Donna Carbone

Donna Carbone
South Florida, USA
April 21
Writers Bloc
Married for thirty six years and the mother of the two grown children, I began writing at the age of ten. My first success was winning a poetry contest in grammar school. From that moment forward, I realized that the written word was as vital to my survival as food and air. I am presently working on two books, one of which I hope to finish before I die. A number of my poems have graced A Long Story Short, and I have been published in the Lucidity Journal. Each day inspires me...what I see, hear and experience.... if it stays in my mind, I write about it. __________________________________________ "To believe in something not yet proved and to underwrite it with our lives: It is the only way we can leave the future open." (Lillian Smith)


APRIL 27, 2011 1:09PM

Once a Catholic - Always a Catholic

Rate: 15 Flag

It is impossible for me, the daughter of a diehard Catholic father, to deny that twelve years of parochial education have not had an effect on me. If my math is correct, by the time I graduated high school I had attended 624 Sunday masses and heard an equal number of “burn in hell” sermons that were as close to mind control as one can get without being lobotomized. Add to that figure monthly First Friday services, novenas, benedictions, High Holy Day masses, confessions and the scowl of disapproval on the face of every Franciscan nun who ever wielded a ruler and, well, the damage to my psyche was pretty severe.

By the time I neared 30 years of age, my ability to absorb any more guilt had reached the saturation point. As with all soft, porous substances, the more guilt thrust upon my conscience, the more questions began to leak from my brain… and my mouth. “Something isn’t right,” I would tell anyone who would listen. Fear? Punishment? Eternal damnation? How does that fit in with the picture of a God who loves his children? How could a loving God allow so much cruelty and sadness in this world? The answer I got was the same I had been hearing for decades – God works in mysterious ways. Well, the real mystery to me is why anyone would buy into that nonsense.

In the mid 1980s, my husband and I were still attached to our faith. We enrolled our children in a parochial school and became members of the PTO. Being a parent brings out all the old haunting fears. I pushed my doubts to the back of my mind and buried them deep... but not for long. Five months into the school year, a few of the pre-teens in our church came forward to say that the pastor was “encouraging” them to show their gratitude for his generosity with sexual favors. By encouraging, I mean threatening them. Oh, not in any way tangible, but the message he broadcast to those boys was very real.  They were scared.

As secretary of the Parent/Teacher Organization, I made a formal complaint to the monsignor in charge of the Archdiocese of Newark, and this was the response: “Mrs. Carbone, not only must you catch him in the act but you must get me a picture as well. If I was to transfer every priest who was a homosexual or pedophile, I wouldn’t have enough men to go around.”

My husband’s and my reaction was to remove our children from Catholic school and place them in the public education system. We should have done more, but we were naïve. The other result of that incident was that the questions I had silenced began to roar with a vengeance. Soon thereafter, I traded in my unconditional acceptance of contradictory teachings for reason and logic. Although I cast aside my former belief in a mystical supreme being, I do not consider myself an atheist.

For starters, I hate labels. They are never accurate. There are as many qualifiers as there are shades of grey and the color spectrum is infinite. I believe in god – I just believe that WE are god and, unfortunately, Satan as well. You will notice that I did not capitalize god but did give Satan that honorific. Why? Because mankind will never be “that good” but, sadly, we have become experts at hurting one another.

The elements of good and evil are within each of us. When the religious minded talk about free will, they are merely stating the obvious. We all have a choice and how and what we choose determines on which side of the aisle we will stand -- the politics of faith so to speak.

Now there is the announcement that Pope Benedict wants to canonize Pope John Paul II. To me, saints are the heroes of an ancient work of fiction – the bible. They inspire us to be more than we can be, but like Superman, they don’t really exist and nowhere less so than in the Catholic Church. Remember, a pope doesn’t just materialize on the throne. He comes up through the ranks, and unless he is deaf, dumb and blind, he knows full well what is happening among the clergy. Pretending that evil does not exist is not saintly. It is criminal.

The definition of saint is someone acknowledged as holy or virtuous. I know plenty of people who would fit that description and not one of them ever turned their back on crime. Pedophilia is one of the most heinous acts of abuse. Every pope, every cardinal, every monsignor, every bishop, every priest, everyone in the religious community who knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it is as guilty as those who actually perpetrated the act upon the innocent. And they all knew! Every single one of them – past, present and, unless some changes are made soon, future. Sainthood! Please!

