We used to play this game called “Beep.” Once a week, Steve and I would walk down the street to our weekly CCD class and we’d see how far we could walk out into the road before a car would beep at us. Sometimes we’d only get one step off the side walk and other times we could get halfway towards the double yellow lines in the middle of the road. We’d laugh and compete with each other to get the loudest, longest honks risking life and death in suburban Cumberland, RI. We knew people who live in Cumberland were just too nice to run over teenagers walking around in the evening and felt it was worth the risk. We took advantage and made our game successful.
We needed quite a bit of excitement and camaraderie to get us through the part mandatory, part obligatory CCD classes we went to once a week. CCD was a set of religious classes to prepare us for a catholic confirmation that we commonly referred to them as Central City Dump because of what we had to endure. But, we did our best out of some vague sense of obligation.
“Beep” was the most fun and was what I remember to be the most positive part of my experience. It lightened the existential load of fear I felt on the inside. Class time spent imparting indoctrination of the Catholic church into my teenage brain stoked more inner conflict than it help sort out and for a rebellious and developing free-thinking mind like mine, it amplified conflicts that began to emerge.
I tossed around in my mind during these walks thoughts like, “what if I swore? Swearing was a sin and if I didn’t have confession to remove that sin, then I would be going to hell. I don’t want to go to hell. But how was I supposed to live? Try not to make any error and when I did go immediately run to confession? How do I avoid satan trying to get me and things which are satanic? How can I protect myself? This will be hard. Looks like I’m going to need a whole lot of confession.”
It tormented my 15 year old mind during as these thoughts would swirl around and around with no answer or resolution. There had to be somewhere. I felt destined to live my life in constant fear and close to the catholic church who can cleanse and remove my sins regularly. It was the only way to be to be able to get into heaven. Inevitably, I had begun to consider give up and accept that this would be the way it would have to be.
Towards the end of our class we had an exam. I studied. I knew all the terms. Father, Son, Holy Ghost. Stations of the Cross. Chalice. Body and Blood. Steve and I knew we’d pass and be finally done.
I came the final exam essay question which was as follows, “Explain why you believe abortion is wrong?” I stared at the question and hesitated. “I don’t necessarily think abortion is wrong. But, that’s what I am being told. How can I accept a belief that I do not believe myself? What if I don’t believe it? Am I wrong? Am I a bad person? Will I be going to hell if I don’t find a way to believe? I just can’t bring myself to fully agree. What do I do?”
I went on to pass the test, went through the “confirmation” ceremony, but something had shifted in me. How could I continue when I disagreed. Why are these views being forced on me when I don’t believe that way? Who is right? Maybe, there’s something more? Maybe there’s another way? Maybe there’s another way to understand all of this….