Before we got married, The Husband and I talked about whether we should raise our children Catholic, his mother’s religion. I said “his mother’s religion” because like countless Catholics, he is twice-a-year Catholic. He gives up something for Lent (that usually make me exclaim, “Jesus died for you sin and you are giving up THAT for him?”), refrains from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, goes to the Easter Mass and the Christmas Eve Mass.

A convenient way to be a Christian if you ask me. To me, an outsider who is pretty mush ignorant of the whole Catholic “thing”, it seems that once you’ve been confirmed, you are IN. It’s like one of those lifelong 1 Million Mile frequent flyer status. You are set for premier status for life even if you stop flying altogether.

I was young and naive and more importantly, a newcomer to the West. I thought religion is all about doing good, fearing cosmic retributions, building moral characters, helping out each other in the community, believing in the Golden Rule and “what goes around comes around”, and more importantly, being self-reflective and building that relationship with the cosmic force up there whatever you personally call it. How can religion be bad?

Alone in the U.S., deprived of a close-knit society that really believes in “It takes a village”, I thought, “THIS [The Catholic upbringing] could replace the built-in value systems in a Chinese society so that my children will not grow up in a moral vacuum.”

Like I said, I was naive and ignorant. I was not aware of the political implications associated with being a Catholic, or in general a Christian, in the United States in the 20th and 21st century. In fact, I did not know that in the U.S., despite the claim of separation between church and state, many Christian denominations behave as if they were political parties, to say the very least.

Dante apparently did not have to deal with marriage equality. Milton was not asked to spout his opinions on women’s right to choose.

If you have followed this blog for a while, you probably have heard me talking about my inner struggle of negotiating between sending my kids to the religious school every week and disagreeing with almost everything the Catholic church decided to take a stand for/against in recent years. It becomes more and more difficult as my children become older and the Church shares more of its doctrines with them in a more straightforward way.

Today a bomb was dropped.

Like all Catholic 8th graders in this country, my son is going through the Confirmation process. It is something that he tolerates and may even look forward to since after this, there will be no more religious class! There was a mandatory half-day “retreat” this afternoon where they gathered all the 8th grade class into one big giant room to prepare them for the big decision, the big day.

On our way home, I asked casually, “So how was it? What did you learn today?”

“We had some interesting discussions. He told us, ‘No judgement. We will not tell your parents what you say. But, imagine if you are a parent, and your 15-year-old daughter comes home and tells you that she’s pregnant, what will you do? Tell her to get an abortion? To give birth to the baby? Raise the baby or give the baby up for adoption?”

I gritted my teeth.

“… We learned that there are four ways for abortion….”

It’s a miracle the car behind me did not crash into us when I braked abruptly. I had to restrain myself from saying anything and to wait for him to share more.

“It was absolutely horrible. We were eating and he was telling us about how abortion is done. Did you know that they used to use saline…”

“… Forceps… Forced babies to come out…. Pulled the baby out by the feet… Dead babies… … …”

I was beyond upset. So instead of reaffirming these young people of their faith, they penned them into a room, told them the most extreme, horrifying in any standard, cases from the past,  and force-fed them anti-abortion propaganda. If these were the first things, and only things I’ve heard on the subject of abortion, I’d probably be out there holding protest signs against Planned Parenthood too.

Why weren’t the parents consulted first? These kids were only 13 year old. How many of you want your children to be shown details of abortion procedures at the age of 13?

I tread lightly as I did not want to startle the deer, to scare him away when all I wanted was for him to come home, by his own will, with me.

“I just want to make sure that you understand the facts…” I rattled off some pointers.

Did they explain that only a very small % of abortions are late-term? No. Did they explain that in the current legislature, many states outlaw late-term abortions except for the safety of the mother? [Gross generalization but it would have to do at the moment]. No. Did they mention that it is still up for debate whether an embryo counts as a person? No.

I was losing him: these facts were not as powerful as the sensational, graphical, description he just heard.

He started defending the young, hip, traveling priest. “Why are you so judgmental? Now you are just judging these people. Just because they have a different view does not mean you are right and they are wrong.”

I had to bite my tongue again, knowing that “Not everything is relative. I bet Hitler’s family thought he was a great guy” was not a productive thing to say at that moment.


I was so angry. I imagined red hot flames coming out of my eyes and nostrils. I am still shaking as a matter of fact. On the verge of tears finally I said, “Ok, hear me out. If those people think that they can spoonfeed MY CHILDREN a bunch of propaganda, I should be able to present MY perspective… I will say this first: If you are a man, you have no right dictate what a woman is or is not allowed to do with her body.”

The whole way I was wishing that I had thought about this more before we took the pre-Canon class, before we even got married. I should have said No way, Jose. This is not what I signed up for. To have someone come in and teach my children values that are completely opposite of mine and not being allowed to say anything about it, or the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, just so he could get that piece of paper. Confirmed.

