Examining My Conscience

quia peccavi
nimis cogitatione, verbo et opere:
mea culpa,
mea culpa,
mea maxima culpa.

(Okay, this starts out like an account of a play scene, but isn’t. If
you’re looking for that you’re going to be disappointed.  Fair warning)

Here I’m going to digress just a little bit.  I’m Roman Catholic —
have been since birth.  My first 13 years of education were in Catholic
schools, mostly taught by nuns.  In my own weird way I’m quite
religious.  I’m not very spiritual however — in fact I have almost no
faith in God.  It’s the ritual that attracts and comforts me.  I’ve
been away from the Church for a while — the typical lapsed Catholic.
There are a number of reasons I’ve absented myself — disagreement with
RC politics and my own personal choices (marrying after a divorce and
outside the Church being chief among them).  Being away and not
attending Mass or joining my local parish have been my doing and I
mostly don’t feel inclined to return.  But right now it’s May and the
roses are blooming.  There are alters to Mary all around. 

Right now I miss my religion*.

Recently, I was strongly reminded of this. Last week I got a chance to visit a dear friend who was in the area (well, give or take 100 miles or so).  We had a great time talking and hanging out.  And then I let him know I’d like to do a scene if he wanted. 

As both a gentleman and a friend, he could hardly refuse and even made me feel like doing a scene was something he, of course, had wanted to do as well.  I even was brave enough to let him know I wanted a heavy-ish scene. ::gulp::

But then, over dinner, he pointed out he needed an offense to punish me for.  And it would have to be a serious crime to merit a heavy punishment.  I had a moment of panicked floundering.  Because, well, for the last few years, Pablo has punished me when I’ve done something wrong, at least on that level of wrong. Yes, I could make something up.  But I didn’t want to add acting-guilt to the scene.  I didn’t feel I had/have enough experience at role playing to do that well.  Looking at him, I started to say explain (obviously he knows about Pablo and me and how things are between us) that there wasn’t anything that I hadn’t already been punished for, especially if we wanted to leave my school work out of it. 

And then stopped as my mind spun back.  Because, for me, there is always something.  It’s just a matter of finding it. 

The finding is part of the whole "examining my conscience" thing.  I hadn’t felt it in years, but the mental searching sensation was completely familiar. I drifted back to childhood, to the smells of wax and incense.  Wooden pew and hard kneeler.

Although I haven’t been in a good few years now, I was trained to make a good confession.  Throughout my childhood, from age seven on, I was taken, along with the rest of my class, to confession on the first Friday of every month.  Fifteen minutes before we were walked over to the church, our teachers would admonish us to "examine your conscience" so we could make a good confession.  We would put our heads down and recite as a group this prayer

Forgive me my sins O My Lord;
Forgive me my sins.
The sins of my youth;
The sins of my age.
The sins of my soul;
The sins of my body.
My idle sins,
My serious voluntary sins.
The sins I know,
The sins I do not know.
The sins I have concealed for so long which are now hidden from my memory.
I am truly sorry for every sin, mortal and venial,
For all the sins of my childhood up to the present hour.
I know my sins have wounded Thy tender heart O My Lord.
Let me be freed from the bonds of evil through the most bitter passion of My Redeemer.
O My Lord, forget and forgive what I have been.
Amen.

We were then taken over to the Church, knelt in rows of pews and one by one ventured into the confessional, returning to kneel again and do penance.

Reading over the prayer, I recognize that it’s rather abject (and probably not something one should be teaching seven year olds), but it’s also one I’ve always liked, probably most for the last line "forget and forgive what I have been."  I found myself reciting it in my head while my friend was "punishing" me for my confessed transgression. 

I was too embarrassed to tell him though.  He’s an atheist, though not the evangelical sort of my husband is, and might even have liked hearing the prayer, but I wondered what he’d think of my mentally casting him in the role of confessor and inflicter of penance and stayed silent.

As I’ve thought about it since, I’ve realized the degree to which my versions of the fetish — the sort of scenes that really work for me — are influenced by the sacrament of penance (note I’m using the old term rather than the newer one of "reconciliation").  The recognition of wrong doing, the humiliation of another person hearing me admit to it, them having the power to assign penance and also forgive.  My feeling the desire to and promising to do better. 

The punishment / penance being performed as the last gesture to make things right.  As it said in our grade school catechisms, "if the roots of Penance are bitter,its fruit is sweet indeed."

