Or, A Catholic Girl’s Education
- All of the boys who lost their virginity to a knowing girl—and then lost the girl—wanted to become a priest. No matter how pathetically humorous this was, no one snickered behind their backs. We were too aghast that SEX must have happened. They walked humble and quietly through the halls, holiness oozing around them.
- No one instructed us in the sexual adventure, least of all our parents. We learned behind closed doors—friend to friend. Or from an older student. Part of that which was verboten belonged to a crippled and faith-riddled logic: if you were interested in the knowledge, you were not interested in the act alone, but in partaking.
- There was a surprising correlation made between knowledge and action. If you knew about it, you could or would do it. Ignorance and innocence were the blessed life to live. (Of course there were exceptions. Priests studied and learned, gained knowledge. This was in order to combat the ignorance and evil of sinners, as well as the doctrine of the Church.)
- Grace was what enabled you to fight evil. That and naturally, remaining out of the clutches of the opposite sex: never be alone with a boy/girl, never go to a movie with a boy/girl, never dance closer than a spread-hand width between you. And never, ever, read a book or see a movie that was forbidden.
- Grace was illustrated by a milk bottle drawn on a chalkboard and grace poured into it. Grace filled the bottle and then spilled over. I didn’t understand the illustration then, and I still don’t.
- Girls wondered which hole to put a tampon in and which one would work for the boy’s insertion. If in the closest to the front, how would you pee?
- The few girls who got preggers in high school went away to visit a previously-unknown aunt. When they came back, they always came back alone, but many would suddenly have a new baby brother or sister.
- More than one of those girls said later they did not know they were having sexual intercourse. Maybe they weren’t we thought. They could have kissed too heavily and the boy then came in his pants. The pants rubbed against the girl and the cum touched her. Voilà! Pregnant! It was the kiss-cum-lately of Catholic childhood.
- A good Catholic girl dressed so as to tempt no one: skirts just over the knee, blouses loose and buttoned up, no cardigans without a blouse underneath. Tennis shoes were okay, but no sandals. (I have no idea why—perhaps the erotic temptation of toes?) Legs together, bodies apart, a good rule of thumb.
- The long and the short of it: No sex before marriage, and the husband always has a right to the wife’s body.
And there it was, the hierarchy of knowledge according to Father James:
One might think that some or all of this has no consequence, after all. After all, who does it harm, this education of the soul? I might share this, only one of many experiences with the consequences of a Catholic education.
While working for the Department of Social Services in Wisconsin, we had a mother come to us with her baby. The baby was in the hospital, recovering from the sexual abuse by the father, husband to the woman.
The Father went to the Catholic Social Services Department for assistance and what he called his repentance. We were obliged to work with them. In my dreams I still hear the voice of the social worker I spoke with, that strong, firm, stuttering voice. “All that matters is that the mother and child come back. All that matters is the sanctity of the marriage. A Catholic marriage is a sacrament that cannot be broken. They must come home.”
The Mother and child went home.
And that my friends, is the way things are.