Here is how the Apostle Paul described himself: “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the He-brews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:5-6)
I could apply that same meme to my former life as a Catholic. I was born into a solid Catholic family, circumcised and baptised as an infant. I received my First Communion in second grade and my confirmation in the 4th grade.
Twelve years I spent in Catholic grade school and High School. I can recall that in grades 1-4 we had our catechism books. Early on, they were coloring books; but they eventually morphed into something more substantial and wordy.
In grades 5-8 we also carried a Catholic Bible which we read exactly three times in 4 years.
In High School, “Religion” was a required course taught by a priest. All except for the last year when we were required to take an “ethics course” which was nothing more than hippie relativistic horse crap.
My point here is to shed some light on the corruption and scandal that I witnessed in the Catholic Church growing up, that raised one red flag after another, and eventually convinced me to leave.
From my earliest memory at 4 years of age, I instinctively knew that there was a God. Even if I didn’t see those crucifixes hanging on the walls in our home, and the homes of my relatives, and no one ever took me to Church, it wouldn’t have mattered one bit; because I knew even at a young age, that God existed.
I pleaded and pleaded with my old man to take me to Church with him. I wanted to go visit Jesus. And my father finally relented, and took me along with him. I did what he did. I kneeled when he knelt and stood when he stood. I genuflected and made the sign of the cross just like him. And he told me: ”Son, you don’t have to do that. You’re too young to understand yet”. But I ignored my father. If this was the way to Jesus, then that’s good enough for me.
By the time I got into 4th grade, I was beginning to see that the Catholic school system wasn’t exactly ‘Going My Way’ or the ‘Bells of St Mary’s’. The reality was quite the opposite. My 4th grade teacher was a lay teacher who hated children. She beat them unmercifully just because they got a wrong answer. She boxed their ears, pulled their hair, and smacked them in the face, etc. She was a real bad person. That all ended when one of the kids showed up at the dinner table bleeding from his ear. His parents called all the other parents and had a special PTA meeting in order to confront this evil bitch. They pushed her against the wall and lifted her off the ground by her throat. Problem solved. Except for one tiny little girl who happened to be this teacher’s daughter. For the rest of the year, this poor girl endured the abuse of this teacher who was also her mother. I felt sorry for that kid and in the weeks after school, I actually said a short prayer for the first non-family member in my entire prayer life until then. Well, God heard that prayer and the old bat went to the hospital to have an operation and died on the operating table not two weeks after I prayed that prayer. Oh believe you me; I was happy for that little girl. She was now free.
By the 5th grade, I was beginning to notice that the Monsignor who ran our school was a lush. That guy reeked of booze on Sunday. I hated receiving communion from him. He was a mean-tempered old Irish drunk. I’d seen him assault another priest, his old Irish housekeeper and a wonderful nun. She was a pip. She loved her job teaching kids. She didn’t lord it over them… she talked to them. She was a fine teacher.
That sort of thing pissed me off. I was taught never to question any priest or nun. But I questioned this guy. He may have worn the cloth, but he was no man of God. He was an asshole. I can remember when the old Irishman died. When we came to view the body at his Mass, his body was reeking. Even after closing the coffin that stench permeated the whole church. No better eulogy could have been delivered. That man stunk in death and stunk in life.
Well, all the kiddies were looking forward to having the good Sister for 7th grade. Then she dropped a disappointing bombshell that she would be leaving because the new Mother Superior was a tyrant and she didn’t want any part of her. She warned us about the new Mother Superior – Sister B and her sibling Sister B1.
Yep, Sister B and B1 were tyrants all right. It turns out that Sister B was running a dungeon in the nunnery. I kid you not. Our newest janitor who was only on the job for maybe a year, came running out of the basement of the nunnery one afternoon during recess; and not 5 feet from me, he said: ”I’m not fixing that damn door. (Apparently it was a iron jail cell door whose hinge was broken) That place looks like an S&M dungeon down there. You people are sick.” A group of nuns gathered together and one of them said “Oh I know someone who can fix the door and knows how to be quiet about it”. I never saw him again. He walked off the job.
That’s the same timeframe that I wanted to be an altar boy and was told by other altar boys “don’t do it”. Why I asked one kid? “I’m not telling you why stupid. Just do what I told you. Don’t sign up.” I took his advice.
