9 Feb


Louise Annarino

February 8, 2010


In the 8th grade, I experienced the Sacrament of Confirmation at my parish church along with the other 8th. graders at St. Francis De Sales Catholic School. Preparing for the big day was so exciting; we would be confirmed by the Bishop.


That night I dressed in a fancy dress and wore the gold crucifix given me by my parents. My cousin Dolores who was my sponsor processed into church by my side. Mom had pinned my first gardenia corsage on the dress near my left shoulder, just like a grown woman would wear it. I was ready to affirm my faith. I had chosen the name Bernadette,asking St. Bernadette Soubirous to guide my life.


When the Bishop began  questioning us on matters of faith I was the first to raise my hand. I yearned for the grace of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity of God, to descend upon me. Suddenly, it was time to approach the altar rail and kneel. As a female in 1962, this was the closest I was permitted to approach the altar. My knees and shoulders shook as I awaited the bishop’s approach. Since I was so short, I was the first to be confirmed.


The Bishop annointed my forehead with chrism, blessed balsam oil; and, continued with the “laying on of hands”. Next, he slapped my cheek, the sound echoing sharply off the back walls of the church. I heard a loud gasp among the on-lookers. The Bishop looked horrified, as did the other confirmees awaiting their turn.


I winced from the pain. We had been told to expect a small slap as a symbol of our willingness to defend, and suffer for, our faith. But, I didn’t expect my head to snap to the side from the impact. Nor did the poor bishop. His strength surprised him. He was quite gentle with those who followed. His handprint was still visible on my cheek at the celebration party, hours afterwards.


The effect of this sacrament is intended to give the courage and strength to deal with spiritual conflict as adults. It did so for me. When I took that slap on the face in confirmation, I was ready for any spiritual conflict life threw my way. I did not expect it would be my own church which would continually slap me in the face. Just as I did not see the pain coming from the bishop’s slap, I did not see it coming from my church.


I was aware that my church, and most others, have caused spiritual conflict for centuries. We learned about the Inquisition in grade school religion classes. We discussed the racism and sexism within the church in high school religion classes. And, while we learned of the church’s shortcomings, we also learned the social justice teachings of the church. We watched our priest and nuns march for civil rights, oppose unjust wars, and fight for those on death row. We learned the people of the church, including its clergy, are human. We had faith good would triumph over evil.


The horror of sexual abuse and rape of our boys and girls by priests wounded us immeasurably; but, the cover-up nearly destroyed us. For many of us it was the last straw; not, for our faith’s survival, but for our willingness to accept the leadership of the church hierarchy, a hierarchy which believed it was exempt from state law and common humanity.


The church has become increasingly political, ignoring the separation of church and state unless it benefits financially from the separation. Like all organizations, its first priority is the survival of the institution, at any cost. “At any cost” is the key.


The church now opposes full implementation of The Affordable Health Care Law. If it were based on its moral teachings, this position is sound. I believe it is a political, not a moral position. Consider the following from an on-line statement by James Salt, Catholics United:


  • No one is being forced to use contraception against their will.  The new rules simply require that employees have access to these services. Individuals who are opposed to the use of contraception do not have to make use of the coverage.
  • Churches are exempt from these rules.  The new rules require that institutions that employ and serve non-Catholics, such as hospitals and universities, are required to include contraception coverage in their health insurance plans.  No Catholic church or diocesan office will be affected.
  • There will be fewer abortions because of this decision.  Regardless of your beliefs about contraception, everyone should recognize that greater access to prevention services will result in fewer unplanned pregnancies.  Fewer unplanned pregnancies will result in fewer abortions.  And despite many false claims to the contrary, the contraception covered by this rule does not include abortifacients, like RU-486, that induce abortion.


Additionally, clergy and politicians are wrongfully, and knowingly, alleging that the insurance coverage required for all women would include abortifacients and abortion services. It does not do so. They are also ignoring the fact that President Obama and Kathleen Sibelius allowed a one year delay for the church in order to open discussions about how to implement the requirement without causing a crisis of conscience.

Why does the church lie to its members? Why does it allow and promote political attacks based on lies? Why does it escalate lies, and obfuscate truth? Is it trying to save itself, at any cost?

Why such an attack on women? Does the church oppose insurance coverage for penectomies, Viagra, STDS? Why is it only women’s health which is under attack? This has NOTHING to do with the church’s anti-abortion teaching. The required insurance coverage only covers contraception. Contraception is that which prevents the conception;not birth. 98% of Catholic women use birth control. Why is the church so afraid of contraception? The church teaches that the only purpose of copulation is conception. No sex allowed unless a woman agrees to possible pregnancy. Seriously? Does any thinking adult believe this reflects a moral high-ground ? The only conclusion I can reach is that misogyny led to such a stance. Keep them barefoot and pregnant.  Okay, now I am ranting. I admit it. Perhaps all that grace from confirmation has made me a female warrior, a woman willing to engage in spiritual conflict, even with my own church. Maybe, I have had one too many slaps.


One Response to “A SLAP IN THE FACE”

  1. davegirves February 9, 2012 at 4:57 am #

    This is excellent. I will forward it to my Catholic friend who has been voicing the same concerns . . . though not so eloquently. He has only missed one Sunday attending church in the past 52 years and now talks about walking away. Of course I know he won’t. I will also forward it to many other friends. Thank you.

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