Monday, February 4, 2013

Sins of the Fathers

When I was growing up in the protective but ominous shadow of the Catholic Church, the only abuse I suffered was at the hands of the female teachers. Although they were all strict, most of them were generally decent even when galloping senility made their tempers as short as their memories. The exceptions were Sister Joel, my fifth grade teacher who was a dead ringer for "The Church Lady," the character played by Dana Carvey on Saturday Night Live in the early '90s. This nun, whose favorite word was "provoke" ("Why must you always provoke me?"), was often physically violent. Sometimes during her rages, she hurled a book across the room, once nearly knocking a girl’s eye out. But her preferred weapon was the wooden pointer that I remember she smacked me around with once when I failed to understand an arithmetic problem. I also remember Sister Clemensine (seventh grade) who accused me of “snuffing” glue at a time when I was still a virgin to nicotine, and the two “lay” teachers, Miss E and Miss S, both extremely obese single women who delighted in humiliating the male students, probably because neither of them were ever going to get laid.

The priests were the good guys, likeable chaps who outranked the nuns and might even be counted on to protect us from them. Father M, the youngish priest who joined my local parish when I was in seventh grade, was a jerk whose cocky attitude suggested he watched TV cop shows more than he read the Bible, but the other priests - Fathers Carl, Rebal, and the grand old man of the parish, Father Wencenslaus A. Uhlir (a friend of mine and I used to joke that the A probably stood for Archie), were kind, gentle men. Father Uhlir liked the ladies, at least that was the rumor, maybe because his eyes bulged when he looked at them. He had eyes that bulged, however, so that didn’t necessarily mean the women inspired a bulge in his pants.

There was never the slightest suspicion, however, that any of the priests had a thing for children, but in the past decade the Catholic Church has been rocked by a long parade of charges that priests have been sexually molesting young boys. Last month in Philadelphia, a jury convicted a priest and a parochial school teacher on sexual abuse charges brought on by a 24-year-old man who claimed he had been molested years earlier when he was an altar boy. A second priest had been convicted earlier and is already doing prison time. This is just the tip of the iceberg, or should I say the church steeple?

Americans, so naive about sexual matters even as they are obsessed with them, have offered some possible solutions. The most popular is the most bizarre: forget the vow of celibacy and let priests marry.

Who do these people think a priest with a yen for children should marry?

A 10-year-old boy?

Or do they believe pedophilia can be cured by fixing up the pedophile with a grown woman?

© 2013 Brian W. Fairbanks



  1. So, you went to St. Procop's in Cleveland?

  2. It warmed my heart to see your mention of Sister Clemensine. I also had Sister Clemensine for 7th Grade, but at another school a few years before she went back to Saint Procop's. I could easily envision the encounter you describe having had with her (both in her determination to get to the bottom of some mischief she thought she could smell as well as her occasional use of slightly archaic terminology). I'm an old man now, but my whole life long I must say that outside of the members of my own family, Sister Clemensine was for me the most loving and influential person in my life. Michael