Forgive me, Father, I have NOT sinned, this is my last confession.
At the Vatican I have the feeling of visiting a great-grandmother, I tuck in my shirt and stand a little straighter. There are a thousand unmet cousins, aunts, and uncles who make their way to her door and we smile shyly at each other understanding we are one Christian family. I don’t linger too long on their eyes for fear that they will detect my inadequacies, my pre-marital sex, my un-annulled divorce, the time I gave my friend a ride to her abortion, not to mention my transgender child. I am a sinful shit-storm. My transgressions hang from me like an over-accessorized whore. Still, I want to go to church.
I slip in the door in hopes of retrieving a bit of my history, my lineage. Her presentation is beautiful; she has spent billions to adorn her walls with relics and rituals and I am adequately in awe. I am pulled into her familiar scent of crushed cloves, wood polish and incense, and I am fed by the murmuring of hymns and flickering of prayer candles. But before I am allowed to enter, I am approached by a priest who wants me to leave and suddenly something else very familiar washes over me… shame.
Does God really keep a report card? How was the priest able to zero in on my spiritual inadequacy? He answered my questioning eyes with five words. “You need to cover up.” It is not my past that the priest is concerned about, it is my present, my present state of disgrace. My exposed and sinful shoulders are too much and need to be covered. My body is somehow a distraction, unholy, unworthy and in jeopardy of stealing God’s thunder. My shoulders hold that much power?
I stare up at Jesus on the cross, his broken bleeding flesh, his manhood covered in a draped diaper and still, he has it better than me. His crucifixion took place over a few days. Mine has lasted a millennium.
“I have to leave?” I ask the priest who is designated as the skin nazi.
“You can go to the gift shop and buy a shawl.”
“What if I have no money to buy a shawl?” I ask. I’ve never been able to prevent myself from questioning authority.
He scans my body and I can see little price tags going off in his head, my Free People dress, my Nike sneakers, and my diamond ring. He returns his gaze to my eyes.
“You need to buy a shawl.”
“But what if I am poor? Do you make the poor leave? Do you loan out shawls for those less fortunate.”
He shakes his head in disdain and I am surprised that he has no answers. Surely I cannot be the first to ask. I tell him that I will go buy a shawl at the church bookstore. I make my way to the souvenir shop located a few feet from the baptismal area. In the shop, there are rosary beads and books and shawls and I begin to rummage, the skin nazi has his eye on me in case I try and make a break for it and entering the sanctuary without the holy hijab. I stand in the shop caught between my desire to stay and pray, and my inability to be shamed and taxed for my God-given shoulders. So I leave. I can’t bring myself to buy into the heresy that my skin is the problem. The real problem is the idea that my sex, my skin, my body parts have been punished and made responsible for crimes they did not commit.
300 hundred priests have sexually abused thousands of children in Pennsylvania. This is not new news, in fact, most of the cases are so old that they can not be used for conviction because of the Statute of Limitations. Still, the brave souls at the DA’s office stayed in the conversation in hopes of bringing to light the horrific injustices. From Hollywood producers to holy priest, there is a healing that is happening. And it’s about sex and it’s about time.
I do not blame the priest, I blame the mindset that sex is dirty or bad and needs to be
or designated as appropriate
for only certain people
at certain times
after certain legal agreements have been made.
These current events are the summation of what happens when we demonize our natural way of being. My sex IS sacred, my sex is spiritual, my sex is MY sex and I come to my GOD as a whole and holy being, leaving nothing in the shadows. My skin is sinless and my exposed SHAMELESS shoulders are ready to lead in love. It’s time to heal the wound and I have a feeling I am not walking alone. If you are ready for a shameless conversation, meet me at SpeakEasy, come as you are, as God created you, in love.
Maureen Muldoon is a writer, published playwright and author who spent twenty years working in Hollywood as an actress, writer, and director. She is the author of Giant Love Song, The Spiritual Vixen’s Guide to an Unapologetic Life, and the children’s book, The Life Of A Sand Castle, all available on Amazon. Her poetry, personal essay, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in The Sun, Story Lab, Lit Up, Booby Trap, Story, Actors Access, Voice Box, and Risk. She is a sought-after speaker and teacher and the founder of Voice Box stories, a platform to support storytelling and storytellers. Maureen is also the founder of SpeakEasy Spiritual Community. SpeakEasy is an organization focused on empowering people to live their most authentic and audacious lives through the use of spiritual truths and creativity. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and children.