Catholic Church

Second Essay on overpopulation: A Woman’s Right to Choose

Abortion and Pro-Choice

In the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe versus Wade, a prior 1850s Texas law was negated when the court decided that the plaintiff’s right to privacy in her petition to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, had been violated under the Fourteenth Amendment. Key elements of this decision that are often forgotten include the fact that this right is not absolute and must be balanced against both the health of the pregnant woman as well as the developmental stage of the fetus.

The ruling also does define the right to life of a fetus once it reaches a point of viability such that it can survive on its own outside the uterus. This is a medically defined physiologic and biologic point usually occurring at about 24 weeks. In addition, it preserves a State’s right to proscribe the late term abortion of a viable fetus unless there is compelling evidence that in not doing so, such as the mother’s health or life being at serious risk.

In the United States today, eighty percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal. In fact, half of the annual 1.5 million abortions are performed within the first eight weeks of pregnancy while 90% are performed within the first twelve weeks. In general, the number of abortions occurring after this point numbers less than one percent. These statistics reflect a conscious choice to either have the child or not. Nature itself takes a hand in naturally aborting up to as many as sixty percent of conceptions.

Nature also takes a hand in the fact that three percent of pregnancies can result in a severe fetal abnormality. Fortunately, amniocentesis can detect many of these potential problems, which allows time for parental counseling. Unfortunately, however, the science of amniocentesis sometimes requires up to twenty weeks of fetal development to allow detection of one of several hundred potentially severe fetal abnormalities that may prompt a woman or family to seek termination of the pregnancy.

Abortion is an emotionally charged subject. It is a topic rife with opinion and value judgments. The problem is that the controversy surrounding the subject is for the most part fomented and kept in the limelight not by those people who have the abortions, but by those people who believe that no one should be able to have one.

Whatever their motivation, people who advocate for the fetus uniformly do so because they sincerely believe they are speaking out against murder, as well as a philosophy that life starts at conception. This is a personal ethical and moral value judgment. It is also rhetorical.

Unfortunately, the opinion that all pregnancies, from time of conception, should go to term is one that completely negates the wishes of the mother who has to bear the burden of birth, or of the couple who has to bear the burden of child rearing. It is an opinion that also condemns an inseminated rape victim to live with lifetime evidence and a living memory of the crime, or a woman advised of a serious fetal abnormality to live with the guilt and the burden of being obligated to take care of a freak of nature.

This is all rolled up into a medieval religious concept that life is fated or predestined; meaning that all lots in life however they might be cast must become a personal cross to bear. It is a conservative religious dogma that discounts the ability of modern science to potentially militate against disaster.

When I was a second year medical student at Tufts, as part of our genetics class, we were taken to a relatively secret facility that housed and kept alive some of these genetic mishaps. These poor souls included children with no brains, (such as Trisomy13), Kleeblattschadel syndrome skulls, absent limbs, missing parts, serious inborn errors of metabolism, or grotesquely malformed body parts; all of whom had become wards of the state and who uniformly had no hope for any quality of life whatsoever.

Reading about them was one thing. Seeing them was entirely something else. Most of them only existed as bed ridden non-cognizant, non-self sufficient breathing blobs of flesh. They could barely be categorized as human and made a Downs Syndrome victim seem to be something relatively good by comparison. It was horrible.

Forgetting the enormous cost to society to keep these beings alive, I could not even begin to imagine the pain, the guilt, the loss of self-esteem and the fear a woman has when she bears one of these monsters; especially when genetic counseling could have successfully advised against it. Another sad fact is that some of these women who go on to delivery actually believe then there is something innately wrong with themselves, which leads them to harbor great reservations about attempting another pregnancy.

The Right to Life movement is deeply rooted in arch political conservatism, New Right Christianity and in Old World Catholicism.

The Catholics have their own agenda. Cleverly disguised behind the ridiculous tenet that a woman’s duty is to help create an army for Jesus, although not being actually necessary since the last day of the Crusades, the real reason is relatively transparent: The more Catholics, the more potential financial exploitation.

I could never understand why, especially in third world Latin American or in other hopelessly impoverished Catholic countries, the Church insists on and the devout laity subscribes to, unlimited procreation. Meanwhile, as these poor people struggle to feed themselves, the celibate Pope flies around in a private jet drinking fine 10-point wine and eating filet mignon. After all, everyone has his own cross to bear and also knows it is very hard work indeed to be in charge of supervising a large family of global misery, while never having had to raise a child yourself.

