February 11, 2006

Growing Up Catholic...

I'm spitting over on another blog about growing up Catholic. So I figured I needed to expand on that theme here. The object du rant is the recently freed former governer of Connecticut, who was brought up via the catholic school system. As was I.

I started off from a different place, and took a different path. This is what we call a major understatement. But I worked the same system. I learned that it did not actually matter how good or moral or ethical one was, all that counted was looking good, not getting caught. If the nuns, brothers, priests or teachers thought you were a good kid, you were, regardless of what you were up to or how much of a shit you were to your classmates when you were out of sight.

I had maybe one or two teachers in 12 years of catholic education that saw through my facade, and recognized that there was pain and struggle below the surface in this good little kid who played by the rules. I was a "playa" in the churches of my youth and young adulthood - standing on the altar (guitar in hand), hanging in the sacristy. I met the gay* priests, the ones with substance abuse issues, the promiscuous ones - and these seemed to be the most likely to be spewing intolerance from the pulpit. As long as it looked good from the pews....no harm, no foul. The institutional hypocrisy is what got to me.

The same sort of game playing extended to things like homosexuality, birth control, abortion - the official rules were idealistic, sacrosanct, and wholly impractical, so we'll just make believe. Wink wink. I recall a pre-marital counseling session where the young priest (who is now a playa himself in the archdiocese) gave us the "here's the official teaching but pretty much do what your conscience dictates" spiel re: birth control. Lot of leeway and room for error when there are two sets of rules, one of which is completely personal and ephemeral, and dared not be discussed or debated in open court.

It took me 30 some years to recover from that, to recognize that simply wishing for something to go away, faking it until I made it, was not the way to inner peace or enlightenment. My path led through therapy, and facing some difficult decisions in my own life, and left some wounded bodies in its path. Maybe the ex-gov is coming to that realization himself.

So...my catholic rant.

* Uhm, not that there is anything wrong with that. I'm a big ol' queer myself. It's the closetedness and the ability to compartmentalize oneself and rationalize in such a way that one can be gay, sexually active, and yet part of an organization that rejects the concept.

No comments: