Friday, February 16, 2007

When the Rubber Hits the Robe

When I was seventeen, attending Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami, I took a required course which bore the conspicuously generic monicker of "Human Development." The name derived a certain amount of humor not from what it stated -- which was almost nothing -- but from what it didn't, or rather couldn't: it was essentially a bland euphemism for what in secular schools would have provocatively been known as "Sex Ed." The entire concept of a Catholic school attempting to educate its students about something which was, as far as it was concerned, expressly forbidden was ridiculous in and of itself (I remember thinking that I may as well be offered a class in ritualistic murder), but this particular course upped the surrealist ante considerably by nature of the fact that it was taught by a priest (I remember thinking that I may as well be offered a cooking class taught by an anorexic).

Keep in mind that this was long before the world learned that the monastic vow of celibacy provided certain "exemptions" for its adherents when it came to helpless children.

The priest charged with instructing myself and my classmates in the ways of "Human Development" (the Catholic version) was a small, bearded man named Father Peter Lleo. For the most part, I tuned out the absurdist drivel with which he regularly attempted to poison what he no doubt hoped would be our fertile and impressionable minds, choosing instead -- in a bit of diabolical irony -- to focus on the curves of young Christy Maceo, who sat next to me and who, at a young age, had already blossomed into the kind of woman I could imagine spending the rest of my life with -- or at the very least, ten minutes on top of Father Lleo's desk. Suffice it to say, she was the most "developed human" in the class of 1987.

But then one day, Father Llleo brought up the subject of the distribution of condoms to high school students -- a concept which at that time was in its mere infancy.

His stance, which would of course become the Catholic church's inflexible mantra for two decades to come, was that condoms should not be provided to young people under any circumstance. His reasoning -- if that word can legitimately be used in the same sentence as anything ecclesiastical -- was that the distribution of prophylactics of any kind was immoral, as it was a tacit endorsement of premarital sex. As far as he was concerned, kids shouldn't be having sex, so there was no reason to give them condoms.

It was at this point that my Christy-induced reverie was broken.

"Are you kidding?" I asked him, which immediately drew the attention of the class and let me know with no uncertainty that I'd just crossed the Rubicon.

He seemed slightly stunned by my admittedly disrespectful tone. He then repeated his assertion -- slower this time. I once again asked if he was serious, giving him what I idealistically believed to be his last chance to back out of an argument he had no chance of winning, since his position was handicapped by a complete lack of any goddamned logic or sense whatsoever (I was young -- what did I know?)

"Young people should not have sex, therefore giving them condoms is wrong," he repeated again stoically.

"Yes, but they're going to have sex. There's nothing you can do about that," I said. "You need to give them condoms or at least teach them safe sex because there's a disease out there right now that can kill them."

"They can avoid that disease by not having sex."

"Yes, they can. But there's a very good possibility that they won't. You have to be realistic."

"If we offer them condoms, we let them know that it's okay to have premarital sex."

Stubborn jackass.

Deep breaths.

"No you don't. You're making a necessary concession to reality. Maybe you're right -- maybe kids shouldn't have sex -- but they're going to, and all the browbeating in the world won't change that," I said, noticing that by now the heads and eyes of my classmates were pivoting back and forth between teacher and tormentor as if they were taking in a tennis match.

"That doesn't matter," he said, his voice dripping confident arrogance. "Young people should not have sex. They don't need condoms."

I was exasperated and gave brief thought to quietly getting out of my seat, walking to the front of the class, and punching him in the fucking mouth.

And that's when something dawned on me.

"Father, what kind of car do you drive?" I asked, already well-aware of the answer.

He gave me a bemused look. "A Volvo," he said -- admitting to what I had always thought to be a bizarre lapse in his supposed vow of poverty.

"Do me a favor -- I see your keys on your desk there. Could you hold them up in front of the class?"

He seemed hesitant, but did as I asked.

"Tell me what's on your key ring," I continued.

Even more hesitant now. "Well, my car keys. My house keys..."

"You're forgetting something," I said, then -- "You're forgetting the remote for your car alarm."

He still didn't get it.

"People shouldn't steal cars. So why do you have a car alarm?"

For a moment there was silence, as if all the oxygen had been sucked out of the room -- and then the class erupted in shouts and whistles. I didn't even hear Father Lleo order me to the dean's office; I just saw him point to the door. I could've cared less; I had put him in his place, and that was worth any punishment that might be doled out for my insolence.

I bring up this bit of ancient history for one reason: nothing has changed in twenty years. The Catholic church is still engaged in its irrational and dangerous campaign to stop the distribution of condoms to citizens -- teenagers in particular -- and the argument against the church's lunacy is still as sound as it ever was.