This is NOT the Golden Rule I expected a religion to help instill in my children.


“I am very upset as you can probably tell.” I told my son the truth. “This was not what I signed up for. They are supposed to teach you morals and telling right from wrong. Not this propaganda stuff.”

“Mom! I am not an idiot! I don’t just believe everything the guy said.” He said from the backseat, “I can think for myself, ok? You are treating me like some kind of brainless robot that simply follows orders.”

I guess I’ve never thought that one day I’d come to be grateful for his being a pain in the ass, to appreciate his natural tendency to disobey, to question authority.




Alexandra March 11, 2012 at 11:00 am

I would be seething too.

So sneaky, so wrong.

And I applaud you, and your success, at raising a conscientious , and not a robot minded child.

Well done, Justine.

I’m be crazy with rage, too….
Alexandra´s last blog post…Oh, Adele,

Absence Alternatives March 11, 2012 at 12:35 pm

I am still upset about it. I am actually waiting for after confirmation to have a talk with the director. Yes, I am biding my time…

Wildology February 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Yeah–they made us watch a video of it. Pretty traumatic.

Didn’t stop me from choosing to end a pregnancy, as hard as that decision was.

Of course, I am a happy atheist now, too;)
Wildology´s last blog post…30 weeks Pregnant and tired.

Absence Alternatives February 28, 2012 at 12:37 am


It’s like when we were in grade school, we were bused to this “museum” to look at pictures of unspeakable atrocity committed by Japanese soldiers during the Rape (often literally) of Nanking. You could not not look at these pictures because you were asked to write a report afterwards. WTF srly? I was forever traumatized.

tricia February 19, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Oh my goodness. I would think parents would be consulted before any kind of discussion like that. I have a lot of friends with their kids in a religious private school and most of them are eager to keep them there until they get old enough to be indoctrinated. I would think even anti-abortion mom and dads would want to know those graphic images were being passed to their kids. I”m glad your son isn’t a robot. 🙂
tricia´s last blog post…A Conversation About Rainbows- DailyBuzz Moms 9×9

Absence Alternatives February 20, 2012 at 7:21 pm

I am glad he’s infuriatingly argumentative! LOL

Alex@LateEnough February 16, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I’m not Catholic, but I distinctly remember the day after my friends went to confirmation class and they passed around the photos of fetuses and discussed abortion. They were wide-eyed. But I’m not sure it made a difference as they grew older. As long as you discuss your opinions as well, I do think he’ll realize for himself. Although this is also why we have begun to homeschool our kids in religion rather than attend a church. I don’t want to have to unteach my kids all the time.
Alex@LateEnough´s last blog post…Writers Teach, Why Can’t Bloggers?

Absence Alternatives February 17, 2012 at 11:54 pm

We did have more conversation around this. Mainly he wanted to know where I stand. Thank you all for your moral support. It means a lot to me.

BigLittleWolf February 15, 2012 at 12:01 pm

All I can say is pretty horrifying all round. One of the reasons that despite two religious backgrounds (my ex, Catholic), there was never any question that dogma would not be part of the upbringing of my sons.

They are extraordinarily impressionable, and I agree that this is propaganda. But then, propaganda is all around us – some of it in the guise of religion, and much of it, more difficult to spot and eradicate.
BigLittleWolf´s last blog post…Distinguished Achievements

V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios February 14, 2012 at 4:20 pm

And this is why people become twice a year Catholics. It’s all they can take.
V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios´s last blog post…Valentine’s Day

pattypunker February 14, 2012 at 3:17 pm

deplorable! wouldn’t it be nice if catholicism taught love and acceptance, and not hate and bigotry. if only they treated women as equals when it comes to their right to choose and to work in positions of power.

maybe the next class should be taught by you and you can corral the kids and force them to hear all of the heinous details surrounding the sodomy of children. be sure to emphasize their 11th commandment of “turn a blind eye.”

pattypunker´s last blog post…double whoa!

dufmanno February 15, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Also, let’s bring back the nuns!
Nothing makes a roomful of dangerous hatemongers look like infantile amateurs quicker than one screaming Penguin with a paddle and a tissue tucked in her sleeve.
Duck!! She’s gonna throw the wastebasket!!
dufmanno´s last blog post…Super Smart, Tastes Good

Absence Alternatives February 17, 2012 at 11:56 pm

Hey, you are going to appreciate this: the person that talked to them apparently works as a clown and when he is not a clown, he is a traveling priest. Is this for real??!!

dufmanno February 18, 2012 at 11:48 pm

This actually makes perfect sense to me. Only freaky weirdos like to run around shoving their belief systems and their clown shenanigans down the throats of innocents.
Jesus is totally awesome and come over here while me and nineteen of my buddies wedge ourselves in this clown car!
dufmanno´s last blog post…Super Smart, Tastes Good

Absence Alternatives February 19, 2012 at 9:17 pm

When I heard that, my first thought was: They let WHO talk to my kid??!! This thing was not vetted at all. It’s just ridiculous since our schools have to give us the bio of a speaker if that person is even going to be on premise… Ugh.

