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With Easter in the air, it was only befitting to talk crucifixion on my blog, even if, to end up with holes in his hands and feet, this time around would be my pet peeve, the Pope.
It's been few weeks now that all over the press and the TV news the catholicism is getting a bashing.
It seems that, finally, some of the dirt and turpitude locked away in God's Head Quarters is letting its whiff being smelled in the outside world in the form of child abuse claims.....
Far from taking part to the stoning match ( I'm selling tickets for it on Facebook though...), as I was never under false impressions of holiness and infallibility of the clergy, I find myself thinking of my own experience being raised as a catholic in a small italian village up in the hills and, inevitably, thinking about my son and his spiritual future....
Not six months ago, Little G. was christened a catholic. Yes! You read correctly!
Me and my husband of six years, both refugees from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, had our son baptised by an italian catholic priest.
Before you cynics start, I swear that I did not have to do the following:
-pay an inordinate amount of money to the priest (just a small donation...)
-renounce my lifestyle and embrace "straightness" (does this term even mean anything?) or celibacy (does THIS term even mean anything?)
-submit to sexual favours in the confessional (more plausible, given a certain track record of the organisation)
-dress up as a suburban housewife (I am very much urban, thanks)

Instead all we had to do was ask, and we were welcomed with wide open arms. It felt wonderful.
Both me and my husband, up there at the baptismal font, holding our son while the priest poured holy water on his gorgeous little head. It felt like a big warm embrace. Our families on either side of us. The luck of experiencing the wonderful side of religion.

Sounds like science fiction uh? So much so in fact that when my mum and dad returned home and told my other relatives about this amazing event, EVERYBODY came out saying:
"Noooooo... How did they do it? What church is this? Can they do it? Is it legal?"
(Amazingly, none of them is asking if all the reported child-abuse cases classify as a legality....Tut tut.).

The disbelief was general and really amusing! And yet we did it and we've been treated with the same respect as any other couple.
No ominous thunder from the sky or dark clouds over the sun upon us entering the holy building, but a beautiful, sunny and hot september afternoon.
The only thing we were asked was to ensure our son would be brought up 'within' the faith.
We were asked to raise a compassionate, tolerant, generous, respectful child.
My question is why wouldn't we anyway? What has this got to do with faith?
Do we really need a man in a dress to tell us that is far better growing up as a lovable, happy and positive individual rather than a stupid asshole?
The so called man in a dress, whose authority I question so strongly, made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It was like coming out to your dad and him telling you that is ok. Acceptance. This is the moral hold this institution has on me still today.
And I hate it, but I cant shake it off, because deep down I still feel like there is some good in there that it's worth respecting.
I always had a bit of an issue trying to conjugate my sexuality with my religious beliefs.
Well, that was until I moved to England and became part of Europe's staunchest ( albeit still only a wannabe) secular society.
I remember with fondness ( not really...) all those saturday afternoons of compulsory catechism, spent kicking my legs under a plastic chair in a church hall that invariably smelled of bleach and carnations. Stifling a laugh with the friend sitting next to me, being caught and sent out in the street as a punishment (in reality we would bring toys with us to play with outside, in this lucky eventuality...)
All those parables to tell us about greed, selfishness, lack of integrity and general moral decrepitude..... All those examples, those words of guidance, all those "Love thy neighbor as thou love thyself" sent my brain into a spin and left me wondering: are we all going to hell?
There was this guy appointed to be our teacher of catechism, his name was Giuseppe and, together with his girlfrend, they were sitting there, telling us right from wrong. Now, these two were no clergy members, they were two regular young people, in their late twenties, lecturing us about the meaning of life and the way of the Lord (even if, years later, their 'way of the Lord' involved getting married and divorcing following several HUGE indiscretions on both parts....)
"You don't care about Jesus! " he used to shout at me every time he caught me chatting or laughing.
"You know what is going to happen to you when you die?" and everybody in unison
"YOU ARE GOING TO HELL!". Cute.
So I would straighten up my face and pay attention for the rest of the lesson.

