II. Father Patrick Hears a Painful Confession
It was a Saturday at Saint Peters Roman Catholic Church in New Castle, Delaware. Father Francis Patrick O’Connor was hearing confessions that day. After given their penance of the usual five “Hail Mary’s” or three “Our Fathers,” the penitents would be receiving communion on Sunday during Mass.
The last parishioner for the day to give confession was A young girl named Sarah Simonson, although she did not like her given name at all. Sarah was 12 years old with a very pretty face, very short hair, tall and lanky for her age and not a very happy child. She was wearing the traditional purple and black plaid skirt and a white blouse that was her school uniform. Her mother made her wear it for confession. Sarah hated wearing skirts and girl things. She would rather wear Kakis with an oxford shirt and a tie like the boys wore.
Sarah entered the confessional, always a little scared, as if God were right there with her. She knelt, crossed herself, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. She began her admission of sins by the usual, “bless me father for I have sinned, it has been one week since my last confession.” Sarah felt like there was a heavenly score card in her name. She believed she was at the top level for frequency of confessions. Her mother had her go every week ever since her first communion in the second grade.
What came next was the confession Sarah had been rehearsing for a very long time. She started off by saying, “Father, I have kept a terrible secrete for a long time.” She began shaking a little and her voice began to choke. She was fighting back tears from fear of finally admitting what she considered her deepest and darkest sin. Father Patrick in a soothing voice encouraged her to go on. “Father, I think I am a boy and I don’t like being a girl. I think God made me the wrong way.” She continued, “I don’t like girl’s clothes and girl things, I just want to be a boy. I don’t even like my name Father.” There was a silence within the confessional that seemed to go on for eternity. Father Patrick finally began to speak. “Well child God did make you as you are and I’m sure he intended for you to be a girl because that’s how you were born. God does not make mistakes in his creation now, does he?” “No Father he doesn’t but I don’t feel like a girl. I never liked playing with dolls or anything that girls do. Why do I have to even dress like a girl?” The more Sarah spoke the more empowered she became. Beginning to choke even more, Sarah spoke louder saying, I only like to play with boys, I like girls like a boy would.”
Father Patrick became quite disturbed with Sarah. “Listen to me child, you are young and the devil is trying to take you away from God. Being attracted to someone of the same sex is a sin against God and Jesus. You must repent for that sin and be the girl you are.” With tears in her eyes, Sarah shouted, “but I don’t want to be a girl and I’m not a girl.” This proclamation was heard by her mother in the sanctuary. Child, you must deny this sin and repent if you want to go to heaven. God will forgive you if you turn away from this sin.” Sarah, with tears streaming down her face said, “I can’t repent, I’ve tried, but I know I am a boy and my real name is Steven, I hate being called Sarah. Before Father Patrick could say another word, Steven ran from the confessional vowing to himself that this was the last time he would give an honest confession. He had walked away from God.
Father Patrick came out from the confessional trying to stop Steven but could not. He saw Steven’s mother sitting in a pew with shock on her face. In her heart, she always knew that Steven was not like other girls, almost from birth she knew this but could not admit it to herself. Father Patrick went over to her. “Mrs. Simonson, I’m so sorry for this. Your child Sarah needs a lot of help and prayers. We don’t want to lose her to Satan.” Mrs. Simonson cried uncontrollably. “Father, she has been this way since being a toddler. I knew something was different about her and tried everything I could to make her a normal girl. Her father and I hoped that it was some sort of phase, but it only seems to get worse as she gets older. She is headstrong and determined and we just can’t fight this anymore. I think it is going to get worse now. We think Sarah may be Transgender.”
Father Patrick Retorted, “there is no such thing as Transgender! God made male and female and anything besides that is a sin. We need to find a way to help Sarah. I will check on whatever resources are available through the church. Maybe we can have a family meeting to explore ways to change Sarah back to normal.” “Father, whatever you can do will be appreciated but her father and I have tried everything we know how to do. If she is going to change, it has to be through an act of God.” On the way home, there was absolute silence between Steven and his mother. Their emotions and affect spoke louder than words. Both grieving and both desperate, but for opposing reasons.
Father Patrick was greatly disturbed after Stevens confession and their encounter. He was upset that the child ran away from him, but something deep inside and long forgotten was awakened in him. He finished up his Saturday preparation for Sunday Mass. He decided to use Mark 10:6 with references to, Genesis 1 and 2 in his Homily for tomorrows Mass. “However, from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife…” Mark 10:6:7. He locked up the Church and walked home to the church rectory.
