As expected, enough readers bought my April Fools joke that I figured I'd leave it up so the (much larger) weekday readership could have a look. I now understand why you eventually have to put disclaimers on the fucking things. Thank you for playing, though. It's been real. On to Monday's post...
When I was in high school, I was a Catholic. Not that I'm not Catholic now, but I don't get to mass much these days. Actually, the only times I've set foot in a church over the past decade or so have been for weddings and funerals. I haven't been in a confessional probably since I was confirmed, nor am I a registered member of any parish. Not that I'm aware of, anyway.
Back in high school, though, I was still sort of into it. Not into the whole religion thing, but into the whole identifying-myself-with-the-group thing. Where I grew up, most people were either Irish or Italian. We wore uniforms to school until eighth grade, at which point some of our parents decided that tuition payments would be wasted on us and sent us to public school. We played CYO basketball. We pulled for Notre Dame. We were mediocre altar boys. The full nine yards.
Until the tour.
There was a priest in my parish -- an adjunct priest, if there is such a thing -- who was only there a few days a week. "Father Frank," as we'll call him, was a native Italian Jesuit who taught philosophy at a fairly prestigious local college. And what you'd do, if you had a brain in your head, was you'd go to the appropriately named Father Frank and you'd tell him you were thinking about applying to Prestigious University.
And so he'd arrange a tour, given personally by him, for you and your parents. In my case, "parents" would always indicate Mother Only, because Dad couldn't be bothered. He didn't want me going there. So we went, my mother and I, and toured the campus. Saw the sights. Spent time on "the quad." Walked the halls of academia with Father Frank.
And then what you'd do, is you'd arrange a meeting with Father Frank at his office in the rectory. Father Frank wanted to talk to you. He needed to know some things about you, what you wanted to do with your life and what your accomplishments were, so he could write you a spiffy letter of recommendation guaranteeing admission to Prestigious U. And you went, because you didn't want to piss off Father Frank, even if you were just going through the motions here to make your mother happy. Because if you didn't get in anywhere else, you'd still have the Father Frank card to play.
It wouldn't be so bad at first, your little talk with Father Frank. Yeah, yeah, school's going well. Sure, right, yeah, football. Yeah, I'd play at Prestigious U. They've got a decent team. What do I wanna study? Dunno, really. Was thinking about math, maybe. Maybe pre-law. Not sure yet.
"Do you have a girlfriend?"
"Ummm...yeah," I replied.
"Do you think about your girlfriend a lot?"
"Do you masturbate?" he asked.
"Do I what?"
"Do you masturbate? Do you, you know, have to take care of yourself?"
"Ah...no," I replied, thinking this was still a legitimate conversation pertaining to my academic future. "I used to, but...ah...I grew out of that." At seventeen.
"Well, then. Are you having sexual relations with your girlfriend?"
"Ummm...no," I bullshitted, wondering if he could somehow sense the blowjob I'd received earlier that afternoon in my car. "I...ah...want to wait 'til...ah...I get married."
"So, when you did masturbate, what did you think about while you were masturbating?"
"I...um...I dunno. It was...ah...so long ago, I don't remember."
"Did you think of girls when you masturbated?" he asked.
"Ummm...yeah?" What the fuck?
Now, I don't recall precisely how we managed to segue back into college talk. And no, I'm not repressing anything, although I occasionally wish I were. Thing is, when I eventually went away to college, I ran into a guy from my town at a party. He'd gone to a different high school, but we sort of drifted back together as friends in college, in a different state, far from home.
"Hey man," he asked, "did you apply to Prestigious?"
"Nah. I was thinkin' about it, but I decided not to."
"You remember Father Frank from St. Imelda of the Burning Shoe? The old dude that's a professor there?"
"Lemme guess," he replied. "You went on the tour?"
"And then you went back to the rectory and he asked if you were gay?"
"Well, not in so many words," I replied, "but yeah. He seemed kinda fixated on how I jerked off. That happen to you, too?"
"Happened to everyone."
Last I heard, Father Frank was priesting in Italy, and asking God-knows-what of God-knows-whose little Guido children somewhere over there. The Church sent him back. I'm pretty certain I know why, too.
"I've had it," said my Mother today, making her first appearance on the blog. Applause, please.
"What now?" I asked.
"Look at this," she demanded, throwing a church bulletin on the kitchen table. "Read that part."
And there it was. Regards from Father Frank. "Greetings from Italy!"
"He's writing a column in the bulletin now! I've had it with that church. Don't they know what that man probably did?"
"Yeah," I replied. "They know what he did. That's why the guy's back in Italy. He was a college professor. Why the hell else would he just up and move to Italy? They sent him back there to keep that stuff quiet."
"That's wrong. They've got a lot to answer for, this Catholic Church. I'll never forgive myself for not going down there and telling those people what I thought of them for having that man around my children."
"Gimme a break. Nothin' was gonna happen. I was laughing at the guy."
"It doesn't matter," she said. "It wouldn't have been you, but what if he got his hooks into someone who wasn't as smart as you boys were? That's just disgraceful. It makes me mad all over again just to think about it now."
And you know what? It kind of pisses me off, too.