Books: A book that changed me - Wendy Perriam
Sunday 08 February 1998
Why did it strike you so much? It promised such certainty, yet promoted such fear. Profound questions which occupy philosophers for a lifetime were settled in a couple of brisk lines: "Who made you?" "God made me." "Why did God make you?" "God made me to know Him, love Him and serve him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next." (I still know it by heart!) Even the $64,000 question "What is God?" was tackled with the same unassailable authority. Yet despite this foolproof Deity, the Catechism's stress on sin and punishment changed me from a rebellious, hedonistic child into an anxious obsessive, forever examining my conscience and accusing myself of sins I barely understood. The ninth commandment, for example, forbids "all wilful pleasure in the irregular motions of the flesh", which I innocently assumed must be something to do with constipation or diarrhoea.
The Catechism also warns against "gluttony, drunkenness and intemperance". Meals were sparse at my convent boarding school, our sole beverage mid- morning milk, yet I was convinced by the age of 12 that I was an intemperate soak destined for hellfire. Hell was more or less inevitable. I had an A-Level in self-denial: pebbles in my shoes, pepper on my apple pies, second helpings of tapioca - yet even constant penance was no safeguard when the devil prowled the world, hungry for the souls of little girls. "What do you mean by the devil?" "By the devil I mean Satan and all his wicked angels who are ever seeking to draw us into sin, that we may be damned with them." Is it any wonder that many Catholics are paralysed with guilt and terrified of death?
Have you re-read it? Yes, frequently, for the purposes of my fiction. If I'm creating Catholic characters born before, say, 1950, the Catechism will be branded into their brain like letters through a stick of rock.
Do you recommend it? Absolutely not. Forget Salman Rushdie. If any "Satanic Verses" should be consigned to the pyre, this is the version. And I'll light the match!
Wendy Perriam's latest novel, 'Second Skin', is published by Flamingo on 16 Feb at pounds 16.99
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 The top 50 cities for young people to live in
- 5 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
The C-Word - review: Sheridan Smith shines in a warm, honest adaptation of Lisa Lynch's book about living with cancer
X-Men Apocalypse: First look at Jubilee and Jean Grey played by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner
American Horror Story: Hotel Angela Bassett set to make 'lots of trouble' with Lady Gaga in season 5
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 4 - review: Sansa is in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
Adam Sandler's The Ridiculous Six: Make-up 'used to darken skin of actors to make them look Native American'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils