First Confession

I’m an ex Catholic.  Catholicism is like herpes.  You can disavow it, shake it off, take strong medication, but it still pops up to remind you that you’re still Going to Hell.

First time I felt guilty I was seven years old and about to go to Confession.  Born with Original Sin which washed off in Baptism, but since then I’d racked up a load of venial sins (less bad than mortal sins but my catechism said we should ‘shrink in horror from the venial sin like a slug’)  But what exactly was a venial sin?  Swearing . . .wishing somebody ill . . . not obeying my parents immediately . . .it was impossible to get through the day without committing any kind of sin.  And what happened if you were forgiven and went out and did the same thing again?  ‘Well you have to try very hard not to,’ said mum fiercely.  ‘Because God is EVERYWHERE.’  That must be why mum always lowered her voice when she was describing that girl in my school as a ‘big fat heap.’  Just in case God’s ears were flapping.

The red light went on and I stumbled inside the Confessional.  It was pitch black.  ‘This way,’ said a tired voice and I spun round banging my shin on the pew.  ‘Bless me Father for I have sinned.’  Had I?  I’d made a list in my head and now every single sin fled my brain.  I wore NHS specs in a lurid pink and mum was going through a phase of trimming my hair with bacon scissors so it wasn’t vanity.  I was shy and swotty at school so not pride either.  I hadn’t even pinched my baby sister and that time she fell off the sofa really was an accident.  Lying about a sin – was that worse than committing one?  I could feel the Priest shifting about behind the grille.  ‘Erm I wished my friend at school would fall off a cliff,’ I said suddenly. ‘But she’s always saying mean things to me and then when I tell her to go away she cries.  I don’t know what to do.’  The Priest gave me two Hail Mary’s  as my penance and told me to try not to wish for her death again.  Easy!

I left feeling nicely sinless until next time.  On the way home I asked mum about Limbo which was where the babies born out-of-wedlock went to live.  She said it was like living in a very nice room and only seeing God behind a curtain.  ‘A thin curtain?’ I asked, ‘or the velvet ones we have?’  (They were velveteen.  The idea of God having velveteen curtain – the big tightwad).

‘But what happens if you really haven’t committed any sins?’ I asked mum.

‘That’s the sin of pride, she said.


6 thoughts on “First Confession

    • Hi Burke. I’m glad you’ve found strength and love in Catholicism. I’ve never doubted the existence of good, devoted priests and nuns. I happened to be a very anxious child and after a while began to question attitudes to homosexuality, birth control, and the sheer cruelty and suppression of scientific knowledge associated with Catholicism (not only them of course.) Any relgion which frowns on secular involvement and keeps crimes against children ‘within the community’ should have a bright light shone into their darkest corners. I’m talking about Jehovahs, Orthodox Jews, Fundamentalist Christians, the list goes on and on . . . .


      • Lyda Jane

        The way that some members of some Archdioceses handled having child abusers in their numbers is abhorrent, I do agree. I do know that there are very stringent and serious procedures put in place now so that does not happen again. This doesn’t undo what has been done though.

        As far a science goes, I think there is a misconception that Catholics are anti-science. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact many of history’s greatest scientists were deeply religious people. Just do a Google search for “Catholic Scientists.”

        What the Church is against is Scien-tism, the idea that only the material world is real. This worldview cannot answer real philosophical questions about why something is good, for example. This is a good video here:

        As far as birth control goes, the Church made a lot of predictions 50 years ago about what widespread use of contraception would do to break down societ, and I think they were right. There’s good audio and and the text by Dr. Janet Smith on this topic here:

        I wish you the best in you journey to happiness.



      • Don’t worry about misspelling my name! Clearly Janet Smith is a respected theologian and philosopher but I would have to disagree with her sweeping assertions that contraception and easier divorce has led to a breakdown in society. She conveniently ignores that just because you can’t get divorced does not mean your marriage is happier or more secure. It just means you can’t get divorced. I’m sure you know that child abuse/domestic violence/rape within marriage – none of these things ‘officially’ existed until around the morally corrupt 1960s/70s when stories began creeping out. Does this mean that society was more just, more fair, more ‘moral’? Or does it mean that all these evils, most of which took place within the hallowed family, were merely swept under the carpet?
        My daughter is now 13 and I have every intention of explaining the difference between sex and love as well as self-respect and not sleeping with someone because she feels pressured into doing so. But I will also explain about contraception and economic independence so she is not stuck, barefoot and pregnant, in a miserable relationship, with no way of leaving.

        I wish you love and happiness Burke. x


  1. Ah, the dreaded confession. I was never sure what to say, so used to make up a few sins and finish with ‘telling lies’ at the end. Catholicism gave me a strong aversion to any religion.


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