Some background. NPR have little programs that focus on a particular topic combine several of the stories they have done on their various programs throughout the week that fall under the umbrella of that topic. I don't know how many there are; I generally listen to the Political Rewind, NPR: Music, and NPR: Religion. On one of the programs making up the NPR: Religion podcast (normally they're news shows like All Things Considered or Morning Edition or Weekend Edition), Jesuit priest Father James Martin first commented on what the survey actually measured, saying, "You read the survey, and you could also interpret it as those are the sins they confess more. Which may not mean that they're actually sinning in that way, but those are the sins they confess most often to confessors". That is an important distinction; I remember talking to some of my friends who actually went to confession after their confirmations and made up some plausible sins because they couldn't remember any of their real ones. Measuring what people confess could be just a measure of what they generally feel expected to confess and not what they actually feel like they've done.
Father Martin also brings up the sociological aspect of who sees what as sinful, remarking, "Women may be more encouraged when they're young not to be proud and be more self-effacing. They actually may be more attentive to the sin of pride than men would be. But that may not mean that they are any more proud than men are but that they may confess it more." That was what almost laid me flat, because it acknowledged societal gender roles as playing a part in how people interpret their actions and how what may be different is not the type of sinning but what men and women consider to be sinful. "That's very similar to my thinking. I wondered if what women would identify as the sin of pride men would identify as just, you know, a bit of swaggering self confidence," agreed host Scott Simon.
Something not really addressed in the conversation but that occurred to me was the philosophical question of sin. I wondered, while listening to the podcast, whether or not men and women may not truly sin differently simply by virtue of experiencing sin differently. Or, are women, by acknowledging their pride, actually sinning where men experiencing the exact same emotions or going through the exact same actions are not, simply because they don't perceive what they're doing as sinful? Not being religious, I can't really see sin as being something existing independently of those sinning. But at the same time, I would imagine for the religious it is. Otherwise, it would simply come down to perception - and if sin is just about perception then the person who inhales a carton of ice cream could not be gluttonous and the person who had that extra piece of bread could be. And if sin is simply about the sinner's perception of sin, then men and women would sin differently - and the question would then become why a particular action or emotional response would be a sin when attributed to women but not when attributed to men. But I don't really think that's how the Vatican and the 94 year old who documented these confessions are approaching the gendered sin question; I think they really just stop short of really getting what this report could actually be saying to them.