Then there was the incident where I was looking to become a priest and getting all the paperwork together just before turning 14. That was the year our first male lay teacher showed up. Turns out he had troubles in a certain Blue State up North. He was a predator of little girls and was transferred to a different parish to hide the issue. So, this priest told me that I wasn’t good enough to be a priest. WTF? I’m ready to duke it out with this wussy maggot at this point. So I’m yelling at this moron and he finally agrees to have the two visiting priests come on over and give me an eval. So now I’m thinking that now I’ll get a fair eval. But I looked out the corner of my eye, and the only “eval” that was going on is that these two creepy bastards were staring at my ass. Just like one would shop for a whore on Canal Street. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about – Google it).
So I tore up the paperwork. Freaking weirdos. This crap is getting worse. On top of that, I go to Confession one Saturday and this whack job Priest gets his panties in a bunch because I can’t remember how many times I committed some sin. So he starts yelling in the Church and tells me to leave. So, on the street outside the Church I looked up at the sky and said: “Lord, you’re the only one that I can turn to. That Priest threw me out and won’t hear my confession. So I want you to hear it.” So in my heart, I did my confession to the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. And for the first time in my Catholic life, I felt justified, forgiven and clean.
By the 9th grade, my own suspicions came true. All of the priests in my parish except for Father W were arrested for child molestation.
By 11th grade, I was pretty convinced that I’m about done with Catholicism. I’m not going to become an atheist, because I know God is real and I still had this secret desire to know the Scripture which was only read in our house on Christmas and Easter. Why? Because like we were told over and over again in grade school, only a Priest can interpret the Scripture. It’s not for us to be reading on our own. But it’s OK on Christmas and Easter.
In my junior year of High School, I met two guys who would become my best friends for the next five years. Both were Catholic and both went to Church just like everyone else. E & M were different shall we say. They loved to get drunk. We got into bars at 16 and bribed our way past the cop at the rear door. We went streaking and generally raised holy hell. We had a blast.
But E had a little secret. He was abused by priests in his congregation and was still being abused only now he had acquired intel on every gay priest from St Louis to Boston, DC and points in between. He knew all of them by name and congregation. Every Wednesday, once a month, this one Priest named Father M would invite him over to this other Priest’s house across the street from our HS to party. Now why would a bunch of grown men invite a 16 yr old kid to a party at night with booze? Huh? The answer is pretty obvious. It was a gay sex party.
E never carried any books home. I had to carry about 20 to 25 lbs of heavy books home in my book bag on the 10 mile hike home every day. But not this dude. He had a deal going on. He traded sex for good grades. He didn’t have to study for anything. He used those Priests just like they used him.
I can recall one night where E came to my house asking me to ask my father for a ride home. His home was about 5 miles away. He had just come from the Catholic rehab center around the corner from my house that was treating Priests and brothers for alcoholism, drug addiction and sexual addiction. They refused to admit him and he was practically crying. I never saw him in a more worse condition. I felt sorry for my friend even though I had yet to put two and two together. To me, he was just another wild child like myself.
In my own family, my father’s cousin who was a Priest died of AIDS. My high school administrator who was a “brother” – I forget what Order Of Brothers – died of AIDS too. My cousin is also a gay priest as well.
By the time I got assigned to an Infantry Brigade in South America – in my twenties – I was done with the Catholic Church. I just wasn’t done with God – nor He with me. There I met the noble “I Am” And I got my wish to understand the Bible. I carried my Gideon Bible in my jungle fatigue breast pocket everywhere I went – in the jungle and in garrison. That Bible was my most important B-I-I item. I cherished it as my most prized possession. It was like a cool drink of water from a canteen.
I learned in the tropics that: “…they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” Isaiah 40:31
It took me 22 years of seeking to find the Lord. In the end, it was He who found me.
Leaving the Catholic Church was costly. It is sort of like leaving Islam. Loss of friends, family, etc. The cost was high. But well worth the price. Jesus said: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:37-39
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34: Christ made it clear that His Word would be a stumbling block to many; but life to His followers.
“I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.”
So in light of the Pope’s resignation and the current Vatican scandal, nothing in the article I posted surprises me; and I’m speaking from actual life experience.
There is an old saying that the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.