Actually, the confessional was the only place I did fib. I was one to tell the truth along my life's way, which disturbed so many people. That movie quote: 'You can't handle the truth," has a lot of validity. Most people did not want to hear my truth. "I'm gay."
At a young age, I sensed the Catholic confessional to be a set-up, much like the future Scientology recordings. I knew the priest could ask my name at any moment and thus red-face me on the spot. There was not any true secrecy going on in that curtained box. It was hard not to hear the confession of the other kid to the opposite side of the confessional box. I'd squeeze my eyes shut trying not to listen. Then the window on my side would open to the screen and to the silhouette of the priest, as another kid entered the other side.
As I went in to kneel, and wait for the priest to serve me like at a McDonald's window, I'd noticed at least one person in the pew very close to the confessional. All of us kids whispered so loud... I was convinced that person wasn't praying at all, but listening to the morning 'pews-report' of every soul in and around Hudson, New York.
I made up sins about lying to my mother, not helping with the chores... and once I said I swore at my father and missed a few confessionals. The priest yelled so loud at me for that one. It was a lie. I lied in the confessional because I thought, otherwise, what could I tell this priest? Would he even believe me that I was a pretty good kid? Well, no they did not buy it. I tried telling the truth, that I had no menial sins that week: "Bless me Father for I have... I have not sinned this week." He did not take my word. "Surely, there was sin. Think for a moment." And so it goes, to appease this priest I made up a few lies... and after all, I was now fibbing so I did earn my penance.
Saying penance, for those who may not know, the priest will give you a number of prayers you must say at the altar. When you leave the confessional you head up to kneel on cold marble, and silently pray your allotted prayers. One could judge the extent and depth of your sins by how long you were kneeling. I'll admit to daydreaming while being up there, saying a prayer or two, all while studying the church's windows, and iconic statues. I loved the stained glass.
I never told the priest that I had a crush on the actress Natalie Wood, or that I had made a scrapbook of her. I never told him I had a crush on my third grade nun, Sister Teresa Ann, a sister of St. Joseph. I never told him I had a crush on a few classmates, all girls. My youthful intelligence and simply my 'street-smarts' warned me off telling my deeper feelings to this priest, or anyone. Was that a sin? Or was it fear? Fear of being different. If I had told my inner feelings, I am sure I would have been damaged by being placed in therapy of some sort. Years later, I am so grateful for a spirit guiding me.
I was not convinced that a God loved me any less. Why? Because I knew I was a good person. I knew and followed a general rule of life from an early age: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I thank my parents for bestowing that early wisdom, and for others who kept enforcing that path.
When I look back, the confessional turned out to be one of the first prominent stressors in my life. I knew as soon as I entered, and kneeled down before these men, that my telling the truth was not going to be good enough, or ever believed. I forgive them for lording power over innocent children.
My last confessional was at the age of fourteen. FREEDOM!