Far right political conservative philosophy, which often goes hand in hand with Bible Belt Christianity, is harder to explain. Their proscriptions against abortion seem to be rooted in perverse interpretations of the Bible, yet not at all in the teachings of Jesus, who probably did not even know what an abortion was. Obviously for him, there was no such thing.

At an even more absurd extreme we are even beginning to see cases of pharmacists and rape counselors refusing to give women the “morning after pill” because of their personal religious beliefs. These people are crossing a dangerous line that pits supposedly non-judgmental professionalism, tainted by personal opinions, against personal rights that should not even enter the public domain. What’s the next step? A pharmacist who believes that natural selection should intervene in cases of pneumonia, diabetes, high cholesterol or hypertension then refuses to fill prescriptions for these maladies.

There are even other more practical reasons not to restrict human abortion. The world is already overpopulated while its population continues to grow at a geometric rate.

In 1 AD there were 300 million people on the planet. In 1000 AD there were 310 million people. There are now, in 2013 AD, 7.125 billion people living on this planet, with a majority of those people living in filth, in squalor, in abject poverty, or only in marginally supportive environments. In retrospect some rational form of parental planning, including birth control as well as abortion, could have vastly improved the lot in life for some of these poor people, as well as improving the quality that derives from limiting family sizes.

That plays into another third world human foible: that a man’s virility is directly related to how many children he sires. This type of cultural thinking is Neanderthal. There are also a significant number of unwanted children of neglect and abuse walking the streets of modern America, who although genetically intact will sometimes behave as though they too were subhuman.

The toll they take on the rest of society because of crime, theft, disruption of schools, drug dealing and gang intimidation is an incalculable, unfortunate consequence that is not necessarily their own fault. The blame lies with our society as well as our culture and in a country as wealthy as the United States there is no excuse for the ensuing vicious cycle that follows when in time it becomes these lost souls turn to breed. Also as a direct result of a global population explosion, planetary resources and animal habitats are shrinking, species are disappearing at a rate of 50,000 per year, and economic wars are perpetrated while human suffering is pandemic.

Loss of plant ecology in the shrinking deforested Amazon basin deprives the world of many as yet undiscovered possible plant related disease cures, as well as having unforeseen effects on global climatology. If it does not simply accelerate the problem, loss of this rain forest will make the issue of global warming look small in comparison. Rather than advocating for uncontrolled human reproduction, intelligent people in wealthier countries should advocate for the quality of life and not for the quantity of it.

There should also be an acute awareness that animals as well as humans should have a Right to Life and that unchecked human reproduction makes no sense for the long term survival of the human species itself if we destroy every living plant or animal that lives around us.

What makes human life more sanctified and worth more than any other? How can a hunter justify stalking and then shooting any other one of God’s innocent creatures? How does one explain the justification of a Right to Life advocate murdering the doctor who works at the Planned Parenthood Clinic? Try to explain the perverted logic behind that paradox or how it relates to Moses’ Sixth Commandment.

Better yet, since the Right to Life movement seems to be intimately linked to the far political right, it is not unusual to have the same people who advocate against abortion are the same ones who have no moral or ethical issue with supporting and promoting America’s involvement in what seems to be an endless string of murderous modern international conflicts. Raise a baby to carry a gun so he can join the Army and go out to shoot someone else’s baby.

Then to make matters worse, the campaign to end legalized abortion has become tied to prohibitions against the stem cell research that can potentially cure or ameliorate some of our species worst diseases, including ones like Diabetes or the Alzheimer’s disease that has ruined my mother. No, let’s not lift those awful crosses off anyone’s back, because as a means of buying a ticket to heaven, suffering is the way one atones for one’s sins.

A law written on a piece of paper can never change human nature. So while we are at it then, let’s also bring back the barbaric green soap or the coat hanger abortion, because just like the failure of Prohibition to stop people from drinking alcohol, people will always find a way to get what they want.

The Red Chinese Communist government has been called “Godless.” When it comes to population control it should be called “Enlightened.” Determining what percentage of land would be required to feed and support the country’s population, while knowing that land is finite, the government established a policy of zero population growth. Citizens are only allowed to have one child and as heartless or as monolithic that policy may seem to be, it may in the long run be the only thing that keeps that country from seeking a war of territorial imperative that could dwarf the last two great ones. The nations of the world could learn a lesson from the Chinese in seeking a more global reappraisal of the finite nature of all our planetary resources, much of which will never become renewable.

A woman’s right to choose as well as to choose it in a way that is safe, should be preserved and private. This includes the right to enjoy all the resources available at Planned Parenthood clinics: Counselling, education regarding contraception (probably the ideal solution), and unwanted pregnancy termination. At the same time, late term abortion, with the exception of an abnormal amniotic fluid testing result, should be prohibited. Certainly a woman should know within a few weeks of conception whether or not she wants a child or later on if it is doomed to a serious genetic fault.

