The other day, someone on Twitter was asking for everyone to tweet the most ridiculous heretical statement they’d ever heard.
“Heresy” has a very specific meaning in Catholicism, but in this case it was being used in its colloquial sense to mean “teaching that’s wrong.” As far as wrong teachings, I have heard about a million of them, and was at a loss to come up with my favorite. I was raised in the Charismatic Renewal and in Apparition Culture. Later I was forced to be in ECYD, which is the youth branch of the infamous Father Maciel’s Legionaries of Christ, and after that I went to Franciscan University and joined one of the Faith Households. Those are great places to pick up unbelievably bizarre, spiritually abusive notions about Catholicism. The following is a nice long list of statements I’ve heard uttered by Catholics on Catholic teaching; my own commentary is in parenthesis.
–It’s a mortal sin to get a tattoo or piercing other than a single hole in the earlobe for girls, and boys have no exceptions. This is because the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and you’re not supposed to decorate temples. Certain indigenous people are allowed to get piercings within reason, however, because “it’s part of their culture.” But you have to watch out for the difference between “false culture” and “authentic culture.” (Details about which culture is false and which is authentic were not available upon request.)
–The orgasm is a nasty result of the Fall of Man. A man’s orgasm is unfortunately necessary for procreation, although he shouldn’t try to think about it or like it very much. A woman’s orgasm is a sin and ought to be avoided. Also, it’s a sin to use your hands during coitus except to keep your balance. It’s a sin for engaged couples to fall asleep in the same room even if they’re far apart and even if there are witnesses present. It’s the sin of scandal for engaged couples to go to the early morning Mass together, for fear anyone would think they spent the night before together. Furthermore, it’s a sin to look at yourself in the mirror naked, and you should use a thick washcloth in the shower and pray the whole time so you won’t accidentally stimulate yourself. And God is insulted if you pray on the toilet. (For the one who invented genitals, God seems awfully squeamish about them.)
–Speaking of horrid things that happen in the bathroom, Jesus and the Virgin Mary never had bowel movements because such dirtiness was below them, but Saint Joseph probably did. Also, Saint Joseph occasionally ate meat but Jesus and Mary were pescatarians. (No, I don’t understand how this person thinks Jesus observed the Passover. Maybe He just ate the bitter herbs.)
–Since the documents of Vatican II don’t specifically withdraw the requirement for women to wear veils at Mass, veils are still required and it’s a sin for women to go to Mass bareheaded. (People who say this tend to be against Vatican II anyway.)
–Natural disasters happen because God withdraws a country’s guardian angel to punish them for their sins. This leaves the country vulnerable to hurricanes, earthquakes and the like. Fortunately, God likes to randomly select certain innocent souls as “victims” to get stricken with sufferings and bad luck so that the countries whose guardian angels are withdrawn will not have quite such terrible weather. Victims also get stricken so that souls which God condemned to purgatory in the first place can be ransomed from His own self. If you’re sick and getting prayed over hasn’t worked for you, rejoice, because you might be a victim soul. (These people seem to think that God is an abusive drunk who chases his children around the house trying to catch and beat one of them when He’s angry.)
–The world is never going to come to an end because the Bible says “world without end, Amen.” What’s actually going to happen is that Our Lady of Fatima is going to graciously send a disaster which will kill millions of people, followed by an “era of peace.” This will be a good thing. (The Virgin Mary often comes off as even worse than the abusive drunk God to people taken in by Apparition Culture.)
–It’s a sin to disbelieve private revelation, especially the visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich and everything purporting itself to come from Fatima no matter how asinine. It’s a sin to disbelieve anything a saint said even where two saints disagree. It’s a sin to privately think that certain saints, like Saint Pio, were actually jerks and went to Heaven in spite of this; you have to find every saint’s eccentricities endearing. In addition, it’s also a sin not to have a spiritual director and to disobey said spiritual director no matter what they tell you to do, even if you’re a lay person. A child’s spiritual directors are his parents and that child is trapped until the parents decide to refer him to a different spiritual director. (This is often said by spiritually abusive people who would like to be your spiritual director.)
