Friday, December 20, 2013

A Blast From The Past----The Sins Of The Genders

Eve goes for some pride, while Adam is overcome by lust.

One of the things I've been enjoying about the 'feedjit' gizmo on the sidebar is it shows which posts people are clicking on.  Since I've written close to 1300 posts I don't remember 99% of them, so feedjit has been a ticket to a trip down memory lane.  I caught the following link this morning and just had to go read it.  It's worth reposting under the Pope Francis regime since confession is a bigger deal to Francis than it was to Benedict--at least in terms of how often Francis mentions confession and the fact he's making it mandatory all curial staff take a turn at hearing confessions.

One other thing that made for memories with this post, is I wrote it at the same time NCR took down the old NCRcafe which was the whole inspiration for me starting this blog.  It was written on February 18, 2009.  An amazing factoid for me personally, is that by New Years this blog will have had 1 million page views from 125 countries.  That's just mind blowing to me.  I'll probably have to be confessing a little sinful indulgence in pride or something.

Women are prouder than men, but men are more lustful, according to a Vatican report which states that the two sexes sin differently.

A Catholic survey found that the most common sin for women was pride, while for men, the urge for food was only surpassed by the urge for sex.

The report was based on a study of confessions carried out by Fr Roberto Busa, a 95-year-old Jesuit scholar.

The Pope's personal theologian backed up the report in the Vatican newspaper.

"Men and women sin in different ways," Msgr Wojciech Giertych, theologian to the papal household, wrote in L'Osservatore Romano.

"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."

Msgr Giertych said the most difficult sin for men to face was lust, followed by gluttony, sloth, anger, pride, envy and greed.

For women, the most dangerous sins were pride, envy, anger, lust, and sloth, he added.

Catholics are supposed to confess their sins to a priest at least once a year. The priest absolves them in God's name.

Men --1. Lust; 2. Gluttony; 3. Sloth; 4. Anger; 5. Pride; 6. Envy; 7. Greed
Women --1. Pride; 2. Envy; 3. Anger; 4. Lust; 5. Gluttony; 6. Avarice; 7. Sloth

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into Hell".

Traditionally, the seven deadly sins were considered: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth.

The Apostolic Penitentiary, one of the Vatican's most secretive departments, which fixes the punishments and indulgences handed down to sinners, last year updated its list of deadly sins to include more modern ones.

The revised list included seven modern sins it said were becoming prevalent during an era of "unstoppable globalisation".

These included: genetic modification, experiments on the person, environmental pollution, taking or selling illegal drugs, social injustice, causing poverty and financial greed.

The report came amid Vatican concerns about the declining rate of confessions.
A recent survey of Catholics found nearly a third no longer considered confession necessary, while one in 10 considered the process an obstacle to their dialogue with God.

Pope Benedict, who reportedly confesses his sins once a week, last year issued his own voice of disquiet on the subject.
"We are losing the notion of sin," he said. "If people do not confess regularly, they risk slowing their spiritual rhythm."


This difference between the sexes is kind of fascinating. Is this nature, gender conditioning, or a product of both. The lists are almost reversed with neither side claiming too much greed--probably why the Vatican's new list seems to concentrate on various consequences of greed.

They conjure up images of beer bellied, lusty, male slobs, and shrew jealous Stepford wives. I've often wondered if priests hear in confession the same stuff I've heard in therapy sessions. My experience with men and women is quite a bit different than this. In therapy a lot of men work on esteem issues, communication difficulties, and relationship problems. Women will work on esteem issues, communication difficulties, and relationship problems. It's also true that these difficulties will lead to engaging in lust, gluttony, envy, sloth, and a bogus pride which covers a lot of humiliation and some defense strategies do tend to be favored on the basis of gender.

There were plenty of times in sessions when I wished I could have given absolution because I knew it would make a real difference. Suggesting clients go to confession too frequently fell on deaf ears. Clients wanted a real relationship with a real person rather than a rote form confession to a mostly complete stranger. When your self esteem is in a hole, I guess this makes some sense.

I had a Catholic psychiatrist in grad school who maintained confession is for the stronger in self esteem and counseling is for those without much self esteem. Both could achieve the same ends but the starting points were different. Needless to say he also felt childhood confession was an exercise in abuse. Children didn't have enough of a concept of self to be put through that particular exercise. I can remember sitting in class and having flash backs about my own first confession. It was not one of my better Catholic experiences. I have a sneaking suspicion the lack of confessions from adults has a lot to do with that early formation.

I disagree with Benedict about the usefulness of confession. If he's talking about maintaining a spiritual rhythm that's one thing, but if the issue is maturing in a relationship with God and understanding the motivations behind the sin, that's another issue entirely. Frequent confession does not always lead to legitimate insight. As a priest friend of mine once said, frequent confession too frequently leads to repeating the same confession. I'm sure he's not the only priest who would say that same thing.

