I am not Catholic, but I think somehwere my parents (we’re from Indiana) picked this joke up from a Catholic family.
Some kid who was a real hellion–he stole things, smoked, lied, picked fights, started fires–everything–put his parents at their wits’ end tryinbg to straighten him out. Finally a friend suggested sending him to a parochial school instead of public school that fall. The kid, of course, fought the idea fiercely, but the parents won out.
He went the first day, and when he came home his manner had already started to change. By the time school was about to close for the next summer vacation, he had made an earnest effort to patch things up with all the people he had wronged, and his manners became impeccable; and his schoolwork made him a straight-A student.
When he came home from school the last day, his parents met him to tell him how proud they were of him for how the parochial school had improved him. And they asked, “Son, something must really have made an impression on you that first day. Did they discipline you?”
He said, “No. but we went into the chapel that first day and I saw a statue of a man nailed onto a cross. I saw that and thought, ‘Is * that * how they punish you here??’”