Choice is a deeply personal decision that has no place in the arena of National politics. It does not even belong in the arena of religion either. It is something that is basically no one else’s business.

To be really fair, anyone passing judgment on another person’s right to decide for himself whether or not to bring a life into this world, should first be required to adopt and raise an unwanted child of the ghetto or the third world. Or better yet, a vegetating genetic human deformity languishing in the ward of some unknown clinic that dedicates itself to the documentation, cataloguing, and the study of biological human freaks.

Then taking it to yet an even higher level, every prospective parent should be required to first pass a test, and then get a License to Reproduce, which would be granted only after he or she could fully demonstrate an understanding of the realistically intellectual, emotional and financial requirements that come with the otherwise romantic notion of having a baby. Why not? You need to have a license for everything else. Even for driving cars; which abort about 50,000 lives a year on our highways.

Taking God at his word in Genesis when he tells Adam and Eve to go forth, multiply and fill the Earth does not play out in practical terms when the only thing left to eat on the planet may be your own dog, horse or next-door neighbor and his children.

That is unless he gets the jump on you: and eats you first.

Holbein

Eat or be eaten

Bosch painting akumagoro.wordpress.com
Some facts obtained from Planned Parenthood at http://www.ppacca.org
World population figures from Wikipedia
Species decline from an article by Dan Olsen of the Minnesota Public Radio

 

Two Catholic Jokes

An Irish Confession 

In a small Irish catholic parish, young Jimmy Mc Shane had to go to Confession. Jimmy was just sixteen, making his mother always surprised at the fact of his voluntary compliance.

On this particular Saturday Jimmie went in to promptly confess that he had carried on and went a little too far with one of the local girls.

The Priest asked:

  • Was it Mary O’Rourke? Well, no father, and even if it was, I would never betray her and tell more about it.
  • Well then, might it have been Kathleen O’Doul?
  • Well, no father, and like I just said, even if it were I would still be bound to protect her honor.
  • Oh for sure it must have been Peggy Flannery, then?
  • Ah, no again father, and even if it was I could never ruin her good reputation by divulging the name.
  • OK, then Jimmie. You’re a good boy for the most part and a very honorable lad to protect your little girlfriend like such, but as you know, the Church sincerely frowns upon such friendly and familiar sexual activity outside the bounds of matrimony. So out with you then and here’s your penance…

Jimmy left the booth and when he saw his friend Sean kneeling in the front pew asked:

  • So what did you get Sean?
  • God. A murderous penance of three Rosaries and six Acts of Contrition. And what about you, Jimmy boy? What was your holy bloody penance?
  • Well, I would say just about twice the same as you. But it was very well worth it indeed, ya know.
  • Be Jesus. Six Rosaries? And just how do you figure that one out to be worth anything but a blinkin’ torture for sure, Jimmy me boy?
  • Because, even though I got fairly and doubly worse the same damnable penance as you did, Sean… I also got meself quite a few damn good leads.

The Papal Version

Several nun novitiates, all in their late teens and early twenties were standing in the church sacristy waiting for final instructions from their supervising Priest before the final sacrament would install them as servants of God.

The Priest stood in front of a large cistern filled with Holy water and pontificated:

  • Now my dear women, you know that when the ring is placed on your hand it signifies your marriage to God, that you will forsake all others in his name and that those same hands will always be busy doing his good work. So this will be your final confession before the sacrament and your last chance to purify your soul before you take this final step. With that said, I shall ask you all once again to confess any potential former secular sexual indiscretions you may have had so that you might be fully forgiven, chaste and truly virginal like our Holy Mother Mary when you take the vows. Sister to be Theresa; what have you to say?
  • Well father. Once I thought about touching a boy on his penis but I never in fact did it.
  • Ah. That is only a sin of intention, not action, so come here and I will place some Holy Water on your brow and your impure thought is now to be cleansed. Now to you Sister to be Kathleen.
  • Well father. Once I sat in the back seat of a car and I touched a boy on the tip of his penis but that was it I swear to God and it frightened me so then I made him take me straight away to home.
  • All right then go over to the cistern and dip the offending finger in the Holy Water, rub it off and be on your way.
  • And next to you Sister to be Maria.
  • Father. I must confess. I once masturbated a boy to orgasm.
  • And do you happen remember which one was the offending hand, my dear.
  • No Father, I don’t.
  • Then go to the cistern, dip both hands in, cover the hands completely with Holy Water and rub them together to expunge the sin.

