AS I SEE IT…Being Catholic. Part 3

–  “Growth is painful.  Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck  somewhere you don’t belong!!” – imagesAnon 

Having served my apprenticeship, so to speak, growing up Catholic, during the 50’s surviving the convent, the priests and the nuns, then a strict Catholic  boarding school, I felt pretty comfortable that I had come through this ordeal mostly intact. Oh there were scars and wounds that needed to heal, but as they say… “Time is a great healer”… or is it?

As I said previously, I was about to step into the unknown, the long lonely walk across the threshold into another world was about to begin.. I was one of the youngest seminarians to begin seven years of indoctrination in this foreboding place. I was greeted by one of the priests, a kindly old soul.. He was to take me under his wing and flood my mind with the dogma as he was instructed. It was to begin immediately and the intensity and pace at which he delivered his dissertation, made me begin to question my reasons for being in this place right from that first day… Never-the-less, I quickly settled into a routine…I was then to be taken under the wing of one the seniors, an  older seminarian, who was to become  my confidante as well as my mentor. (He is now a respected Cardinal) One of the others that I got to know very well, became one of the youngest Bishops to  be appointed  in Australasia. There were others too and I formed some great lasting  friendships. Sadly, I could count on one hand, those that still remain as priests to this day.  The days were long and hard and for a young teen, they were tough… Yes, I attended many many lectures..Ethics, Theology, Sociology,  incorporating Latin, along with the ancient teachings of the catholic church…and on it went.  All this time I was being seduced into the rigidity and uniformity of the church. I was made to give up most things I loved in the outside world. Music, certain books, theatre, arts etc. The guilt continued and  I recall one afternoon, I went to the nearby mall, decided to treat myself to a scone and cup of coffee. The young waitress that served me was a pure delight. I had already been told of the evils of making eye contact with members of the opposite sex! as the Rector had put it! So, being young and open to persuasion, I tried to avoid this at all costs. It didn’t work, she had served many seminarians and could read the pattern well. Needless to say, we struck  up a great conversation and I continued to find an excuse to visit on a regular basis.

After months of rosaries around the vast fields with a regular group of young men, I was called into the Rectors office…He was a stern autocratic Belgium Priest, a Psychologist and Jesuit to boot.. Had this huge read chair that he demanded I sit in…I refused and sat on the arm. This went down like a cup of cold sick!! He shouted at me, demanding I sit in his chair. I would not give him this power and he told me that I needed to face up to my reality.. He knew that I had been visiting the cafe in the mall and having long discussions with the young waitress.. He knew that I had been playing my music, (Leonard Cohen, Magna Carta, Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and a whole bunch of rock, including Ozzy, Black Sabbath etc..) missing Matins and questioning the teachings in the classroom. One of the unique advantages of this seminary, was that it aligned to the fine arts University in the city. This was a new direction for the seminary and it was to be expected that we would challenge many things in our day to day interaction with other young students.It was something that displeased the rector.. I became involved in the theatre scene and started to enjoy many of the modern playwrights.. This was, as the Rector said…the devils work!  He said that  I would be severely punished by God..  (Here comes that guilt!!) You see, it had never gone away!! Right from that very early age, this guilt had been permanently ensconced into my brain..planted so deep, riddled with  fear so that I would never forget! It was about this time  that the Rector decided I needed extra ‘spiritual guidance’ and I was to be placed under the wing of the Bishops secretary….Saturday was to  be the day this instruction would commence.

The day duly arrived and I sat in a little room the size of a cell. Cold, sterile and reeking of the stale putrid smell of camphor…   I waited, listening for the heavy precise footsteps of leather slapping wood. Waiting for this priest to breath forth more hell-fire and brimstone!! He waltzed in, more to the point, to coin a phrase, minced in and in the gayest of voices said “Hi I’m Kevin and we are going to have some wonderful spiritual advising! It’s a gorgeous day, let’s not waste a moment!” I didn’t believe what I was hearing, let alone what I was staring at!! Here was this wonderful man, dressed in denim with white sneakers and a pink Cashmere Sweater, sleeves up, hands on hips and a swag that would make any woman proud!!   What an absolute delight.. The rector looked on in disbelief as my best new friend just said..”we’ll be back when we are back” with the emphasis on the are!. Oh the delight!! Into the Canary Yellow BMW with its black leather upholstery and off we sped! I was in heaven and couldn’t believe my luck when we pulled into the pub down the road… “Right my dear boy” he said.. “It’s now time for your Spiritual Advising to begin… What’ll it be.. Whiskey, Bourbon or Brandy?”  I was gob-smacked! but, after all this was the Bishop’s secretary and who was I to argue?   We had a couple or drinks, then he said, “we have a rugby game to go to..I’ve got the bosses tickets, he doesn’t want to go..”  We rocked up.. A group of priests were waiting for him.. Introductions all round and a few questions as to how I was handling life in the seminary,  then to the bar and a few more to top up the craving. I couldn’t help but notice just how quickly a couple of this group became rather boisterous and fairly intoxicated.. It was as if they had been unshackled!!   This was going to be one hell of a day!!!

