Religious Scandals Don’t Always Happen in the Church

My confession is interwoven with multiple other possible confessions. See, mine doesn’t only involve me, but it involves nineteen members of my 2002 high school soccer team, a religion teacher, and a girl that would go on to be a contender in the, yes, THE, Miss America Pageant.

As a freshman, I made the varsity soccer team at a Catholic High School. This was great not only because I liked that I got to say I was on varsity, but also because I loved that cool senior girls now said hi to me in the halls. As team ritual, the captains would always host spaghetti dinners the night before Saturday games, for a little team bonding and carbo-loading. “Team bonding,” of course meant gossiping for hours, and since none of the other girls even remotely cared about what was going on in the ninth-grade, I just sat back and listened. Most of it was petty boyfriend girlfriend drama, with the occasional pregnancy scare thrown in, but one story was a little too juicy for any of us to disregard. A couple or seniors told us about their friend Kelly (who was easily one of most beautiful people to ever grace the hallways of that school, not to mention one of the brightest) and a little romance that she had started up with the young, hunky, MARRIED, religion teacher at our school, Mr. Brown. A collective gasp filled the room.  They went on to tell us all sort of juicy details from the love letters they exchanged, the flowers he would leave in her locker, to their frequent secret rendezvous. Needless to say we left that night in a state of shock. Our school was grade 8-12 and only had 800 kids in it so news like that was something that was going to spread fast. And it did.

That Saturday night at a sleepover with three other girls, I dished on the whole thing. I spared no details, and of course they were just as amazed as me. By that Monday, the lunch tables were buzzing about the freshly outted and completely scandalous relationship. New details were being added in by the second, from him leaving his wife so they could elope after she graduated, to her being pregnant. By Tuesday Mr. Brown was no longer teaching at the school. I felt awful for being part of something that would end up getting a teacher fire, but knew that I wasn’t working alone. What weighed on my most however, was that I didn’t know if it were true or just the spiteful gossip of some jealous friends.

A couple of years later, another religion teacher at my school ended up marrying someone in my family (yes, it was weird), and while at my annual family Christmas Party I mustered up the courage to ask if there had been any truth to the story. He said that there was, and while he didn’t divulge any gritty details, he did say that the relationship was “inappropriate.” Any guilt I had felt about telling my friends slowly melted away.

I never saw Mr. Brown again, and didn’t see Kelly until about six years later when I heard that she was going to be representing Maine (not our home state, but where she went to college) in the Miss America Pageant. She didn’t make it past the first round, but as I watched her on the stage I couldn’t help but think if she won how quickly it would take someone to sell the story.

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