Yesterday, Edward Cardinal Egan and Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio publicly and pompously chastised New York City's leaders, including Mayor Mike Bloomberg, for their role in a new program whose goal is to hand out twenty-six million free, subway-themed condoms across the city -- calling it "tragic and misguided."

"Our political leaders fail to protect the moral tone of our community when they encourage inappropriate sexual behavior by blanketing our neighborhoods with condoms," Egan and DiMarzio said, arguing that it will, "degrade societal standards."

As usual, the Catholic church's inability to recognize the lack of morality inherent in the willingness to sacrifice human lives in favor of an appeasement of its asinine superstition is surpassed only by the intransigence of one simple fact: it holds absolutely NO moral authority anymore. None. The pious virtue it once dangled over the heads of the meek and ignorant -- its self-righteous stranglehold on the ethical high-ground -- was lost in the cry of every child it raped; every vile crime it covered up; every despicable criminal it hid.

Thankfully, this time around, rational and enlightened minds are prevailing: Mayor Bloomberg has already released a statement "respectfully disagreeing" with Cardinal Egan and Bishop DiMarzio.

The truth is, any show of respect is far more than they and the silly little dress-up cult they represent deserve.

For centuries, the Catholic church has wreaked havoc around the globe in the name of fairy-tale hokum and 2000-year-old nonsensical teachings. It has caused outright, or passively allowed, the deaths of thousands and thousands and thousands. It has fought rational thought and intelligent inquiry and destroyed many great minds who dared stand against its ludicrous beliefs and proclamations.

Worst of all, it has failed to recognize its own moral bankruptcy because it believes itself to be the infallible avatar of God.

I feel the same way about the church's foolishness as I did twenty years ago, with one regret: that there will, in all likelihood, be no infinite justice meted out for Cardinal Egan, Bishop DiMarzio and their evil ilk -- as the indifferent oblivion that awaits them is, I fear, the same that awaits us all.


Alcuin Bramerton said...

It is worth recalling that Churchianity is not Christianity; they are separate religions these days.

UneFemmePlusCourageuse said...

Damn, I would've loved it if we had gone to high school together.
And on that note, I can't even recall why premarital sex is supposed to be wrong in the first place. I was raised Catholic... I've read the majority of the Bible...but I can't remember Jesus, or Moses, or Abraham, or anyone else EVER preaching about the dangers of premartial sex... and therefore it really puzzles me as to why they're so against it.

Chez said...

It would take six weeks just to build the infrastructure necessary to explain it -- suffice to say, their demonization of sex has left women dead, lives destroyed and society hamstrung for thousands of years.


"Subway themed condoms?"

What, like little painted-on images of a choo choo train, on my junk?

We can all rate ourselves on the number of passenger cars we can hitch up.

Gotta get me some!

Chez said...

I'd have to assume that they're too small, smell awful, never around when you need them, and probably come with semen and urine already inside.

kali said...

Ah yes, delightful religions that would prefer dead people over "immoral" ones. They're the same as those damn Evangelicals that the GOPs are trying to woo who are trying to stop young women from receiving vaccinations to prevent cervical cancer. Stupid pigs.

Great. Now I have a vein angrily pulsing in my forehead. Must lay down.

jim said...

Maybe they should hand out "The Secret"
Then people could just think about everything other than pregnancy and not get pregnant... Or wait, they need to think about not being pregnant... No, they need to think about getting pregnant only not right now, and in a positive manner... Yeah... Magnets are awesome.

sparksinner said...

Nice. I too suffered through years of hardcore Roman Catholic bullshit. But I was between 6 and 11 years old at the time so I quietly ignored it all.

It was only later that I called teachers on their bullshit, but then it wasn't religion based.

The car example is simply brilliant and I will keep it in mind should I ever have the chance to refute the no condom policy.

Good to see you back in all your glory.

Spencer said...

Aren't all condoms inherently "subway themed?"

Anonymous said...

Ive had this tired argument and the "needle exchange program" argument with religious types including family members many times before, but we go in circles.
Thank you for providing me with an analogy that may just have the same effect on them as it had on your priest.
Oh and fuck you and your seventeen year old self for being able to articulate yourself better at that age than I can at 23. Bastard.

Hugs- Kell.

UneFemmePlusCourageuse said...

Yeah, I know all the bad these policies have done throughout the centuries... and it's even worse that I can't see any good reason why.

Anonymous said...

wow... great post, love the analogy, it made me laugh out loud for real!

and unefemme... please don't quote me about the date exactly but it wasn't until about the 14th century that the church formalised their stance on marriage... until then most people didn't even bother getting married until after the thier first child was born and it wasn't very formal at that... I don't know if you have ever noticed but in a catholic wedding there is part of ceremony involves pledging to raise your children in the faith... it is all about gaining power and future adherents to the faith...