Alexandra March 11, 2012 at 11:01 am

Traveling clown priest??

A recipe for disaster.

Seriously, NO ONE ELSE sees the red flags here?

I hope you told your son to never go anywhere alone with this guy.
Alexandra´s last blog post…Oh, Adele,

Absence Alternatives March 11, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Yup. That’s my immediate thought. I cannot be the only parent that went WTF?!

Irene February 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I’m not a religious person, but all I know is that I would have been in the priest’s face SO fast it would make his collar spin!

It’s bad enough we have school teachers who push their insights on young kids.

You would think since it’s a “bible class” of some sort for being Confirmed, what could they possibly be talking about? Noah and his animals? What a kind and human thing he did by saving at least two of every species because God couldn’t do it so he did it for him? You know, be kind to others…..

Isn’t that what they usually talk about in those classes?

I must be naive also.

I’m with you….WTF?

It’s nice to hear that your son feels he will make his own opinions about all that. Thirteen is the new 18.
Irene´s last blog post…And So It Begins

Meg at the Members Lounge February 14, 2012 at 11:21 am

Wow, that priest sure stepped over the boundary! I remember when I was a kid, certain clergy members would rail against abortion and send petitions around the during Mass. I remember thinking, aren;t church and state supposed to be separate entities? My mother would quietly hand the clipboard off to the next person. She never said anything but I came to my own conclusions as I observed and listened to both religious and secular discussions. I suspect your wise son will do the same!
Meg at the Members Lounge´s last blog post…The Valentine Primer.

Mary Lee February 14, 2012 at 11:11 am

I am so sorry that you are facing this horrible dilemma with your sons. Can’t you take them to a Unitarian Church now and then? I know little about the Catholic Church, but I do have a friend who teaches these classes and there is no way she would say those things. Surely there is a less conservative Catholic Church you can switch to so that younger son will not have to experience this.

Don’t let either of them listen to Rick Santorum.
Mary Lee´s last blog post…♥y Har Har

Kathy February 13, 2012 at 8:02 am

Wow, this is one reason I’m glad not to have had kids. I don’t know how I would handle the religion issue!
Kathy´s last blog post…An Unlikely Valentine: A Heart, a Home, a Life Together

Jotter Girl February 13, 2012 at 6:50 am

Oh, wow. All I can say is that your son is being “educated” and will hopefully decide when he is beyond the being “raised” Catholic part, that religion is a choice and he can walk away from some of it or all of it. Either that, or he can pick and choose the parts he believe in like many people do or find a religion that is more in line with his own core beliefs.

When my boys were younger and we were going to a Christian church, I had a similar experience although it was on a much less gruesome level. The church school teacher told my boys that there was not such thing as Santa Claus two weeks before Christmas. Within a day, I had written a letter telling the church that I no longer wished to be a part of their congregation. Fortunately, they had more belief in their mother than the lady at church and would enjoy the belief that Santa existed for a few more years.

I was very uncomfortable with sending them into a class where I had no idea what was being taught to them….
Jotter Girl´s last blog post…Roux for You!

Life in the Boomer Lane February 13, 2012 at 6:39 am

I was raised in an observant, Jewish home. For years, I wrestled over enrolling my kids in religious school, for exactly the reason you have so powerfully described: the relentless, crushing dogma. My kids are adults now, free-thinking spirits in all matters.
Life in the Boomer Lane´s last blog post…My GPS Has A Different Accent Than Yours

Jack@TheJackB February 13, 2012 at 1:01 am

At times the world feels very strange and foreign to me even when I am walking through places I expect to or should know intimately.
Jack@TheJackB´s last blog post…What Do You Need Versus What You Want

Dufmanno February 12, 2012 at 10:23 pm

As a lifelong lapsed Catholic who played the cruel and puzzling “enjoy Catholic school” joke on her own kids I understand this post more than you will ever know.
My offspring have a healthy disrespect for Dogma and can smell bullshit a mile away so they smile & employ the video et taceo (I see but say nothing) approach for touchy subjects and then openly rebel for the lesser nonsense.
I smile and agree with administrators who are vomiting silliness and I flat out refuse any invite to “march for life”
I will say though, the uniforms are to die for!


Absence Alternatives February 12, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Thank you for this. I needed it. For many reasons I cannot do anything else more than bitch about it, and to live with (around) it. Knowing that you have done (are doing) this makes me feel saner. xxoo

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