My earliest memories from the time I was a newly "confirmed seven year old Catholic child found me being required to confess all my "sins" each week to an unknown Priest hidden behind a dark screen.
To this day, the idea of any seven year old capable of anything approaching "sin" is absurd. so the obligitory "forgive me father for I have sinned" pronouncement as a preamble was a non-sequitor at best. The real absurdity came when I committed areal "sin" by lying about committing a sin....that is I had to make one up in order to be excused in order to do penance for what had not done!
Does anyone else have these absurd memories still clogging up ones otherwise rational brain?
I still remember the peculiar sweet smell of the confessional and the sound of the cover of the screen being slid back by the priest.
My little friends and I had plenty of sins to confess in that system, however, everything from childish fibs to disrespect toward any person in authority-- and don't forget, thoughts ranging from disrespectful to murderous counted as sins, too.
Why is it that of all the millions of images, sounds and smells I've had since my childhood days...I am still unable to just delete those of the little black door sliding behind the screen? And those of the nasty priest with his rather foul smellling breath berating me because my made-up story of sinfulness was insufficient for him? And why would I actually make up another- even greater- "sin" to appease his passion so he might administer an even greater penance onto me? Why do these absurd thoughts remain "burned" into my brain forever...when so many other worthwhile experiences have escaped my consciousness?
Although I've been an atheist for many years and fully realize the absurdity of it all..why can't I just flush this foolishness away? I can however proud to claim that I never imposed this awful legacy onto my children as did my parents onto me.
I sure do have that memory. In fact, I recall me and my friends at St. Therese (in 2nd grade), just before our first confession, trying to come up with things to tell him. We were trying to figure out what to tell him that sounded 'sinful' but not too outrageous that he could figure out it was made-up - at least not too outrageous for a seven year old.
I consider it sexual abuse to be told at the age of 13 (when puberty is starting for most) that any sexual thoughts, masturbation, and sexual activities are sins that must be confessed to priests (often men in their 30s-70s). I was 17 in the 80s but if I were that age in the late 90s, I would have charged the bastards 2.99/min to talk dirty to them. Sheesh!
Can you imagine a 17-year-old girl believing she was going to hell for 4 years before summoning the courage to tell a 40-something disgruntled man she masturbated? I don't have to. I remember it vividly and how annoyed he seemed to be to have to sit and listen to my confession. His panties got into an even bigger twist when I didn't know the Act of Contrition. At least I didn't have to worry about going to hell anymore as long as I didn't have any sexual feelings. That lasted a whole day or two! So, I decided I was going to get married asap so I didn't have to worry about going to hell. Guess how THAT turned out! (Not good.)
I'm not Christian so I don't have to forgive my parents or the priest or anyone really who contributed to the fear I had to live with for many years simply because I was having normal and natural feelings.
Don't get my wrong. I'm not angry about it. I just think they're complete idiots and/or dishonest people because if you really rub some brain cells together and THINK about it all, it's absurd. I guess I do have to admit I'm angry at my parents for being so stupid. I don't excuse or make excuses for stupidity and thoughtlessness so I don't think stuff like, "Oh they were doing their best" or "Oh they really believed they were doing me a favor". I remember being 7 years old and being in church and thinking "These people are nuts". My 7 year old mind assumed that since I was a kid, when I got older it would all make sense because, after all, the adults seemed to be OK with it.
At 7 my big sins were lying to my parents (hey, I had to--they were irrational, superstitious, completely compassionless and un-empathy idiots) and being mean to my brother (hey, I was 7--gimme a break--I'm not a saint).
At 14, I was forced to make confirmation against my will. When I said I "didn't feel ready" to make the commitment, my mother told me, "Too bad. You have to." and left the room. After all, she was a CCD teacher. How would this reflect on her reputation?
What I feel mostly now, in my 40s, is happiness that I was able to extricate myself from that insanity and my equally insane marriage and raise good, atheist children. What got me over it was realizing in my early 20s that if there was a god, he couldn't be as much of an asshole as the Catholics made him out to be.