Left-Handed People and the Catholic Church

Did you know that “Centuries ago, the Catholic Church declared left-handed people to be servants of the Devil? For generations, left-handers who attended Catholic schools were forced to become right-handed. They justified this belief on the basis of several bible quotations that stigmatized left-handedness.

There are also quite a few superstitions about being left-handed. It wasn’t until we realized, in the last century or so, that there are legitimate biological reasons for left-handedness, that people were no longer forced to use their right hand. I’m not the only person who sees the parallels between being left-handed and being gay. You can read a lot more about left-handedness at this site.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Kathleen

    I’ve read this many times, and I am reasonably sure the church would have made such a declaration. But I have yet to find a citation for a specific church document. Can anyone provide a reference to a church issuance?

  2. Steph Mineart

    I haven’t found a citation for an official church policy, but it certainly has been cited that there was one in numerous published works on left-handedness:
    That page does a good job of citing the 25 references in the Bible that portray left-handedness as bad, and of citing published scholarly works that discuss Catholic church practices regarding left-handedness.
    Among them:
    Right and Left; Essays on Dual Symbolic Classification. (Hardcover)
    by Rodney Needham
    Gooch, Stan
    “Creatures from Inner Space”, 1984. Published by Rider & Company, London, UK. Chapter 11 is on left-handedness.
    Discouraging the use of the left hand, to the point of tying a hand behind the back or even disabling permanently the left hand in schools and in church worship was a certainly a Catholic Church practice; one only has to Google to find numerous personal accounts of it. And it continues to this day, if you check out this discussion between members in the forums at catholic.com:
    We have a manner of prayer and worship that incorporates the flesh as a language. People might claim that “it’s no big deal” if I want to do it my way, but I say if “it’s no big deal” then speak the language of your culture. In this case, using the right hand.
    The mosaic of trifles adds up. As a CCD teacher, I re-school any of my kids who genuflect on their left knee or make the sign of the cross with their left hand. We re not a “me-myself-and-I” operation.
    More quotes:
    Matthew 25:31-46 In case you don’t have a Bible handy here’s a summary:
    “When the Son of Man comes as King and all the angels with him, he will sit on his royal throne …. He will put the righteous people at his right and the others at his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, Come you are blessed by my Father …. Then he will say to those on his left “away from me, you that are under God’s curse! Away to the eternal fire which has been prepared for the Devil and his angels.”

  3. Kathleen

    Dear Steph –
    Thanks for your response. Converting lefties was practiced in public school as well in my day (1950’s & 60’s). I know how powerful this belief and practice have been, especially in Catholicism which is extremely rigid (al a the CCD teacher you quoted).
    And as you pointed out there are plenty of scriptural citations that reflect the superstitions held by those who wrote the Bible.
    But I am still looking for any actual church writing upon which the oft alleged ‘the church declared…’ is based.
    Such a declaration may or may not exist, but citing what has been published in another article may just perpetuate an unproven claim and turn it into fact.
    Can anyone cite an actual church source for this ‘declaration’ on left handedness? Thanks

  4. Steph Mineart

    Well, both of those amazon links above seem to be citing a source. I’m fine with that level of reference, but since you’re the one interested in tracking down a church source, I think the responsibility lies with you to check the hardcover books. Not all research can be done on the internet, unfortunately. Sometimes you actually have to get books for this sort of thing. If you’re worried about “debunking” the issue, I recommend getting your own blog and pursuing the issue. I consider the case closed, here.

  5. Darwolf

    My dad started left handed and dad broke it until he start using his right hand and he was a preacher.

  6. ED slipper

    the catholic church is wrong (not a first for religion!) and its pope is a bastard. left handed people are good and infact they are better than right handed people. they have higher IQs and are more creative. and if that isnt good enough for you religious swines the greatest, most powerful man in the universe, Barack Obama is also left handed. perhaps he will give us equal rights!

    1. Terri Daugherty

      I am left handed and have been for 60 years and yes I was a catholic who had my hands wacked with a ruler for the first four years of school. today I right underhanded so my knuckles are not showing and the ink does not smear the paper. I also dropped out of school, was denied love by my right handed family members 4 sisters and a brother and my parents. But I still raised two beautiful children and then went to collage to figure out why I was the named the BAD kid, I came to realize that it was the catholic church and their belittling beliefs. THANKS ALOT FOR NOTHING AS TODAY MY HIGHER POWER IS LOVING THATS THE SECRET.

  7. Bob Lee

    My mother in law was treated very badly because she was left – handed. She attended a standard state secular junior school with a Christan bent. I.e. Singing hymns and saying prayers. The school was called Alaw Juniors and it was during the 1930’s in Glamorgan South Wales.

  8. steph foster

    my daughter started r.c school in meir stok-on-trent. She was 5-year-old; now she 18 year old and she still now has problem in which hand to use. She was left handed, now right handed but uses right handed scissors upside down. Now I’ve got another daughter which left handed, and we are moving to blackpool the nearest school to us is r.c school. Now are they still making left handers right handed? I am worried about her, because she got other problems.

  9. shu

    My best friend was left haed and went to catholic school and they did force him to use his right hand, he’s now a doctor and uses both his left and right..

  10. Joshua

    My dad is left handed and went to catholic school. He talks all the time about getting hit with a ruler for using his left hand.

  11. Matt

    I went to catholic school in the 80’s and after falling and hurting my left hand in the playground the nuns bandaged it up good and made me learn to write with my right hand. I think I was probably one of the last kids to get the cane in the uk too!

  12. Matt

    I was sent to a Catholic school in the 1960’s, a natural left-hander, the nuns tied my left hand to the arm of the chair, I fought against it, next they tied both my legs to the chair legs, it went on for about three years until l was sent to a public school, had great teachers there but the damage was done and have assorted problems ever since, so fuck the Catholic church, schools the lot.

  13. Jack Ballschmider

    I was forced to write right handed by the Catholic nun’s,
    I found this material about 12 years ago. Sattler from Germany studied 4,500 people in a related study with very interesting results. “It is not about handedness,
    it is about brainedness.” forcing one to use your non’dominant brain. . (Sattler, Johanna Barbara, The Converted Left-Hander or the “Knot” in the Brain. In German: Der umgeschulte Linkshänder oder Der Knoten im Gehirn. Auer Verlag, Donauwörth, 1995. 12. Auflage 2013). see my facebook page for more info.

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