You Asked For It, You Got It: Catholic School and The Pope

Really? You really want to hear about Catholic School and the whole pope thing? I feel so…legitimate! You're sure you don't want to hear about me falling down or something stupid I did? You REALLY want me to go there? Well, okay, I guess, let's all hop on the train to hell and get started.

I hated Catholic school. Click here on this here scared little girl to find all the stories I've already told about Catholic school:

 I know this picture is in a million of my posts, but it keeps getting funnier every single time I see it. 

ANYWAY, the thing about Catholic School was the unending guilt. OH THE GUILT. The nuns, beeshes that they were, prided themselves on making us feel as craptacular as possible, about EVERYTHING, from wearing our skirts too short to not doing well on a Geometry test (I still hate you, Sr. Dolores.) So for me, in the throes of undiagnosed bipolar, and for a number of other girls, who, in adulthood and the time of Facebook, have reached out to me and told me that they had similar stories, life was pretty miserable. I hated school. I hated how stupid it made me feel. I was, and always have been, an excellent student (with minimal effort, which also makes me a bitch, according to my mom) but I had no idea whatsoever that I was a good student until college. Catholic school made me feel stupid. There was no encouragement, no compliments, hell, the "guidance counselor" didn't even know my name.

NOW. This was not true for everyone! No! The Golden Few were lavished upon, but they weren't rebellious and crazy as a bedbug, so they wouldn't bring THE SHAME upon the school, like me. So they were fawned over by the guidance counselor Mrs O, which is what everyone called her, so yes, I'm fucking outing her on the blog, Mrs. O'Sullivan, because you hated me, and I never knew why, and yes I AM still bitter, now that you ask. They knew, the nuns and Mrs. O and the nurse, they KNEW something was wrong with me, and they DID NOTHING. Click here for the story of how I found out about that, 17 years after the fact 

So when I heard about the Pope being involved in YET ANOTHER scandal involving priests and young boys, I couldn't help but reach inside to that fragile little girl in that stupid uniform and say, as smugly as possible, GOOD. I'm GLAD the church is in hot water, I'm THRILLED that the pope is getting calls to resign, I DO THE SNOOPY DANCE that the institution that caused me so much grief is in the spotlight in a bad way. Of course, I am then wracked with residual guilt because I have freaking PTSD from Catholic school and every time I talk or write about how much hate I have for it, I look for lightning bolts and am terrified God will punish me by hurting someone in my family or a friend. 

I seethe when I think about all those boys (and girls, have you ever SEEN "The Magdalene Sisters?" RENT IT,) who were physically and sexually abused by these "people of God." it makes the bile rise. Sure, I was neglected terribly, and emotionally abused, but there was no Father Bad Touch taking me behind the vestibule. It could have been worlds and worlds worse. I was a young, confused, sick kid who was nothing but a nuisance to these "people of God," I wasn't violated by them. 

So yes, I am GLAD that this travesty, this unbelievable crime that has been going on forEVER is in the headlines. I hope the pope resigns. I hope the whole church implodes. I hope there's a Great Schism and the Catholics see what a sham their religion is. 

And at the same time, I think of my parents. My good, Catholic parents. I think of the mother of a classmate, who was tragically killed our first year of college. Her mother became a nun after that. She would never hurt anyone. I think of the (teeny tiny) handful of nuns who didn't hate me or dismiss me as an undesirable. And the guilt, and shame, is palpable. I think of my father reading this, as I bash his religion that he holds dear to his heart with a baseball bat and I get tears in my eyes. And somewhere, in the back of my mind, a little 12 year old me whispers "We're going to hell. And everyone you love will be punished for this." I think of that and I don't know if it's the bipolar or Catholic guilt or a combination of both, but it terrifies me. 

A quick story, I know this is getting long: In the midst of a horrible downturn a few months ago, when I sat, weeping, for days for no reason other than my mind wouldn't stop screaming about how much of a waste I was, Amber said on IM (and I'm paraphrasing)  "I hate your God. Your God punishes and hurts. If I believed in God, it would never be your God. Your God is a bastard."

That's what Catholicism did to me. It made me believe, and believe to this day, even though I rejected the Church a LOOOOOOONG time ago, that there is a wrathful, punishing God, who strikes down people like me. A God of love is not something I was taught. And I hate Catholicism and Catholic school for that. For never, ever, making me feel that God loved me. 

