A serpenty-sounding priest encourages teen girls to commit suicide to preserve virginity if pursued by a rapist
Although my family was Catholic, my mother was never very interested in sending me to Sunday school. She said that I should wait until I was older “to look into it.” As far as I could tell, she just wanted to stay barefoot in her terry-cloth robe for as long as Sunday would allow and going to a class required a driver, a dressed driver.
Yet the longer this went on—that I was Catholic and everyone around me was Catholic, but I didn’t know a thing about being Catholic—the more unsettled I became. If I attended church, I was especially uncomfortable lingering in the pew by myself while everyone else got in line for communion. I didn’t know the words to the Profession of Faith or even shorter numbers like Our Father or Hail Mary; often I pretended to say the prayers, mumbling into my neck, and then a phrase would come that I knew like “Light from Light, True God from True God,” and I’d say this loudly, with great authority. I also had incredibly romantic ideas about confession, and I longed for my future friendship with a handsome priest, who would tell me everything I was doing was exactly right.
After years of badgering my mother, I finally started classes at our church when I was 13. My teacher had cancer of the mouth and part of his tongue had been amputated. Consequently, he had a hissing, serpenty-sounding voice, which made his rickety posture and lunatic poses all the more bizarre. He gave us one lesson on a particular kind of god that threw AIDS at gay people like confetti at a party, except in this case it was punishing. Another lecture involved suicide, which he said was the “fastest ticket” to hell. My father had jumped off a bridge only four years before and I can remember this pitiful part of me wanting to wander in the tall fields of despair while another larger part of me was like: “I wonder what time it is?”
I did mention some of this to my mother and she, in turn, went berserk. “I told you!” she said and asked me to quit.
But I wouldn’t. Perhaps I sensed the best lesson was to come.
One spring morning, our teacher decided to address the girls in the class. He wanted us to know that if we were ever pursued by a rapist, we could kill ourselves to preserve our virginity, and God would not punish us. The ticket to hell would essentially be waived.
“How would you kill yourself,” one of us asked, “if you’re already being chased by a rapist?”
He suggested we jump out a window.
A girl shrieked with giggles. “I’m not jumping out a window!”
“What if you threw the guy out the window?” another girl asked.
“What if you stabbed him?” a boy suggested.
The class began to roar with excitement. The drama! The things we might do! Other forms of self-defense were offered.
A pan, a frying pan!
Bleach. To the eyes.
Over the cacophony, our teacher explained that we could kill ourselves in this instance, but not someone else, even in self-defense. “It is a sin to kill another person,” he said gravely—probably the only authentically Catholic thing he’d said all year—and the whole throng of us, 20 thirteen-year-olds, shrieked and stomped, laughing, listing more and more weaponry, until ultimately he stormed out of the room. – Christina Fitzpatrick, author of What’s the Girl Worth? and Where We Lived
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