Read Part 1 of this article here.
And then he goes onto the subject of hell with his hands waving in the air, and with great solemnity, that hell was the final destination of sinners unfortunate to have died in a state of mortal sin, “who among you!” he bellowed “ would risk going to their bed tonight in such a state “and arrive at the morrow before the judgement seat of almighty God” . Father Alphonsus paused for effect, before continuing, “what an actor he was” I thought to myself “ what a showman” “there is still time, tonight to confess following my talk” my dear people.
Do you wish to spend an eternity in hell? the diabolical home of the great Satan. It is a place of everlasting torment, where the senses will be in perpetual suffering in proportion to the forbidden pleasures indulged in by the dammed. Live in fear of hearing the words of God, depart from me you cursed, into the fires of the eternal damnation where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Therefore, the fires of hell shall torment you both internally and externally. Flames will consume your bowels, your heart, you brain, the very blood in your veins, reaching in its finality the marrow of your bones”. Raising his voice to almost fever pitch he continued, “ a special place will be reserved for sinners who indulge in the vileness of impurity in the darkest of night, satisfy your flesh today, but, but, there will come a time and hour when such filth of your flesh will nourish the eternal flame, never to be extinguished. The body of such a poor misfortunate will crackle and sizzle from Gods justice. And what’s more the poor sinner will hear in mocking voice of the infernal one accusing you of being the author of your own misfortune, an eternal damatian. At that point Father Alphonsus was spent, he descended the pulpit in quiet satisfaction, a half smirk upon his face.
Some people outside the church were quite frightened, while others queued up for confession. A rumour spread that ould Francie Conway, vowed in Murphy’s pub never to eat a sausage or rasher for the rest of his life, he would do with beans and eggs. I went home quite contented with father Alphonsus’s sermon, word spread that he was great craic, such that the following evening there were queues outside the church, trying to get in. I wondered what he would do to surpass his sermon on hell. When he ascended the pulpit the following night he was holding a picture, which I assumed was some saint. He described Pope Pius X as one of the most far seeing popes that ascended the throne of Saint Peter. Father Alphonsus seemed exercised, he spat out a word I never heard before “LIBERALISM” he pounded his fists on the pulpit “ this will lead to the ruination of the civilised world and if Ireland wasn’t careful it could suffer a similar fate, this cancer must be stopped in its tracks.”
Before I came here tonight my dear people I heard a fella on the radio, by the name of Jagger shouting “that he could get no satisfaction, though he had tried and tried”. Immediately my ears picked up as I knew who Mick Jagger was. “Young people today!” he lamented were allowing themselves to be seduced in the pursuit of this satisfaction. This was the new God. Music was becoming the devil’s new plaything in every town in the country, large and small. Young people who should be home in their beds, were instead out drinking to excess, and involving themselves in vial sexual misconducts.
It should not be the job of the clergy to be out in the dance halls, the streets and the highways of Ireland with walking sticks reminding people of the risks they were taking with their immortal souls. Father Alphonsus started berating Elvis Presley and Tom Jones for their obscene gyrations on stage and songs with provocative titles like “All Shuck Up, Its Now or Never, Put your sweet lips a little closer to the Phone and God help us Kiss me Quick”. Raising his voice he queried where would this depravity lead the young people of Ireland. I could see the distended veins in his neck as the sweat dripped down his face.
Recalling it now some 50 years later the lines of a William Blake poem come to mind ‘and priests in black gowns walking their rounds and binding with briers my joys and desires’. At that moment I began to have a full appreciation of the pent-up anger of the old woman that I had just met. With the Magdalene laundries, industrial schools and the sexual abuse of children by religious priests and Christian brothers I felt an urgent need to escape from the pulpit. I sat in the pew where the old woman had sat. I can only imagine the quiet satisfaction that she must have felt at the public disgrace of an institution that blighted the lives of so many people when she was a girl. The old pulpit soon lost its attraction for me as I looked around the empty church. I mused to myself would it still be so in another generation. I felt its faltering pulse with the likely cause of its death in time caused by the sins of pride and arrogance, conceit, vanity and most of all its delusional belief that it could dictate how people live their lives.
In respect for the old woman I deleted the number of photographs in my mobile phone as I closed the church door behind me.
(c) Michael Clemenger
Read Part 1 of this article here.
About Everybody Knew:
Michael Clemenger was handed over as a baby to the unloving care of a religious-run children’s home. Aged eight, he was transferred to St Joseph’s Industrial School.
Chosen as their ‘favourite’ by two Christian Brothers, Michael endured years of sexual abuse at the hands of both men. Brother Price struck at night, while Brother Roberts took pleasure in a weekly bathtime ritual. Although everybody at the institution knew, even the two Brothers’ ‘protection’ did not save Michael from merciless beatings by other sadistic men charged with his care.
Despite the unbelievable trauma of his early life, Michael emerged unbroken and determined to make something of himself. Everybody Knew is a story of remarkable spirit and courage.
Order your copy online here.