As I see it: Being a Catholic (Part one)

After just having watched the movie, “SPOTLIGHT” I was reminded of this quote: “Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is

After just having watched the movie, “SPOTLIGHT” I was reminded of this quote: “Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong!” – Anon 

This is probably one of the most poignant movies I’ve watched in some time. The film follows The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team (the oldest newspaper investigative unit in the United States) and its investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Catholic priests. It’s based on a series of stories by the real Spotlight team that earned The Globe the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. I didn’t really want to watch this movie as being Catholic, I was wrestling with the accusations that had been made years ago and the cover ups that took place on the global stage. But… something changed in me. It started me thinking.

You see, I grew up in the early 50s, in a loving, caring family; the eldest of six boys. Hardworking father and a mother that saw her duty to God, the Catholic faith and her husband in that order. At a very young age I was introduced to our local Priest. An Irishman who was overpowering, yet as I remember, gentle enough, but firm and dogged. Gosh, I was only four, not even at school yet. The grooming started from a very early age. Now, I must make it very very clear: I was NOT abused by any priest sexually. Mentally and physically, well that’s a different story. I believe it was bad, but I cannot begin to comprehend the pain and suffering those who were sexually abused have had to endure. Guilt was instilled into me through the church and her teachings: the priest, the nuns and my mother. There was no let up. I had to learn my Catechism off by heart, knowing the first chapter before I got to the convent… I was continually told that if I didn’t know it, I was not going to heaven. I would not be able to be a good Catholic boy.

The pressure that was placed on this 5 year old was humongous! Still, I did it… passed my first test and read to the priest and the nuns, answered their questions as I stood in the middle of the room… cold and bleak! When I came out of this interrogation, I saw others lined up in the corridor. One boy had wet himself and others were laughing at him. I went and put my arm around him to reassure him it would be all right. We became best friends. He has since passed away, but that introduction to my schooling has never left me.

As the years progressed, I moved into the ‘inner circle’ so to speak. I became an altar boy, wore my Soutane and Surplice (the garments every altar boy must wear when assisting the priest at Mass), gosh! That was a proud day! I had learned the Latin Mass and responses that an altar boy must give. All this time, the brainwashing was subtle, but never the less taking place! I began to win prizes for my religious knowledge, topped the class at one point, became a favourite, to the determent of some of the other kids. Still it got me privileges, I reached form II and then the big day out: we were off to the lake for the day, “the altar boys’ picnic”. More brain washing and more guilt unknowingly heaped upon us in a very subtle way.

It was time to leave the convent and move to secondary school. By this time the priest had changed. There were two now rather than one. Vatican II had taken place under Pope John XXIII. This was a revolution within the church. All the while, the abuse continued, boys and girls being sexually, physically and mentally abused. No one spoke out, no one dared speak.

The pedophiles were cunning and clever. They instilled the guilt into each and every one of their victims. And so on it went: mass was said on a daily basis, comments were made about the alleged abuse that was taking place. No one dared speak out! I of course at the time, knew none of this. Did not even recognise what was happening within myself and it was not until years later that I came to understand how powerful this was. I have written about it on numerous occasions, the cultist sects within mainstream religion and how it absorbs us.

Never ever would I write or utter a bad word about the Catholic Church! I was sent to boarding school run by the De La Salle Brothers with a couple of Jesuit priest thrown in for good measure. Once again, I was subjected to more physical abuse. Don’t get me wrong: there were and still are many good, kind and caring brothers within this order, but they too were influenced by their superiors and by taking an oath of obedience, here was another power hold over these young men.

So… I left school to embark on my life’s journey. Some journey this was to be.

To be continued!

Have you had similar experiences?
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Originally posted here.  

  1. Dale Hennessy  

    Insightful…. I look forward to part 2. Really appreciate articles that are well written by persons with first hand experience, who can justify argument in either direction. Also very much appreciate the fact that it has been proof read, so I don’t have to guess at what he means.

    • Robert Green  

      Yes, these dogmatic faithless people have given the Christian faith an undeserved reputation. How can a religion expect its men and women to live unnatural lives without some consequences!? It comes out in many ways and this author has captured it in a nutshell

    • warren Kalajzich  

      I went to the convent for 5 years ,then Christian Brothers College St Georges Tce Perth with 1000 other boys. From day one we learnt about the Catholic faith, we were brought up in a firmly disciplined environment. I received the strap a few times and deserved it .I learnt to behave because I had a fear for the consequences. Punishment became less and less and in the last 3 years at college I don’t think I received the strap and built up a mature relationship with my teachers. I was a altar boy for about 7 years and had nothing but respect for the priests and received respect back from them. Now 72 and still go to Mass each Sunday because I want to and enjoy the company of the people I meet there. I question my Faith more these days, but I thank all my teachers and priests for a wonderful structure that I was so lucky to experience. Incidentally 3 of our Christian Brothers still attend old boys functions, they are respected, liked and great men. Finally our year class was divided into two groups of 60 in each class, all in rows, no talking and plenty of work and guess what there were plenty of high achievers across the entire class regardless of whether you chose an academic career ,trade, commerce or other. Guess we were LUCKY !!!!!!!

  2. Fortunately, I grew up with parents who were post-religious and although they sent me to a religion-based boarding school in my high school years and as a pre-schooler let me attend Sunday School with protestant neighbours, they told me that I had to to do my own searching and discover my own truths.

    From age 18 I spent 30 years on and off studying the main, popular religions and eventually became the atheist that all serious, critical analysis and robust enquiry should inevitably lead to.

    I’m always interested in the views of others and look forward to Part Two.

  3. Bruce McGillivray  

    I too so look forward to Part Two. Unlike the author I was mentally, sexually and to a lesser degree physically abused as a young naive teenager by a very much trusted and very much loved catholic priest. If only his parishioners knew the truth. Even today it is so hard to not feel guilty about discussing this matter knowing that he has passed to his makers glory. I guess I will have to deal with that, just like I have dealt with the past 50 years or so.

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