So I hope the Pope is shamed and booted from his position. I hope there is a massive revolution in the Church. I hope that their homophobic, women-hating, anti-choice, child abusing asses are taken to the cleaners. REVOLUTION!!!!!!

And I hope that little Catholic kids are someday taught that there is a God of love. Because I sure as hell never was. 


You Asked For It, You Got It: Catholic School and The Pope — 30 Comments

  1. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a revolution. The people at my Catholic school weren’t any worse than the people anywhere. There were good people and bad people. It was ‘the good school’ in my town and so it was where the rich people went and it’s funny that what I was left with after Catholic school was hating rich people–these overprivileged, racist mean girls. That’s what stuck with me. Also, the diversity of the Church. We had the semi-communist ex-Maryknoll who was pro-Salvadoran revolution along with the really amazing lay (probably atheist) English teacher with a Ph.D. who taught me about Ezra Pound along with the horrible uptight freaky nun golf teacher (definitely lesbian) along with the sweet, angelic Home Ec teacher nun that everyone loved along with our very definitely gay priest. (I swear ta whatever that he subtly came out in a poem in our literary magazine. In the ’80s. But he was such a fish out of water and tried to relate to teeangers by talking about preppy clothes. So not a cool gay guy, just a confused, closeted guy.) Then there was the nutty pro-life fanatic and the utterly brilliant religion teacher that basically implied that hell was kind of a metaphor and probably no one was actually IN hell.
    I had PTSD also but it was primarily inflicted by elitist rich white teenage girls layered on top of a horrible childhood layered on top of my general inability to fit in because I’d grown up in the inner city and most of the students came from the affluent suburbs. So I probably would have gotten it in any wealthy suburb. The trauma was the pressure to conform and the narrow-mindedness of my fellow students. I registered as a Communist when the nuns registered us to vote and they were all Republicans.
    One thing that does stay with me is the sexism, reported by the boys at the boys’ school that was associated with us. They were taught to have a disdain for us to and to regard us as less intelligent. Also, what cracked me up was that it was a Jesuit school–so while we were being taught to wait for marriage, they were being taught that sex has to be accompanied with love and all sorts of radical Jesuit stuff.

  2. Once again, thanks for your honesty. I am a protestant Christian and I believe in a God who is all-loving, merciful, gracious and just. I believe Christians are to model this behavior and take a stand against social injustice (sorry Glenn Beck, you bastard) and fight for the protection of those victimized by oppression and evil. How grievous it is, when the persecution comes from within. I am watching with great interest to see how my Catholic brothers and sisters handle this one.
    And although I am not Catholic, it truly grieves and angers me when I hear personal stories like yours. Our picture of God is typically framed by those who teach us about Him/Her. I’m sorry for how poorly you were loved by those who were charged with exemplifying love.
    And on a side note, you are effing hysterical, don’t get me wrong. But don’t underestimate the power of your vulnerability. You are truly powerful when you share your stories. I’ll shut up now. 🙂

  3. I had a similar experience (although it was my friend that nobody would help) and I even got in trouble for daring to stand up and tell people she needed it. Sister Louise told me I was “being a little dramatic.” I was sent to Catholic school AFTER public school too so I knew there was another way (not better or worse, just different) and Catholic school is what forced me into my “hopelessly lapsed Catholic” status forever. I saw them turn my youngest brother into an anti-abortion zealot at age 10. I saw them make the Hindu boy in class almost cry because he didn’t belong to “the one true church.”
    I still help with Catholic social justice causes (fuck you, Glenn Beck) like CRS and st vincent de paul society. Those that don’t “missionary” but help with humility and grace. And I think the COLLEGE Jesuit education is a good thing. The rest? DONE.