–Holding hands with someone can cause the demons inhabiting them to jump from host to host, so you should silently repeat a Hail Mary to repel the demons if you’re offered a hand. Other ways to become the unwitting host for a demonic possession include watching horror movies, watching music videos, trick or treating
, listening to secular music, using dishes that were once used in a Satanic ritual
, accidentally glancing at the horoscope section of the newspaper, not turning the channel fast enough when the Ouija board commercial comes on, and playing Dungeons and Dragons. Unbaptized people are possessed by demons. If a baby doesn’t cry during her baptism, that means the baptism didn’t take and the baby is still possessed by demons. If you die while possessed by a demon you accidentally caught, you will go to hell. Fortunately for you, most demons can be repelled with Holy Water, crucifixes, Rosaries, and playing a blessed tambourine. (Oh yes, there’s such a thing as a blessed tambourine. Ours had a ribbons and a blue wooden handle.)
–Speaking of Rosaries, not paying attention to every single word when you pray the Rosary is the same as handing the Virgin Mary a dead rose. If you do this, she will be upset with you. Also, the reason a Rosary is shaped like a circle is not because it’s a convenient shape for a rope with beads on it. It’s because the Rosary is “holy bondage binding you to the Virgin Mary.” (See my earlier comments about the Virgin Mary being portrayed as an abusive mom.)
–It’s a sin to receive Holy Communion under both species because you’re only allowed to receive Holy Communion once a day. (Never mind that Canon law doesn’t exactly say that.)
–Actually, it’s okay to receive Communion under both species because “the bread and the wine are in a hypostatic union.” (Please note that it IS okay to receive under both species, but this is my all time favorite misunderstanding of the term “hypostatic union.”)
–If you are carrying a stack of books, it’s a sin not to carry the Bible on the top. (It doesn’t matter if it’s a great big thick church Bible and the other books are skinny paperbacks; you have to defy gravity or it’s a sin.)
–And of course, everybody’s favorite: it’s a mortal sin to talk about a priest who’s been abusive in any way. You’re not allowed to warn people or comment on a newspaper article, you must protect the priest’s reputation at all costs. Telling the truth about a priest is the same as betraying Christ to His enemies just like Judas. (I blame that weird uncredited private revelation on the back of the Pieta Prayerbook for this. I probably shouldn’t. It probably has its origins somewhere else. But I blame the Pieta Prayerbook anyway.)
In all seriousness, if you have been involved in cult-like movements like the ones I’ve mentioned, you might also be carrying around a pack of superstitions like these, just as I was. And God would like to heal you. The best way to heal of trauma like that is to get a competent psychotherapist who isn’t hostile to religion but has some qualifications in counseling victims of religious trauma– and also to get a trained spiritual director, while remembering that a spiritual director’s advice isn’t law you’re going to hell for disobeying. Don’t ever try to use a spiritual director as a therapist or a therapist as a spiritual director. And if you can find somebody who does both, I wouldn’t recommend using the same person for both forms of advice. If you can’t find a spiritual director or a therapist but are trying to heal as best you can anyway, please remember that God doesn’t blame you for the mess you’re in. He is suffering with you, not judging you and certainly not smiting you like an abusive dad. The same goes for the Virgin Mary.
While you’re getting more qualified help, here are some questions I like to ask myself when I’m examining my conscience. They help me cut through the nonsense I absorbed over the years. First of all, did you really do something that overtly breaks one of the ten commandments? Secondly, did you do it on purpose? Thirdly, are you sure you chose to do it while not feeling trapped or confused or like you didn’t have a choice? If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” you probably didn’t commit a sin. And if it’s “yes,” that’s okay because God loves to forgive and heal our sins.
That’s not as funny or fun to read as my treasury of heterodox nonsense, but it certainly does make me feel better.