Do you remember this story?:

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.”

Did anyone else think “experiment” was an odd expression in the context? Anyway, swanned off to the university library last week on my beeeyooootiful bike through the most inappriate to Holy Week gorgeous summery weather (Tepidus can testify to the attractiveness of the route from bat Ionah Mansions to said library), and after swotting up on tedious people who have it all wrong, I nipped in to the journals reading room to look up the relevant issue of L’Osservatore (around the 17th Feb).

The actual story:

There is the Index Thomisticus – much what you would expect from the name, an index to the opera omnia of St Thomas. It was made by Fr Roberto Busa, SJ, some time ago, before being put more recently online. A certain Samuele Sangalle has used it to write a tables-and-lists sort of book which looks at the places in which St Thomas considers the deadly vices. On the occasion of its launch, L’Osservatore publishes the book’s preface (written by Fr Busa) and a rather good article on the seven deadly sins by Wojciech Giertych, OP. Fr Giertych gives a historical survey of the concept, noting that the notion of the deadly sins and their identification are fruits of experience in the Christian life – from observation and reflection Christians  learned that these are the vices of which all other sins are examples or varities, and for this reason they are called “capital”. Fr Giertych talks about which vices were identified by different early authors, and the order in which they are given. He goes on, in the last paragraph of his half-page article (L’Osservatore is a broadsheet with small print) to say

When one looks at the capital vices not from the point of view of their opposition to grace, but of that of the difficulties which they create, we see that men experience them in a different way from women. For men, often the most difficult vice to confront is that of lust, followed by gluttoy, sloth (acedia), anger, vanity, wrath, envy and greed. For women, the most dangerous vice is vanity, followed by envy, wrath, lust, gluttony and last, sloth.

The BBC journalist got the deadly sins bit, got the some-kind-of-statistical-thing bit, and then turned a tangential grandfatherly observation into the meat of his article by inventing a survey of which there is no sign. As if it were some kind of party game – “invent a background story to this quote”.  You wonder when they stop inventing their stories.

Update (Thursday):  Found the same story on the Telegraph website. Perhaps it was a UK-journalists-in-Rome-party game?