  4. As my little daughter, who has attended Catholic schools from 5th grade, sits in Freshman High School class, getting the best education I could afford right now, I have to say – THINGS HAVE CHANGED. She is a kid (I have many) who is NOT rebelling, not lying or taking drugs or sneaking. She is excelling in school, sports, violin, friends and MATH. She is encouraged everyday in that school by everyone from the principal to the janitor. The school is not in a wealthy district and we travel an hour to get there. She loves God, and looks for the good in everyone. Why? Because they did that for her. Of course you were encouraged to do good and excel, that is what school is all about. But more importantly, they were not allowed to be mean to each other. Common decency and being polite are King, not religion, the pope or what you do wrong. That is the difference. Though not a Catholic myself (I don’t know what I am at this point) I applaud Catholic Education. I am sorry for your unfortunate experience. It is not what it used to be. PS: No nuns in sight, but tons of computers!

  5. Found you through @ebertchicago over on twitter. I can relate to you, even though I am a guy. K-12 of Catholic school for me and I’d see some crazy, and really bd things. My HS was a weird mix, boys on one side, girls on the other. The brothers were mostly laid back. The nuns, raving lunatics, that seemed to make it their mission to protect the girls from us.
    My guidance counselor was more worried about personality test and handwriting analysis than helping me find a good college. In my freshmen year one of my classmates was beaten so badly in a fight that his nose was shattered. The person responsible had no real punishment since he was one of the favored sons. But the biggest culture shock for me was from gramamr school to high school.
    My grammar school was run by Fransican monks. They were basically a bunch of hippies that tended to preach about love, tolerance, and being a good person. It was not until HS that I saw the other side of it. Between the drunken brothers trying to teach, the crazy nuns who seemed to hate all of us, and the obvious favortism it pretty much killed 90% of what I thought being Catholic was. Probably the one saving grace in my experience was my English teacher. He taught all sorts of things that, I suspect, if the Brothers really looked at would have gotten him in some trouble. He was probably the only teacher that actually believed in me and worked to help me.
    I see some of your posts and I see echoes of my own experiences, though yours were worse and it makes me angry. It makes me angry because it’s not isolated, that many of us felt it to varying levels, that it seems that the whole institution does not care beyond protecting itself. And it makes me a little sad because the ideal is not so bad but the practice sucks.

  6. I am honestly not surprised by the neglect the nuns showed you, but that doesn’t mean I’m not horrified, all the same.
    I thank the universe quite frequently that my family left the church and my own childhood was so religiously confusing as to allow me to think for myself and find my own lack of belief.
    Were I to believe in god at all, it certainly would not be the catholic god of my family’s past. Members of my own family were victimized by priests who I’m sure were never punished.
    There’s a British Mini-series called The Second Coming starring Christopher Eccleston. You might enjoy it.

  7. I did time too…Now in my adult life, whenever my boss or someone who is a superior asks to see me, the first thing I do is panic and wonder “What did I do wrong?!?”
    Of course I’ve done nothing wrong, but that’s the first thing that comes to mind.

  8. Great rant. I too hope the pope implodes. That said, nuns made me feel brilliant. Only when I got to public high school did I discover how average I was. So, did I escape the guilt? Oh no. Jesus still nailed himself to the cross every morning for me, just before school, right in the front of the classroom, so I could watch him bleed while I wasted my gifts.

  9. I wasn’t a Catholic, but I’ve had a fair share of bad church experiences. My “friends” at my Presbyterian college told me my sick & dying father wasn’t going to heaven because he didn’t attend church. That did it for me, and the only time I’ve set foot in a church since was for a much-loved uncle’s wedding. And the whole time I sat there in that pew, I had the shakes.
    Religion is so twisted, thinking they have the inside scoop on exactly who God is and what he is like, then twisting that into their superiority over others. And not just Christianity or Catholicism either. It’s all such a mess, and it’s all just people, these fallible humans, saying “we have THE definition of God, WE know what he is and how he feels about us and what he wants us to be like.” I say BULL.SHIT.
    I do believe in a divine creator, but if he’s like any creative type I know, he kinda likes what he’s created and doesn’t want to send us to burn just because we missed last Sunday or our religious books are a little dusty. But he’s probably a little sad and pissed that the people who claim to worship him have turned him into such an utter bastard too.