To be continued….

AS I SEE IT… Being Catholic. Part 2

–  “Growth is painful.  Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck  somewhere you don’t belong!!” – imagesAnon 

Having served my apprenticeship, so to speak, growing up Catholic, during the 50’s surviving the convent, the priests and the nuns, then a strict Catholic  boarding school, I felt pretty comfortable that I had come through this ordeal mostly intact. Oh there were scars and wounds that needed to heal, but as they say… “Time is a great healer”… or is it?

You see,  as I’ve said, I grew up in the early 50’s, in a loving caring family, the eldest of six boys. Hardworking father and a mother that saw her duty to God, the Catholic faith and her husband in that order.  At a very young age I was introduced to our local Priest. An Irishman who was overpowering, yet as I remember, gentle enough, but firm and dogged.  What was now beginning to take hold, was the guilt that was installed into me by that Whiskey drinking, cigarette smoking priest! The nuns followed his orders faithfully! What had been very powerfully and cleverly instilled into me, was a strong sense of ‘guilt’.. It was a ‘mortal sin’ to miss Mass on a Sunday, to eat meat on a Friday, not to fast during Lent. Girls were evil and one must never touch a girl as it was a sin.. God forbid if you actually held a girls hand. It was too late…I was going to hell in a hand basket, I had broken the cardinal rules! I became riddled with guilt!  I went to confession every day to confess my ‘mortal’ sins. As  I stepped into the confessional, I was consumed with the pungent smell of the priest’s stale whiskey laden breath, The darkness, and smell of an oiled floor mixed with the sweet smelling incense was all becoming a bit too overwhelming. I endured this ritual for sometime as my mother fueled this guilt… “God will punish you” she would repeatedly say, “you must go and confess your sins”

I couldn’t take too much more of this , so decided the best thing to do, was to move to the nearby city. I went and lived with my Mother’s father.. I thought I’d be safe, but unfortunately, he was an alcoholic and would come home tanked to the eyeballs, then start in on me all over again.. I believed God had it in for me! First, the parish  priest, then the nuns, my own mother now my Pop!.. Just was not going my way this whole Catholic thing!.. Then something rather miraculous happened.. There were now priests in my hometown.. Dutch priests from the Mill Hill order. They were fun loving practical jokers and one of them would spend time with my dad at the petrol station reading the weekly scandal tabloid, complete with its page 3 girl…. The standing joke was “it’s Fr Jacks Bible ” Along with a couple of the other members of the church’s select little group, they’d gather and knock off a couple of flagons of beer and a bottle or three of cheap wine! ” If I asked any questions, I was simply fobbed of with “Important parish business son”..  After a while, I became pretty friendly with the other priest, he and my mother shared a love of art and spent long hours painting and sketching.
One day, she invited me in to the sun room to join them.. What i didn’t know was this was all part of their plan. You see, my mother wanted her priest. she believed it was time to instill a bit more of the catholic guilt into me… To be honest, I was not the perfect teenager..I’d dabbled in a few things, less than desirable I guess… There was no way in hell I was going near a priest to confess that little lot!! or so I thought..  Then they started…It was like a well orchestrated and precise manoeuvre… didn’t see that one coming!! Had no answer… I was too scared to rebut anything they said and before I knew it, I was in front of the Father Superior of this order, bags packed, train and ferry tickets at the ready and on my way to the seminary!

