Christian Brothers and Sex Education

A moment from Irish Catholic schooldays

We had a teacher years ago, a Christian Brother called Kelly.  He was a little rat-faced fellow with buck teeth, very intense, very serious, a good teacher of Latin and mathematics.  He was the year head which meant he was responsible for keeping us reasonably well behaved and I have to admit his job wasn’t easy.   There’s no getting around it.  We were a bunch of jerks.   Fourteen-year-old pricks.

I’d say he couldn’t have been more than about 27 or 28, but there was something in his over-controlled demeanour that suggested he was battling demons.  You could see by his eyes that he wasn’t a man to cross, and we didn’t.  We might have been jerks but we weren’t fools.

He  wasn’t one of those teachers who try to make friends with the kids.  Most of the time he was fair, but you were in no doubt who the boss was.  He used his leather sparingly but with great effect.

Kelly turned up one morning even more tense than usual.  His face was tight and his eyes bulged.  He looked like someone who had been awake all night staring at the ceiling and now that I have the benefit of many years hindsight, I think he probably had no sleep.  Yesterday’s chalk-dust still coated his soutane and his frizzy hair.

Today, he hissed, we’re going to talk about sssexsssss!!

Oh shit, we all thought.

His ratty little eyes darted around the classroom, daring any of us to snigger.  This man was boiling with rage.

The time comes when a boy starts to hanker after sssexxxssss,  he spat.

Jesus Christ, everyone was thinking.  This sounds like evil shit.

And for a full three-quarters of an hour, Kelly went on to spell out the mechanics of sexual intercourse in graphic detail, his voice filled with rage and disgust as he did his best to indoctrinate us with the belief that sex was shameful.

I now realise that he had no idea what he was talking about.

Poor Kelly had learned all the nonsense he was spouting from some Christian Brothers pamphlet produced by another equally-inadequate celibate.  His rage and disgust were directed inwards at himself, having probably been recruited as a young lad like us, whisked away to a monastery, with no affection, no family around him, no intimacy, no outlet for his emotions.  I now realise that Kelly was fizzing and popping because, intelligent man that he was, something inside him knew what he had missed out on.  But the Christian Brothers machine that controlled him was running at full throttle, and the misfortunate Kelly was in many ways no more than a glove puppet.

I can still see him, the poor rat-faced, buck-toothed little fellow, pacing around the classroom, hissing Sssexxxssss! with the contained rage that only a 28-year-old virgin might possess.

Any questionsss?

You must be kidding.  Any questions?  We all stared at our desks, hoping against hope that the torture would end soon.

In a parallel universe, I might be sitting there as an adult he’d be afraid to hit, and I sometimes think I’d like to ask a question.

Brother, did you ever have sex?

But you know, that might be an extreme cruelty to inflict on a man who was clearly tottering on the edge of the abyss.

I often wonder what became of him afterwards.



Memories of a Violent Teacher


Confronting the Past

25 thoughts on “Christian Brothers and Sex Education

  1. The second last line shows a chink of kindness in the armor Bock! Well placed I might add

  2. Poor Kelly. Demented from the want of some lovins.
    Shamed and repressed and not knowing any better.
    Must be a sad life to feel you have to live by someone else’s rules.

    The sex education I received from the Nuns was to wait until marriage. That was pretty much it. Oh and that rubbers were not allowed. Or any form of contraception. But that you could family plan by checking your temperature to see if you’re ovulating. – When you’re married though.
    It was a little ironic that there were one or two pregnant in the class at the time.
    We were informed of these pearls of wisdom in 6th year.

    RE: “He used his leather sparingly but with great effect.” I can’t even imagine that. It’d be so dehumanising.
    I used to babysit two boys when I was a teenager. I yelled at them once over something or other and the youngest, who was about 7 or 8 started crying. I felt so bad.. let them up half the night doing whatever they wanted.. read them a load of stories etc. I can’t imagine how anyone can hit a child.

  3. We had a guy just like that. Father M. I’ll call him. One time somebody in my boarding school drew a picture of a dick on the wall of the hall. Father M went bananas. Stormed into Irish class and started screaming, literally, red-faced and screaming, about PENISES!!! and VAGINAS!!! and drawing loads and loads of pictures of them on the blackboard. Couldn’t wait for that particular Irish class to be over. Needless to say we didn’t learn much about Peig on that occasion. But perhaps we learned a bit more about the Ireland she came from.

  4. Rob _ Sometimes a character is so pathetic you just can’t help feeling a bit sorry for him.

    FME — I’m told the nuns could be even more cruel than the priests and brothers.

    John — Why don’t you name the gobshite?

    Mr Bastard – You know full well that as a longstanding friend of this site, you may advertise whatever the hell you want to.

  5. Because Bock he didn’t actually do any harm to us. O he was a hoor with the clatter round the ear and had us in terror that way. But he wasn’t one of the ”funny” ones if you get me. Reckon he was just, like so many of them, driven half mad by a system that demands everyone of its clergy, regardless of whether they’re made by God or their mothers, whether they’re mystics capable of the sort of incredible self-discipline to turn their emotional energy solely towards inward and thus outward contemplation one occasionally hears of/encounters or whether they’re poor oul’ bogmen same as Paddy Maguire in The Great Hunger as ignorant and as innocent as a bull in a field driv half mad by horniness in springtime and not a heifer to be had. System demanded of them all those vows of poverty chastity and obedience which like any other man’s meat can as easily be one’s own poison.