  10. Wonderfully Written, Miss Banshee. It’s a shame that so many of us who were “raised Catholic” split irrevocably with the Church when we were old enough to know better. I still feel guilty for not following the religion that’s been in my family for generations, but their history of hate, intolerance and refusal to get with “the times” confirms for me that I just can’t go back.
    I really do hope that something radical comes out of this most recent story. It’s time that the Catholic church was taught that they are NOT above the law, and their pedophiles be punished just as any others would be. Maybe once enough priests end up on the sex offender registries they’ll get the hint.
    Like you said, I choose to believe that God is LOVE. And that’s about all I’m certain of right now, until/when/if I choose to find my way back to an organized form of religion. Too many hypocrites and double standards for me to take it seriously at this point.

  11. I’m so glad you wrote this. It breaks my heart when I think of all the hurt that needs to be healed because of Catholicism. There are (were) wonderful Sisters, Nuns, Brothers and Fathers who nurture(d) their young charges but unfortunately they are (were) rarely mentioned.

  12. There is a scripture in the Bible that says “call no man ‘Father'” and yet the whole Catholic religion is based on this. There is not one teaching of the Catholic church based on the Bible. Even without the church, the real Father is still there. Don’t worry at all about speaking out about your horrible experience with this church. All churches are man made and full of corruption. I feel terrible for you that they planted such guilty in you at such a young age. It’s very hard to fight against that, but just realize everytime you feel bad about yourself, it’s coming from them and not God. I think God is proud of you for finally figuring it out.

  13. Man, Catholic school does have a tendency to jack some people up, no? Mine was never that bad, but … well, one of my teachers was Sr. Adelaida of the Sorrows, who taught my mother and MY GRANDMOTHER. F’reals.
    And I complained about my first arch-nemesis Sr. Patrick in comments yesterday, but I did have some awesome experiences with a couple of nuns. One of my favorite professors in college (she taught religious ethics and social justice) left the convent just before her final orders. She fell in love.
    My public-high-school AP European history teacher turned me off church forever though, and he was a Lutheran. His son is a minister.
    Not sure how much you read, but you might really like “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” by Christopher Moore. Seriously, it’s good. Helps keep in perspective how un-Christ-like some Christians (particularly Catholics) can be. But in a good way, seriously. It’s funny. I think you’d enjoy it.

  14. Fairly soon after I told my Mom that I was going to transition from male to female (my Dad had passed away 9 months before I told my Mom), Mom joined an Antiochian Orthodox Christian order of nuns near Santa Barbara, California.
    When I jokingly said to her that I was the transsexual daughter of an Orthodox Christian nun, my Mom flinched. She later emailed me, and told me that I was committing the same sin as having a child out of wedlock.
    That stung.
    Even when Mom said that, I knew (and know) she wasn’t lashing out to hurt me — Mom isn’t one who would intentionally harm anyone. Mom was lashing out from her own pain at wondering what she did that might have turned me into a transsexual. In fact, my Mom is well known for her thoughtfulness and kindness, but she didn’t know what to do with the realization that all of the Pentecostal upbringing she and my Dad imparted to me didn’t “save” me from being born with a female soul in a male body.
    And too, I’m probably the one most like her in personality and disposition of all her five children. I got what she was doing almost as soon as she did it.
    Yeah. So much guilt. So much pain. So much awareness of my mixed feelings about Christian faith and many of it’s practitioners.
    I so get what you’re saying, MissBanshee. Feeling glee at the Catholic Church’s and Pope’s bad news, and feeling guilt for feeling such glee. Mixed emotions are so much a part of the human condition of us raised in various forms of Christian faith.

  15. I’m a product of Catholic schools, including boarding schools from first through third grades, which I’m blogging about. Those years left a mark on me, mostly not good. Fortunately, I went to a small all-girls Catholic high school run by an order of nuns who were nurturers.

  16. I attended catholic schools K-12. I was solidly ignored. Senior year I asked one of the nuns if she thought I’d do well in college. No. But I went anyway. The worst thing? The way I completely assimilated the ridiculous idea that suffering in this life meant happiness in the next, and conversely, if you were happy in this life you just better look out because you must be doing something wrong!

