From Catholic to Cynic

sent in by Casey

I was adopted into a Catholic family shortly after I was born. I was an only child, and I grew up in the bush (in the US you'd call it the sticks or the boondocks). We ran sheep, and I still run about 5,000 on 7,000 acres.My mother and father were both Catholics, but as the one was of Scots descent and the other Irish, they argued a lot, sometimes violently.

It didn't help matters that my mother was mentally ill, and had been institutionalised for it. My Dad tried his best, but he hadn't the skill to cope, and his beliefs precluded divorce. It was about then I started having doubts. Praying to God for some break in the endless arguments didn't work, he was twice as deaf as a post.

Rain hail or shine they would still attend mass every Sunday, and always put their money on the plate. Even during the 65 drought they would give to the church. Funny thing, I know that one of our parish priests during this time was connected years later to a horse-racing scandal known as "The Fine Cotton Affair". This was a "ring-in" where a high-class horse is secretly switched for a no-hoper in order to cash in at long odds. For his pains he was barred for life from Australian race courses. (He is still a priest, as far as I know.)

That really shouldn't have come as a surprise, given the priest and his brother had years earlier been banned from (illegal) money card games in a city not far from where I live. They were banned because they consistently had the sort of luck at such games that used to get people shot. By which I mean the sort where a low Straight Flush beats Four Queens, say. Highly improbable at Five Card Draw, you will agree. And the good Father's womanising created the odd scandal too, or so t'was said, but I digress.

I had learned how to read at about four years of age, and was duly sent to the local convent school when I was of age. This was run by the Sisters of Mercy, a badly mis-named order. I make no apologies when I say they were for the most part cruel, frustrated old bitches. A quick trip on the banana express would've done the lot of 'em a power of good, but they were married to Jesus, weren't they? What a bigamist he must be! And if he's got to shag THEM and their associates for the rest of Eternity, he's got the job ahead of him, I must say.

They took out their frustrations sexual and otherwise on us kids. We were told every day we were useless good-for-nothings, and that was the least of it. If you're told such things often enough, you come to believe them, especially if, as I did, you return home to more of the same. I think they hoped we would be so scared of hellfire that we'd become nuns or priests. If verbal abuse didn't work, they weren't above resorting to physical abuse.

I witnessed one vicious old cow turn a Fifth Grader into a snivelling wreck one day. It was a mixture of hitting and maniacal yelling that beggars description, and if memory serves it was done in front of at least thirty of us. Suffice it to say I later learned that the German Army (the infamous Wehrmacht of both the Imperial and Nazi versions) used to call that "making a sow" out of someone.

This was accepted in those days (late Sixties), because nuns and brothers were regarded by many parents (mine included) as being Lares et Penates (Roman household gods) and thus not to be questioned, no matter what their excesses nor how bad they were.

I left that school in 1970 and was sent to a "Christian" brothers school in Brisbane, the State Capital. My first three years in that place were absolute hell. I have described some abuse incidents and how they affected me here Warning, this story contains graphic descriptions of physical and sexual child abuse which might disturb some readers.

I'll just add a couple of things. I once fell off a set of parallel bars while trying an excercise of which I wasn't capable. I knocked myself out for a quarter of an hour, but when I woke up I was so scared of being late for school that I didn't even bother to wash the blood and dirt off my face. Nor did I kick up enough of a row to make them treat me properly instead of shrugging off my injuries in the way they did. Some years later that bit of Stoicism cost me four teeth, but such was the discipline under which we lived.

Yet the worst thing wasn't so much abuse as the fact that my eyes turned bad when I was thirteen, not long after I'd been abused. My abuser wore glasses, and now I'd have to look like him, whether I liked it or not. Once again praying was of no use. All the crap in the bible (and contrary to what some might think, we were allowed to read it) about Jesus H Himself healing the blind was just that, crap. That was when I REALLY became bitter and twisted.

When I left school I was restless, unable to concentrate, and subject to mood swings such that I'd be high as a kite one day, and somewhere under my own boots the next. I now recognise these as symptoms of PTSD, but those days you had to be an Army or Police veteran to suffer from that, so I just battled on.

A few years ago I got my eyes lasered. That cost me four grand, and JC had nothing to do with that, I notice. Still, it was one step in lifting myself out of the hole I was in, and I was grateful to the surgeon, anyway. You wouldn't believe the bitterness those glasses caused me, nor how angry I used to get, I tell you. But then I should've realized that any God who would let things like that happen was only a sadistic moron, shouldn't I?

Nowadays I work the 4,000 acre block my Dad left me. Setting that to rights was hard work, as it and the sheep it ran had got into a dreadful state, but I'm a stubborn cuss when I want to be, so thirteen years after I started it's come good, and it'll get better. If I'd prayed to God for it to happen, I reckon I'd be waiting yet.

Now that I have left the church, and have nothing to do with Catholicism or any other sort of Christianity, I no longer worry about heaven or hell. When we die, we rot. So it's up to us to live our lives the best we can. Freedom is just two English words "free" and "doom". I wish it hadn't taken me so long to learn that simple lesson.

Hope you can use this, and my apologies for not being much of a writer.

Sex: M
State: Qld
Country: Australia
Became a Christian: I was born RC
Ceased being a Christian: 17-18
Labels before: RC
Labels now: Cynic
Why I joined: Born into it
Why I left: Anger and bitterness

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