Another thing, for those that don't know... priests were allowed to marry until about the 5th century but I believe that one of the reasons that was changed so priesthoods didn't become hereditary... although after that time there were many "nephews" (aka illegitimate sons) that managed to procure important posts of their own within the church not to mention many nunneries treated like the personal brothels of the leading cleric of the area... well enough of my long-winded history geek talk :D love the blog and I will come back again!

Liz said...

I loved this. Loved. It. When I think of all of the geniuses that were burned by the church, and all of the lives ruined in the name of God it makes me realize that the world would have been much better off if the virus called Christianity had never been released into the world. I would have totally crushed on you in high school, I love a smart smartass.

choenbone said...

"degrade societal standards" hmmm, so many threads i could take on this. where to bout the fondling of young children...OH WAIT THATS NOT "degrading societal standards" enough for you!? too bad their parents didn't use a fucking condom, damn organized religion...always gumming up societal progress.

ok im done ranting, of to burn something in a PAGAN like manner.

Christine said...

To quote another great thinker:
It was Christianity which first painted the devil on the world’s walls. It was Christianity which first brought sin into the world. Belief in the cure which it offered has now been shaken in its deepest roots, but belief in the sickness which it taught and propagated continues to exist. –Friedrich Nietzsche

I got into a huge argument with a guy I was dating at the time about just how much the Christian church as a whole was at fault, and whose brother insisted that being gay and Catholic was not inherently contradictory. In some cases, it isn't... and one of my good friends now is gay, and his father is a minister (reverend?), but he's also incredibly liberal, and has managed to reconcile his religion with the fact that one son is gay, and one daughter has been living, unmarried, with the same man for 12+ years. It's a rare talent, and one I respect.

My parents, born and raised in Poland as they were, thankfully had the common sense to ditch the religion the moment they touched on US soil, and I had the ability to grow up in a house where it was okay to explore religion, but where none was thrust upon me. My parents may still feel that certain things are wrong, but at least they think so for their own reasons.

And if you really want to piss off a Christian nut, tell them you want to hear THEIR opinion on something, not just a quote from "that book."

marija said...

Thank you oh so much!
In our high schools you can choose between religious (Catholic) education and Ethics. I, of course chose Religious ed. because A)I was extremely lazy and one didn't have to do anything and was still able to get an A
B)I was still relatively tolerant regarding Catholicism.
And there I was, 16, my adolescent
anarchic tendencies at their all time high versus a god-awful bitch of a teacher.
ok, kids, who thinks that abortions should not be banned?
zoom, my hand shoots in the air. ditto for death penalty (although 5 seasons of OZ were enough to convince me that there is nothing worse than a life penalty next to a guy like Schillinger), eutanasia, condoms, etc.
Needless to say, I almost failed the class, but the bitch couldn't pull it off because I was a straight A student...
anyway, what i wantted to say was: it is 2007 and it's about time for the bastards to get thrown off their moral high ground and start showing some corporational responsibility. i believe Nazi Ratzi should be the 1st one!

Anonymous said...

Wow, nice made up story with the priest, excellent point but there's no way you or anyone else had the where-with-all to come up with it on their own at 17, you had help.

As far as your knocking christianity goes, I've been there myself and have seen the true evils that religion in general can do, but part of that evil is getting rational minded people to waste time trying to crush the vast majority of the world's hope for an afterlife. Every religion on earth exists for two reasons, to help people deal with their own mortality by simply denying it, and to alleviate guilt over doing the wrong things with your life. These aren't bad things to give to a person but when you bundle it with people's personal agendas that get wrapped into the religion as it's being formed throughout the ages a lot of the morals,which are usually the basic truths of our existence, get buried and easily forgotten by the people seeing as they're not being held accountable for their wrongdoing.

But for all the crap that christians spread around there's a lot of really good lessons in the bible that really ring true about how people should behave toward each other, and the reason it's in there is that here, 2000 years after it was written, the vast majority of people have a hard time looking at reality and seeing the truth of things, such as how the hell the sun makes all the light we get during the day or how they should behave towards others. Instead of slamming the whole religion outright cause the bible condemns sex before marriage and priests tell you to do as the bible suggests and fight you natural tendencies, maybe you should be looking to make some good come out of it. Versing yourself in these lessons (as well as the ones that you'd like to promote cause trust me it's all in there that's why people buy into it cause anything and everything you could want to believe about life is represented in one way or another, I suppose that does qualify as infallible if you can't be wrong cause you support everything) and where they're located so that the next time some bible-tethered puppy dog starts quoting scripture to you, you'll be able to direct him or her to the bits and pieces of the book that actually still have some relevance to today's world.

