by Bruin Fisher

“Bless me father, for I have sinned. It has been over three years since my last confession.”

In the gloom of the confessional box the young speaker could just make out the outline of the priest in the other cubicle, through the latticework grille which separated them. The priest seemed to be fidgeting, perhaps making himself comfortable before dealing with the penitent. At last he spoke.

“Three years? And why, my son, have you gone so long without unburdening your conscience before your God?”

“I've been away, at college.”

“I see. Did you not attend church during your years away? Not even during vacation?”

“No, father.”

“Then I am pleased to welcome you back into the arms of mother church. What do you have to confess today?”

If the priest could have seen the face of the young man, he might have been surprised to see the frown on it, and the anger smouldering in the brown eyes. Nothing of this was evident in the words that came, however.

“It's been a long time. Let me think... there was the time I drove home after a party, although I'd been drinking. Does that count?”

“Were you drunk?”

“I was pretty buzzed.”

“Drunkenness is a sin in the Bible. And you should know that you could have killed yourself or someone else by driving after drinking.”

“I know, father. And I repent of my sin.”

“Anything else?”

“Um... I was going out with a girl, my girlfriend, and when I ended it I didn't have the balls, sorry, the guts, to tell her to her face. I wrote her an e-mail. I think I was pretty shitty to her.”

“Remember where you are. Mind your language in church.” The anger in the priest's voice was unmistakable, although he spoke as quietly as before.

“Sorry father.”

“You regret it now?”

“Splitting with her? No, but I regret the way I did it.”

“Is there anything else?”

“No... I don't think so.”

The priest shifted in his seat again, watched through the grille by the young man, whose broad shoulders twisted awkwardly so that he could peer through. The priest was checking his watch.

“Well, what you have told me amounts to venial sin, not mortal sin. You must say five Hail Marys at the altar before you leave the church and your sins will be forgiven you. Now, are you sure there's nothing else you want to tell me about, in over three years?”

The young man hesitated, took a deep breath. When he spoke his words came out slowly, as though he was reluctant to say them.

“There was this one thing, father. Can I ask you, if someone touched someone else's privates, is that a sin?”

“I think you know the answer to that, son. Sexual contact outside of the marriage sacrament is condemned by the church. Are you telling me that this is something you have done? Was the girl willing?”

“Er, does it make any difference if it was a boy, not a girl?”

Flustered, the priest garbled his reply:

“Oh, dear, dear me, you said you had a girlfriend. I didn't expect you to... well, to answer your question, homosexual behaviour is a mortal sin. Anyone indulging in such perverted sin is dead in God's eyes. What are you trying to tell me, son?”

“First, can I ask if it matters how many times it happened?”

“Oh, dear oh dear oh dear! This is getting worse and worse. It happened more than once?”

“Oh, yes, father. Over and over again, for three years.”

If the priest had been thinking straight, he might have been surprised at the tone of the young man's voice – steely, determined, resentful, not at all the penitent sinner. But the priest was not thinking straight.

“Three years? Oh Jesus Mary and Joseph! Are you telling me that this college you went to corrupted you and took you away from your pure faith and now you return in the hope of being accepted back into the church?”

“I've got one more question to ask you. Does it make any difference if the other person was willing?” the steel in the voice this time was unmistakable. The priest appeared taken aback, and it was a moment before he could reply.

“I... I don't know what to say to you. The confessional is anonymous, of course, but you come from here, I probably know your mother and father! And I don't like the idea of a member of my congregation bringing big-city ways with all their filth and corruption right into my church! This is terrible, terrible!”

“Well, does it?”

“Does it what?”

“Does it make a difference if the other person is willing?”

“Well I should bloody well hope he was willing – otherwise it would be assault! Of course it makes a difference, and if that isn't clear and obvious to you, then it's clear and obvious to me that you're beyond redemption! Get out of my church, young man, and please don't come back!”

The priest was now thoroughly upset and his clerical tone had completely deserted him. The young man, on the other hand, remained calm and determined.

“I'll go when I'm good and ready. I haven't finished yet.”

“Uh.. oh my...” the priest squeaked.

“So let me see if I've got this right – if a man touches a boy's privates, although the boy doesn't want him to, and does it every week for nearly three years, he's beyond redemption and should not be in church?”

“Yes, yes. Did you say a boy? Under age? Are you telling me you're a paedophile? I don't know how much more of this I can take...”

Finally the calm in the young man's voice was gone and he drove his words like weapons at the other man.

“No, father. No. I'm not telling you I'm a paedophile. I'm telling you that you are. I'm Jason, father. Jason Anderson, the one you called your special altar boy, and every week you abused me. Don't tell me you can't remember? Huh? Or was I just one of so many? Eh?”

“Oh, my God... Oh, my... what do you want from me? What are you going to do? I have money, I...”

The priest's words dissolved into sobbing.

“I don't want your money.”

“Forgive me? I was weak, you were so beautiful, I never did you any real harm, did I? I never meant to, I loved you...”

Bruin Fisher March 2013

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