  6. That’s a fair enough reason, although I must say, I think they harmed all of us.They may well have been victims of a system, but you wouldn’t think it from the strutting arrogance of them, and that aspect of it hasn’t gone away yet, you know.

  7. Lateral Violence. When abuse is poured from above, and when there’s no mitigation, no respite, then violence is directed at those around one. As a displacement. Then, of course, the ‘above’ point at the Lateral Violence, knowing full well these cycles, which they have studied as Scientifically as Universities now study physics and Madonna, and make the claim that we need more of the ‘above’ to protect us all. And, sad to say, most of us fall for it, for most of our lives.

    Ye weren’t pricks, ye were kids, coerced into a situation over which yoiu had no control, coerced to study mostly irrelevant shite, to turn you all into ‘good littel workers’, with the ever present threat of violence should you forget ‘your place’.

    And yes, he might have been a victim, but does that excuse his abuse? I think not, though it does help to understand the cycles.

  8. True Bock, some nuns were vicious. Luckily, the ones I had were just bitter aul sea hags and not physically violent or anything. Not to say I haven’t received a few wallops in my time.

    I had some twisted lay teachers in primary school too. I remember pupils having to stand in the corner facing away from the rest of the class with her arms held up for an hour at a time. Or writing out stupid fucking “lines”. Usually 100. ‘I will not talk in class and I will listen to the teacher’, for instance.

    I remember one teacher who when you’d ask, “an bhfuil cead agam dul go dti an leithreas” the answer would typically be, “no not now”. And another one who on occasion would come up behind me, after walking about the classroom and shake the beejesus out of me saying “come down from cloud nine”.

    Clearly in the right line of work – patient, tolerant, love kids, generally pleasant individuals. hmm.

  9. Corneilius – I think we were pricks. Is that ok?
    haha, I was a little shit when I was about 14.
    We used to make our female teachers cry which i feel a little guilty about now.

  10. Bock,if its the same Brother Kelly who I think you refer to(the description is spot on), First Year,my recollection of the same gent is that he was he was a dab hand with the leather, and sparingly is hardly a word Id use to describe his efforts with that particular instrument of persuasion. Though we didnt know it at the time,we were pricks alright but in an innocent way,devoid of malice as most fourteen year olds are. Makes you wonder what business a celibate teacher of Latin and Maths had pontificating on sex.
    I was taught religion a couple of years later by a Brother Gill and broaching the subject of sexual intercourse one day the man went purple in the face with embarassment. We were for a while thereafter under the illusion that having sex was akin to commiting a crime,which tallies with your assertion that Kelly gave a similar impression. Strangely,it never bothered some of their compadres who gave practical demonstrations(sub rosa of course) to many unfortunate victims.

  11. We had a Sister Anne come in for an evening to talk to the boys about sex when we were in first yea an a prize group of little bastards. Dried up and 60ish she couldn’t even say the word sex without squirming. One brave boy asked what a wank is – just to piss her off I think – and he was kicked out. The next day the 1st year yearhead brought us into his office one at a time to see if we had any further questions about the dirty sex. The luckiest boys got to sit on his lap and feel him writhing. Ah, nothing like a good catholic education.

  12. I am not sure why, perhaps I was an ugly child but I never suffered any of this sort of crap.

  13. Anybody remember a heavy breathing lay teacher called Mousy D. who would not address the class unless safely seated behind his desk on the rostrum with a boy placed between his legs and his hands exploring a petrified eight year old student. I think he was also a local politician of the we know best variety. His perversion was known for years yet he was protected by many. old classmates all seem to have the same story of confusion and betrayal.

  14. Was it that he didn’t know what he was letting himself in for when he joined the Christian Brothers or something? For a life like that abstinence is a standard requirement. Sex isn’t sinful – it’s the ultimate expression of a husband and wife’s love for one another, being had morally. Being a priest or brother means you give yourself entirely to God, BODY as well as soul. I put body in capitals for a reason. Some are called to it. Most aren’t. it’s as simple as that.

  15. I don’t see anything wrong with sex with a husband and wife..
    as long as they’re both hot and the wifey doesn’t get too jealous.

  16. Found this article on the net. I have quoted the first part. Well worth reading.

    Vatican confirms report of sexual abuse and rape of nuns by priests in 23 countries

    March 19, 2011 by Answering Christianity

    Wednesday, 21 March 2001
    The Catholic Church in Rome made the extraordinary admission yesterday that it is aware priests from at least 23 countries have been sexually abusing nuns.

    Most of the abuse has occurred in Africa, where priests vowed to celibacy, who previously sought out prostitutes, have preyed on nuns to avoid contracting the Aids virus.

    Confidential Vatican reports obtained by the National Catholic Reporter, a weekly magazine in the US, have revealed that members of the Catholic clergy have been exploiting their financial and spiritual authority to gain sexual favours from nuns, particularly those from the Third World who are more likely to be culturally conditioned to be subservient to men.

  17. In 1970, a priest called me into his office, at Secondary School, to explain all about the birds, and the bees.I started laughing.You know all about it, said he, I do Father, said I.Get out , but be careful, said he grinning from ear to ear.He belonged to a missionary crowd.Had been all over the world, and probably knew the facts, firsthand.Lovely man.

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