Posts Tagged ‘Catholic’

ham_with_cider_glaze_leadWhenever I need a quick pick-me-up, I head over to http://www.dogshaming.com to look at the humorous pictures of dogs caught in shameful situations. Being a dog owner myself, I can relate to a lot of the pictures. Nothing says “I’m a beagle, I had to do it” better than a picture of one in a near coma from having eaten an entire ham — while the evidence is still on the dinner table, in the background. I’ve been there. I just wasn’t able to catch Lilly in the act. She’s sneaky that way.

But, fortunately for dogs, their short-attention spans and the apparent lack of a guilty conscience keeps them from feeling shame for any longer than, say, the time it takes them to lift their hanging heads and look at you with liquid pools of love as if to say “I wuvs you, mommy. You wuvs me too?” I fall for this every time.

However, with humans, shame comes with a much heftier price — which can last long after the shameful incident has occurred. And that’s what this post is about.

teenage-pregnancy

When I was nineteen, I got pregnant. I was unmarried, a freshman in college, and completely terrified. I had been raised in the Catholic church, so I was expected to be the “perfect little Catholic girl” and remain virginal until my wedding day. I was also never given the “big talk” by my mom, because her generation of mothers “didn’t talk about sex”. At least not to me anyways.

Needless to say, the boy I lost my virginity to was the same boy who helped me get pregnant. So much for remaining abstinent. It’s also important to add here that, unlike some of my older siblings, I never went to Catholic school as a kid. Unlike Catholic school sex education (which, by the way is woefully inadequate and borders on ridiculous — I know, I had to teach it), I did get the full course of ‘This is where babies come from and here’s how not to let that happen to you.” I wasn’t completely in the dark about sex. I just grew up hearing “Abstinence and natural planning is the only acceptable practice for Catholics. Birth control is WRONG.” over and over again.

When I officially found out I was pregnant, I knew three things right away: 1) abortion was out of the question, 2) I am not prepared financially or emotionally to raise this child and 3) the child deserves a stable home with a mother and a father, and that wasn’t something I could give him. (it was a boy). Looking back on that moment in the doctor’s office, I still stand by my thoughts.

However, despite knowing that I handled my mistake the best way I could at the time, I have recently come to realize how horribly mishandled I was during this time by my parents–more so by my mom than my dad. I cannot blame my mom for what she did and how she treated me – she was only going on the doctrine of the Catholic church and  how it feels about birth control (absolutely NOT), abortion (eternal damnation if you so much as even think about it) and pre-marital sex (yet another sin so evil *insert eye roll and heavy sarcasm here* if any teacher in any diocese is caught having it they will immediately lose their job).

shame_by_bbastos-d33xu55My mom was horrified of the shame I had brought on to her, the family and, most importantly it seemed, the Catholic church. I felt like the “spiritually soiled girl,” destined for eternal damnation. I was certain I could never get married wearing the white dress, or take communion without confession first (another thing she wanted me to do), and all the other forms of penance and emotional flogging I had to do in order to get back in “God’s good graces.”

In an effort to keep the family safe from my obvious disgrace, I was sent off to live with a woman I didn’t know until the baby was born and I could home again and resume my life as an “unblemished, pure Catholic girl.” I, however, had to continue on with my life as if I had no worries or stressors on me. Instead of much-needed counseling, I was told to continue to “lead as normal a life as possible.”

I enrolled at a community college, bought a cheap gold band to wear as a wedding ring for my non-existent husband who was in active duty in the Marines (part of the series of lies I had to tell everyone so as not to blow the cover off my family’s shame). Lie upon lie was told to friends of the family: she went to live in California, to live with her big brother and attend college out there because it’s free– was the mega lie my mom told her teacher friends.

The guilt and shame were poured on thick. My mom  laid the ultimate guilt trip on me when she insisted I not tell my older sisters I was pregnant — because, according to her Catholic point of view–my non-Catholic sisters would just judge and berate me and call me horribly irresponsible. The irony is startling.

Incidentally, I never did tell either of them until about two years ago — thirty plus years after this all happened. And, unlike what I had been told and feared would happen, neither one of them cast a single stone of judgment in my direction. In fact, both admitted they were saddened to hear that I “couldn’t come to them freely” with this news. They were angry at my mom, though, for letting her Catholicism plant false ideas into my head. Again, that good ol’ Catholic guilt was at work.

Once the baby was born and adopted out, I was told “Okay, that’s over. Time to move on with your life. We’ll never speak of this again. Promise?” Sadly, after all of this trauma and what can only be called “emotional abuse,” I agreed.

silenxcing-child

It took ten years before I could even talk about the incident to anyone. I was afraid of being shamed and judged all over again. It took the death of both of my parents to allow myself the opportunity to grieve over the loss. It is taking the help of a great therapist to help me recognize and process the enormous, near-crippling shame I have been feeling since that day in the doctor’s office almost thirty-one years ago. It will take courage, strength and confidence to forgive myself for allowing it to happen in the first place. That’s the hardest part.

