“Just put this Crisco oil all over yourselves guys!”, our counselor told us. “Hey, this doesn’t feel right to me does it guys?” I asked my 5 other young friends and cabin-mates at this, my final year at the summer camp. “It feels kinda…faggy right?”.
Of course I was 11 or 12 during the events I am describing So the reader can please forgive my unenlightened nature at the time. My friends and I were being coerced into competing in yet another pointless and vaguely homoerotic challenge against the “other boys” at St. Brigids Summer camp. Some of the games were standard, Rugby, Basketball, Capture the Flag, they even had boxing the first 2 years I went to the camp, I retired 1-1 the year I got to fight for my cabin. This particular event made us all feel a little uneasy. It was ostensibly a display of our prepubescent musculature’s, oiled up with cooking fat and marched out on a wooden deck in the sun of July to flex like bodybuilders for all the other boys and GROWNUPS running the camp. When I think back to it, the most disturbing is that it had been recorded on one of those really big early 90’s camcorders, the black bastards that recorded straight to a videotape.
Actually when I think about it more the home recording was probably the third or fourth most disturbing aspect of the whole “Mr. Muscles” experience.
It had come out the previous school year that founder of the camp, Father Ken Keeler; you see where this is going don’t you? Had been discovered to be a pedophile, not just him, but also few of the core founders of the camp. Not only was Keeler the founder of the camp, he was also the parish priest for my Catholic elementary school. When I had mentioned that I saw in the news he was arrested, a fellow fourth grader told me I was, “A Jew” for thinking that Keeler could do wrong. Keep in mind this was in 1992-3, In Ottawa, in a grade 4 class.
I was never abused personally by Keeler, but thinking back, even then the whole joint gave me a creepy vibe. I remember feeling like if we didn’t take part in this ritual then the rest of the week we would be in trouble. Believe it or not, a group of young Catholic boys want to be seen as obedient even if they are not. My cabin and I got greasy and made the awkward walk to the old wooden deck, there we were jeered for not taking it as seriously as the other “more muscly campers”. I remember sharing the story with my wife and cracking up laughing while I told it, because really I hadn’t shared the story with anyone. It was always one of those weird things that I didn’t put together with the church, but looking back now, greased up pre-pubescent boys are a pretty bright red flag aren’t they. Boys being videotaped?
With more research tonight, I have found that many horrible things happened at the summer camp before I was there. I am thankful for that, but feel bad for people that were hurt. Considering the camp was meant for people who were disadvantaged it makes the thought of abuse even more horrid.
I think this story illustrates the fundamental problem of the church these days, and of any organization that harbors secrets more destructive than any possible good the organization may provide. Whats truly sickening to me is not simply the behavior of a growing number of scandalized church members or priests, but the “faithful” who shrug off any dark revelation as a conspiracy and a lie.
If religious people are serious about their faiths lasting into the future they are going to have to give a lot of thought to the following areas.
-Women, they exist; some of them want to be priests, some may want to marry priests. Let them…Who would be upset finding out that a priest had a taste for women? Besides other priests and Pope of course.
-Children, they are wonderful, they are loyal, bright, sing nice and they trust adults and people that are responsible. If you fuck one of them, you go to prison. You don’t get moved to Halifax as Father Keeler did, because you’ve judged yourself to be “cured”. STOP WITH THE MOLESTING fuck…I can’t be more clear about this.
-Every person of every faith ask questions, if you think you smell shit…somebodies probably taken a shit near you. Don’t let the leaders of your groups deceive you and try to blame media or victims.
-The Catholic Church needs to stop acting like its rules are eternal and unchanging. I am not a religious scholar, but I know there has been significant changes over the millenias. There just needs to be a couple more.. namely molesting a child is not just a defrocking, it is absolute excommunication along with serious prison time. It is entirely within the power of the Vatican to enforce these changes. Continuous refusal to act in any meaningful way, will further the disastrous consequences for the church as more and more members leave and spread intolerance around the church.
Although if there has ever been a group to be intolerant of it should be unrepentant child molesters.
Lets get it together, why is it so difficult?