Last week, over my first cup of warming but non-caffeinated tea I decided to email my sister, with whom unfortunately I correspond rarely (long other story), to wish her a happy birthday. Typos are common at that hour, and before I knew it I had addressed my sister as “hell Rosie”. I checked the sent column, and wrote again, explaining the typo. She wrote back laughing at the mistake; but what struck me was that my sister, who has spurned any religious affiliation for years, was so readily affected by such an artificial, religious conceit. Our upbringing had been a re-enactment of the Roses, with a Calvinist dad and fervent Roman Catholic mum, who was driven with the idea that her lot in life was to keep the children on the right road. Unfortunately the slow derailing of their relationship undermined any positive aspect of our religious education. Mum was barely assimilated into a central Qld environment of Irish catholics, themselves underdogs in an Anglican, methodist, masonic environment. I remember her kneeling in fervent prayer, reading from her Slovenian prayer book during the mass; the young priest who later sexually abused my older and younger brothers and myself, once asked me whether we were actually catholic, not orthodox, we must have presented such an ethnic demeanour to him. Then, at easter time, we were subjected to the ravings of a redemptorist preacher, spouting brimstone, mouthing the fiercest warnings against masturbation.
I was quite shy at this time, prone to panic attacks in public; then I won a scholarship to go to James Cook Uni. I fell in with a dope smoking crowd, and began to experience marijuana-induced fantasies of being damned. Of course, I was studying French literature, including Arthur Rimbaud’s Saison en Enfer.
Dies Ires. Who has calculated the psychological cost of such an upbringing? A doco on Irish culture pointed to the severest sexual neuroses implanted in the young by religious indoctrination. When any of my friends describe their life in a religious cult I remind them that the more unobtrusive cult is the more insidious. Catholic indoctrination has to be up there with the most vicious. A clear example of this would have to be the central Qld group of pedophile priests, who, in the depths of their depravity, sought each other out, to make their periodic confession, a sort of mutual ritual consolation of an inscrutable variety.
Sadly, were the hierarchy not so intractable and mysogynist, they might just relax the rule of celibacy and allow young priests to marry and entwine the physical, emotional love of a spouse with the agape of the universe. Even Paul said: better marry than BURN. That, however, seems too difficult for these cardinals and popes. I think, besides, having a woman in their weird lives might just be too much to cope with.
Fallen angels in the night, and every one is barred from heaven. Placebo. Meanwhile, HELL, that state of being deprived of the beatific vision, intractible pride, obdurate, truculent. But weird.