With that, Mary Alice, who was standing immediately second in line behind the next of the potential interrogates, Eileen, jumped out ahead of her, pointed to poor Eileen and said:

  • Listen to me good father. If you think for one second I’m gonna gargle with that shit after she sits in it, you got your fuckin’ head screwed on upside down.

(As told by Gina Davis in the Movie: Angie)

The Mission Priest

The Mission Priest

Although my mother officially pulled out of the Catholic Church after the Jesuit Brother tried to feel me up in Catechism class, we did make arbitrarily random appearances at Mass. It may have been related to residual guilt or perhaps something as abstruse as a maintaining a small investment in the religious insurance policy that guarantees a place in heaven. Old indoctrination sometimes dies a long and painful death for anyone having been brainwashed by it.

On one of those particular Sundays, when I was about seventeen years old, as opposed to the usual boring pap, the Pastor gave an extremely unusual electrifying sermon about next week’s highly anticipated visit by the “Mission Priest.” He then riveted everyone’s attention and hammered in the final nail by announcing this man was a special envoy from Rome itself. His home base was the Vatican and he was being sent to us for a brief respite from his hard work of converting the dark ignorant masses in Africa. The rhetoric ended with an appeal for everyone to let this man “hear your specially blessed confession.”

He said:

  • It will be the next best thing to having the Pope himself absolve your sins.

This was a first for our small Parrish, so the local priests were beside themselves with eager anticipation. The parishioners all bought into it too, resulting in longer lines on the pre-visit confessional Saturday than any other in the church’s history of collectively expunged sins. 

Although we did not go to that confession, on the following Sunday, curiosity got the better of us and we did go to the Missionary’s mass.

The man must have just arrived from some dismal assignment in darkest Africa, where the heat or some latent insect borne disease must have partially emulsified his brain, because it turned out to be the closest thing to a tent revival show that could ever be seen in a Catholic Church.

He was at once charismatic, energetic, mesmerizing, and was also just about one gearshift shy of being absolutely crazy. Leaping out from behind the pulpit his animated gyrations across the dais caused his robes to fly like sheets drying on a clothesline on a windy day, ultimately imparting the appearance of a purple dervish. With fire in his eyes and a message of brimstone damnation, the underlying theme to the sermon was that all men are guilty of everything until proven otherwise, ultimately making me feel that if he really dug in deep enough he could even get the Pope or Mother Theresa to lay out a litany of hidden dark spots on their souls. 

In making the congregation so paranoid about eternal damning fire in Hell, on the next Saturday the confessional lines were even longer; which unfortunately included my entire guilt-ridden family.

I should have known this was a bad idea because when I came face to ear in a small dimly lit cubicle with this nasty little Ambassador from Rome I had only just recovered from an adolescent guilty perception that Jesus, because he  must have had even better powers of ocular X-ray vision than Superman, was probably watching me when I went to jerk off in the basement bathroom. 

Beginning with the usual banal litany that usually worked so well with the regular priests, who never listened anyway,  we went through the boring routinely rote driven drill, I said:

  • Bless me father for I have sinned. It’s been three weeks since my last confession. These are my sins: I have talked back to my mother; I have disrespected my father…
  • Cut the crap. How old are you?
  • Seventeen.
  • So, seventeen, eh. Have you started to date yet? Do you like girls?
  • Yes, Father.
  • And, so, what do you do on your dates with these girls?
  • There’s only one girl, father.
  • So what exactly do you do with this one girl on your dates, eh? Do you kiss? Do you pet? Do you touch her genitals? Does she touch yours? Have you ever had oral sex or actual penetrating sexual intercourse? You know what that is, don’t you? Now tell me exactly what you do with this girl. All the details, too. I need to know EVERYTHING!

On and on went the terrifying interrogation while I gulped, coughed, mewled and sputtered some pathetically trivial answers.

After all one cannot lie to any priest, much less the special ambassador from Rome itself. In retrospect I was also too naïve to discount the possibility as he sat back in his little black booth, that he may have been getting his rocks off by hearing a long string of vicariously graphic descriptions of teenage sex spewed out by stuttering terrified sexual neophytes.  

I finally capitulated: Yes it was true I had kissed my girlfriend, and yes it was true that we had done some heavy petting. 

By the time the encounter was over, along with the usual banal lecture about saving oneself for the holy bonds of marriage, the special grace of entering marriage as a virgin, ad nauseam and ad infinitum, I was doused in a cold wet sweat that left me completely exhausted. 

