by Tommi Avicolli Mecca

Tommi Avicolli Mecca

Tommi Avicolli Mecca
San Francisco, California, US
July 25
I am a writer, performer and activist, editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: the early years of gay liberation (City Lights), and co-editor of Avanti Popolo: Italian-American Writers Sail Beyond Columbus and Hey Paesan: Writings by Italian American Lesbians and Gay Men. To view my creative stuff:


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APRIL 25, 2012 9:28AM

Nuns and priests abused kids in many ways

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In this country it’s far easier to get attention if there’s sex involved in the story. Consider the priest sex scandals. How much coverage would they be receiving if clergy members were being charged with physical and psychological abuse instead of sexual shenanigans?


Not as much, that’s for sure. Many people would probably shrug their shoulders and say, “that was bad, but we all have it hard.”


It’s true, we all have a tough time surviving childhood, but that doesn’t negate the tremendous physical and psychological harm that the nuns and priests did to many of us when we were under their charge in Catholic school. 


In eighth grade, I saw a nun throw a classmate against a blackboard. Two of his front teeth fell to the floor. He was sent down to the nurse’s office with a bloody mouth. And then HE was suspended. Nothing ever happened to the nun.


In high school, a Latin teacher, who bragged that he knew karate, threw me against a blackboard. I managed to hit the wall with my shoulder instead of my face. It hurt for weeks. I still have occasional problems with that shoulder. Other boys were routinely tossed over desks, punched, kicked and slapped hard on their heads. 


Then there was the psychological torture. From kindergarden on, we were constantly told that we were lowly sinners, born with an “indelible” mark on our souls because of something two characters named Adam and Eve did in some mythical garden, and unless we repented every single day of our lives, we were doomed to hell fire.


Hell wasn’t just some vague concept. It was described to us in vivid detail, a place where we would suffer excruciating pain for all eternity, even for the mere “crime” of thinking of something that was a mortal sin. To think of a sin was a sin. It was like walking through an endless mine field.


On top of that, everything about our bodies was dirty, especially our sex organs. We were admonished never to touch “down there” (it didn’t have a name) or to even look at it in the bath tub or shower. Why god gave us such a terrible part of our bodies was a total mystery to me. 


Imagine what it felt like to suddenly realize that I was queer? After a brush with gay sex at 12 (with another boy my age), I lived in daily torment. I knew god would never forgive me. I was doomed. Every night before I went to bed, I whispered the Act of Contrition to myself as passionately as I could. I was genuinely sorry for what I had done. It didn’t matter. The vengeful, creepy old man in the sky had a no tolerance policy towards gay kids.


It took me years to free myself of the self loathing and self hatred that I felt. While recovering, I got the nerve one afternoon to tell a “liberal” priest (who played Beatles records in class) that I didn’t think I believed in his god. He had me stay after school every day to scrape the gum from the bottom of desk tops. So much for open mindedness.


Were I to file a lawsuit against the Catholic Church for the pain and suffering I endured, I would not be taken seriously.  


But if I suddenly had a “recovered memory” of a priest fondling me, I’d be the next SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) poster child. 

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Great post. I had a close gay male friend with very similar experiences in the late sixties. He experienced a profound clinical depression after a priest he confessed to told him he was going straight to hell. In 1968 he had a choice between being drafted or coming out to the military recruiter and getting a 4F that would keep him out of Vietnam. He opted for the later - and left the Church.