 

In all their forms — punishment, discipline and play, these are the scenes and rituals that have worked for me. 

I’m not one to claim connection with spiritualism through the kink — what I tend to feel is a profound connection with another — with the other person in the scene.  But I do now see a connection between my fetish and a ritual of my religion. 

Sacrament or sacralidge?  Perhaps my desire to do a confession scene with a partner in a RC collar and me in a school uniforms speaks volumes as to howmy expression should be judged.  Yet, to those of you who believe more deeply, I honestly mean no offense.

Deus meus,
ex toto corde poenitet me omnium meorum peccatorum, eaque detestor,
quia peccando, non solum poenas a Te iuste statutas promeritus sum, s
ed praesertim quia offendi Te, summum bonum,
ac dignum qui super omnia diligaris.
Ideo firmiter propono, adiuvante gratia Tua,
de cetero me non peccaturum peccandique occasiones proximas fugiturum.

17 thoughts on “Examining My Conscience

  1. Wintermute

    I did not grow up with any religion. I’m an atheist, but not a militant one.
    I think that even atheists can enjoy catholic school girl scenes.
    I have spent a few weeks visiting Catholic Basilicas and churches.
    While I cannot share in the religion, I can see the attraction.
    From the outside, at least, one of the strengths of the Catholic
    church over the centuries is that it encompasses a huge range of
    belief. There are conservative churches and priests and liberal
    ones. Perhaps you can find such a liberal setting.
    I have a friend, who years ago, went through a traumatic abortion.
    It was one of those situations where she got pregant by accident
    with a guy who was really wrong for her. I was impressed that,
    while her priest may not have agreed, he provided support for
    her in a time of great emotional pain. So there seem to be priests
    out there who don’t follow the current conservative line. And really,
    if the church is going to survive it will be these people who
    provide the foundation for its survival.
    Best,
    Wintermute

    Reply
  2. Terri

    Wow, what a lot to think about. You made perfect sense to me and had me thinking about my connection to my kink.
    I’m terrible at self forgiveness. I can forgive others easily, but I seem to be unable to have someone else say they forgive me and have it connect with my heart/conscience… unless it’s accompanied by spanking. Being spanked as a consequence for a wrong doing is the only way I know to forgive myself.
    He’s done alternative punishments, lectures/scolds, etc… they just don’t wipe the guilt from my heart.
    I’m a spanko, I like erotic spankings, but it’s the disciplinary spankings are the ones that connect in my heart the deepest. Thanks for giving me something to think about 🙂

    Reply
  3. Mija

    Wintermute: You’re very right that the range of Catholicism covers from conservative to liberal. Actually my local parish in Santa Monica is one of the most progressive in the US — especially with regard to the inclusion of gays and lesbians. Honestly I’ve never met a priest (though I’m sure they exist) who spouted the sort of intolerance advocated by the Church hierarchy. Of course another irony is that the ritual I so love tends to be attached to the most conservative Catholic churches.
    I’m toying with the idea of going back — in fact I very nearly went to confession yesterday. The question that held me back most was wondering if I would be doing it for the comfort of my soul or fetish.
    Terri: Self forgiveness is so tough. On the one hand I do try hard because I know I’d feel frustrated if I’d forgiven a friend and she couldn’t let go of it herself. But on the other hand, there is a real need for me to feel I’ve both atoned and been punished when I do something wrong.
    And, as I’ve said before, the scene is all about disciplinary and punishment spankings for me.