He gave me the worst penance I ever had, sending me to kneel at the Alter with a burden of doing three entire Rosaries and four Acts of Contrition. Being used to far less cursory punishment, I thought this one was a bit too steep for the sin of heavy petting, so I did the task like doing a multiplication table. After every prayer, I simply muttered: “times ten” or “times four” and got out of the Church as fast as I possibly could; worrying that the maniac behind the screen might leap out of his little dark booth to haul me back in for Round Two. 

This was the second Epiphany that made me realize I had to get out of this crazy religion. The first one had come at age twelve when my dog died and I asked the priest if he was going to get into Heaven. I was told then that animals are not allowed into heaven, only human souls, and now I was being told that sex was taboo as well.

But somehow I instinctively knew that my limited encounters with sex seemed pretty pleasant up to that point, and not even close to the horror these nutty priests were attempting to portray. So here I was being chastised by a semi-psychotic zealot for liking women shortly after a Jesuit Brother tried to seduce me, while my dead dog’s soul was lost forever in Purgatory or Hell. The hypocrisy was too much to absorb. 

I also realized that if I was going to go to Hell over heterosexual sex; which I intuitively liked, then it would probably be a bonus. The realization also struck me that if people like the Mission priest were going to Heaven; a place also devoid of simple comforts like house-pets; then I did not wish to be within a parsec of their eternal prudish and animal avoiding presence.  

I thought I would rather choose to be in Hell with my faithful old dog, sipping on a Vodka, having a naked woman sitting on my lap and watching Duke win another National basketball title on TV. 

Now, that would be as close to heaven as it ever gets.

 Mission Priest

From//www.mtceuropavideo.com

 

Rules

Rules

 

Rules are mostly made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind 

(Douglas MacArthur)

There were other reasons to give up being a Catholic, not the least of which was the propensity of the higher authorities to constantly change the rules, the hypocrisy of which made it hard to keep the faith, much less even to keep abreast of the faith.

What were once venial or mortal sins were suddenly eliminated in an effort to keep ever dwindling numbers of disaffected parishioners still on the hook for mass. And everyone knows that mass is where the money is.

First, the centuries old habit of saying the mass in Latin, except for the  insipid Homilies and begging for money, was switched to English. Converting to the vernacular demystified the ritual, which made the whole exercise seem cheapened and infinitely more boring than it already was. Mass being more like a mindless repetitive TV info-commercial than an uplifting and inspiring religious event, had now become dull, rote pomp and circumstance in English.

For example, “Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis” sounds much more romantic than “Lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us;”  even when it has to be repeated three times.

Then there was the issue of having to fast before receiving Holy Communion. Why a person cannot eat the body of Jesus on a full stomach or drink his blood after a nice glass of orange juice simply makes no sense at all if one is then just headed out to a Diner right after Mass to slake starvation by gorging himself on pancakes, eggs, bacon, toast and sausage.

This is not to mention the fact that not more than one dehydrated diabetic or hypoglycemic grandmother would pass out if they waited to go to eleven-thirty mass without food or water for half a day. Fainting in church is more disruptive than apostolic, so that rule had to go too.

Then of course there was the requirement not to eat meat on Friday, because that was the day of the week Jesus was crucified. Yet how his having been nailed to a cross eventually became translated into a requirement to eat fish is anybody’s guess.

It seems to have had something to do with an allegory of his tortured flesh and the fact that eating meat would somehow thus insult him; ergo torture a fish instead. Nevertheless, liturgical calendars always had a fish pasted on every Friday. It also appeared on a few other Holy Days, as some sort of secret code for what usually turned out to be a culinary catastrophe. In those days it meant at our house we either had Mrs. Smith’s breaded fish sticks, canned salmon cakes or some other overcooked or cleverly disguised deep sea specimen that barely passed for real food.

On “half-fish” liturgical days, designated to be only partial days of self sacrifice, I begged my mother to let me have hot dogs for lunch. I also begged her never to rat me out to any of my especially self-martyring Italian aunts who would always let it be known to any captive audience that they had taken it upon themselves to “whole-fish” the “half-fish” day.

  • We like the old rules and we do it because Father said it would definitely take time off our Purgatory.

I thought to myself:

  •  Yeah. Maybe two and a half seconds off each millennium.

Whereas once upon a time if anyone ever admitted to having a hamburger on a Friday, and any good Catholic would be aghast at the very thought of it, suddenly one day, it was no longer a sin to eat meat, and the fish became optional. This paradoxically occurred at just about the same point in time that eating fresh seafood as well as its availability along with an awareness of how to really cook it, finally came into vogue.

  • So Father. You mean to tell me that the time I had a hamburger on a Friday doesn’t count toward days in Purgatory anymore?
  • Well, not exactly, my son. You see you broke the rule before we changed it so you still have to atone and pay up. You have acquired what we now refer to as a retrograde sin.

