A few weeks back, through no fault of my own, I found myself inside a Catholic church. (Gimme a break. It was a funeral.)
And in this church were confessionals. And the confessionals looked the same as they did back when I attended Catholic church, which was when pterodactyls flew above. They looked like duplex coffins standing on end.
So confessionals are still too cramped and the doors are too narrow to be wheelchair accessible. You’d think by now somewhere in the row of confessionals there’d be at least one double-wide with a big blue and white access symbol on the front, like when you see a line of outdoor porta-toilets.
So I guess cripples, or at least the ones who use wheelchairs, are still exempt from sin. When I was a little Catholic criplet I thought this was the coolest thing in the world. Since the church considered me incapable of sin, I didn’t have to do like all the Catholic kids who weren’t crippled and reflect on the events of the week past and make a list of every time I offended God and then report it to a priest and get stuck reciting a list of prayers on a Saturday afternoon while all the kids who weren’t Catholic were off somewhere having fun. Who wouldn’t want be exempt from that? God was so touchy and easy to offend. So I took my exemption and ran with it. It was a sweet gig. I never looked back. I never asked for a second opinion or an appeal.
But then it was all ruined. My mother had foot surgery so my sister and I stayed for a couple weeks with the Snitzers. Mary Ann Snitzer was my sister’s classmate at the crippled elementary school. The Snitzers were hard core Catholic. The Polish grandma, who spoke no English, went to mass every morning then retreated to her attic cloister where she prayed until afternoon.
Every Saturday the local priest came to hear Mary Ann’s confession. The confessional was her parent’s bedroom. And so my sister and I got dragged into confessing too. At the Snitners our exemption was null and void! Dammit!
The first week, when my turn came, I managed to confess some petty lies or impure thoughts or something that satisfied the priest enough for him to assign me penance. But the second week, when the priest sat on the bed and asked what I had to confess, I said, “Nothing.” His face turned disapproving. “You must have something to confess,” he said. But I really didn’t. How much sinning could I do attending cripple elementary school by day and boarding with the Snitzer by night? I shrugged. The Virgin Mary stared at me from a picture frame on the dresser. “Maybe you disobeyed your parents,” the priest said. So I went with that. I confessed that I disobeyed my parents, which was a lie since I hadn’t even seen my mother in two weeks. But now I had lied to a priest, which was bad on one level because that was surely a sin but it was good on another level because it gave me a sin to confess if I had to deal with this guy again next week. But if I confessed to the priest next week that I lied when I confessed last week that I sinned the previous week when I really hadn’t, how would all that play out? Would I then be a week behind in my sinning and obliged to double up to keep pace? The rules of confession were so confusing. In the future, I resolved, if I ever had to confess a sin to get a priest off my back, I would stick with impure thoughts. That was a much safer bet. That was one sin I could and would easily and frequently commit, even at cripple elementary school.
After I graduated from cripple elementary school to cripple state boarding high school/institution, the sin exemption I treasured as a child I now took as an insult. How dare the Catholic church automatically assume that just because I was crippled I was incapable of cheating and lying and coveting and bearing false witness and all that stuff. I was an adolescent raging with impure thoughts and I couldn’t wait to do my time at the cripple state boarding high school/institution and graduate into the real world for the first time so I could cheat and lie and covet and bear false witness to the best of my ability, so as to fully assert my humanity and that of other cripples.
I would never be able realize my sin potential at the cripple state boarding high school/institution. The whole point of such places was to shelter cripples away from the harsh and sinful world. Opportunities for sin did not readily present themselves. You had to create your own. And even those were lame. Once I acted upon a rebellious urge to flush a plastic cup down a toilet. And sure enough the whole bathroom flooded. They sealed off the bathroom like a crime scene. A plumber extracted a plastic cup. Who could pull such a childish stunt, our adult keepers wondered? Did they act alone or were there accomplices? An investigation was launched.
I never confessed a damn thing. Until now.
Is it a sin that I am laughing right now? Because that would mean I'm finding amusement at the emotional angst of a cripple. And I'm pretty sure the nuns would put that right up there with cussing out your mother or pushing a little old lady out of the crosswalk. But I can't help but laugh because your writing style is so funny (and poignant.) So, yeah, thanks for turning me into a sinner, man.ReplyDelete
Every first Thursday the whole Catholic grade school I attended went to confession, class ny class. And Every month I confessed the same thing: "Bless me Father for I have sinned. My last confessional was a month ago. I have lied and disobeyed. I am sorry for these sins..." Every damned month.ReplyDelete
And I always got the exact same penance - two Our fathers and two Hail Marys. Every damned month.
Man, first Thursdays must have been a bitch for the priests. Just sayin".
The church I attended as a child started sending us to confession in the second grade, and we were just as baffled as you were as to what to say. Some of the older kids helpfully suggested that we confess to acts of adultery.ReplyDelete
Next week, at catechism class, the pastor dropped by and told us to stop these confessions, because we weren't capable of committing adultery. He would not tell us what it was, though, leaving us with something else to be baffled and curious about.
When I was 9, I was very easily led, and I could spell. The neighbor boy was full of mischief, and he knew lots of dirty words. Together, we wrote those words -- correctly spelled, in mud -- on our neighbors' house because they wouldn't let us retrieve our kickball.ReplyDelete
My mother, who was ill at the time, insisted that my father not only accompany me to confession, but follow me into "that damn confessional" and make sure that I told that priest every last detail. After several Hail Marys and Our Fathers, I was cleansed. It took me another 5 years, however, to figure out why I was ALSO grounded AND had to apologize AND had to clean the neighbor's house. After all, if God forgave me...
Never did get the kickball back. Bastards.
I was also raised in this strange religion, and had to confess to some creepy guy in a booth...even at the age of eight I thought it was the strangest thing...but dammit if I wasn't getting that FUN wafer! I tried the wine too! yuck...tasted like they stamped it out with their feet the day of....anyways, I always said the same thing..I said dirty words and I lied..Our priest was the rock star of catholic churches, he was always "drinking the blood of Christ" and chasing skirts...at least he didn't like the alter boys! I think some pervert just made this religion up so he could so hear all the town gossip and rain judgment upon others while drinking! Think about it...someones demented to hang half dead naked people and pray to it...they talk about horror movies and Marilyn Manson screwing up the youth, while these people are having children confess their darkest deeds and worshipping a hanging corpse.ReplyDelete