    Reply
  4. Natty

    ::smile:: What a lovely Sunday post.
    “Of course another irony is that the ritual I so love tends to be attached to the most conservative Catholic churches.”
    Ooof! Can I relate to this! Being Byzantine Catholic, where in many respects our liturgy is over 1500 years old, means that we often get a lot of those who think that Vatican II/Novus Ordo Mass is from the very pits of hell at our parish. Which makes me laugh because it was Vatican II that allowed us to return to a lot of the liturgical customs in our rite. But it often does make me feel somewhat lonely because I’m so so so much more liberal than the people I share the Eucharist with. Yet, when I go to the sort of “post-Catholic” Mass up the street, I feel so underwhelmed. It doesn’t give me any sense of the Transcendent.
    It’s funny, because people always ask me why I chose to become Catholic (indeed, I believe you were one of those) and while there were a lot of theological reasons for it at the time of my conversion, when all is said and done, what has kept me Catholic is the ritual. I was always longing for liturgy while I was growing up Baptist. There is something about ritual that I find to be remarkably communal — so much more so than the mere singing of hymns and listening to a sermon on Sunday morning that Evangelicals do. Even if I don’t believe in God the same way as those with whom I’m sharing the Communion table, being a community in which we do the same sacraments every week based on a set calendar is like celebrating various aspects of being human together.
    I too often have the fantasy of doing a confession scene with A. in a collar (he grew up VERY Catholic, and though he is not at all religious, he knows the prayers and rituals far better than I). I don’t really think of it as sacrilege as — and this is historically so very *un*Catholic — sex is a spiritual act. The two are bound to intersect, albeit often in messy ways. I suppose in some ways the fetish feels like a religious act, even as the religious can have an under current of sexuality for us. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
    Thanks for posting this. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Janet

    I, too, was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school most of my life. I drifted away from it, as one tends to do. But I’m still completely enamoured with the ritual; the beauty and complexity and mythology of it continues to attract me.
    The idea of a confessor has always been one of the most prominent parts of my, for lack of a better term, kink preferences. This idea always criss-crosses with Catholicism, confession and most especially penance. (Really, how far is writing lines from doing 5 rounds on a rosary?) I’ve never particularly fantasized about a priest, but a general confessor.
    This is dorky, but this conversation makes me think of Personal Jesus by Depeche Mode, which I’ve always felt has been the most perfect description of how I feel about punishment and submission and everything involved in that.

    Reply
  6. Dyke Grrl

    Religion is such a complicated thing in our lives. Religiously, I generally say that I’m culturally Christian (raised somewhere between southern Baptist and nondenominational evangelical fundamentalist whack-@$$ crazy Christian) and religiously pagan (reconciling my sense of the divine with my resistance to the notions that any one religion is the only right way). But since being with W., the actual religious practice has been more Jewish most of the time–when we go to services, they’re generally at her synagogue; when we say prayers, they’re usually in Hebrew, and so on. One thing I appreciate about Judaism is there’s that deep sense of ritual, and the importance of ritual for its own sake as well as for the sake of getting closer to the divine; lighting candles, celebrating at the same time as millions of other people; building ritual into daily life, celebrating the change of the seasons. And at least my experience is, even people who are not religiously practicing, and even the more liberal Jewish congregations, still understand the importance of the rituals, so one can get that sense of the divine mystery without the baggage of people standing up in front of you telling you that anyone who doesn’t follow their rules is evil (or some variation on there).
    Where does kink come into this for me? Well, I can see the attraction of confession–what appealed to me about that when I was a kid was the notion of owning up, doing penance, and then the sin was *over*. You could actually have it be finished, and let go of it (at least in theory). That’s something I really wanted.
    And there is also a certain kink-appeal in Catholic schoolgirl scenes; I think it’s kind of inherent, although I can’t say why (perhaps there’s so much out there about it? Perhaps because even little Protestant kids got the Playmobil nun? 😀 )
    I don’t know where kink/punishment and religion intersect for me, or even if they do. On some levels, I think they definitely must–religiously, I believe everything I do has a spiritual component. On the other hand, I don’t think of discipline or spanking as specifically religious acts. And yet, spanking/discipline definitely play a part in my striving for wholeness. Finding ways of owning and releasing my sins… that’s perhaps more religious than I often think about.
    Sorry to ramble. And I agree with Natty–that was a very good post for a Sunday!

    Reply
  7. Mija

    Thanks for the kind comments. How funny — I didn’t even consider that I was doing a “Sunday” entry, maybe because I started it on Saturday.
    Natty: I do always find conversion to be something curious and generally do ask people “why”. I suspect my curiousity is partly due to the fact I don’t have much faith and thus wouldn’t have converted. My religion feels so largely cultural and part of my family and ethnicities (Irish as well as Mexican) that it’s hard to wrap my mind around the the idea of being a choice.
    As to the rest (thanks Janet and Dyke Grrl), I can see the scene appeal of Catholicism, especially the rite of confession / penance. I remember a time in high school religion classes when we were talking about the sacrament and whether or not we really *needed* to go to confession or if the general confession that’s part of Mass was enough. The teacher suggested that part of what made confession important was the idea of penance.
    One of the students in the class was Lutheran, in fact the daughter of ministers. She asked why the notion of penance existed at all since Christ had died for all sins — that in essence we were already forgiven.
    The teacher’s answer was interesting. She pointed out that here was a split point between how Catholics saw sin and forgiveness versus how it was seen in some other Christian denominations. That Catholics believed Christ died to reprieve humankind from original sin, but that we were each responsible for our own souls, and thus our own penances for the sins of our own lifetimes.
    I’m not sure how accurate my teacher’s reading really was, but construct appealed to me anyway — this idea that Christ wasn’t a whipping boy for my individual sins. And that there couldn’t be forgiveness without at least a gesture toward atonement.
    In any case, thanks for sharing thoughts on this odd little rite.

