True Story from my Childhood

A memory: During my first (and only) confession in Catholic church, when I was five or six years old, I had nothing to confess. I felt terrible anxiety over this, so I lied to the priest by claiming I had committed a sin I hadn’t in fact committed. The sin I claimed to have committed was that I had told a lie.

An obvious punchline to this story would be that it is itself made up, but it actually happened. The aftermath was equally absurd. My penance (or whatever it was called) was to say 10 Hail Marys. Somehow, however, I had never managed to learn the Hail Mary prayer past “Hail Mary, mother of grace,” so I cheated and said ten Our Fathers instead. This was probably a sin.

The most mind-bending quality of this experience was that the default setting was that every kid in Cathechism class was guilty of some sin—was REQUIRED to be guilty of some sin—they could confess to, with the implication that innocence of sin was itself a wrongdoing. You weren’t supposed to sin, but you needed to in order to complete the required ceremony.

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