The best one of all however, is the concept of giving something up for Lent. This bit of self sacrifice is supposed to correlate with the forty days that Jesus spent in the dessert, resisting numerous temptations by the devil, including the promise to deliver to him the Kingdom of Earth if he would but bend down and worship his satanic majesty.

Maybe if Jesus had just gone ahead and done it, this world might have been a nicer place to live in for the last 2000 years and modern Christians would not feel so compelled at all to mimic this heroic resistance by instead giving up relatively mundane things like chocolate, cookies or pie. How brave. How about doing something really big instead like handing over six paychecks to a homeless person?

Even here the Protestant rules have been changed because suddenly it has been condoned to indulge on all of the Six Sundays in Lent, in whatever promise one has made to give up. The perverse logic here is that because each Sunday in Lent is in reality a “mini-Easter,” Sunday then becomes a preamble to the real celebration and as such is then a dress rehearsal for re-indulgence.

This means that during each regular weekday if I give up a piece of pie for Lent, I could eat an entire pie on Sunday to make up for the loss; provided only that the pie was cut into seven equal pieces. Or would that be no pieces at all? This rule is still being worked on.

People still walk up to me on Ash Wednesday with a black smudge on their foreheads, wearing the silly greasy fingerprint like a badge of smug courage, then self-righteously ask me if I am going to give anything up for Lent.

  • Hey. Today is the first day of Lent. I gave up peanuts, cheese and chocolate. So what are you going to give up?
  • Well aren’t you the cat’s meow. How about something really sacrificial like sex? Or maybe sex with your mistress. But how about this? They change the rules so often I can’t keep up with it. So from now on I will refuse to let some hypocritical holy-rolling priest smear last week’s incinerated palm leaves on my head and then walk around like it’s some kind of a Catholic yarmulke. Then I’m just going to give up Lent for Lent.
  • You will roast in Hell.
  • Not if I don’t believe it actually exists.

 

 

 

 

Advanced Catechetical Instruction

Advanced Catechetical Instruction

In 1964, when I was a sixteen-year-old eleventh grader, I went to my usual Catechetical class one Wednesday evening. There was a substitute Jesuit Brother teaching that night who supplemented his talk by showing a movie about soldiers in Korea.

Four soldiers were nestled in a foxhole when a hand grenade was thrown into it, prompting one of the men to throw himself on top of it. The grenade exploded and killed him, but the other three men were saved by this heroic act. The point of the lecture was to illustrate the beatitude of self-sacrifice and in particular the notion that there is no greater love that one man could have for another than to lie down and sacrifice his life. After all, Jesus had done the exact same thing for all of humanity, had he not?

After class the Brother asked me to stay behind while the other boys filed out, then sat down next to me on one of the proverbially generic folding chairs. He then used the movie to segue into a mini-sermon about personal self-sacrifice, asked if I knew what that was really all about and if I knew the myriad ways a person could sacrifice himself to another.

Meanwhile he was edging progressively closer, then put one arm around my shoulders while he placed his free hand on the inside of my thigh and began to grope.

Not at all enamored by the direction the situation was taking and although not yet consummated, I was already dead sure that my sexual preferences leaned as a polar opposite direction to this one. I extracted myself from the room, went to the parking lot, got into our car and silently waited for the usually quick ride home.

My mother, however, was not so quick to turn the key over or to go straight home.

  • Why are you so late? I’ve been sitting here for twenty minutes. All the other boys left with their mothers. The parking lot is empty.
  • Sorry mom. The brother kept be behind and then tried to feel me up.

It was like watching a fuse blow in stop frame photography.

  • I should have known better. I’ve hated that Catholic Church since your father made me convert. They’re all a bunch of hypocritical phonies. I wasn’t going to tell you, but now I will. Last month when we had a dinner party that fat derelict, Father Raetz, drank too much bourbon, backed me into a corner and tried to feel me up. He said he always loved my tits. That’s it. I’ve had it with all of them. From now on you’re out of Catechism and we aren’t going to Mass any more either. Phony rotten lying bastards. And another thing I’m going to tell your father is that we’re never going to visit his mother’s grave again. I can think of a lot better things to do with my time on Sunday than listening to bloated sot perverted priests beg for money, then have to spend the next hour crying over his fat, stupid, dead mother.

It would have been unheard of in those days to complain about sexual harassment in the Catholic Church. Not only would no one ever have believed it to be true, but it would also have been completely suppressed. Or if not that, no layperson would even remotely consider the risk of either direct or indirect divine retribution from the powerful ecclesiastic system.