All through his favorite dinner of meatloaf mash potatoes and corn on the cob, the bible verses he was to cite kept going through his mind. Awful memories from puberty to his ordination came back to him. His appetite was not the usual ravenous one he usually had at dinner time. Father Patrick decided to take a drive. He wasn’t sure where he was going but he was answering to a call from his long since foregone youth.
He found himself in the parking lot of his former Catholic High School, St. Marks Roman Catholic High School administrated by the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, between Newark and Wilmington Delaware.
He chose this school because it was co-ed. The other option was Salesianum Roman Catholic School for Boys operated by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. This pious saint hailed from a wealthy family in Savoy France where his father wanted him to become a magistrate. He was born in 1567 and died in 1522. He had a great love for the poor and needy. He was later Beatified as the Patron Saint of Writers. There was something about an all-boys school that frightened Father Patrick deep inside his soul.
Like St. Francis of de Sales and St. Francis of Assisi Father Patrick did have a great love for the poor and needy. He always stood for and advocated for the downtrodden, the marginalized communities and those who suffered. He was always quick to serve what Jesus called, The Least of these my brethren, Matthew 25:40, so he thought.
Father Patrick’s thoughts drifted back to his high school days. He was very tall, well-built and athletic to the point of being All State in football and basketball. He was charismatic and the girls loved him. However he always shied away from them.
Several of the Top Ten universities tried to recruit him. He turned down Ohio State and Michigan State scholarship offers as a wide receiver. Instead Father Patrick decided on the University of Delaware and later joined the seminary at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where he received his Master’s Degree in Theology and was ordained as a Priest in the order of the Franciscans after St. Francis of Assisi. Father Patrick Graduated from William Penn High School in 1977. At the University, he played football as a starting wide receiver from Freshman year until graduation in 1981. He was a key player for the University of Delaware football team when they won the division II championship in 1979.
Father Patrick was proud of his sports record. He was a driven athlete determined to win at everything he participated in. He was a fierce competitor and practiced just about every hour he had free. His classmates never could figure out what motivated him. He avoided parties and gatherings like they were a plague. Despite his success, Father Patrick suffered miserably through school. He fought, what he considered great demons. He thought he had overcome them when he entered the seminary. He believed God was on his side and through the same determination as sports, he threw himself in to his studies to fight his demons.
Early on in puberty, Father Patrick discovered that he was attracted to other guys in his class. In middle school his best friend spent the night at his house. Not uncommon, they slept in a queen size bed his parents handed down to him. More out of curiosity the boys ended up close to each other during the night. Father Patrick became extremely aroused and his best friend noticed his erection. They touched each other and Father Patrick had a powerful orgasm. His best friend seemed to lose interest after that.
Immediately Father Patrick felt extreme guilt and self-loathing. He went so far as to contemplate killing himself. The next morning the boys swore to each other never to mention what happened. After his friend left, Father Patrick was on his knees, in tears begging for forgiveness from God. He promised God that he would never do that again and that he would become a priest.
Father Patrick remembered tenth grade health and sexuality where any type of sexual attraction other than heterosexual was considered a mental illness and deviant behavior. Father Patrick would continue to have urges and attractions throughout his youth. He could not say the word Gay or Homosexual. On night, he called the suicide hotline and told them he wanted to die because he was attracted to men. He took an overdose of aspirin but did not tell anyone. He had ringing in his ears and threw up bloody emesis for several days. He felt guilty for that and made his promise to God even firmer. Father Patrick kept his promise to God. In fact, to this day he remains a virgin. Seems that becoming a priest somehow protected him from any sexual encounters, male or female.
While Father Patrick sat in his car he fell asleep. He had a dream about an old classmate in high school. His name was Jonathan something or another. This kid was very effeminate and quite often bullied by bigger more macho kids. Father Patrick never participated in the bullying. He didn’t want to hurt anyone. He remembered feelings about this kid. He was somehow attracted to him. These thoughts always annoyed Father Patrick. In his dream, Jonathan and the other boys in school were beating on him, calling him faggot and sissy boy. Jonathan was leading the group. Just when he was about to pass out from the beating Father Patrick was awakened by a tap on his window. He jumped up in a cold sweat to see a security guard who was asking if everything was alright Father? His reply was, yeah, yeah, I just fell asleep. Father Patrick drove home greatly disturbed and barely slept that night.