Sunday, December 08, 2013

Booth or Dare

Confession may be good for the soul, but it can be hell on the nervous system.

One of my creepiest Catholic school memories—and they are legion—involved stepping into the confessional.

I don’t know who thought children would benefit from kneeling in a pitch-black closet
and stammering out their misdeeds toward a scary silhouette, but take it from me, whoever this person was, he was seriously full of crap.

I was terrified when the nuns herded all of us little sinners into church to get our spirits buffed and shined.

The worst part came after you dropped the curtain and sat in the dark waiting for the priest to slide back the screen on your side of the box.

The only reason I didn’t run out screaming was that I knew the nuns would be ready to carve my heart out if they caught me going AWOL. So I knelt there and when the slide pulled back, I looked toward the light and did the routine.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…

Once you received your penance, you got the hell out of there—making sure, of course, to politely hold the curtain back for the next victim.

Confession was a struggle, no doubt, and I hated going, but I survived. Which is more than I can say for a lot of characters I’ve seen in movies and on TV over the years.

If you go by Hollywood standards, the confessional is a prime time crime scene for all manner of murder and mutilation. People get shot, stabbed, and strangled—all within this little space.

Penance for Your Thoughts

The latest entry to this large caliber canon is “Mob City,” TNT’s noir-toon about 1940s gang bangers in LA that I happened to watch the other night.

During an early scene a luckless underling is shot-gunned clean out of the booth in a thunderous act of ignition. Can I get an Amen? Can I get a pulse?

AMC started off its western series “Hell on Wheels” with a six-gun sign of the cross a few seasons back as the vengeance-seeking hero took the priest’s seat to nail one of his enemies right between the eyes.

The film “In Bruges” featured a father meeting his maker while trying to absolve his assassin’s sins and a priest gets his collar handed to him in “The Exorcist III”—yes, I saw it—as well.

There was some kind of confessional assault in “The Boondock Saints,” but I don’t think anybody actually died.

Those are only a few cases that I’ve come across and I’m sure there are others.

As an undocumented Episcopalian, I have little to do with the Catholic Church these days, much preferring the Protestant mass apology approach that spares everyone the personal details and reduces the likelihood of being murdered.

Still, I am concerned that non-Catholics will view confession as some claustrophobic version of “The Hunger Games.”

I suppose writers and filmmakers like the spooky surroundings that a church offers and relish the irresistible irony of having an act of violence take place on holy ground.

My advice would be to take it some place else. The confessional as killing ground shtick is way over-played.

As for those of you wishing to convert, don’t worry. You’re not going to get shot during confession…unless you do it yourself.


Ron said...

Rob, I loved this post AND your post title. Brilliant!

And it's so ironic you post about confession because yesterday I was talking to one of my fellow employees who was also raised Catholic and she I were sharing about how scary those confessional booths were.

"The worst part came after you dropped the curtain and sat in the dark waiting for the priest to slide back the screen on your side of the box."

OMG...that made me LAUGH because it's so true!

You know, I never realized how many movies have scenes (like you shared) that take place INSIDE a confessional. And you're right, they usually involve some kind of violence.

Love the photo you used of Montgomery Clift in the movie, "I Confess."

GREAT post, buddy!

P.S. And I must 'confess' I haven't been to confession in probably...30 years!

Bijoux said...

I'm glad I was raised Protestant! My husband says he would sit there waiting in line, racking his brain for something to say. Not that he was a saint, but seriously, when you're 8 yrs old, the worst is usually, "I took a piece of my sister's Easter candy."

Rob K said...

Exactly, Bijoux! What the heck could an 8-year-old possibly do that would be a sin in the eyes of God??! Al they did was scare a generation of children.

Rob K said...


How's it going? Yeah, those booths were so spooky that kids were traumatized. And you couldn't see the priest--all you heard was this voice. It was freaky.

And as far as your are forgiven, my son. Go forth, buddy, and raise some hell!

Take care, buddy!

Joan Lenihan said...

Good one Rob! That's what you get for watching "Exorcist III"!

Rob K said...

Thanks, Joan, but I was dragged to that atrocity against my will! And it was so bad, MY head was spinning around!

Anonymous said...

I was brought up Catholic but I was lucky enough to only have to endure Confession once. I still remember however when I was waiting in line being really nervous about what I was gonna say. So what did I do? I made a list of things I thought were bad enough to pass for making an effort but not the worst things that Ive done. After all I didnt want them to think I was a bad kid. I dont think the little me really understood the concept of confession...

Rob K said...

I used to make up stuff, too! i guess that counts as a sin as well, but I'm done confessing. Now I live by the code of silence!

Take care!

Rob K said...

I used to make up stuff, too! i guess that counts as a sin as well, but I'm done confessing. Now I live by the code of silence!

Take care!

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Never having endured this particular form of torture I can't imagine being in that position, but I can certainly empathise with the terror of a child shut in a dark cupboard with vengeful nuns outside! How horrible!

Thank you so much for your sweet message on my blog. I'm OK, just overworked right now for my state of health! Have a great Christmas, my friend - see you in the New Year, if not before. I haven't given up!

Rob K said...

Oh, Jay, I'm so happy to hear from you! Hell, I'd face a whole of vengeful nuns just to read one of your lovely comments!


Take care!

v said...

i've never confessed, well maybe once, but not the catholic way. i do confess my sins in my prayers, but he already knows. still i tell him and i hope not to repeat certain deeds.

Rob K said...

That's a good approach, Val. And He does forgive.