Just down the block from my house is a Catholic Church.  Of course, it being Easter Sunday, the parking lot is mobbed, police are directing traffic.  This gets to me to thinking about my own religious background.  

For many years, I was your typical New York, Irish Catholic.   Went to church every Sunday, got my First Communion and then was confirmed.  I never really understood what the confirmation ceremony was all about except that I was suddenly a “soldier of Christ.”  Cool. 

When I was about 16 or so, I stopped going to church.  Or, more accurately, my mother decided that she could no longer force me to go.  Let’s face it, I was not going to church all of those years because I wanted to go.  I was being dragged there against my will every weekend.  The only thing I enjoyed about going to church on Sunday morning was stopping at Calanzo’s Italian Bakery after services to pick up donuts, scones, a rhubarb cake and cruellers.  After all, we hadn’t eaten since the night before (against the rules) so I gobbled those carbs down as fast as possible. 

I left the church because I was scared.  I was always taught that God was a vengeful God, everything was about what you couldn’t do.  Every one of the Ten Commandments started off with a “thou shall not….”   I was constantly afraid of going to hell for committing a mortal sin.   Sure, you could always go to confession every Saturday to be absolved of that sin but what if you looked upon a member of the opposite sex with lust in Monday’s Algebra class and you died on Tuesday before you could get to confession?  You just got a one way ticket to hell, baby….

Indeed, to this day I remember standing in a field across the street from my house one fine Saturday afternoon.   I was 13 years old and was going to confession in about an hour when I decided to say my first curse word out loud.  After all, I could scream the word and then go straight to Father Costello and confess, right?   The slate would be wiped clean.  

When the time was right, I yelled out “shit” and waited for the lightning bolt to strike. 

Nothing.  

“Shit!” 

Nothing.  

Hey, this ain’t so bad, I thought.  Shit, shit, shit, shit….

Went to confession an hour later and all was forgiven.

For many years after that, I didn’t think about the Church.  But when I got involved in the pro-choice movement on a national level, my fear of the church returned.  I soon learned how the church could incite people and organize mobs of protestors to block access to a clinic.  I watched priests stand in from of an abortion facility and scream at women who were there to obtain an abortion.  Heck, they even yelled at women who were just going in to get some birth control.  I sat in on sermons and heard about the “evils” of abortion and how women who had them would burn in hell.  I remember one priest in Alabama say publicly that it was “justifiable homicide” to kill an abortion doctor.   

There was so much hatred emanating from those pulpits and I learned all over how to fear the church.  And when I look at all of those cars in that church parking lot across the street, I wonder what they are being told about women who have abortions.  And the interesting thing is that the majority of women who get abortions are Catholic.