Mr Connolly was a big man, tall, somewhat stout and wore glasses. I think he may have taken English but for a time he was our Religious Instruction teacher. For what ever reason, he and I did not get on. At that time I was questioning the whole religion thing, not because I didn’t believe in a creator but because I found so many holes in the set of beliefs we were obliged to swallow without question. As an example, we were asked to submit written questions about concerns we might have about anything to do with sex. We may have been told the basic mechanics in one lesson or other but we might have other issues of a theological nature.
I submitted the question which I genuinely did not know the answer to (in fact, I still don’t, over fifty years later):
‘If a woman is married and turns out to be barren (unable to conceive in modern terminology) would sexual intercourse be wrong?’
Now bear in mind, we had been told that sex was designed purely for procreation and in a time before IVF treatment there was no way for a woman who could not conceive to have children other than by adoption. Anyway, all the questions we had written anonymously were put into a dish and given to Mr Connolly at the front of the class. I can’t remember the other questions that were pulled out of the dish but when it came to my question Mr Connolly read it out and said “Well we all know the answer to that stupid question!”. Mr Connolly sir – I STILL DON’T!!!
He may have suspected who was the source of the ‘stupid’ question because I had become someone who asked several questions which, truth to tell, may have been designed a little bit to get under his skin. I once asked him that if God was all merciful and would forgive anyone who expressed genuine remorse, why confession to a priest was necessary. Mr Connolly told me that not only did we need to be forgiven by God, we also needed to be forgiven by the church. I could never really get me head round that one. I really wanted to know the answer because at the age of fourteen I considered I was committing sins I would NEVER confess to anyone, let alone a priest!