that I ignored such posts about usefulness. I just couldn't find any!

Teleri says

Look for revision in another 500-700 years.
What I find amusing is that, in the Middle Ages, lust was considered pre-eminently a female sin. Yep, all women were positively on fire, just waiting to tempt those poor celibate monks and priests into damnation. In anthropomorphizations of the Seven Deadlies, Lust is often female when the others are all male.
Today? It's the guys who have the lust problem, and pride is the chief female sin.

In the UK, Pearly Jones says:

And as for the boy's top three? Lust, Gluttony and Sloth? Turn them the other way round and you might have a point.

The only way to entice the lovely, but eternally sleepy Mr PJones out of his slothful pit, is to waft a full English breakfast under his nose, (therefore appealing to the glutton), while whispering, temptingly, in his ear sweet nothings such as "Darling...the cricket is on TV and England are winning by 10 wickets...

Dianakat has plenty to say:

Do we really observe more anger and prideful behavior in women than in men?

I do not doubt that Giertych's and Busa's reports of their own little samples may be accurate. Particularly in conservative, authoritarian institutions but even in society in general, it is far less acceptable for women to act in such ways. While men are regarded as self-confident and strong when they show pride and anger, women exhibiting comparable behavior may be seen as pretentious and bitchy. While such men are showing leadership and representing God as a priestly class, women are uppity sinners.

And this is what each group is taught. Is it surprising that the adherents to the very traditional practice of "confession" in a very conservative, doctrinal church reflect this sexist teaching?

Butterflies and Wheels is enraged.

Oh for godsake, who cares. Gluttony, sloth, lust, pride - mind your own business, why don't you, and while you're at it, why don't you worry about moral failings that actually matter? How's that for an idea? Why don't you leave sloth and gluttony up to everybody's mummy and daddy and turn your attention to cruelty and oppression and exploitation instead? Why don't you stop straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel? Eh? Eh? Why don't you work on your priorities? Why don't you improve your moral sensitivities?

Ann Althouse says:

"Men and women sin in different ways," says the Pope's personal theologian.
Oh, you mean like the way we love too much?

Mata H, CE for Religion and Spirituality, blogs til her head spins at Time's Fool


In order to comment on, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.

Recent Posts by Mata H