I have questioned myself many many times over the years as to this bizarre behavior resulting in my entering the seminary. In my opinion, it all leads back to the manipulative and controlled agenda that the Catholic Church through its priests had. The guilt was very much planted, almost to the point of being brainwashed. I do  remember at one point as I’ve stated already, my mother saying I would be punished if I did not become a priest.. So, when after some intense questioning by the Fr Superior and then the announcement “Brian is going to be our priest… you must make your mother and God very proud”…  As crazy as this may sound today, back then it was very real!… I had stepped into the unknown!!

To be continued!

AS I SEE IT… Being Catholic, Part 1…

 After  just having watched the movie, “SPOTLIGHT”  I was reminded of this quote –  “Growth is painful.  Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck  somewhere you don’t belong!!” – imagesAnon 

This is probably one of the most poignant movies I’ve watched in sometime. The film follows The Boston Globes “Spotlight” team, (the oldest newspaper investigative unit in the United States) and its investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous  Catholic priests. It’s based on a series of stories by the real Spotlight Team that earned The Globe the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. I didn’t really want to watch this movie as being Catholic, I was wrestling with the accusations that had been made years ago and the cover ups that took place on the global stage. But….something changed in me.. It started me thinking…

You see, I grew up in the early 50’s, in a loving caring family, the eldest of six boys. Hardworking father and a mother that saw her duty to God, the Catholic faith and her husband in that order.  At a very young age I was introduced to our local Priest. An Irishman who was overpowering, yet as I remember, gentle enough, but firm and dogged.  Gosh, I was only four, not even at school yet.. The grooming started from a very early age. Now, I must make it very very clear… I was NOT abused by any priest sexually..  Mentally  and physically, well that’s a different story.. I believe it was bad, but I cannot begin to comprehend the pain and suffering those who were sexually abused have had to endure.. Guilt was instilled into me through the church and her teachings… the priest, the nuns and my mother. There was no let up.. I had to learn my Catechism off by heart, knowing the first chapter before I got to the convent.. I was continually told that if I didn’t know it, I was not going to heaven. I would not be able to be a good catholic boy, The pressure that was placed on this 5 year old was humongous! Still, I did it..passed my first test and read to the priest and the nuns.. answered their questions as I stood in the middle of the room…cold and bleak! When I can out of this interrogation, I saw others lined up in the corridor.  One boy had wet himself and others were laughing at him. I went and put my arm around him to reassure him it would be all right. We became best friends. He has since passed away, but that introduction to my schooling has never left me..

As the years progressed, I moved into the ‘inner circle’ so to speak..Became an Altar Boy…wore my Soutane  and Surplice (the garments every Altar Boy must wear when assisting the priest at Mass).. Gosh!! that was a proud day! I had learned the Latin Mass and responses that an altar boy must give.. Knew them by heart.. (Even got a biscuit from Sister Stanislaus !) All this time, the brainwashing was subtle, but never the less taking place! I began to win prizes for my religious knowledge, topped the class at one point, became a favourite, to the determent of some of the other kids.. Still it got me privileges..I reached form ll and then the big day out..We were off to the lake for the day… “The Altar Boys Picnic” More brain washing and more guilt unknowingly heaped upon us in a very subtle way.

It was time to leave the convent and move to secondary school. By this time the priest had changed.. There were two now rather than one. Vatican ll had taken place under Pope John XXlll. This was a revolution within the church.. All the while, the abuse continued, boys and girls being sexually,  physically and mentally abused. No one spoke out, no one dared speak..The pedophiles were cunning and clever…They instilled the guilt into each and everyone of their victims.. and so on it went.. Mass was said on a daily basis, comments were made about the alleged abuse that was taking place. No one dared speak out! I of course at the time, knew none of this…Did not even recognise what was happening within my self… It was not until years later that I came to understand how powerful this was. I have written about it on numerous occasions, the cultist sects within mainstream religion and how it absorbs us.. Never ever would I write or utter a bad word about the Catholic Church! I was sent to boarding school run by the De La Salle Brothers with a couple of Jesuit priest thrown in for good measure.. Once again, I was subjected to more physical abuse… Don’t get me wrong…there were and still are many good, kind and caring brothers within this order, but.. they too were influenced by their superiors and by taking an oath of obedience, here was another power hold over these young men.

So…I left school to embark on my life’s journey.. Some journey this was to be..

To be continued!

AS I SEE IT…. EQUALITY!!

George Aiken once said….

“If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and colour, we would find some other cause for prejudice by noon.brian portland

Once again, I have been reading, talking and listening to a variety of comments on a number of topics involving Equality..