It really wasn’t until the early 1970’s that the first allegations about sexual assault by a priest on an adolescent boy were made in Louisiana. Even then those parents paid for it dearly before it was over as the all powerful and ever righteous Church assaulted both their character as well as their overall credibility.

However, I didn’t give one thought to any of these implications. All I knew was that from this point forward I did not have to go to church if I didn’t want to, that I was taken out of Wednesday night Catechism, and best of all I would never have to waste a good part of any other Sunday morning in the maudlin exercise of praying and slobbering over Grandma at her headstone.

It was the first time in my life I truly believed there actually was a God.

 

 

 

 

 

A Christian Lesson in Interpersonal Relationships

A Christian Lesson in Interpersonal Relationships

 

A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green.

(Sir Francis Bacon)

 

My parents wanted me to go to Catholic High School but I fought the idea, fluoride tooth and nail. I argued that the experience of a permanent Catholic presence did not do a great deal to broaden my cousin Skippy’s horizons. More furtively, I also knew by this time that I liked the company of girls and did not look forward to the idea of being separated from the opposite gender for the next four years.

They finally capitulated, but with the compromise stipulation that I had to go Catechetical Instruction for the duration of my High School years. Classes were held every Wednesday night in the basement of the old church on top of the hill close to the lover’s lane aerators where less than saintly nocturnal activities were taking place.

I have yet to be in a church basement of any denomination that is any different from the one in that little church. They all have dingy low wattage light bulbs, greasy unwashed window sashes, an eerie smell that crosses between old incense mixed with permanent dust and mildew, bulletin boards full of hopelessly outdated notices or pamphlets, and the depressing atmosphere that accompanies folding chairs tucked under bare topped card tables. It all reeks of second-class poverty.

One would think any and every Catholic Church could afford some decent furniture for its extra curricular activities, or if not, it could at least devote one or two of their many “special collections” to the cause of refurbishment.

The Jesuit or Franciscan Brothers taught all the Catechetical instruction, with the classes lasting about one and a half hours. To me this was just an extension of the incomprehensible information I attempted to learn when I failed First Communion classes or was equally just a hodge-podge of brainwashing misinformation and poor allegories that defied common sense and scientific principle.

However at one point the Parrish Rector decided it would be a good idea to have a few lectures given by the laity. He thought that people from ordinary walks of life who were parents of the children in the class could come in from time to time and teach the class some aspect of Christian Doctrine that in some way was tethered to and present in ordinary lives or day-to-day work.

The first dad who came gave a rather beatific accounting of the Christian way to be a good mailman while another father came to relate stories about the Catholic approach to being a good banker. His shtick was to treat employees with dignity and respect, although the subject of softening up mortgage rates for the common folk was never broached.

I thought about asking my father to come, but could not think of one single Christian aspect about drilling teeth, pulling out molars, fitting bridges or tightening braces, and so just let him off that hook.

Then about one month later another dad came to give his lecture, which he said would teach everyone about controlling anger. A slim but relatively short man, he wore a double breasted suit with a slick shiny silk tie, sported a Clark gable mustache, carried a fedora style hat into the church and notably had a couple of cigars sticking up in the front breast pocket of his suit.

He worked as a contract estimator for a local cement mixing company, whose Italian boss, rumored to have had mob ties, seemed to have incurred particular favor from the Parrish priests. This included having the first row of pews reserved for him and his family at the ten o’clock Sunday mass.

The little man proceeded to tell us a fabled story about a cohort he worked with named Angelo “Squeaky” Manero. The nickname Squeaky derived from the fact that Angelo looked and sounded just like a little rat. But even though Squeaky was small he harbored a really bad, largely uncontrollable temper, which made many, many people very, very afraid of him.

The first example he gave was when a bus driver inadvertently left Squeaky off at the wrong stop. So after the next time he got on the bus, Squeaky poured hot grease on the poor man.

The audience was queried:

  • Now does that sound right?”

To which the peanut gallery replied:

  • No!

This was followed by:

  • You’re right. Squeaky didn’t have to hurt him. All he had to do was pack some clay into the exhaust pipe of the bus after work so it would blow the engine up when the driver turned it on the next day.

Then he told us how a man once owed Squeaky money. When he finally tracked the man down Squeaky spit in his face, then kicked him in the groin.

Once again,

  • Now is that the right thing to do?

And once again the chorus was in the resounding negative.

  • Right. All Squeaky really had to do was go to the man’s house, cut his car tires with a knife, then also cut the wires to the engine’s distributor cap.