Now for the “lesson learned” in all of this. And I hope this message reaches as many religious folks as possible who have found themselves on the precipice of their child’s poor choice(s).

Never, ever shame your child for their mistakes.

Yes, you can tell them you are disappointed, angry, upset, or whatever adjective seems to fit your mood. But, how  you treat them after you share your feelings can and will have lifelong effects. Kick them out because they’re gay and it goes against your religion? Devastating. Kick them out because she got pregnant and it goes against your religion? Devastating. Telling them they are destined for hell because they made a single, poor choice that doesn’t align with your beliefs? ABSOLUTELY, 100% DEVASTATING.

It has taken me thirty-one years to deal with the emotional abuse that has permeated my life and has caused many problems for me. I feel if my situation had been handled without the religious judgment and condemnation but instead with more love, patience and compassion, I would be even better than I am today.

If you wish to shame someone, then try shaming a dog. They don’t seem to care enough about your opinion to suffer any permanent effects.

Child_Shame1

 

cognitivedissonance

My latest favorite word phrase is “Cognitive Dissonance.” This is the internal, cerebral struggle that occurs when behavior and belief do not align with one another. For me, that misalignment came from the years-long struggle I had between believing in god versus scientific evidence to the contrary.

I was baptized into the Catholic church as a baby. Every week, my mom would bundle as many of us up as she could and we’d trudge off to church, where I was constantly being told not to misbehave or wiggle so much otherwise “god would be angry”.  And after each mass, I would ask my mom to grade my behavior for god, to see if I was that “good little girl” he demanded I be.

priest_abuse

Thus began the cognitive dissonance in my head: always be good, be humble, be quiet, be sweet OR you will make god unhappy. This was the power religion held over me.

As I grew into my early twenties, and actually broke free of my parents’ house, I stopped going to church. I didn’t exactly stop believing, I just had better things to do on a Sunday. I was also starting to re-evaluate my belief system — which wasn’t aligning with my thirst for scientific knowledge and understanding. The chasm was widening as I begun to question, but not dismiss, my beliefs.

Years passed by, and I wasn’t really part of the church any longer, but still willing to believe in god. However, the internal struggle was still growing and slowly affecting who I was presenting to the world. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but religion was turning me into a judgmental “How DARE they do THAT?” kind of person. More and more this dissonance began to eat away at my psyche.

When I went into teaching, I went into it full throttle – determined to be the best, most honorable, integrity-filled teacher I could be. I was determined never to let any student feel bad about himself (or herself); and I would allow him or her to question everything that I said or taught – because that IS the true definition of education.

To accept as truth the words of an adult or authority figure without being allowed to question the validity of that content isn’t education, it is indoctrination.

That was clearly delineated and taught to me when I was in teaching school, and I made sure never to forget the difference.

I ended up teaching at a religious school, comically enough, and that’s where my cognitive dissonance grew to a thunderous roar. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, because I didn’t have to teach religion for the first three years there. However, in the back of my mind and heart, I was growing increasingly uncomfortable being in that position. It seemed like any time I tried to teach a scientific principle, it was met with “But I thought god created the…?” I wasn’t able to answer the students’ very good, very honest questions, because there was no real answer to them. The dissonance I was experiencing came from not being able to do my job as a teacher (which is to cause kids to question) and having to keep from speaking out against the ridiculousness of the religion being taught in that school.

Three years into my position, it was mandated that I teach religion, too. Imagine this conundrum: in the morning I taught about the parting of the sea, in the afternoon I taught earth science — specifically rock formations and water cycles. I was now in a full-blown, cognitive dissonance meltdown – how can I handle teaching both subjects when one completely exposes the other for the fraudulent claims it makes?

The truth is, I couldn’t handle it. It began weighing heavily on my mind and the stress was getting to me. Add a couple of personal family tragedies, a total lack of support from so-called “Christians”, and this is a recipe for disaster. I really did emotionally implode.

After I left (was kicked out, I won’t sugarcoat it here), I began to research and learn more about Catholicism. Article after article talked about thousands of children who have been abused, raped and/or sold out from under their own mothers. Priests who were raping children then using the fear of punishment from god if the children spoke out were being protected by the church instead of being thrown in jail, where they belonged. Some Archbishops went so far as to insinuate that the children — the victims – led the priests on and actually asked to be molested. What a sick, twisted individual one must be to blame the victim instead of the perpetrator. Especially a perpetrator who has taken a vow of chastity and protect and guide his “flock”. There isn’t a word strong enough to explain how vile and despicable these crimes against children are.

