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A reader writes … By Teresa D. Wheatly

March 26, 2001

I've had about enough of the negative responses to Dominic Signorotti's letter in this paper a few weeks ago.

Perhaps I'm responding because I had a Catholic school education until 10th grade (the school was in serious financial need and possibly closing, so I left in my junior year instead of having to leave in my senior year) or perhaps because I have a brother named Dominic or perhaps because I know Dominic Signorotti enough to say "hi" and think well of him.

It has been decades since I was in Saint Francis DeSales High School in upstate New York, having gone to Saint Stephen's Grammar School for kindergarten through eighth grade. I do not remember the particulars of Mr. Signorotti's letter nor am I going to argue point by point the many responses to his letter, but I can say I still am in "recovery" from the hypocrisy I felt I experienced from my "religious" upbringing.

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Despite my years of Catholic education I cannot quote anything from the Bible and do not put much "faith" in anyone who interprets the Bible. A quoted passage could have as many interpretations as readers and it is foolish to think people know what someone had in his mind all those years ago.

Those who know me know I am quick to give my opinion and stand up for the little guy. I work hard and look to contribute to my community and do not tolerate inconsistencies nor those who do not work hard nor take responsibility for their actions. I am honest and know I have lots to work on to improve myself. I have written a few columns in this paper over the last few years stating my opinion about the importance of parenting children.

My "recovery" was not from any trauma at home as I feel my parents are among the best people I have ever met — good hard-working Italian Catholics, first-generation, born in America with their parents coming from Italy in the early 1900s. My parents are exceptional people, both churchgoing, and sacrificed much to have me and all my siblings (six including me) go to private school on a teacher's salary, with my mother at home.

The "trauma" was the inconsistencies I still struggle with that I observed and experienced from my years at Catholic school and at weekly church services. I remember classmates who seemed so cruel toward each other and I swore I'd never name a child Daniel, as there was one classmate who would defy authority and relentlessly pick on others, but he seemed to never be challenged by the teachers.

I had a young priest for religion class in ninth or 10th grade who had a terrible stuttering problem. The boys in my class were so unkind to him I wanted to scream at them but the priest took it day after day. I remember sitting with a friend one day and asking God to not let them pick on the priest the next day. If he, God, was truly up in heaven, he would not allow that torture to continue. The next day was actually a decent day in the religion class but it only lasted one day.

I had many nuns who would seem to pick on the sweetest kids in the class, bringing them to tears, probably because no one had ever spoken strongly to them at home. The absolutely worst moment was the time the church printed a flier for the congregation to take home listing the exact dollar and cents amount each parishioner had donated to the church that year. I was horrified for my dear friend, whose dad was on disability and whose wife had left him with five kids, because the small amount they had donated was there in black and white.

I certainly remember Sister Magdalena and remember one special time talking to Father Nolan after having a tough time in the confessional as a young child. The rest of my memories are of confusion and being unable to relate the church to my life and my many questions. There were good morals and ethics but there seemed such a huge divide between what was taught and how to incorporate it into my daily life.

I believe my children need to feel and think there is a higher authority than myself or my husband for guidance in life issues, but it is certainly not the Catholic Church. I also know I had a great respect for authority and lived in fear of having even to walk by Sister Judith or Sister Catherine's offices, the principals of the schools. I know when many of my fellow classmates transferred to the public school at the same time as myself, we were all among the top in our class compared to the public school students.

So if after more than 20 years of feeling confused by the Catholic Church teaching, I can certainly relate to Mr. Signorotti's comments and support his passion and courage to ask for more and ask "why?" in relation to the church sermon and any other religious inconsistencies he thinks exist.

Perhaps if I had asked more questions when I was younger I would be further along in my direction for some type of moral and ethical guidelines for my young family.

I applaud you, Dominic Signorotti, and think you will do well in this world.

TERESA D. WHEATLY is an El Centro resident.

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