  17. As a product of Catholic school who wasn’t actually a Catholic — and later a product of public school — I’ve seen many sides. But I can’t get over the Catholic church trying to hush up all these awful, awful things, and I also hope Benedict is exposed for the fraud he is. Infallible, my a**.
    I got lucky, Catholic school-wise. My Catholic elementary school was in a rural area of the Midwest (the sort of place where they stick military bases — the middle of nowhere), and so there were very few nuns / priests around to staff the school. We had a music nun, and sometimes a religion nun or religion deacon, and the priest, and that was it. And fortunately they tended to be pretty liberal, so I actually got a much more acceptable kind of religion from them (God wasn’t a wrathful man in white robes, but rather an infinite being that couldn’t be conceived — that kinda blew my mind as a fifth grader when the deacon kept trying to get us to conceive of “infinite”).
    Trust me, the kind of religion practiced by many Protestants in the Midwest is scarier, even than that of the more conservative side of Catholicism. The choices in religion in the rural Midwest where we lived were crazy Protestant (fundamentalists, hellfire types — their god is definitely not a loving one), hypocritical Protestant (the mainline denominations where people went because they felt they *should* go to church but didn’t really believe), and Catholic. I’ve experienced all three, and none was great; I’m an atheist now after the realization one day that I really wasn’t all that disturbed by the idea that I might die and not live forever, and I didn’t want to believe in any of those types of religion, just so I could believe that I would live forever.
    And alas, the public school I had to go to when the Catholic school ended (only went through 6th grade in the boonies) was far worse. When you talk about being ignored by your guidance counselor, I had bad PTSD flashbacks to my public high school.
    So it’s not just Catholic school — but I totally understand where you’re coming from. It’s worse to get that kind of treatment from people who are allegedly representing God’s love or God’s wisdom or whatever. And ignoring signs that a student needs help is unconscionable.

  18. I hear what you are saying about hoping that the vatican/pope implodes based on the never-ending string of abuses by priests. My hope is that it jump-starts change and brings the church into modern times. I’m so sorry that you had such a bad experience. My catholic education was through the 7th grade but I don’t think that I ever had a nun for a teacher. From what I remember, my teachers were good and supportive and I guess what you would expect a teacher to be. I did have one really weird smelling religion teacher though….
    My disaffected guidance counselor was in high school which was oh-so-fucking-helpful when trying to do things like figure out majors and school fits and whatnot. Bah.

  19. By the way I was buying mascara at Sephora online and thinking about this blog when all of a sudden i had a flashback to my 8th grade math teacher accusing me in front the whole class of wearing mascara. (i am blonde but have long lashes and they used to be much darker when I was younger.) I denied it but she still made me go out in the hall and scrubbed my eyes with a washcloth and Vaseline, to no avail. It hurt! Not only did she NOT apologize but I had Vaseline in my eyes for the rest of the day.

  20. It comes at really no surprise to see people like you totally disappointed at the hipocrisy of religion worldwide. And the remark that disqualifies the doctrine that God is a cruel tyrant (as all Christendom teaches) is illuminating.
    I know you will find comfort and above all, ANSWERS in the following read:

  21. I do that all the time, but I only just now see the correlation between that reaction and 12 years of Catholic school.

  22. Ok, I must admit that your post made me realize that I am either a masochist or a Spartan (or both!). I loved the discipline at Catholic school. I think it was because I was always striving to be good enough to be recognized and praised. I do feel that I learned a lot and was really challenged as well. However, I can see how the guilt and goading could be discouraging.

  23. A lot of people (I’m one of them) would argue that years and years of emotional abuse is as horrifying and deeply scarring as anything that could happen behind a vestibule.
    The world won’t be right and “someone will still be wrong on/in the internet/Church” until systematic and organized apologies and revolutions are issued. And issued like mad.
    Great post, btw.
    Fundamentalist-upbringings aren’t any picnic, either. 🙂

  24. I agree with the idea of the Pope stepping down. There are facts that show this man knew EVERYTHING.
    I can’t disagree with your experience because it was yours. I know now, as the product of Catholic grammar, high, college and graduate schools I do not believe in a vengeful evil God that punishes. I do not know that God. And now, as a Theology teacher in a Catholic high school I absolutely do not teach about that God. I do not teach about a God that does not forgive and does not love.
    I hope that my children do not learn about that evil God next year when they start Catholic school and if they do, they will be removed. My children will never hate God because of what they were taught by people who probably had no real understanding of God. There were some wonderful teachers at our high school- both in black and white and those not in black and white- but many of them had no concept of a God who loved unconditionally.
    I am so sorry that you had the experience that you had. And for the record, Mrs. O hated me too!

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