It went on and on to the point that it began to take on the character of a children’s revival meeting, as the class became enamored by the stories along with the numerous alternative methods of exacting revenge.

The saga ended with Squeaky becoming almost uncontrollable to the point that the slightest perceived insult so unpredictably setting him off, even his friends said they did not want to work with him anymore.

  • Poor Squeaky; there he was just angry all the time, at every one and everything, and now pathetically alone without any pals. Then one day after a confrontation in which he tried to jab another guy in the neck with an ice pick, with no friends around to help him, the other man quickly pulled out a gun and shot Squeaky dead right on the spot.

The raconteur then told us that in all these situations Squeaky could have easily gotten back at any of the other people who crossed him if he had only kept his confrontational anger under control, then carried out indirect but appropriately vengeful acts which were not physically violent but still sent a clear message to the perpetrator.

No one would have known who had done these things, revenge would have been exacted, Squeaky would still be alive today, and he would still have all of his friends.

The moral of the story, this dad told the group, is to make sure that when you get mad, just be sure to control your temper. Don’t be confrontational, don’t physically harm anyone, then wait until some other time when the offenders are completely off guard to find another way to get back at each and every person who has ever crossed you up in life.

 After this lecture, the incredulously negative feedback to the Rectory from the parents of the children in the Catechism class ended the experiment in laity lectures; without further comment from the pulpit.

 Revenge

The First and Second Commandments of Organized Crime 

Don’t get mad. just get even

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Photo source: Copyright: popentertainment.com

 

Freedom of Choice

Freedom of Choice

The Catholic Church is very high on the concept of free will as rooted in the Adam and Eve debacle in the Garden of Eden. Man can choose between good and evil, right and wrong, or better and worse. God put us here to experience a lifetime  of mixed joy, happiness, pain and suffering as we run around every day of our lives making numerous moral and ethical decisions, simply because our first father and mother could not keep their hands off a miserable apple.

When I was a child I used to wonder why apples were so plentifully accessible if they were at the same time so forbidden. Perhaps instead God should have dangled a carrot in front of Eve before he subsequently beat her with a stick. Or was eating the apple a parabolic vignette about virginity and innocence, meaning when you have it you guard it with your life, until you give it up to some devil, and then it doesn’t matter anymore, as it becomes anticlimactic hollow pith. The only difference being that once you pick that apple, you can never again put it back on the tree. Innocence becomes automatically tested, and jaded as life progresses; to the point that its loss becomes fairly apparent.

Virginity, however, is something both genders can always lie about; or at least successfully fake to some extent. Men can just deny having had any prior sexual experiences; and if you really want to be a purist, a woman can have a hymen surgically reconstructed; as many times as she might want to have it done.

In catechetical instruction, I asked the priest if we actually choose to be born, and if so, do we also choose our parents. He could not answer that question. In fact he could not answer many questions; except to let me know without doubt that my dead dog could not be admitted to heaven. When I asked him to clarify that he told me I would have to take it as an article of faith. The great thing about religion is that any unexplainable concept simply becomes an “article” or “mystery” of faith. Because the Church requires so many great leaps of faith, for the true believer it should probably supply every Catholic household with a trampoline.

I doubt very much that I chose my parents or that they even chose me. I believe rather that DNA combinations are random events with random outcomes; but at the same time retain a repository of automatic front loaded programming. Dropping that blob of DNA into a maelstrom of legacies makes for even more in the way of unpredictable outcomes. This is similar to starting a steam locomotive engine in a cornfield; then letting it run amok without tracks. You still end up with a maze but not the neatly furrowed acreage you had on your drawing board.

How many people procreate while honestly believing they are going to have that perfect child? More likely, most people procreate without giving thought to anything at all.

Personal choice for me was highly unlikely for another reason. With the inherent difficulties of having only one mother, it would be extremely doubtful I would have been crazy enough to choose the collective persona of the Four Sisters of the Apocalypse to be my multi-mega-mother.

What I definitely know for certain is that I did not choose the date, the time nor the season to emerge from the womb. Yet it was against this backdrop of pseudo stability, genetically diverse legacies, and probably not by my freedom of choice that I came into this cold, cruel world. If I had to do it over again, I would have stayed put, remaining only a solitary sub-atomic twinkle in the eye of the great universe at large, instead of becoming binary seminal twinkles in the eyes of both my parents.

 Cooper Sisters 2

And it’s up against the wall

Redneck mothers.

Mothers who have raised a son so well.

He’s thirty-four

And drinkin’ in a honky-tonk.

Just kickin’ hippy’s asses and raisin’ hell

(Redneck Mothers: Jerry Jeff Walker)