I grew up in a Catholic household. We went to church on Sundays wearing dresses with white stockings underneath. My mother made sure we knew our prayers and attended catechism regularly. The Catholic Church is not the most progressive or liberal institution. No one would say that, as an institution, it espouses feminist ideas or liberal politics. After all, one of the primary tenants of Catholicism is that men may be priests and women may not. Only a priest can bless the Eucharist and turn wine into the blood of Christ.
At catechism on Saturday I was told that Eve was made from Adam’s rib. She was meant to be his partner and his wife. My mom told me to save my virginity for marriage and marriage for my thirties. She also told me to wait to have children (with my husband, of course) until I was established in a career and could take of them and myself, on my own. My mother and father always told me my goal in life should be independence. I should educate myself and have a career I could depend on. You should never have to rely on anyone, and certainly not any man, for anything.
I don’t think my mother ever thought that the views she told me came from God might be inconsistent with the opinions she had about my future. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I had a religious crisis about these inconsistencies. When I began studying for my Confirmation, I realized I would always be a cafeteria Catholic. I would pick and choose what aspects of Catholicism I could believe in.
After studying Catholic doctrine and theology I realized I disagreed – a lot. I do not think that the Pope has a holier relationship with God than I do. I believe a woman should have the legal right to choose. I believe that marriage should be legally recognized as a relationship between two consenting adults. Most importantly I don’t believe that my own faith should dictate my political views. My faith is mine and I respect that I should not hold others responsible accountable to my own religious beliefs.
I am not alone in my dilemma. American Catholic nuns have been called radicals by the Vatican. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/american-nuns-stunned-by-vatican-accusation-of-radical-feminism-crackdown/2012/04/20/gIQAi4gkWT_story.html.). A group of American nuns have been ostracized by the Vatican for disagreeing with American bishops on issues varying from same sex marriage to male-only priesthood. These are my kind of nuns.
Yet some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around religion. I don’t think I can remember ever feeling as happy or beautiful as I did on the day of my first communion. I remember sitting in my pew in my pretty dress knowing that God loved me. The absolute certainty of that love made me happy beyond belief. While I do not have that simple child-like faith anymore, I still love God and am pretty sure God loves me. The only difference is that now I feel that way regardless of my church attendance or acceptance of Catholic doctrine. I don’t plan on having children and I don’t think that makes me any less of a woman or any less deserving of God’s love. If I did have children I don’t know if I would raise them with the religious background I experienced.
In class we seemed to focus on the downsides of religion. I agree that at least for me wholehearted acceptance of Catholic doctrine and theology is not something I, as a feminist, can be a part of. However, for me faith is beautiful. Faith is something that I can always rely on. My faith in God has helped me throughout my life and it is not something I will ever want to give up. So let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.