    Reply
  8. Bessie Granger

    I’m late getting in on this, but I think this was a beautiful entry. As a convert to Catholicism myself (although Natty, you and I should chat sometime because I am looking seriously at Orthodoxy right now), I remember being both nervous and excited about doing my first confession. I do believe that penance is very important. I don’t know if God needs us to do penance, but I think we need us to. We need to be able to feel that we have made things right, and from a spiritual standpoint we need that push toward growth. Suffering is what pushes us to put a little bit more of ourselves aside and move closer to God instead. When you combine suffering (even if the penance your priest gives you is largely symbolic) with taking responsibility you can’t help but move in the right direction. Just my own ramblings…

    Reply
  9. hemingwayamber

    Man, I can’t imagine how anyone can look at a blossoming tree and not be 100% certain of the existence of God. I guess that’s simplifying it a bit, but to me it’s just that simple. Of course, God has some sense of humor, a dark one perhaps, but his work in our lives I think is as obvious as that the sun rises and sets.

    Reply
  10. hemingwayamber

    Man, I can’t imagine how anyone can look at a blossoming tree and not be 100% certain of the existence of God. I guess that’s simplifying it a bit, but to me it’s just that simple. Of course, God has some sense of humor, a dark one perhaps, but his work in our lives I think is as obvious as that the sun rises and sets.

    Reply
  11. Pablo

    > Man, I can’t imagine how anyone can look at a blossoming tree
    > and not be 100% certain of the existence of God.
    That’s not much of an imagination you have there.
    > I guess that’s simplifyingit a bit, but to me it’s just that simple.
    > Of course, God has some sense of humor, a dark one perhaps, but
    > his work in our lives I think is as obvious as that the sun rises and
    > sets.
    Because of course it does actually rise and set. It’s
    not the Earth spinning on its axis, or anything like that.
    Pab.

    Reply
  12. Natty

    LOL — as soon as I read Amber’s comment I chuckled to myself thinking that it was practically egging you on, Pablo. 😉
    Mija — “My religion feels so largely cultural and part of my family and ethnicities (Irish as well as Mexican) that it’s hard to wrap my mind around the the idea of being a choice.”
    That’s the widely held view for the rest of the world, but one that American Evangelicals can’t really wrap their minds around. I think in many respects, conversion was as much about wanting a culture as anything theological for me. I remember a group of Laotian refugees in native dress singing a hymn at my church when I was a kid and thinking, “man, being white is so boring!” — a feeling that stayed with me as I grew up. As I think about it more, I know now that becoming Byzantine Catholic was about as close to “going native” I could go without becoming Muslim (for those of you who don’t know, my academic research focused on the Middle East).
    Bessie – I’d be happy to chat any time. I was actually an Orthodox catechumen before becoming Catholic. LOL — I think I’ve talked enough theology here so feel free to email me (nattyspanked [at] yahoo [dot] com.

    Reply
  13. Dyke Grrl

    Well, as I said, I’m definitely culturally Christian. I use that term, partly because many of my close friends these days are culturally Jewish (ie, rarely if ever go to synagogue, don’t necessarily follow the tenets of the religion, etc.), and partly because I like messing with that fundamentalist “you must follow every single rule, every single day, or you are just a ‘worldly so-called Christian. Heck, you’re only a so-called Christian if you follow any beliefs but MINE.'”
    And to Amber: While I, personally, feel an intense connection to the divine, I recognize that it’s my own belief, and not necessarily anyone else’s. I’m pretty comfortable with the idea that the metaphysical and the scientific coexist peacefully; the North Pole is both one end of the axis upon which the Earth spins (or the magnetic North Pole, which attracts compass needles) *AND* where Santa Claus lives (he lives at the metaphorical North Pole, with elves and workshops and everything; this is why explorers never actually get there, because they’re going to the scientific North Pole, and using science instead of metaphor to get there).
    The scary thing? I’m actually serious. ;P

