Thursday, February 19, 2009

Different sins for the ladies?

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

This is really amusing. The Vatican just released a study that claims that there is "no sexual equality" when it comes to sin. The downfall of men is (surprise!) lust, while women are likely to be toppled by the sin of pride. But what if I am proud of my lust? No cigar! Monsignor Wojciech Giertych, personal theologian to Pope Benedict XVI and the papal household, told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano: "Men and women sin in different ways. When you look at vices from the point of view of the difficulties they create you find that men experiment in a different way from women."

My puzzlement continued as I read that the survey is based on "confessional data" (can someone please explain to me what that means? Because my assumption is that now the confession booth has been turned into pseudo-science). Apparently, in the same survey, the Vatican was informed that 30 per cent of Catholics no longer considered confession to a priest necessary, and 10 per cent even said that it "impeded their personal dialogue with God." If it's going to go into a sexist, fake-scientific study, damn straight it's going to impede my personal dialogue with God! But seriously - why do sins have to be gendered now? If I want to live in the sin city of my choosing, then surely the fact that I'm a woman shouldn't stop me. But then again, to quote Sarah Haskins, I am just a lady, with a simple lady mind - which is apparently eaten up with the sin of pride.


At February 19, 2009 at 4:48 PM , Blogger Roscoe said...

First off, I'm not sure at all what you are going for with this post. It makes little to no sense. You are taking positive facts and somehow warping them to seem as though they are meant to be normative. Perhaps you've done more research than you care to link to, but the Vatican never said anything about how men and women should sin (that's just stupid), nor are they denying the fact that they can sin differently. They actually admit it when they say that men do in fact commit all those sins, just that the majority is lust. What's the problem with this?

Moreover, confessional data is not pseudo-science, you are just being purposefully pejorative at this point. Did you even care to think about the fact that people actually say things in confession, kinda like they do in any other way of surveying people. And then those answers or data can be used to create scientifically responsible studies? No, of course not, it's the Catholic Church after all, those bunch of loonies.

This study is neither sexist, nor fake-scientific. Neither are sins gendered, unless of course any and all other studies that have sex as an independent variable are also sexist and gendered. You are just using rhetoric and sophistry to bash religion. Honestly, what are you writing?

At February 19, 2009 at 8:05 PM , Anonymous Will said...

I have to agree with really is not a strong argument--I don't really see the argument at all, actually. Collecting data that shows men and women act in different ways does no suppose/impose/assume a gendered system of sin--on the contrary, it simply denotes what sins are generally committed, based on confessionals, by men and women. The fact that they go on to predict which sin a man is likely to commit vs. what sin a woman is likely to commit does not mean that they are "gendering" sin, but simply making a prediction based on their collected data.

Here's a similar scenario: 50 men and 50 women go to a candy store, where they make their selections and pay accordingly. The candy store publishes statistics as to which candy is most popular with each sex; certainly, each man and each woman is able to select whatever candy they choose, but nevertheless it is possible to predict, based on the consistency of buying, which sex is going to select which candy. Obviously, exceptions do exist, and the men and women are ultimately free to choose what they want. The prediction does not form or direct their selections--it is simply a hypothesis based on prior observations.

Suggesting that this study has anything to do with feminism is ridiculous. I could just as easily decry the fact that they predict what sin men will commit, but, alas, I have way better things to do and way more important--and far more substantial--things to think about. This is not a issue of gender--I think your argument is against the Catholic church, and so I would suggest you look for a blog dealing with religion above one that is supposedly tied to feminism and feminist theory.

At February 19, 2009 at 9:02 PM , Anonymous Amelia said...

First of all, I'm not sure what's anti-religion about criticizing a study conducted by the Catholic Church that is 1) self-selecting and 2) unscientific. Confessional data is not accepted scientific fact...when I googled it just now, the article that I linked to came up as the second link, so I'm guessing that it's not just me who's never heard of it. And suggesting that men are more likely to commit sins of lust and women, sins of pride, based on this insufficient data *is* sexist. Making assumptions about people's behavior purely based on their gender is a sexist, gendered practice, and I'm not sure how you can deny that. It would be similarly unproductive to try to make predictions based on where people were born. And that fact that the sins that men and women supposedly are more likely to commit fall straight along gender-stereotype lines is not a point in the Vatican's favor. This is not about me attacking religion - I would have brought this up if it had been any religious establishment, not just the Catholic church - but rather pointing out that the survey is flawed, sexist, and counterproductive.

