sinning

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. My last confession was ‘who the fuck knows?’ years ago.

I feel like talking a bit about my so-called religious upbringing, the concept of sin, and just what Roman Catholics deem worthy of “confessing” as “transgressions against God.”

N.B. I did 15 years of Catholic school, and early on I saw religion and prayer was bullshit — I was told God would answer my prayers, so I prayed for things and never got what I prayed for; this seemed like a real shady bargain. And that was just the start.

Anyway. The impetus for this little treatise is an acquaintance of mine, who attended both my elementary and high schools, who found a list of sins that needed to be confessed. It’s a fairly exhaustive list, and one that’s a bit too comprehensive for 12-14-year-olds, which would have been the age we were when we were given the list, as she said it was handed out during preparation for the sacrament of confirmation.

To wit, here is the list:

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Where to start? No, seriously; where do I start? There is just so much here.

I guess a good place to start is the overarching concept that Catholics need to feel shame in being human. That they need to apologize to some omniscient being simply for living and making mistakes.

I mean, there are obviously times when you need to apologize for things, but to actual people you have wronged. Looking at this list, here are some things that have no victims and for which confessing and apologizing serves no purpose:

  • blasphemy
  • despair
  • presumption

Those first three also speak to a completely different issue, upon which I will touch briefly, because that issue is a completely different discussion entirely: whether there is a god. Based on the (highly likely) assumption there is indeed no god: A) how can you disrespect that which does not exist, B) what does it matter if that nonexistent being forgives you, and C) “sinning” means nothing if you don’t give it any significance.

But even beyond this debate, there is so much wrong with placing the burden of thinking living and having human feelings is somehow impure and worth confessing and feeling bad about.

Then again, I am reminded of what Reverend Lovejoy once said…

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OK. I keep getting a bit off track. Let’s try to bring this back to the task at hand. Whatever that was.

This list was handed out to children who were between the ages of 12 and 14. Granted if they had been in Catholic school since they were four, several of these sins would have been known to them already, it’s still pretty much abusive to heap this kind of pressure on children who are in the early stages of puberty.

Look at the sins relating to sex. There are so many mixed and contrasting messages there.

Premarital sex is a sin, but so are contraceptive methods. Interestingly, heterosexual sodomy (i.e. anal sex) is not explicitly listed as a sin.

Another approach is how contraception is a sin, and so too is having an abortion. Yes, you could make the argument that you know pregnancy is a potential outcome of sex so you should be mature enough to accept that potential eventuality and abstain until you are prepared to have that baby, but let’s try looking at things on a scale of sin-ness: you could have unprotected sex, get pregnant and then abort the fetus; or you can use contraceptive methods and commit a lesser sin. Or, heaven forbid (pun intended) you get a vasectomy or get your tubes tied. But wait! Those are equally bad, because “every sperm is sacred” or some bullshit like that.

Masturbation? Who does that hurt? Only the person doing it if that person (usually a male) does it too often and causes chafing and potentially bleeding.

Not praying everyday? To what are you praying? When prayer has never shown any evidence of achieving anything? Do you know what that sounds like to me?

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Einstein may not have actually said it, but the point is apt.

My acquaintance told me the origin of this list of sins was our local friar. My memories of that friar are mixed.

On the one hand, his visits to our classroom were a break from what I viewed as the drudgery of class, and he had some good stories (which were probably meant as fables with morals). From the perspective of my youth, he seemed like a nice guy. And he pretty much was.

But my opinion of him changed dramatically and immediately one Sunday after mass. I don’t remember the year, other than it was when I was still in high school, because as soon as university hit, it was my chance to finally stop going to church (another “sin” I might add), plus he died during my first term at university.

That Sunday was the Sunday of the Toronto Gay Pride parade, and he said to us, “I hope it rains on those nasty gays.”

In those eight words, he lost my respect and effectively cemented my opinion on organized religion. To use your faith in some all-loving god as a mask for your hatred is sickening. Isn’t hatred a sin?

OK. I’m done.

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