Somewhere on this Mortal Coil, we seem to have gotten out of tilt. At the fore is the debate once again around Single Sex marriage, or Civil Union. So, as I see it, it’s this simple.. What you do behind closed doors is your business, no one else’s..
I remember growing up in a rural community, amidst a hardened bunch of farmers and railway workers.. tough men .. But here’s the thing.. they were big softies and cared about their community and the folk in it..
Amongst them were a couple of blokes, ordinary blokes, going about their daily business. One a successful  International Dress Designer, the other a store manager.
Many a time, my mother would send me to this store to get this and that and I was always impressed with the neatness and well organised layout of the shop.. Nothing out of place and its manager immaculately dressed.. Polite to everyone that came and went.
On cold wet miserable days during Winter, he would provide a “Cuppa” for those that came to town once a month to buy their supplies, sometimes covered in mud, wet and cold, still in their bush clothes. That cup of tea and a freshly made scone provided a welcome relief.. Nothing was a bother and everyone was welcome. You see, in his eyes everybody was equal. He would fuss over the wives and show them the latest catalogues and dote over the children, while the men would go about their business heading off to the sale-yards or to the local pub. Good business you might say, as he sold a lot of product.
The other bloke was a successful dress designer, had won numerous international awards, but choose to live in this small rural community.. He travelled the world, mixing on the international stage and was the envy of many, but proud of his community.

Many a time I would pop into his store and we would talk of people he had dined with, musicians, royalty, millionaires and the stars.. He would produce photo albums and point out his favourites… Hepburn, Bacall, Andrews, Bergman, Loren, …the list was endless.
I would listen for hours to the stories and he would transport me to another world, another time..We would listen to his prized Jazz recordings, given to him personally by some of the greats.. George Shearing, Ella Fitzgerald, the “Count” Armstrong…this  list goes on. He introduced me to this wonderful world of Jazz and used to say..

”When they play their music, they stand as equal”

You see, I have never forgotten this and my love of Jazz continues to this day.
I was young and impressionable at this time.. I met many of his friends over the years, amongst them that infamous Drag Queen..Carmen, many many stars & entertainers, all simple friends!!
It was for me a special time in my life, but here’s the thing.. These two blokes were Gay! that’s right.. Gay! They had formed a friendship back in 1952 and had remained together till their dying day. Together, living, loving and sharing their whole lives all these years, in this hardened rural community..

Oh, many suspected they were a little different, but no one really cared. Many a time, I would hear the odd comment about these two blokes..
At first, I said nothing, but one incident led me to speak out. I did and to this day, I have no regrets. I continue to speak out..

There are still are people living in this town and many others just like it, that remain ‘homophobic’.. That’s their choice.. They too, have the right to speak out, but they do not, in my opinion have the right to condemn others for their choices..
‘That’s their business’..
But let me just say this.. I have never seen a more loving, devoted and caring couple as these two.
When one of these men fell ill, the other nursed him until he breathed his last breath. Sadly, he died of a broken heart just days later…

Both their funerals were held on the same day. The Church overflowing with people , spilling out on to the streets …The hardened farmers, retired bush & railway workers, their children, families and friends.. All their in their finest Sunday best, all there to pay their final respects to two beautiful men.

Both these two men were loved and respected. Not one person cared about their sexual preference.. They were there to pay their respect to two gentleman that cared unconditionally for their community..

Sadly, this world has changed..

In a very short space of time, we have become so caught up in all of its political correctness, that we have, in many ways, forgotten about the old fashioned values that we were instilled with..
We just don’t want to be seen to be stepping outside of the box and speaking out..
President Obama along with others, has done that..
Perhaps you might just say it is nothing more that political, you are entitled to that..
The church has it’s view and tries to persuade us, telling us what they want us to hear.. Perhaps we should just look at the time of the Borgias!!
Politicians influence us, as do many other social factors today..but when I had the privilege of seeing a relationship built on love and trust, (in the middle of the challenging & changing times through the 60’s)  last into this century, I have to start to wonder..
You see, they got something right..
But….sadly, as George Aiken said

“If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and colour, we would find some other cause for prejudice by noon.”

My dear friends didn’t care how society saw them..

To each other and all those who had the pleasure of knowing these two gentle men, they were simply “EQUAL” in every way.

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