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Holy Smoke


Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It’s been twenty-four years since my last confession.

I grew up in a Catholic family and, as the youngest of nine children, feel somewhat indebted to its doctrines, particularly the one that frowned on birth control. But from an early age, I recall being miffed by the absence of women on the alter each Sunday. Quite simply, any church which marginalized women could be no church for me, no disrespect intended to my parents. A feminist was born, aged five.

Its treatment of women was only the beginning of a slew of reasons to turn my back on the church: sex scandals and mistreatment of children, attitudes towards homosexuality, and in general an unwillingness to move with the times combined to make me wary of organized religion.

And yet, there are good memories; chief among them my bi-annual obligatory confession. I looked forward to a little tete-a-tete with a faceless priest, to explain whatever was heavy on my heart, and generally got very good advice from behind the iron screen. It was like free therapy. (My siblings preferred General Absolution, whereby you were resolved of your sins just by sitting in the congregation, but that seemed impossible to me, logistically.) Besides the boredom of attending mass each week, religion had an overall positive impact on my life.

So despite eschewing the church as an adult, I’ve been interested in the recent developments in the Vatican, and I suppose in the same way I cheer for the Canadian water polo team during the Olympics, affiliated by country, I’ve been cheering for the Catholic Church, affiliated by my upbringing, and for reform possible with the appointment of a new Pope.

And with the selection of Pope Francis, a Jesuit from Buenos Aires, who is by all accounts humble and saintly, not to mention the first Pope from the Americas, I feel a twinge of hope for my religious Alma Mater.

  1. March 14, 2013 at 1:53 am

    I was raised Catholic as well and stopped following along over 15 years ago. My children are not Catholic. However, I can’t help but root for the faith and those that believe and gain comfort from it. Go Pope.

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