(Content note: this one might offend practicing Catholics and people that find atheism objectionable. It’s not a rant, but I do talk about these issues here, and if you don’t wanna read about it, don’t read about it.)
This is one for Memory Lane.
Readers will know that I am an atheist. I was reared Roman Catholic (by my mother, at least), but I stopped believing in the religion quite naturally once I reached the age of reason at about 12 years old. It was not a violent rejection on my part, or due to anything traumatic. I simply realized that what was being taught in my religion classes was not jiving with what was being taught in my other classes, and that a lot of things I was reading in the Bible were historically inaccurate and impossible. I’m not an angry atheist. I realize a lot of people get something out of religion. I don’t get it, but, hey, I know I’m the outlier here.
(I stopped believing in God…but I never stopped believing in the Church. The Church is a political institution, and I understand politics very well. The Church is completely real, even if the theology is fictive. And if you don’t think that most of the Cardinals in Vatican City don’t think exactly the same way, you’re wrong. It’s like that old gladiator movie with Kirk Douglas–the scene when Gracchus buys a bird (pigeon or dove) to sacrifice to the Gods, and Caesar says “I thought you had reservations about the Gods.” Gracchus replied, “Privately I believe in none of them–neither do you. Publicly, I believe in them all.“)
It’s all about power and control. That’s the definition of politics: deciding who gets what, and how much.
Which brings us to the point, the little story we find on this walk down Memory Lane.
I attended Catholic school as a young child, and before I reached the age of reason I believed practically everything a teacher told to me, of course. My teachers were Irish nuns. Actual IRISH NUNS, half of whom still wore the veil…and the habit, on special occasions. Most of them had masculine names they took when they took their vows.
Most of my experiences with them were positive. Most of them honestly loved children, and I can understand, because they could never have children of their own. However, their education was, shall we say, rather medieval. For example, my 8th-grade teacher, who was the principal of the school, told us that there were four (4) elements in the world. This is right out of Aristotle, people. And I love me some Aristotle, but I’d just been taking a science class and was learning the Table of Elements. It occurred to me that this shit she was saying didn’t jive with reality (no fault on Aristotle). I think I was 12. What really galls me is that my mother was trying to give me “the best” education she could, and spent practically all of her discretionary income to send her children to Catholic School…she really sacrificed. So that her daughter could be taught medieval Catholic “science.” Thank God I had a brain in my head and a father who had critical thinking skills and a little book-learnin’ , awful as he was.
Catholics are the “intellectuals” of Christendom. Let that sink in for a while. Think about it.
Anyway, when I was a little kid, I still believed. Why wouldn’t I…? Well, I sometimes carried toys in my backpack, and when I was in 2nd grade, I was a big fan of My Little Pony toys/dolls.
Whoever thought this toy up was a genius. I loved these things, waaaay more than Barbie or dolls. My Dad would only give me “intellectual” toys, like puzzles and crafts and brain-teasers, but my Mom would buy me kid toys, so at Christmas and on my birthday I’d get a My Little Pony.
I had four or five of them, and brought them to school one day just because I felt like it. I was in 2nd grade…maybe 3rd, can’t recall.
During recess, I went to a secluded shady area by the church and took them out of my bag and played pretend with them. I lined them all up in a row.
For some reason, I played pretend that I was the priest and we were in Mass. By that age, I knew the entire Mass by heart (I still know it by heart).
I was pretending to consecrate the Eucharist (always the most–and only–fascinating part of the regular Mass for me), saying all the priest’s words, when a nun walked up behind me and grabbed me by the shoulder.
She’d heard what I was saying, and she was fucking furious.
I was a little kid playing with dolls, emulating behavior I saw (the Mass) at least three times a week. That was all. I didn’t even have unleavened bread or a cracker in my hand. It was all imaginary.
She shook me hard and said, “How dare you! That is only for priests!” She looked shocked, appalled, as if I’d done something morally unspeakable. It was an actual affront to her.
Now that I’m older and have perspective, I see possible motivations for her rage (this is all speculative; can’t read her mind): what I did threatened her because it was against the very strictly hierarchical Church. And, perhaps on a subconscious level, it reminded her that nuns/women will never have the power of priests. Nuns serve in the trenches of the Church–the charities, the elementary schools, hospices in the 3rd world, as unofficial social workers to convicts on death row. They have zero authority in the Church, even if she’s an Abbess or a Ph.D. No privileges, el zilcho, and they give up more than the average priest in some hole of a parish. When I went to Catholic school, girls couldn’t even serve on the Alter except to ring a bell to remind the congregation to get off their knees (I held that mighty privilege twice). Only boys could be alter boys. When the Pope said girls could serve as alter girls, it was such a huge deal that all classes were interrupted for it as the school principle made a very solemn, yet joyous, announcement. It was that big of a deal. Girl-children allowed on the Alter to help the priest, and be near the tabernacle when it was open, wow wow wow, what a leap forward in the liberation of women!
It’s misogynistic bigotry, pure and simple. There is no purpose than to impose authority and power on the more vulnerable.
Anyway, back to our story, nun is furious and actually put her hands on me. She grabbed me by the arm and marched me straight to the priest’s office in the church.
She knocked and he admitted us.
She marched me right up to his desk (he was smoking, as usual, and seemed to be working on paperwork, as usual) and hissed at me: “Tell him what you did!”
TO BE CONTINUED
P.S.: At least it has a happy ending