One of the unexpected benefits of being a Catholic boy in love with a Jewish girl is the occasional silly conversation that we’ll have about the differences in our religions. Last night, after we’d both had some wine, The Girl Who Goes To Temple surprised me with the following question: “So what’s the deal with going to confession?”.
Thankfully, there was still some wine left, so I was able to make sure my glass was half full (one always wants to remain positive!) before tackling this one. Since the question had come seemingly out of the blue, I figured it would be best to get some background on why she was asking it before I launched into my complicated, In Vino Veritas, reply.
She told me that she had been watching an episode of Mad Men, and one of the characters had gone to confession. Since she’d never partaken in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, she wanted some Catholic insight.
I told her that her first rule of thumb should be to NEVER judge a religion based upon the behaviors of Don Draper and his cronies. Big mistake. They’re from the 60s and that was a much different time. Coffee makers hadn’t yet been installed in the workplace, but every executive had a fully stocked bar in his office, as well as a couch large enough to double as a bed, and a secretary willing to test out the springs in that couch with him.
Let me make it clear that I’m not some sort of staunch Catholic (PLEASE don’t let the nuns read this post!). I haven’t been to church since I started NYU, but I did go to Catholic school for 12 years. I was also raised by an Evil Stepmother, who took her religion very seriously and thought her stepchildren should as well.
So I talked The Girl Who Celebrates Chanukah through confession, explaining how it was one of the Sacraments (she then tested my knowledge by asking me to name all of them…I’ll take Catholicism for $500 please, Alex) and that it was just part of Religion class in fourth grade. The school prepped us for big day, booked the church and the band, and put on a big show of moving us one rung further up the ladder to sainthood.
My Sweetie immediately had to ask, “So what does a fourth grader have to confess?”. In the spirit of the moment, I decided to confess to her. I don’t think I ever really “came clean” inside the confessional. I mean, come on! Who’s stupid enough to tell all his wrong doings to a priest who sees him every day at school, knows my name, my voice, and worst of all…my parents? I told her that I just always gave a stock answer: I lied, I was mean to my sister, I disobeyed my parents, and that was about it. It was safe. It wouldn’t raise any red flags. Best of all, it got me in and out of that dark, scary box very quickly.
We talked some more, and she was adamant to know what gave a priest the right to think that he could just wipe away my sins. I had to explain that the Catholic Church, The Pope, and God gave him that power. Then I told her that it was all really a big joke. If the church was willing to wipe my slate clean every time I went into the confessional, what was to stop me from committing more sins, or really becoming a full fledged Sinaholic?
Needless to say, I haven’t gone to confession in ages. Were I to go now, I’m not sure I would tell the priest a tale any different from the one I told as a fourth grader. At least I wouldn’t really come clean unless I had my lawyer there with me. The movies and television have taught me that much!
So what about you, Modern Philosophers? Have you got any thoughts on going to confession? Has watching Mad Men brought up any questions about the Catholic faith that you’ve been just dying to ask a stranger in a toga? If so, I’m here for you…
In honor of The Girl Who Warms My Catholic Heart, I thought I’d post this video. I know the Catholic and Jewish roles are reversed in the song, but I do love to serenade her with this one whenever it comes on the radio. Mind you, she never lets me get too far into the song without snapping off the radio, but I must confess, it’s the thought that counts…