    Reply
  14. bella

    Mija…I read this when you had first posted it and have been thinking about it ever since. I was raised Catholic…and well am still Catholic..and I know for me many elements of the religion are wound up in my kink. The ritual of church…especially penance (reconciliation)…and spanking are so much a like not to mention the saying what I had done and then asking for forgiveness and even penance to do. This was very well written and has given me a lot to think about especially how all of these lines cross together…thanks…bella

    Reply
  15. Raven

    I’ve missed following this blog for a bit thanks to an abysmally slow internet connection, not to mention a fair amount of pregnancy-related exhaustion that leaves me precious little computer time these days.
    Having said that, what a thoughtful thread to have stumbled upon!
    Much of what I blog about deals with my own tensions and discoveries of being a woman who is both Catholic and kinky. I’ve tried leaving the Church, I’ve tried leaving BDSM, and I’ve been quite unhappy during both exiles. There’s an essay buried on my blog that might be of use or of interest called A Thorn in the Flesh.
    Since writing the essay, I’ve had the experience of coming out as being into BDSM to my spiritual director/confessor which has been a remarkable blessing — in giving me a sense of being loved by God precisely as I am, not “in spite of” my kink, as well as giving me a bit of a safe sounding board to explore some of my thoughts about all of this stuff.
    I’ve not been in a strictly spanking relationship for quite some time, and my husband and I, for a myriad of reasons best described elsewhere, don’t play each other much because we can’t seem to give each other quite enough sensation to be satisifed. We both can play others fairly intensely, just note each other. So I don’t really have any current experience with the confessional aspect of a spanking relationship that you’re mentioning here.
    With that said, there is definitely an element of catharsis in my desire for deep scening, when I can get it. Usually in my mind, I have at least some awareness of why I’m needing catharsis, and while some of it is general stress and bottled up emotions needing release, there are strong elements of guilt there as well.
    I’ve had discussions with my spiritual director about the idea of making a regular habit of some sort of penitential practice (giving something up, likely). I’ve not really settled on anything, partly because I know my motives are a bit mixed, and I’m trying to sort out if that’s a bad thing or if it could possibly be an integration of body and soul. Is it maybe even good, this realization that when I make some sort of small sacrifice with my body, say choosing to fast and experience hunger for a time or choosing to give up some other reasonably good thing and have a time of emptiness, my spirit is usually also more empty of that which is superfluous and receptive to God as well?
    For me, it seems that the catharsis that BDSM provides creates a sort of good emptiness. In that lovely subspace and endorphin rush after a hard scene, my mind is usually quiet from all of the internal monologue, self-criticism, etc., leaving me much more open in times of quiet, including quiet prayer. I’m not sure that I’m ready for a formalized confession scene (though I kept my high school uniform skirt for quite some time and did wear it during one or two scenes in college…!). I am beginning to want a scene that intentionally facilitates the possibility of spiritual experience, though, and leaves enough space for quiet and solitude afterwards to see what might happen. Not quite sure what it would entail, only that I wouldn’t want the top to try to push for analysis or response, but leave me safely alone to contemplate.
    In any case, I think it’s really remarkable to be having this conversation.
    Blessings,
    Raven

    Reply
  16. Raven

    Mija,
    One more thing — as an adult catechist who works with people in the RCIA and with people who are returning to the Church after time away, please know that I will hold you in prayer as you continue to discern just where God is calling you.
    Peace,
    Raven

    Reply
  17. Mija

    Slow internet connections bite! But congratulations… I hope the discomforts pass quickly. 🙂
    As to what you desire, I’m humbled by your and other responses to this entry. I had some concerns about writing it –mostly because my status as a Catholic is, at best, semi-practicing– for fear of seeming disrespectful to the more faithful.
    That said, I’ve never really seen anything about most of BDSM (except for, well, tolerance) that would fall outside the Church. But that might be because my parents had their own spanking relationship so on some level they made us feel like sex wasn’t really an issue God cared much about apart from wanting us to be ethical and responsible.
    Thank you for your willingness to pray for me. It’s comforting to hear.

    Reply

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