Nuns and Roses

Second place in Honi Soit’s 2015 Opinion Competition, as judged by Executive Editor of the New Yorker, Amelia Lester.

Author’s note: the following is a work of fiction

I was sixteen years old and attending church for the first time in four years. Kneeling on the wooden plank jutting from the pew in front of me, I looked around the hall. Apparently I was the town’s only person in the 12-60 demographic to show up that morning – so much for being inconspicuous.

After the service finished I waited awkwardly by the confessional booth for the priest. I passed the time staring at the ceiling. You’d think the town’s only Catholic church would be nicer than the Presbyterian one, but I guess the Vatican’s bank account actually does have a finite number of digits.

An exception to this was an elaborate sculpture of Jesus nailed to the cross above the altar. My eyes lingered on the bloody stains over his knees before returning to his stomach. Someone had definitely gone to town on that body. I began to picture a sexually repressed nun sculpting his abdominals, in some twisted Catholic version of a Mills and Boon novel.

I slapped my wrist and scolded myself – that sort of ‘perverse’ shit was why I was attending confession for the first time since primary school anyway.

“Are you alright, son?”

The priest had flanked me while I was preoccupied with thoughts of horny convent sisters.

“I’m just here for confession Father,” I said, putting on my most dazzling snaggletooth smile. Realising that I should probably be acting somewhat more solemn, I suddenly began frowning.

“Well, come then child, step into the booth.”

I climbed into the booth only to be confronted almost immediately with another Jesus, this one fun sized. I traced his torso, giggling to myself. Those abs were definitely ribbed for her pleasure – caricatured pictures of pornographic nuns began to roll around in my head. Hearing the window separating the two halves of the booth swing open, I quickly dropped my hand. I didn’t particularly like the thought of being caught molesting an idol of the Son of God by the Heavenly Father’s Earth-bound proxy.

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. My last confession was … ah, four years ago?”

“Was that a question? Or a statement?” The priest asked.

“Oh, a statement sir – Father!” I said nervously. “So I guess that’s number one. I haven’t been to church or confession for a while. Ahhhh, also, I caught my brother wearing a pair of my underpants so I farted on his pillow.”

The priest stifled a snort with an extremely unconvincing cough, while I cringed in my seat. What can I say? I panicked.

“Yeah. Um, I think he got pink eye.”

Stop speaking! I counted to three in my head before getting back to the point.

“Oh and I’ve been having some impure thoughts,” I said. I couldn’t believe I’d just said “impure” but I felt I had to compromise and find some middle ground between “butt-fucky” and “extreme Sodom and Gamorrah level shit”.

“Is that it?”

I sat silently for a moment, and guiltily looked at the mounted figure of Jesus on the wall. I glanced once again at his mutilated knees.

“Jesus died for our sins right Father?” I asked.

“Well, yes, that’s what we’ve been teaching you since year three.”

Shit, okay mate, chill.

I looked at my own knees, hidden under cargo pants. The skin was raw and still stained green from grass. Sitting next to Jesus I felt like a human voodoo doll; I stained my knees green and they came up on him red and bloody.

He may have died for my sins, but he probably didn’t intend to cover for me blowing another boy in my year at the local park.

“Yes that’s it Father.” I said, before reading the Act of Contrition.

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.”

Why is it always “He”? How can an omniscient being have a sex? I don’t get it; I’m the worst Catholic ever. Why is the priest just sitting there stamping his foot? Oh shit!

“For His mercy endures forever!” I blurted, slightly too loudly.

I did my penance sulkily, before walking out the door and back home.

What was worse: being so ashamed of sleeping with a man that I almost confessed it to a priest whom I hadn’t seen since Year 6; or being too ashamed to even confess in the end anyway?

I decided it was time to take another break from church. The only things that institution had ever given me were passive aggressive authority figures, crippling self-esteem issues, and an irrational hatred of Anglicans. I already had a mother and father to do that anyway, so what did I need Catholicism for?