There were some really absurd statements like "You must love God more than you love your mum and dad" and that was a very famous occasion that nearly got me expelled from school because I dared reply:
"...but God doesn't need my love, my mum and dad do!"
BLASPHEMY!
My mum received a phone call from the village priest that very day and I remember she was very surprised to hear that I was questioning his teachings.
She demanded an explanation from me and I remember protesting and telling her and dad
"....but what can I do if I love you more than I love God? I don't even know him.... And do you love him more than you love
me?"
"Of course not..."
She smiled and hugged me tight. That night she made my favourite dish: arancini di riso.
How could I love God more than my mum? She would always forgive me, no matter how big my flaws could be. She would never threaten me with hellfire and brimstone.... I felt safe with my mum, safe to be myself, safer than I did in the virtual hands of God.

I remember my first confession to a priest... I must have been about 9 or 10... It was just before my first Holy Communion...
I was terrified because I knew I was far from perfect in the eyes of the Lord, I had my flaws, sometimes I denied my mum some help clearing up the table after dinner, sometimes I lied to my friends to my advantage, sometimes I envied my best friend red bicycle. So I was prepared to blurt it all out, and I was hugely surprised by what happened next in that cubicle.
Ok, ok, hold on.... Nothing untoward happened, before you start giggling, it's only that that bearded priest, whose breath repelled me, seemed to know ALREADY what sins I might have committed.
Bear in mind I was only 9 or 10 years old. I was trying to spill the beans about my little misdemeanours, but all he wanted to know from me was if I had 'impure thoughts', 'seen dirty magazines', 'committed impure acts'..... I didn't even know what the heck he was talking about.... Why would a magazine be dirty? I wouldn't even touch a dirty magazine.... My mum would make sure everything around me was clean. Was being dirty a sin? Should I have spoken to my table companion at school, whose head was always crawling with all sorts of fauna? Was he going to hell because his mum did not wash him properly?
I remember clearly my thought process.... It felt just wrong.
But, what crushed me the most, is that I felt that whatever I had to offer, was not good enough to qualify as a proper confession. The guy was fishing for dirt in the name of Jesus and I needed to cough up something bigger.
So I made things up.
I spiced up a little all my wrongdoings... My lack of willingness to help mum clearing up, became an inclination for domestic anti-social behaviour, my little lies here and there became a tendency to malice, my jealousy of my friend bike became a vocation for greed. The priest was not judging me, by any means, he looked on peacefully and nodded, in an almost gratified way. I felt so happy I finally had something to tell the guy. I kept on glancing at the other cubicles from behind my curtain... My little friends seemed to have a lot to talk about and appeared to be immersed in conversation and self purification, and I was struggling to find a topic.....
At the end of the confession, Father Beard (I don't remember his name...), absolved me and I remember leaving the cubicle feeling great, even if the three quarters of my confession were a work of fiction (but then again, what is absolution if not science fiction?).

Now, almost thirty years later, the idiocy of all this seems almost too big to be brushed aside.
Entire generations brought up with the mechanism of "sin and absolution". Armies of assholes striding through life like assholes, behaving like assholes and queuing up towards the confessional every sunday to get spiritual clearance and "sin credit" as I like to call it...

There is still some good left within the church, there are still some men with a progressive way of thinking, men that use their office to unite and not divide, to educate and not manipulate, but they are few and far between, and certainly not enough to undo what has been badly done.
'We are all imperfect, we are humans as well!' is their argument and excuse, but then I say to them: start living like humans, live life to the full, fall in love, marry, have a family and still preach about values and morals, because then you will be in the position of knowing what you are talking about.
Turning yourself into a reluctant saint is not the answer.
We don't need saints, we need inspiration and motivation.

Sadly, this is not our church. Our church is quite different, and my son will NEVER be part of it.
My son will learn that redemption, forgiveness and spiritual elevation is to be reached through deeds, not prayers.
My son will learn that his body is his own and so it's his soul and that NOBODY no matter what dress they are wearing, has the right to put either of them down or to make him feel not good enough for God's love.
My son will learn that religion is NEVER a hiding place for his weaknesses, OFTEN a cash machine dispensing spirituality, and ALWAYS a divisive tool that preys on the ignorant for the benefit of the powerful.
My son is Catholic by chance, but will be spiritual by upbringing, and faith has got nothing to do with it, LOVE has.
Parental love.
Our Love.
And that's divine.