After all, while you argue over what may or may not happen to you when after you die things in general aren't getting any better right now while you're alive. The whole pointless debate needs to be set aside and everyone needs to see that we need to be working to improve situations that are right in front of our eyes.

Oh yea, and as far as premarital sex goes you damn whiny kids, my 19 year old cousin just got knocked up by a 25 year old guy that swears he's not the father but admits he popped her cherry, 13 year olds are getting pregnant and contracting aids nowadys, and the earth is just a little more overpopulated every day, all I'm saying is just because the bible suggests you do something that isn't all that fun doesn't make it a bad idea, think about it.

A Bowl Of Stupid said...

Chez, I'm assuming you also managed to point out how the "car alarm" analogy is equally applicable to organized religion in general.

Chez said...


Actually you're right -- I did have some help. My father, who's one of the most intelligent people I've ever been lucky enough to know, raised me from a very young age to read, study, form opinions and be able to back them up, think logically, and argue passionately. Anyone who had to put up with my incessant questioning of anything and everything from the time I was old enough to put two syllables together will attest to this fact -- but I'm not going to bother trying to convince you. Think what you want.

As for your claim that the Bible contains a vast number of excellent life-lessons in between all the petty and jealous demands for servitude, the commands to kill anyone who won't submit, the silly dietary restrictions, the fantastical supernatural hokum, the archaic explanations for events which, when illuminated by 2000 years of scientific advancement, can easily be disproven -- well, sure, there are a few. But here's the thing, there are just as many moral and ethical axioms to be found in just as many secular texts -- some much older than the Bible. I'm talking about books that have all those life-lessons without any of the silly, extraneous crap.

For what it's worth though, I actually do know the Bible -- pretty well in fact. This is why I think I can honestly say that I've made an informed decision in my denial of a good portion of what's found in it.

TK said...

My wife went to Catholic school for 12 years, and often regales me with tales of how absolutely insane it was. She had nuns teach her that not only are condoms only 40% effective, they will give you cancer. I'm not even a little bit joking. That they would actually lie to kids about stuff like this is not only revolting, but borderline criminal.

And - surprise! most of the Catholic school kids I knew became sexually active well before the public school kids. Because as we all know - once you make something verboten, people will run out to try it. Fucking ridiculous.

Chez said...

Scaring children to death with stupid fables about a vengeful God who'll cast them into hell -- who called on Abraham to murder his own son -- then stunting their sexual development and intellectual curiosity is nothing short of child abuse.

Needless to say, this doesn't even address the crimes perpetrated against children by those who've been forced to repress their own sexual urges for absolutely no good fucking reason.

If anyone else tortured our kids like this we'd have them strung up.

rasaustin said...

Chez, as devout as some of the religious fanatics are in the country, if we were given the Muslim option of 72 virgins upon martydom - it would sound like the 4th of July every day.

Show me a different religion that purports itself to be open & inviting, and I'll show you a different flavor of Kool-Aid you can mix up with your cyanide.

Chez said...

But we're not given an either/or choice. We can actually take into account the thousands of years of intellectual enlightenment and throw ALL forms of faith-based religion on the scrap heap. I've already written plenty about how I believe that Islam is dangerous as all hell, and shouldn't be appeased through political correctness. Christianity is just the opposite side of the same coin.

Fungi said...

When I was eleven, I had to go to Hebrew School to start training for my Bar Mitzvah. Lucky me. I can remember being kicked out of class and sent to the Head Rabbi in Charge's office, all because I asked where the dinosaurs were in the Torah. It was right there that they lost me.

If you really want to piss of the warriors of faith, tell them what I told some trailer-park chick at the Jiffy Lube when she asked me if I read the Bible: I DON'T READ FICTION.

Anonymous said...

My parents were one vehemently anti-church, especially catholic and one atheist. They decided that their child should at least have some religious upbringing and because nominally they were both born catholic, I got catholic religious schooling (1 hour a week of painting in pictures of Jesus). Later we were warned against sects. They thought us to avoid them because they are bad for as. We learned all about Scientology, Baghwan, Hare Krishna etc.
And one day, when I was 16 I thanked the priest for his teachings and told him that I will leave the catholic church. He was stunned, why ?
I told him I used his sect avoidance stuff.
1) One leader, who tells you he (seldom she) is in sole possession of the truth -> Pope
2) Degrading to women (its mostly women) -> women cannot be priests in the catholic church, they are nothing in the catholic church
3) Want money from you -> in Europe you have to pay church taxes if you associate yourself with a church
So scored on all three points. I asked him, why he thinks the catholic church is not one of the oh so dangerous sects. Answer : It is 2000 years old. This is all he could come up with. Since then I am a proud and outspoken Atheist. Not just by heart, but also officially on every place, somebody let me fill it in or wants to discuss this, even if they don't want to discuss this.