By Gabrielle Gojko
It was summer of 2012 when I made my second pilgrimage to the Steubenville Youth Conference. It was the very conference that inspired me to convert to Catholicism that previous April. I remember quite well the moments leading up to the moment I first decided I was at least open to the idea of becoming a nun, a decision that altered the course of the next three years of my life.
It commenced with the priest’s short talk on vocations to the thousands of young men out in the crowd at Missouri State University’s capacious arena. I don’t remember his words, but I do remember when my crush since 3rd grade in Catholic grade school — why a lukewarm Baptist went to Catholic parochial school from grades 3-6, I won’t go into on this post — who I’ll call Sam for privacy reasons, went up to get prayed over along with all the other teenage boys who were open to the priesthood.
For me, it all probably really started when a nun went up to talk about vocations–a nun from the order I considered heavily, especially that last year before my time with Catholicism came to a rather bumpy end- an order that was all about things I’m still passionate about-the media and the arts. She addressed the few thousand high school age girls and shared her story about how she came to be a sister.
Subsequently, they asked the girls open to vocations to stand. I hesitated at first. However, something finally caved after a few moments, and I stood up with several other girls. I went up and received my blessing. And for a few years I wrestled with the idea of being Christ’s Bride.
By my junior or senior year of high school, I decided yes, God is definitely calling me to be Christ’s Bride.
How gross does that sound, honestly? Why would Christ want brides of all the nuns on Earth? And why create many of us with desires for love, sex, and your own family and deny it to such a vast array of people? It sounded so beautiful and appealing to me way back when, but now the idea appalls me.
I used to think everything about the Church was beautiful. Now I find much of it disgusting. One of my main issues is how they want you to view everything only through the eyes of an old book.
When I first met Miles, the person who eventually helped me out of the Church, everyone from the Church tried to prevent me from thinking differently. “I don’t think you should watch those videos (referring to the Atheist Experience) he’s talked to you about,” said my former youth minister. “They’re of the Devil. But if you must, make sure you pray really hard before you watch them and ask God to reveal the Truth to you.” And Sam said, “Talk to him, but DON’T change your mind.”
Eventually it came to extremes, like some calling my friend “evil.” The same friend who had taken me to the hospital TWICE –once for extremely severe and unrelenting suicidal thoughts, which involved his waiting for me to get admitted for roughly SIX hours, and once when my recovery from surgery wasn’t going so smoothly. Both times, it was awfully late when I made that distressed phone call to him. Both times he was at my house in thirty minutes or less. Not to mention all the times he basically had saved my life time and time again without any hospital visits by spending several grueling late nights coaxing me out of killing myself.
I can’t help but wonder to myself recurrently, How did that NOT rub me the wrong way, the way that they were trying to manipulate my very THOUGHTS?
Nonetheless, that is one of the more minor issues I have with my experiences with the Church.
Another issue I have is with chastity. Chastity in general. I could write articles on the different aspects, but for now I’ll just touch on what the Church called “my struggle with Same Sex Attraction” and what I call my bisexuality. The fact they expected me to suppress any love I might have for another woman nauseates me. And the fact that they would have expected me to suppress any romantic interest in anyone once I made my vows is repugnant as well. The fact I used to view the Church’s Theology of the Body as something that changed my life for the better makes me wonder just how far into it I truly was.
In addition, another issue with chastity was how I was told I couldn’t even listen to certain music or watch certain television programs or films. When Miles would blast a mildly suggestive song,“Hands All Over” by Maroon 5, in his truck, I would scream and almost cry for him to stop. All because I didn’t want those lyrics to lead me to sin.
In the same way as chastity, I also have an issue with sin in general. Particularly, let’s discuss Confession. For instance, in my case, I would go at LEAST once a week that last year I was Catholic. Lamentably, I was shackled down by the Church’s concept of sin, and what’s sickening to me is that I didn’t realize it till later because I’d grown so numb to that soul-crushing guilt. The Church made me think I was filthy and contemptible in nature and needed to be washed clean, when the dirt was, in fact, imaginary.
Consequently, I do miss the Church, but I don’t miss the guilt. I don’t miss the forced, peremptory obstructions of my thought. Even less do I miss being required to fear that all my friends who weren’t believers were going to burn in eternal torment and that I had to help “save” them. I don’t miss thinking things that any other person would find abhorrent were beautiful. I don’t miss being told I was a sheep that needed saving myself.
I don’t miss being blind to the fact that I was being led to the slaughter, not to salvation.
Gabrielle Elise Gojko is a 19-year-old incoming freshman at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. In her free time, Gabby likes to study religions’ theologies (particularly Christianity) and pick them apart, create art with various mediums, and write. She aspires to one day become a motivational speaker, but until then she is considering multiple career paths.