Saturday afternoon confession was well attended at Our Lady of Mount Sinai Somewhere in the Desert-Roman Catholic Church. Each of the faithful sought to admit the least amount of sin possible and still gain absolution so as to partake of communion at Sunday Mass. Most important to the assembled worshipers was not actual piety, but its Sunday public display.

I was an active participant in this ritual until the futility of it all became too great. Back then, church and females occupied much of my time. Bear with me while I explain.

Since my discovery of girls, the “conflict” or “division of labor,” so to speak, between the Church and girls tilted in favor of the latter. Given the Church’s teachings, that meant I dealt with a lot of guilt. This is where confession came in. It was the release valve, the means to off-load the effects of the collision between doctrine and real life, but it was fraught with hazards.

The physical process of the “sacrament of penance” was always the same. Upon entering the confessional, an opaque door slid open revealing a form behind a thin mesh screen. Sitting on the other side, in profile, was Father Seamus Dooley, late of Dublin. Known to the parishioners as Father Seamus, how he came to be at our parish is a rather intricate and sordid tale for another day. Suffice it to say, Father Seamus was a “bit odd”; creepy, really. It was from him I had to seek absolution.

When the opaque door opened, it was time for me to begin. I said, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been a week since my last confession and these are my sins. I had sex with three girls. Well, maybe just two. I think the other one was a girl, but I’m not sure. Let’s call it two.”

Then, I paused. From behind the screen, Father Seamus said, “And were they good Catholic girls, now?

“Yes, Father, very good.” I don’t think we meant the same thing. Maybe, we did.

“Where do you meet these temptresses?” Father Seamus asked.

“In the Church basement at the C.Y.O. dances on Fridays,” I said.

“You’re not defiling the Church, are you?”

“Oh no, Father. We go to the park across the street, next to the alley. Some of the garages aren’t locked. I’m sure you’re familiar with it.” Having been there after dark himself, I mentioned this with the intent to blunt his inquiries. It didn’t.

“And their names are?”

Father Seamus and I went through this routine every week; mortal sins reported, locations identified, and names of accomplices requested. In this instance, I fell back on the omnipotence of Almighty God to justify withholding the information.

“God already knows their names.”

He responded, “Now, it isn’t for want of knowledge on God’s part that I’ll be needing the names of these trollops. Being good Catholic girls, they need to be coming to confession. I’ll be wanting to get them a turn with Sister Mary Mercy at the convent. She’ll convince these handmaidens of the devil to confess and repent.”

I was sure the girls didn’t want me to tell, so I held out.

“Sorry, Father, like I said, I’m not even sure one of them was a girl. Those who need to know already do. It’s best that that we leave this name business between God and me.”

“I can’t be granting absolution if I don’t know the full extent of the sin.”

I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction, especially since next week, we’d probably be doing this all over again; different girls, different names, same locations. Then I had a thought to stick it to this voyeur. His having mentioned Sister Mary Mercy, gave me an idea.

“You know Father, come to think of it, I recall one name. It’s Mary…somebody…wait…okay…I got it now, Mary Mercy. That’s who I wasn’t sure was a girl.”

I then went into my “gee whiz” routine. “Is this the same Mary Mercy from the convent? She’s a girl? Whew, I’m relieved to hear that.”

Going with the “big finish,” I said, “If she’s the one you’re talking about, I don’t think these girls need a turn with her; it seems they’re already turned out.”

An uncomfortable silence descended upon the confessional as Father Seamus considered my response. I waited for further demands for information, but there was nothing.

Then he said, “For your penance, say ten Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys. Now say the Act of Contrition.”

When I finished that recitation, he said, “Go in peace and sin no more.” Without another word, the opaque door slid shut.

Being a good Catholic boy, I was about to recite the prayers ordered when it hit me, “Who needs these middlemen, anyway?” From that moment on, seeing no point to it, I stopped going to confession, but from time to time, I still visited the convent.