Things We Learned in Catholic School That Had to Be Unlearned Later

Before anyone comes at me with holy water and an exorcism prayer, let me explain that I am a good Catholic. I go to mass; I carry a rosary in my purse; I believe in saints; the whole thing. I have found a treasure of faith and spirituality in Catholicism that has been the best thing in my life.

However, I also see no reason why my gay friends who are in a loving, committed relationship shouldn’t be allowed to marry, I think that Pope Pius XII is no saint, I think that priests should be allowed to marry and I wish that women could be priests, but that’s a whole other story. Even Catholics have God-given brains to think with, although there are people who disagree with that and who don’t hesitate to tell me to my face whenever they get the chance, along with everything else they don’t like about my Church. That’s a whole other story, too, for another time.

I attended Catholic school for eleven years back in the 50s and early 60s, from the first grade through my junior year in high school. Here are a few things that we learned that, on further examination, proved to be pretty dumb.

It is a mortal sin to eat meat on Friday. The Church finally realized how silly this was and officially told us it was okay to have a hamburger on Friday. They had to do this without officially admitting they had been wrong, so we are technically supposed to do some other penance instead if we choose to indulge in animal protein on a Friday. Most of us don’t know anything about that other penance thing, so we ignore it and nobody says anything.

For those of us who love fish, abstaining from meat on Friday was no kind of penance, anyway. The hardest thing for us was remembering what day it was so we could make our menu choices.

Girls are naturally pure. There are possibly 800,000 to 1.2 million dildos sold every year, a huge number of them to women. Most women won’t come right out and admit to masturbating, but a lot of them do.1 Women also have sexual fantasies. There are hormones squirting around inside us that can’t be easily ignored. If you think that women don’t even talk dirty, think again. Try listening in on a group of female college students or young single women when they think there are no men around and they can say what they want. I’ve said enough.

Boys are ravening sex maniacs. Officially, it was also a sin for boys to do anything sexual before marriage, but in practice they were given a lot of slack. Girls were told they were the ones who had to set limits when things were about to go “too far,” because the boys’ sexual urges turned them into automatic monsters with hands and penises. Girls were given very detailed instructions on how to not arouse the boys and were told they would not get any respect if they “gave in,” because they (the girls) were the strong ones who never got aroused themselves.2 If a boy tried anything especially inappropriate, it was because the girl had somehow failed to follow the rules on how to be as unappealing as possible.

Black patent leather shoes reflect upward, showing your underwear. This idea was probably made up by some voyeur with an overactive imagination, who spread it around until it went viral, 1950s style. I don’t think anyone believes this anymore, except maybe a few old ladies.

Priests and nuns have to be treated with deference because they are consecrated to God. This doesn’t go away very easily. I can’t speak for everyone, but my language and conversation are exceptionally clean when I am around a priest or nun. It’s automatic, also, to address a nun as “Sister” and a priest as “Father.” It’s ingrained in the older Catholic’s DNA.

Of course, we have been slapped with news items in the last several years that indicate that taking Holy Orders and wearing a Roman collar do not automatically turn a man into a saint, especially when his superiors are trying to solve the problems he creates by moving him around instead of sending him to jail where he belongs. This has been a shock to all Catholics, including the vast majority of priests who are normal, good men just trying to do their job. But the thought that priests and bishops are human and are just as likely to be sinners as anyone else must have been especially jarring to those who were raised to automatically respect anyone in a black cassock.

Well, now you know something of what we went through back in the not-always-so-good old days. It wasn’t all that bad, though. Look how I turned out.


1 In the real old days, doctors used to do this to single women, believing it would relax them and make them less susceptible to psychosomatic illnesses.

2No comment.

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6 thoughts on “Things We Learned in Catholic School That Had to Be Unlearned Later”

  1. “[Bishops], Priests and nuns have to be treated with deference because they are consecrated to God.”

    Um… Well… I’m still learning this in Episcopal Reform School. 😉

  2. This was a very good post, and personally, I am happy you are still so devout but for me,it shows me how out of touch the church is. I went to catholic school from 1st grade through college and to be honest, I can’t see how any young person especially women would ever want to be a part of this religion. People say it’s about the faith, but now I look at all their ridiculous rules and how the church treated people through the centuries, and how most people disobey the rules for convenience and I say, “I think it all must be a lot of BS”

    1. You are not alone. I know that many of my generation left the Church in droves. I never officially left, but I stopped going to church for several years. I had to throw out a lot of the stuff I had stuck in my head before I could go back, and even then I did it gradually. I have a whole different perspective than the one I was given as a kid, and it works for me.

      I must be a pretty open-minded Catholic, because many of my atheist, agnostic, Protestant and Buddhist friends don’t hesitate to tell me to my face how much they hate the Church, and they know I won’t get too insulted and I won’t judge them. We all have our own life journeys to travel, and the road that I take is not going to be the same one everyone else will want to take.

  3. There’s some wise words of wisdom in there. Although I personally take little notice, I’m told that Ireland is very much into the whole Catholic Church thingy. When I was a little mocker, my mother would genuflect while shaking with sheer terror when a Priest walked in her general direction. This wasn’t because she was any sort of fragile, timid woman. I think it was because the Priest put the fear of God into her!

    1. Heh! Most of the priests in our parish when I was a kid were nice guys, but we had one loudmouthed hellfire and damnation spouter who could put fear into The Devil himself. If he didn’t put fear into people, he made them angry, but I never saw anybody challenge him to his face.

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