Growing Up Gay In Pope Francis' Home


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Imagine knowing as a young girl in an Irish-Catholic home that you're attracted to girls.

I grew up with Pope Francis — that's what we called my father who shares the same first name. Born the only girl in an uber Irish Catholic family, we celebrated many Irish and Catholic traditions that made no sense to me until I read Frank McCourt's book Angela's Ashes; then, everything about my childhood and my father, the Pope, finally made sense.

Imagine knowing as a young girl that I was attracted to girls! It was a ripe environment for lesbian guilt, shame and fear.

My father's parents emigrated from Ireland in the early 1900s. So, of course the Irish Catholic traditions in the family included worshipping the priesthood, alcoholism, sexual, emotional and physical abuse. My uncles were priests (and yes, they both molested children and were never held accountable), aunts were nuns and we often had visiting priests and cardinals staying at our house.

Other traditions in my family included Catholic schooling, going to Mass every Holy Day, everyone being subservient to an overbearing, cold and controlling father who was an alcoholic. My role as the only girl in the family was to be the maid to my four brothers. Yes, I had to cook, clean and do laundry for all of them until I finally revolted during my senior year in high school.

We also had a very unique family business called Christ the King Gift Shop. We were the supply house for the Catholic Church in New England. We sold everything you needed to be Catholic, and I mean everything. Back in the '50s and '60s, you needed a lot of stuff to be Catholic — holy water, lacy veils, scapulas, missiles (not rockets, but the prayer book for a mass) and on and on.

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Mary Malia

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Mary G. Malia

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Certified Strategic Intervention Coach, Robbins- Madanes Coaching

Location: Portland, ME
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