Thursday, February 19, 2009

The road to hell is paved with - Cosmo surveys?

Here's one for the gender warriors: men and women - or at least observant Roman Catholic men and women - "sin differently", according to a shiny new report from the Vatican.

It's a bizarre survey, conducted by Fr Roberto Busa, a 95-year-old Jesuit priest, and based on data from an undisclosed (to me, at least) sample of confessions. Apparently, men tend to enjoy lust, gluttony and sloth, while women are more likely to indulge in pride, envy and anger.

Note that the stereotypically macho vice of "wrath" makes the top three for women, but not for men - although without quantitative data we can't really deduce anything about it. "Greed", also called "covetousness" or "avarice", appears to be firmly at the bottom of the pile.

"Sloth" is an interesting sin, and one of my personal favourites. According to one view, it's the inverse of "avarice" - you're unlikely to make much money while sitting about on your backside. On the other hand, what's the point of making money, beyond bare survival needs, if not in anticipation of enjoying some sloth at a later date?

I haven't been able to find if this kind of survey has ever been done before. The Vatican's official theory is that, while environments and circumstances change, basic human nature is constant, so they might argue that these findings would never greatly change. But really I find it hard to believe they'd be that naïve. In harder times, surely avarice would be more popular.

(I do want to know more about Fr Busa's sample. Was it purely local, around Rome, or nationwide, or wider? Was it weighted towards any particular groups, such as religious communities? But I can't find this data. The original publication, in the Vatican's weekly L'Osservatore Romano, doesn't seem to be available online, and none of the summaries I've found goes into that kind of detail.)

Also not mentioned are the "new sins" published last year, listed as "environmental pollution, genetic manipulation, obscene wealth, infliction of poverty, drug trafficking, morally debatable experiments, and violation of the fundamental rights of human nature." I'd love to know how often men and women confess to each of those.


Ruby Apolline said...

Great title. Cosmo quizzes are everywhere! There are entire websites devoted to them. I guess the Catholic church wants to be hip.

Including those new sins, I think I'm definitely headed for the Hot Place. Genetic manipulation? Tons.

vet said...

Ah, but you did your genetic manipulation before March 2008, didn't you? I don't know if that counts.

I try to confine myself to the seven traditional sins. I can't recall the last time I violated the fundamental rights of human nature, although of course I might just be failing to recognise it.

Ruby Apolline said...

Oh, true. What a relief. I think I might have violated the fundamental rights of human nature once or twice, but not very seriously.

I really love the Catholics. I know I'm an outsider and I know there were those Crusades and all that but the intricacies of the doctrine and thought are just...wonderful. Plus all the art and music and stuff, of course.

vet said...

I think of the Catholics as the religious equivalent of an old, retired couple. They're a bit set in their ways, and they have a house that's full to bulging of crap that they would never even consider throwing away.

Some of it is very lovely crap, some is just crap, but to them it's all part of the same very long, very involved story, and they're all too happy to tell you all about it any time you want to go over for tea and cake.

I may not visit them often, but it's very reassuring to think they're always there, always pretty much the same.