So referring back to the title of this article, “Once a Catholic – Always a Catholic” seems to fit me like made-to-order skin. My mindset is that of someone who loves pizza but hates anchovies. If a pie should arrive on the dinner table covered in the salty fish, I pick them off in order to enjoy the tasty dish below. I’ve done the same thing with my Catholic education -- picked off the anchovies and kept the tomatoes and cheese.

An adherence to morals and ethics, which govern all the decisions I make, are the lessons I learned at the painful end of a wooden yardstick. Honesty and charity, a concern for my fellowman and a desire to leave this world just a little better than when I arrived keep me centered.

Of course, since I believe I will one day return to this earth, you could label me a hypocrite – a label that just might be accurate. There is a method to my madness. I really don’t want to come back to the same world I will be leaving. At least, not unless it is greatly improved, and the only way I can see that happening is if we all start practicing what is preached from millions of pulpits around the world.

Be kind to one another! Kindness, like a virus, is contagious, and I can’t think of a better disease to pass around. Now if only we could get it to reach epidemic proportions. Oh, and remember the children. Please don’t ever turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to their cries. There are no acceptable excuses. And no saints!

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
This is a brave, reasoned piece.
The most harrowing description of hell, I think, is in the center of James Joyce's A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN. I re-read it just this month after many years away from Joyce. It's as brilliant a description as has ever been written.
hmmmm ... I dunno about the "had to know" part.

Supposedly, drugs were all around me in high school in the late 70s, yet I never saw them. I was an athlete and model student who didn't seek-out the darker elements. Perhaps that is how some rise through the ranks of the priesthood without direct exposure/knowledge of pedophilia.

I dunno, as I abandoned the Catholic Church a long time ago when they hired marketing/P.R. firms that rivaled Madison Avenue with their slick campaigns. Still, I'm not about the condemn an entire religion with the hypothesis that every priest knows and tacitly approves/accepts abuse of children.
I was raised the same way, and don't think it's a accident the church became the house of shame and hypocrasy. While we gave our daughter an introduction to the church during her childhood so she'd know the faith or our ancestors, when it came time to "choose" she left and so did we.

The "paradigm" simply no longer works for the vast numbers of those no longer so afraid and needing guidance than they will submit to so authoritarian a structure. The church may doing great in third world countries where the educational level is so low, and the road to "consciousness" so tenuous, but for the developed world it just don't cut the mustard no more.

However, that said, I will defend the right of those who still do believe, the same as I will that of those in other faiths, and I am very suspicious of those in other faiths who condemn Catholicism because it has reached the end of a long road.

Institutionalized religion may be dead, but not "spirituality" and tolerance is a spiritual value.
I have been a fallen catholic for many years, but I still enjoy the theater and rituals of the Mass.
This is an excellent essay, Donna. I believe in much of the same as you do, and I was born into Islam. Just goes to prove to me that truth is the same in every faith - we just need to be able to seek and find it. I'd love to share a pizza one day with you - no anchovies either.
Jonathan: I firmly believe that heaven and hell are the same place and it is right here on earth. Sometimes we are in one. Sometimes we are in the other. But no one gets out of this plane of existence without having tasted both the bitter and the sweet.

Joisey: It would be difficult to convince me that there is anyone connected with the Church who did not at least suspect what was going on. Rumors are hold to contain -- especially rumors about sex.

Ben: No one should be criticized for their beliefs or lack of them. Tolerance is in short supply these day. Perhaps, in time, we will learn its value once again.

Sarah: I've always loved the smell of incense.

Fusun: Let's order the largest pizza on the menu so we have lots of time to talk.
Interesting post. As a former Catholic, I cannot imagine myself a member of the church any longer. I do understand however, people who cannot leave it behind or return to it at stages of their lives. It is a part of all of us who were once a part. For some, being a part is important, for others, they would wish to cut it out. I understand that too.
Dualism is an artifact of the authority and control mechanisms of every religion through Antiquity on up- with intense magnification on the Reformation, its causes, and its after effects.

All of it is myth.

The oldest complete "human" ancestor we have is in perfect condition, other than his jaw- it was very severely fractured, yet, the rest of his group fed him and kept him alive for a long, long time, a long, long time ago.

