Written By: Danni Petrilak
Art By: Izzy Dickey
I was Catholic for most of my life. I went to a Roman Catholic church every Sunday, as well as Sunday School right before it. It was awful. Not for the reasons of believing in something, or even showing the love for the God I knew nothing about. It was horrible because of some of the people and the teachers.
Ever since I can remember, I’d wake up early on Sunday mornings—it was almost as early as waking up to go to school—to drive fifteen minutes into the middle of nowhere and sit for an hour “learning” about Jesus and God and the connections they had in the world. Mom would sit in the car and wait for me and my brother to finish up, then promptly take us across the street and out of the complex into the church for the hour-long service.
The highlight of my Sundays was being able to stand in line with a bunch of grandparents and watch them receive the little circles of bread, and be told I wasn’t old enough to get any. The teachers in Sunday School were assholes all the damn time. It was easy to tell that they didn’t want to be there, and took it out on us. My brother and I were separated by our grades, just like school (me being two years older than my little brother), and plopped down into a classroom for an hour to hear some women talk about how much they didn’t want to be there and they if we didn’t pay attention, we’d go to Hell.
Yup. Some of the teachers said we were going to Hell for not wanting to be there. The question I always had was “if God wanted us to be there to learn about the history of him and his son, then why did he put mean teachers in charge who didn’t want to be there?”
The final year I went to Sunday School, I had to write a paper about a saint, and the saint I chose would be a part of me by giving me my Catholic name. I chose St. Francis because he liked animals and I did, too. I went through, wrote my paper, handed it in, only to hear from my crabby teacher, “You can’t use him. He’s a man. You need to choose a woman.” She sent me home to do another paper. I then had to write a whole new paper for St. Elizabeth, and after receiving Confirmation, (the final thing I needed to do to finish Sunday school) my name was christened Elizabeth. We met with the monsignor who provided me with my Confirmation and snapped a photo before leaving.
For those of you who don’t know, a monsignor is basically a priest who was honored by the pope to be in service of the church. He was the only one with the authority to provide me and the rest of my Sunday School class with the title of being Confirmed in the church. The monsignor was later discovered to be a man who covered up a bunch of sex offenses done by members of the church in my hometown. What fun!
There were people I knew who were devout Catholics, showing all this love for their religion and their God, and they were so rude to people they didn’t even know. There was one woman I knew who skipped all of her daughter’s school events to worship in the church. The daughter told me it was normal for her family, but she was always sad when we would have a school concert and her mother wasn’t there. The same woman got into a fight with my mother about things I’ve long since forgotten, and she was the reason my mom stopped going to church. There were just too many people who didn’t follow the beliefs they said they did. Learning everything I did in those Sunday classes taught me that in order to be a follower of the Roman Catholic church you have to be a nice person. Most of the people that affected my decision in becoming Agnostic were people from my old church in my hometown.
If my church ran differently, I think I wouldn’t have stayed with the religion I grew up with. But with a system so convoluted and twisted like a goddamn knot, who in their right mind would stay in a place that threatens people who have tattoos (like me), with not being allowed to be buried in Catholic cemeteries; but that’s a whole other paper for another time.
There’s nothing wrong with believing in something for reasons of your own, I just think there’s something wrong with pushing those beliefs on people—on kids—who are young enough that they are told this is the only choice they have, and they have no other option but to believe it. They don’t realize they do have a choice. They have a choice to get out of a shitty religion and find much better ones. For me, that was just not believing in anything, because people can tell me I’m right or wrong, and I won’t get told there are things I can and can’t do because of what I believe in.