Is Discrimination Really Dead?

Once upon a time, I was a devout Roman Catholic. Emotionally, I left the church the day Humanae Vitae was 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. 

Cover of "The Stripping of the Altars: Tr...

Cover via Amazon

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.




8 thoughts on “Is Discrimination Really Dead?

  1. I don’t know what to make of these religious wars — I guess I mostly try to ignore them. But one thing I know. Whether you’re Protestant, Catholic or anything else, we definitely need more peace on earth and good will toward men.


  2. Wow, that’s a lot of topics! 🙂 I read a comment about this whole birth control thing that said, basically, if you want it, use it. Pay for it yourself because that’s the way it has always been since the time of the pill (I think that’s how he phrased it). End of that topic.

    I won’t vote for Romney because I don’t trust him. Simple. I vote people, not Party.

    There’s your link to Honolulu — you did use to live here! Coming home? 😉

    Mom left the Catholic church, too, when they started changing things. As a youth I nosed around in things to see what they were but nothing called out except for Jesus Christ Superstar — I so wanted to jump into that movie and save Ted Neeley! As an adult I became an Orthodox Christian and I highly recommend it — structure that refuses to change. Bells and smells and rules that have good reasons. Honest! I just needed reasons that I could say, “Oh, okay, now that makes sense!”

    Do we humans have problems with other faiths? Yeah, we all do, I think. Everyone has a not-so-nice view of other religions, and people, for a variety of reasons. “Holy is the Lord our God!” But us, not so much. 🙂

    It’s hard to be an example for the faith we have chosen — we’re human, therefore we err! Big time! I am speaking or myself, of course, and I know it’s hard! I have a bad temper and that’s my goal this lent — to nip it in the bud whenever possible!

    I will stop talking now and just give you cyber hugs and I’m sorry that you had to deal with so much as a young lady!


  3. I’m right there with you. Miss the smells and bells, not the ignorance. Studied and tried to understand many religions and spiritual belief systems. Try to remain open and loving to all. No church, but pray to my higher power. I was pregnant five times in five year—so know that feeling. Two miscarriages. I loved the honesty (and prose) of this post. And I liked that it was long, too. Hugs, Sam.


  4. Religion is the constraint mankind puts on faith. We are so busy following the man-made rules that we forget to put God at the heart of things.

    Discrimination is nowhere near dead, and people from every religion are guilty of it. What we need is to remember why we worship our particular God, and live by that.


  5. Although David and I no longer practice our religion, we still have Catholic relics which we have yet to discard, e.g., the sacred heart of Jesus plaque, the crucifix, and the Last Supper statue, not to mention countless bibles. When I told David we should discard these things, he said, “No, that might bring bad luck.”


    • No bad luck Gigi, it’s just very disrespectful to destroy holy things, especially if they have been blessed! Give them away to friends or take them to the Salvation Army. 🙂


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