Anthropology and better History practices are shining light on Catholicism from its beginnings, more and more every day. Once we know all the facts still available, and the quest for power and resultant authority behind those actions, we can then more easily acknowledge the good side of the Church- but, again, that is not dualism, dualism doesn't exist, that is simply historic reality.
I read this and found myself in agreement with much you say. I don't think one needs to be a Catholic to understand religion can mask much evil just as it can hold forth some real good. It is the blind acceptance I find so unbelievable.
Sheila: I, too, will never again be a member of any organized religion. They are all cults in one form or another. Legalized and, for the most part, financially lucrative, but cults nonetheless.

Gary: I want nothing to do with organized religion, but I do wish all those people who pound their chests in reverence at Sunday Mass would stop stabbing their fellowman in the back on Monday morning.

Buffy: Blind acceptance is the difference between being a leader or a follower. So many sheep to the slaughter!
Just to clarify, what are you proposin' that people do with "rumors"?

Should Mother Teresa have focused all of her energies on insisting that the Catholic Church investigate/weed-out pedophile priests or was she otherwise busy with other much-needed activities -- like trying to feed/educate entire villages?

I still contend that it's possible that priests and others connected with a church/synagogue/mosque can go about their business, rise through the ranks, and provide worthwhile work and never personally witness pedophilia.

So then the question becomes, do they do with rumors. I'd agree that if it's happening on a local level, then they should insert themselves into the situation. However, how can you hold someone responsible for not following-up on "rumors" in another parish, state, or country?

Should I hold you responsible if an OSer were rumored to be a pedophile and you did nothing about it? That's my point.

Again, I'm not a pro-religion advocate -- I just don't agree with the rationale in your position.
I'm another product of 12 years of Catholic education (13 if you count kindergarten) and I swore I would NEVER send my child to Catholic school. Never say never - for a number of reasons, that did happen. Grade school was ok, but Jr. High was the absolute WORST thing we could have allowed. My daughter, like myself is now what I would call spiritual - but definitely not Catholic. On the other hand, I do believe in saints - individuals who did live righteous lives, and I hope, look after us here on earth. At least it makes me feel better to believe that. R
As a fellow 'Catholic in recovery ' (I can't use the phrase "Once a Catholic, always a Catholic" since I formally defected some years ago), I am rating this with complete empathy. I certainly recognize everyone's right to worship or believe as they see fit. But I have to admit I'm a bit leery of Catholics who 'cherry-pick' elements of their faith. There shouldn't be any need to pick anchovies off your pizza if the pizzamaker did his job right!

The funny thing about anything sex related is that it doesn't whisper in the dark, it drags its fingernails across the blackboard and makes you cringe. In a closed society such as the priesthood, it would be impossible for a clergy member not to "hear" rumors especially when they are shouted next to your ears. I have a number of friends who are now or were priests. They are the first to admit that, much like doctors who know that another medical "professional" might not be up to snuff, most if not all knew what was going on. Nobody in a position to stop it ever tried.

As for Mother Therese, damn straight if she knew or suspected, she should have brought it to the attention of the media or whoever would make a big enough fuss to stop it. You don't have to "personally witness" the act to be proactive. And yes, if I heard that an OSer might be a pedophile, I would put myself out on a limb to find out the truth. One child -- just one child -- is too many to sacrifice because "it might not be so."
blue: The people I have met who I would consider saints think of themselves as normal people. They would be embarrassed to be singled out as special because they believe that all people have an obligation to care for one another. If only we all felt the same way.

Kyle: Big smooches coming your way. I wish we had had more time to spend together.

culchiewoman: The only elements of the Catholic faith that I embrace are those that have nothing to do with religion and everything to do with just living a good life. I don't fault anyone for believe in a metaphysical God. It just isn't for me anymore.
All I have been able to read leads me to this conclusion, churches rose when there became a need to manage an uneducated and mostly illiterate world. By preying on fear and superstition, these organisations became the rulers and masters of the world. To follow blindly (which every one of them requires as a condition of salvation) is to give up the control of your life and a large amount of your earthly treasure. I no longer have a belief in that god. I know that all exists within each individual and that heaven and hell are only conditions of life. Never ignore evil just because of some groups opinion that somehow a mortal person can be absolved of that evil by dint of religious duties or even canonization.