Sex, Brad Pitt, Catholicism, child abuse, and nuns. Together again! Also, Louisiana.

Do you remember I once assumed I’d be a nun? TRUTH! Starting in middle school, us Catholic girls were told to listen for The Calling, which was God’s recruiting voice. I was – am – an oldest child, resplendent with martyr-like tendencies and a false sense of obligation, so as soon as I heard about The Calling, I figured I would just take one for the team. Whichever team.

At the same time, though, I learned about sex. Sex sounded horrible, but I liked boys, REALLY crushed on boys, so eventually I wanted to have sex regardless of whether it was horrible, which of course it sometimes is. Was.

But nuns don’t have sex, or at least they’re not supposed to, so I came up with a plan to have sex BEFORE I heard The IMG_0180Calling. This meant spending lots of nights laying in bed humming aloud to avoid hearing God’s masculine, niggling voice chanting, I CHOOSE YOU. I CHOOSE YOU. I CHOOSE YOU.

The fact that I would have already had illicit premarital sex wasn’t an issue because CONFESSION! It’s obviously the best of the Seven Holy Sacraments invented by  inflicted on bestowed upon Catholics. I used to envision my soul as a little white chalkboard in my chest, pockmarked with the black dots of sin – I talked back to my mother. I chewed gum in science. I tried to push my sister out of a moving car. (That only happened once.) But after confessing my transgressions to a priest, my little chalkboard soul would be wiped clean, shiny and white, and I’d feel even feel a little lighter.

Note to the literalists: I understand that confession isn’t itself a sacrament, but rather a component of the sacrament of Reconciliation, which consists of confession (I did it, I’m so sorry), penance (4 Our Fathers, 20 Hail Marys, 2 Glory Bes), and celebration (Yay! I’m forgiven! If I die right now I’ll go to heaven!).

My plan: I’d have sex, go to confession and be forgiven, await The Calling, then become a nun. Well. Things didn’t work out that way.

But they could have! Because CONFESSION. It has long been one of the sacrosanct tenets of Catholicism, and thus an easy crutch on which pseudo-Christians can lean. Everybody makes mistakes! You just have to say you’re sorry, and do the penance assigned by the priest who hears your confession. If you’re a bad guy worried mostly about your own salvation, it’s an easy way to call yourself a Christian, even if your Christian values are limited to believing in Judgement Day.

And the best part about all this? Catholic priests are bound by their religious vows to keep secret whatever they hear in the confessional booth. NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW YOUR SINS. So that’s cool, right?

A few years ago, though, the state of Louisiana enacted a code requiring clergy members to report any knowledge they have of children being abused or endangered. The humanists among us are all, Well, duh! Nobody turns a deaf ear to children being hurt! Although in actuality we all do, which is why several Ethiopian children died from malnutrition in the time it took you to read this sentence. But let’s pretend for a minute.

So last week, a Louisiana judge struck down the state requirement that clergy members report child abuse. The judge argued that requiring clergy to reveal confessional secrets violates their  “religious freedom.” The case centers around a woman who says she was 14 when she told a priest, while in confession, that a 64-year-old parishioner was sexually abusing her. The priest told her to “sweep it under the floor and get rid of it.” I’m not even going to discuss the fact that the girl told of the abuse in confession, indicating she thought she was the sinner.

Under law, the priest was obligated to report what he knew to authorities. He didn’t. The priest doesn’t deny what happened; he testified in his defense that he would have been automatically ex-communicated from the church had he moved to help the girl. The priest’s boss praised the judge’s decision. Bishop Robert Muench, head of the Baton Rouge diocese, told reporters, “The court’s decision to uphold the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion is essential and we appreciate the ruling.” Oh, Bishop Muench. You, sir, are a big fat asshole, and you and your wussy cowardly priest should bury yourselves under a steeple and let the bell clapper knock some sense into you. And, for the love of Brad Pitt, somebody please impeach that fucking judge, or maybe stab his eyes out.

Ignoring child abuse is not religious freedom. It’s just not! And if you think that way, you need a new religion. Perhaps the priest would have been ex-communicated had he told of the girl’s abuse, and so he made a choice – to sacrifice the girl. He chose wrong. In keeping his vow, he sinned against a child. Did he go to confession for that?

So in closing, I guess it’s a good thing I’m not a nun, mainly because I really like sex. But also, if there’s a God, I believe he has Called me to a greater good, which is helping people understand that rules have exceptions, doctrine can be wrong, and sometimes saying “I’m sorry” just isn’t enough.

What would Jesus have done? Protected himself or the child? There’s only one answer to that. And in this way, the aforementioned Brad Pitt is holier than the sum total of the bishop and the judge and the priest. Because you know damn well he would have saved the child, too. #jesuslookedlikebradpitt? Well, maybe I could be a nun.

9 responses to Sex, Brad Pitt, Catholicism, child abuse, and nuns. Together again! Also, Louisiana.

  1. Denise says:

    I absolutely love you! You make me think… And ALWAYS make me smile! Thank you

  2. Carol L Harris says:

    I totally identify with you, as I had the same Catholic upbringing. Parochial school for 9 years. It took me forever to blot out my overactive and compulsive conscience. I finally did in my senior year of college when I had a sexual awakening. It took me years to achieve equanimity and go back occasionally to church.
    Still Love Your Blog!

    • tricia says:

      Thanks, Carol! Yes, it’s amazing how a few short years in adolescence can impact us for life. Crazy.

  3. John Regan says:

    The issue is not whether priests should be mandated reporters of child abuse. We are. If the law was intended to legally force priests to break the seal of confession, then I would fight that law. One can imagine a divorce case where a priest is hauled in to court to share what he has learned about the wife through her confessions. Not a good idea. But what about these cases where child abuse are involved? Perhaps priests are wiser than you think. Your post today about the committal of your father’s remains at Notre Dame tells us that. Without breaking the seal of confession, especially in this case where, as you point out, the girl is talking about sins committed against her, priests have ways to help/walk with the person to help them reveal what needs to be revealed to seek justice. That’s called mercy and compassion and the right thing to do. Priests do that all the time without the force of law.
    [The best answer a priest gives when asked about confessions – “I don’t remember who was there or what was said, because I am not there to remember anything, but as Jesus does, to forgive and forget.” At the same time I am gravely disappointed if the best advice given to the girl was to sweep it under the carpet. I don’t know if the priest admitted that, or whether that was an allegation that was part of the lawsuit.]

    • tricia says:

      Fr. Regan, thank you so much for your thoughtful response, and certainly I should have voiced the fact that there are many, many wonderful priests who would have found a way to help this woman without breaking vows. It sounds like you’re one of them. Thanks for your service, and for your enlightened point of view.

      • John Regan says:

        I read your beautiful reflection about your father today. We’re ND ’85 classmates. I’ve enjoyed reading some of your posts today.

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