Belfast Telegraph

There are lies, damned lies and there are women

By Mary Kenny

Although 77% of Irish people believe women should be ordained as priests, I am not convinced.

This is because (a) it tends to cause splits - 3,500 English Anglicans have just joined the Catholic Church because they say that Jesus Christ did not intend for women to be bishops - and (b) the ordination of married men seems a more pressing priority.

But here's an interesting piece of evidence that could well advance the argument for female priests and pastors: a professor of organisational ethics and corporate philosopher, Roger Steare, claims his research shows that women are generally more moral than men.

Professor Steare, who advises big companies and corporations on ethics, conducted his research with over 50,000 volunteers from more than 200 countries.

And the data kept demonstrating the same trends: women are more ethical then men, are more inclined to consider the impact on others of their decisions and have a stronger sense of what is wrong and right.

But I wonder if Professor Steare has computed into his data one particular feminine weakness which could skew his findings somewhat: did all the 50,000 volunteers answer the questions truthfully when they were asked to evaluate their own decency and virtue?

I know that I can be the most shocking liar. Sometimes the lies are told out of kindness - "Does my bum look big in this?" "No, darling, you look like Pippa Middleton" - but sometimes they're out of cowardice, or vanity.

I think women feel they have to lie to make life bearable for others. Women have had to imply, to boyfriends, fiances and husbands, that they have lived an unblemished life previous to their union with him, because many societies regarded women with sexual experience as 'damaged goods'.

That's the abiding anxiety around Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) in the TV series Downton Abbey: she fell into bed with a diplomat, who inconveniently expired on the spot and now she is 'damaged goods' in the marriage market.

In the West, sexual liberation has changed these perceptions, but the habit of airbrushing the true picture somehow endures.

Women often lie in relation to money.

I lie about the cost of clothes and accessories, even though I purchase my own frocks with my own earnings.

Perhaps it's a type of shame about accusations of extravagance, or perhaps part of Roger Steare's finding that women worry about the impact of their decisions on others.

All in all, I'd say Professor Steare's claim that women have a more highly developed moral conscience than men is right (you can do his test yourself at www.moraldna.org), with the glaring exception of the feminine skills of deception.

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