Once upon a time, I was a devout Roman Catholic. Emotionally, I left the church the day Humanae Vitaewas issued in Rome in 1968. I was 26. Humanae Vitae was the ruling that said Catholics cannot use artificial means of birth control. Rhythm is okay, but pills, diaphragms, IUDs are not okay. A few years later in December 1973, I joined the Episcopalian church.
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I had been pregnant six times in four years by the time I was 23, resulting in three live births and three spontaneous abortions or miscarriages as they were called in those days. I was a physical, emotional and mental wreck at that time. Following my “nervous breakdown,” one of the more progressive gynaecology physicians at the military hospital had finally put me on birth control pills. When he visited me in the psychiatric ward of the Tampa Bay General Hospital following my breakdown from postpartum depression, my priest had told me “go home and take your birth control pills.” So I did.
Three years later, I was living in Honolulu and on my way home from church when I heard the news about the papal encyclical. I recall the exact spot on the road from the church to my house. I was totally dismayed. Yes, I know some Catholics use birth control without a pang of conscience, but I could not do so, and receive communion after the Encyclical was issued. I believe that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Half-measures avail us nothing. Besides, God know what we get up to.
So, I left the Church, I left my EX, and I resumed an academic career that led to a long career in demography. I did not know what demography was in 1968.
The journey has been painful at times, and the positions I hold on religious matters in flux, although I have never doubted the existence of a Higher Power. Or, if I did it was for a very short time when I was in the psychiatric wing of the hospital. I know all religions are social constructs, and it does not bother me. Our Higher Power is bigger than any man-made religion. However, I respect most religions. I won’t say all, because I don’t know everything about all religions, but I will say I respect the ones with which I am familiar.
I have gone out of my way to understand what to me are strange, exotic religions, so as to attempt to understand those who follow them. I have had Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Quakers and others as friends. My friend Sherry was Christian Scientist and I asked her many questions about her faith, as she did mine. Sherry is one of the best people I know.
When I was a practicing Catholic I was tormented by the ignorant. Growing up in the South, I had a number of classmates and even friends tell me they had an old granny who thought Catholics worshipped the Devil or something equally strange. When I was eight, a friend invited me over for supper one Friday evening, and then her family tried to get me to eat a pork chop. These were the days when Catholics did not eat meat on Fridays, and I really wanted that pork chop. My Mom had admonished me to “not eat any meat at Linda’s house,” before I left. I thought about disappointing my Mom, and resisted the pork chop. My Mom (a Protestant convert) and I worked in JFK’s campaign, mainly because he was Catholic and many folks were very anti-Catholic in those days. The only thing worse than being Catholic in the South was to be Black or Jewish.
Later, I had a Protestant professor from Boston tell me she had suffered the same kind of discrimination at the hands of Catholics. I had a French Catholic friend tell me her father had forbidden her to date Polish Catholic boys owing to their inferiority. My interest in discrimination probably comes from these experiences. As a demographer, I spent much of my career looking at the subject of discrimination in one form or another with regard to race, sex, class and religion. I have tried to root it out of my heart.
I am thinking more about religious discrimination these days owing to recent events. For heaven’s sake if you don’t like Mitt Romney, don’t vote for him, but don’t make your decision based on religion.
Ditto Georgetown University. I graduated with an MA in sociology (demography) from Georgetown University in 1977. Yes, it is a Jesuit school. No, it should not be forced to pay for young people’s birth control. I am not going to go into all the ins and outs of this controversy, but I do understand where the Catholic institutions are coming from on the issue of life.
Too bad Ms Fluke ran into Rush L., who by the way is NOT a Republican. He insults everyone equally. My cousin adores Rush. One day, I asked him if he was sure Rush wasn’t a leftist plant trying to make the right look bad. He looked stunned for a moment, but then recovered. “Rush is a loose cannon in recovery (we hope??) from drug abuse,” he said.
When asked about birth control by one of the news anchors, Mr Romney said, “Why are we talking about that? It’s a settled issue isn’t it?”
I look back nostalgically to the Roman Church and I miss the bells and smells. Now that the Anglicans in the US are split and the more traditional side of what was Episcopalian has begun to link arms with the Roman Church,* I am thrown into a quandary. Most likely, I will continue to do what I have done and practice my faith on my own without a formal church. When Mom died, my brother said this is what Protestants have always done anyway. Catholics living under Communism did the same thing. Mike left the Church too. Only my sister remains a devout Roman Catholic.
* Read Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400–1580 and you will learn that many Anglicans did not leave the fold willingly.