Is my father a hypocrite?

Dear Michele,
Possibly at sometime in your life you’ve had an “I’m not going to like this!” moment, as I once did. I was a freshman in a public high school for one week when the local parish priest called and wanted to see my family. I thought “I’m not going to like this!” and I was absolutely correct.

When we meet with the parish priest, he informed my parents he had selected me to attend an out-of-State private Catholic High School. My parents’ attitude was one of immediate acquiescence. The consequences for me were leaving the in-town school with extensive athletic fields, an auditorium, a cafeteria, a band, a glee club and numerous after-school activities to attend a school that had none of these splendid facets of education. I now had to ride a bicycle to the train station and then board a train in order to travel to school. I attended this school for two years and HATED IT!

The Brothers at the school were physically abusive to us. I’ve served in the Military where discipline is strict, but physical abuse in never tolerated. The discipline the Brothers imposed was abuse and was not justified. If the purpose of a Catholic education was to inculcate the students with Christ-like behavior, then it was an abject failure.

I was annoyed with the attitude of my father who kept telling me Father provided me with “the chance of s lifetime.” I don’t think my father really believed this, but rather it was an insincere attempt to convince me it was in my best interest to attend Catholic High School.

My father was completely non-religious; never once in his life had he every entered a house of worship and prayer. Does this make him a hypocrite?

Is my father a hypocrite?

Dear is my father a hypocrite,
You have a very painful story to tell, and it’s clear the decision your father made was very hurtful to you. It is impossible to know exactly what your father was thinking or feeling, I would suggesting asking him directly if you are able. It sounds as if you have anger towards him, so be sure to pray and discern the best way to approach this conversation, if you choose and are able to go to him directly.

Without knowing any other details, it is very likely that your father knew nothing of the abuse occurring at the school. And if you did tell him about it, a man of his generation may have not noticed the reports as abusive and considered it simply strict discipline. Unless your father was an absent and uncaring man, I would imagine he would not purposely expose his own child to abuse. He likely thought the clergy were holy men, focused on teaching high school students the ways of the Lord. It’s sounds like your father thought he was sending you to a school with a good reputation and an excellent academic record, which would allow you to attend a good college or exceed in whatever your career path was after high school.

Many people who are not Catholic send their children to Catholic schools. I hear many times about the large number of students at Catholic schools that are not Catholic. This is because Catholic schools are known to provide good education, in terms of higher test scores and teaching standards. This may not have been your case at your school, but it’s likely your dad thought he was giving you a gift, a gift that he never had access to himself.

We don’t know why some people don’t believe, or don’t worship. There is no way to know why your father was not religious. He may have had his own personal reasons; he may have never been exposed to correct Catholic teaching. Maybe he felt unworthy. Or maybe he was simply not interested. But it sounds like as an outsider, he still found something valuable about the Catholic religion, or he likely would not have sent you to a Catholic the school.

I am sorry to hear about your experience. It is sad to hear how a school can totally fail its students. I imagine it may be easy to transfer some of that disappointment and anger about mistreatment from the Brothers to your dad – making him responsible for the actions of others. I want to recognize that you suffered an injustice, and God is deeply saddened by what happened to you.

I hope you are able to continue to work through your feelings about your experience, and about your relationship with your father. If this issue continues to bother you or is blocking you from having healthy relationships, I would suggest you seek counsel of a trusted mentor, pastor, or licensed therapist.

God Bless,

Michele Fleming, M.A.