Unpaid, forced labor in laundries in the basements of churches led by Catholic nuns. Mass migraMagdalene_Laundries_BNtions of unwanted, un-escorted poor, Catholic children taken from the UK to Australia–without their parents’ knowledge or permission. Hundreds of dead, newly born babies buried in unmarked graves on convent grounds – or shoved into septic tanks — as if their lives never even mattered. All committed by the very people who were demanding others “act Christ-like and do good works.”

Horror story after horror story – none of which I ever heard  the church denounce, discuss or even inform its parishioners. And what has been disseminated to the world has been met by Catholic parishioners with nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders and silence. I have asked several Catholics for their thoughts on all this, and nobody is willing to talk about it. They continue, however, to attend church and give money each week. Perhaps they are secretly being told to donate to help pay legal costs for the defense funds of their pedophile priests.

Now that I am fully aware of what has been allowed to happen and go primarily unpunished for decades in the Catholic church, I have denounced not only my faith, but religion in general and the existence of god in particular. There certainly cannot be an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful god if he continues to allow such evilness from his own employees. And the “free will” excuse doesn’t apply here, either. Priests wear dog collars because they consider god their master. They don’t get a “get out of jail because of  free will card” either.

It’s interesting…I just now noticed my cognitive dissonance has disappeared.

clergyabuse

building

The appointment was for 1 pm sharp. Since I believe in arriving early, I pulled into the parking lot at 12:42, parked my car, checked myself in the mirror, adjusted my business suit and made the slow saunter up to the building. The entrance doors were very fancy – gold-plated, I believe. There was an aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls wafting through the air. “I bet they have an amazing pastry bar in this place,” I sniffed one more time, before swinging the door open and stepping into what had to be the most beautiful, ornate and echoey marbled hallway I’ve ever seen. Every step of my five-inch, spiked stilettos tapped out my arrival. The floor was freshly polished, too, and I struggled to keep from sliding and falling flat on my ass. Fortunately, it wasn’t a long walk to the elevators.

I paused briefly in front of the two elevators – contemplating my next step. Which floor is the CEO on? I’d like to assume the top floor, but perhaps this CEO runs things a little differently around here. I’ve had that happen to me before — an elevator ride up thirteen floors, only to be told “Sorry about your luck, but the person you’re looking for is one story up.” That’s what I get for believing in superstitions, I guess.

I pushed the big button and waited, almost impatiently, for the sound of the elevator descending to meet me. When the doors opened, I was about to step on when I noticed the man huddled in the corner of the elevator, weeping silently to himself. Such an odd sight to see. My immediate reaction was to catch the next car up, but my soft side told me to check on the distraught man, and see if there was something I could do to help.

“Sir, are you alright?” I said, looking anxiously at my wristwatch. I had two minutes to get to my interview, and this could easily take a while. The poor guy seemed on the verge of hysterics.

“No, I am not alright,” the man quivered under his breath. “I just met with the CEO, and he is furious with me…” “Oh, this can’t be good,” I thought to myself “And I have an interview with him? Yikes…”

I decided to delay my arrival upstairs by just a few moments. To not jeopardize my situation, I took out my cell phone and dialed the CEO’s number. His assistant answered almost immediately. “Yes?” the condescension in the assistant’s voice was almost palpable. “What do you want?” I explained I was downstairs, I had arrived on time, but I stopped to  help out a fellow co-worker. I’d be up in a few minutes. Expecting the assistant to soften a little, because the company I was interviewing for was known for its compassion (although I have recently heard rumors to the contrary), I was quite shocked when the assistant snapped back,

“Are you talking about Sebastian? Is he wearing a dark gray suit and black penny loafers? Pink tie?” the assistant sneered into the phone. I looked at the man. “Why, uh, yes, as a matter of fact–”

I recoiled in horror at what I heard next.

“The CEO just fired him. It turned out he has been hiding a secret, gay life and this violates our corporation’s policies. We won’t have that kind of person working here. So,  he’s gone – adios, sucker. Go find somewhere else to work.” the assistant slammed the phone down harshly.

I stared at my phone, expecting a call back and a “just kidding, you’ve been pranked!” But, nothing like that happened. I looked down at the cowering, whimpering man and softly asked, “Sebastian? Is that you?” The poor guy looked up at me and, with a weak smile, answered, “Yes, that’s me. And yes, the CEO just fired me. For being…gay. I can’t believe it – I have been a loyal, dedicated, hard-working employee almost all of my LIFE! How can he do this to me?”

I slowly maneuvered myself onto the floor next to him, making sure I didn’t expose any parts of me that could be seen by anyone else approaching. I leaned in slightly, put my left hand gently on his forearm, and, with as much contempt and bitterness I could muster, I said,

“Welcome to the Catholic church.”

I knew right there and then I’d keep that meeting with the CEO. I had some serious questions to ask him, and if he is who he says he is, then he should be willing to provide the answers.