Sin, hell, and confession are areas in which left and right do not meet. The right sees things in terms of sinful acts to be confessed and the left tends to see things in attitudes which need to be adjusted. What we need is a theology of sin which relates the acts to the underlying more global attitudes. I doubt we'll see that under this Pope. In the meantime I'm off to work on pride or whatever it was I used to confess before I tuned up my attitudes.


  1. The original Evagrius, ( not me!), created the first list of sins, ( which he called logismoi or tempting thoughts). It had eight logismoi, ( it was changed later to seven), grouped into three categories; gluttony, lust and love of money were considered "bodily" temptations, sadness, anger and acedia, ( sloth), were considered emotional temptations, and vainglory and pride were considered intellectual sins. His Praktikos was the first diagnosis of these and also a fairly simple approach to counter them.

  2. "one million page views" Great news! Great Blog! I am PROUD of you and do not really care that it may be a sin, to feel that way.

  3. It's precisely because first confession and communion were within a week of each other that my confession completely overcame First Communion. In reality it was though it was the teaching fiasco I had before either sacrament that made confession a nightmare....and no I didn't feel forgiven at all which made my First Communion far less than it might have been----or maybe not.

    I find it instructive that the primary sins listed by the Vatican correspond with the highly likely potential sins of Adam and Eve as described in Genesis. Perhaps that is all about Catholic conditioning and perhaps the 'survey' itself was not so scientific. Given the writings of the papacies of JPII (Theology of the Body) and EP Benedict (On The Collaboration of Men and Women), I think it's safe to say these rankings have a whole lot to do with Catholic conditioning.

  4. I'm not thinking I really care about the pride issue either. It's been very nice to know there are other Catholics out there who do not "find there Catholic identity in the standard definitions and realize drawing a bigger circle of love will 'heal' and bring more into the circle

  5. Very interesting website. It's somewhat frustrating to me that men with a bent to find God have traditionally seen women as 'objects' to be avoided.

    I will keep wearing my hoodies however. That seems to be an approved idea. :)

  6. Interesting comment, because pride in a job well done is very necessary to increase ones self esteem. What religious people should be talking about is false pride or the feeling of being superior to other people. This is a sign of Arrogance exactly what we see in the Clerical system.

    I agree with you about therapy and I don't hear men come in and describe lustful concerns nearly as much as difficulty relating to others. This is the same for women. Yes there are some people who have difficulty with arrogance but mostly they are unaware of it in themselves as are our RCC Bishops unaware of their own false pride.

    Finally the most serious of all the above "sins" is indeed envy. Not many people even know the meaning of what this emotion means. A short answer for envy is the feeling of wanting something so much that a person is willing to kill for it. This may take the shape of murder or long term war as we saw in Ireland or now the mideast or it may take the shape of killing off another's mind, carrier or opportunities. One big recent examples in the clerical system is the calling learned Catholic theologians not catholics after all their years of consideration and studies. This occurs in our church when a man who considers himself as part of an "infallible magisterium" believes himself to be an infallible judge that can kill of a carrier.

    I think that what we see in the Bishops requires a lot more than simple confession when but therapy to examine their own denial of reality. Once that occurs perhaps they might be able to examine their own consciences.

    Of course envy is a serious emotion in all of us and a dangerous one that kills relationship and causes anger, sadness and often some kind of violence to another. Gluttony is another form of greed and sloth may be related to depression or characterlogic disfunction. Avarice is the same as envy and is a very serious emotion. All of the “new” sins could be described by the old ones excepting genetic modification that might well be coming to scientists who actually listen to the Holy Spirit in there own creative lifetimes, and could well be a mixed bag of blessing and sorrow. So perhaps we could ask ourselves, “What ever became of sin?” Perhaps we might attempt an approach of growth and development and relational thinking rather than condemnation of these emotions. Perhaps we could listen more to the Holy Spirit in this generation not forgetting what we once thought but correcting it instead.

  7. Well, the same advise is given in Buddhism. There's a famous story about a master, accompanied by a disciple, carrying a woman across a river. The disciple was quite upset that the master did so. The master replied, "I dropped the woman on the riverbank but you're still carrying her".

    The advise was also given to women regarding men.

  8. I too, agree that confession is not suitable for a 7 yr. old child.
    I was traumatized by all the instruction on mortal sin and going to hell for all eternity. This is totally inappropriate. I still do not "go to confession" though I have had spiritual direction for many years, which I think is much more valuable.

    I'd also like to add a clarification to a statement that the author of this blog made. We are not obliged to go to confession once a year, only if we are in "mortal sin" which would prevent us from receiving Communion during the Easter season--in years back referred to our "Easter Duty, and is officially an obligation.

    May the sacrament of forgiveness truly become a means of peace not fear and trauma.