At February 20, 2009 at 12:56 AM , Blogger Roscoe said...

Ah, I see.

I think where we diverged is where I took it as implicit in the article that they were talking about Catholic men and women. It seems as though you took it as though the Vatican wanted to proclaim something about human nature. I am sorry I reacted like I did, you are right to bring up these considerations if they are indeed trying to say something about human beings in general, that aren't Catholics. On the other hand, I don't think they wanted to say such a thing. I suppose if you put yourself in my shoes, my earlier response may not have been all that crazy!

At February 20, 2009 at 1:11 AM , Blogger Roscoe said...

Though, just in case it wasn't clear, I do stand by my earlier post from the viewpoint that it provides good, scientific data, results, and conclusions for the Vatican's purposes, just like any other scientific, statistical endeavor for any other institution's purposes. In fact, it is just that apparent when Pope Benedict says that, "We are losing the notion of sin." He is using the results from this study to better lead his congregation. Ya, Catholics actually have heard about the scientific method, contrary to popular belief. I know, shocking.

Oh and this: "And that fact that the sins that men and women supposedly are more likely to commit fall straight along gender-stereotype lines is not a point in the Vatican's favor" cannot be sexist if it is merely a positive study of the state of the world at a certain point in time, which this study is. we make these claims all the time, backed up by empirical data, and if there is a strong correlation between the dependent variable and sex, then it just can't be sexist to state that fact, it cannot be. It can only be sexist to say "therefore this is the way men and women can only be", but certainly that is not what was being communicated by the Vatican.

At February 21, 2009 at 1:10 AM , Anonymous Christina said...

Amelia, I feel a little bit like you've missed the point of what the Vatican is saying. The Vatican is saying that, based on observations (just like my observation that men, on average, are taller than women), men, on average, commit sins of lust most frequently, and women, on average, commit sins of pride most frequently. If you're looking at the quote about "Men and women sin in different ways," I would bet quite a sum that Giertych doesn't mean anyone is incapable of committing any sin that can be imagined because of gender or for any other reason; what he is doing is making a generalization based on observations that men more often sin in one way and women more often sin in another way. I would further bet that he does not intend to say that all men and all women fit this mold; he is merely pointing out a trend (just as I may point out that women in the USA, on average, live longer than men in the USA).

Furthermore, you may "want to live in the sin city of [your] own choosing," but the Vatican is not telling you that you can't choose how you sin. In fact, what the Vatican normally does (and is doing here as well) is try to prevent people (addressing Catholics specifically) from sinning at all--to encourage people to choose not to sin at all. The purpose of even making these confessional observations, and then letting people know about it, is to suggest to Catholics, specifically, and to anyone else who cares to listen, that men may want to be more wary of lust, and women may want to be more wary of pride, if they want to better avoid sin. This information is, as far as I can tell, meant to be used as a tool for personal reflection and introspection. Of course what the Vatican would like is for people to avoid and be wary of all sins. But, by pointing out the most frequent sins, and by pointing out the most frequent sins by gender as well, the Vatican is trying to help people avoid those most-oft-committed sins. After all, forewarned is forearmed.

And, if through the course of one's reflection on this study, a man finds that he is not particularly prone to the sin of lust, or a woman finds she is not particularly prone to the sin of pride, that's fine, and the Vatican hasn't precluded those conclusions by disclosing the reported frequencies of various sins. The man or woman who undertakes this reflection, however, probably has come to a realization about his or her own most frequent sin, and the overall purpose of making this information public--to make people (Catholics specifically, again) more aware of their bad actions so that they may improve themselves--has been achieved.

As a side note, I think part of the reason your post may seem to be anti-Catholic Church is the very casual way you talk about (even joke about) sin. While you don't seem to accept the same concept of sin--and I certainly am not demanding that you do, because it's your prerogative to believe what you want--you seem to ridicule those who do. And, for those who view their sins as impediments to their relationship with God and offenses which are not without gravity, addressing sin flippantly seems to fly in the face of the importance of maintaining one's relationship with God, and it belittles that goal.

At February 21, 2009 at 7:34 PM , Blogger Roscoe said...

Incredibly well-written Christina. You have found words for what it seems I could not portray. Thank you for your contribution.

At February 23, 2009 at 2:24 PM , Anonymous Dan said...

Wow, Christina, what a well thought out and eloquent response.


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