Last week, I did an interview with a reporter about why I believe the Catholic Church should allow “artificial” contraception, or perhaps even better, just stay out of the contraception discussion altogether. I dream of a world where the Church presents all the facts that might be relevant to Catholics making a moral decision, and then leaves that decision up to them.
In my interview, I cited marriage research that says more sex equals happier marriages, and that relying on NFP alone can lead to unnecessary and unhealthy sexual tension and resentment. I talked about framing the primary benefit of sex being its ability to cement a relationship and improve bonding rather than procreation, and how “unnatural” (not to mention somewhat cruel) it is to expect women to forgo sex when they want it most (during their fertile window) month after month after month, year after year after year, if a couple does not want to have children. And then I cited research about how “unwanted” (what a horrible word) and “mistimed” children suffer throughout their lives in contrast to their “wanted” counterparts.
I thought I’d made a pretty good showing. He asked some demographic questions, like my age, and how long I’d been married, and whether my husband was also Catholic.
Then he asked if I currently belonged to a Catholic parish.
The new cat — who is just a cat, not a child “substitute.”
After months of deliberation, last week I adopted another cat. This led to me Googling pet-related search terms on my work breaks, and I found this article about Pope Francis, in which he warns married couples not to “replace” children with pets.
This hit close to home because one of the reasons we debated whether we should get another cat is that we are thinking about having children — and that is such an unknown factor that we wondered if it was really wise to introduce another unknown factor into our lives before then.
Still, the Pope’s “advice” rubbed me the wrong way because, like many of the hierarchy’s proclamations, it is too simplistic, dismissive of the complicated choices people must make about their lives. The decision whether or not to have children is an intensely personal one, and probably has the farthest-reaching consequences of any choice a couple will ever make. This requires deep soul searching, not a rote edict from a man who will never have to lose hours of sleep over a baby’s cries or a teenager’s rebellion; who will never have to make the decision to take the hit to his career for the flexibility parenthood requires; or who will never have to stay in a soul-crushing job because he needs the money to feed his children.
For several months, my family has been in conflict. There is anger, betrayal, greed, fear, lies, accusations, scandal — if you picture Game of Thrones taking place in the present-day Midwest, you’ll have a pretty good idea.
I am sleeping with my rosary again.
People say that when you become a parent, you will “default” to the way your parents raised you in times of stress, no matter how intentionally you planned to be different. I feel like in times of stress, I “default” to the religious practices of my childhood. The rosary has long been my companion for staving off intense bouts of anxiety, the one thing I’ve felt I can do when everything else is beyond my power, but I’ve never been in crisis this long before, and so I don’t think I’ve ever said so many consecutive rosaries in my life.
While I was looking for podcasts to listen to at work, I came across The Catholic Underground. The word “Underground” gave me hope
The best women have to offer?
for something subversive, a hope which remained sadly unfulfilled. Instead, I got the same old party lines rife with contradictions. (You can listen to the whole show here, but I can’t say I recommend it unless you have 75 minutes to kill and want to do so listening to three guys shoot the breeze and occasionally mention something relevant to Catholicism.)
One of the news items discussed is the Gates’ Foundation’s new technology that puts birth control on a microchip. The article I just linked is the one referenced in the show, and a link to it appears on the show’s page, but one of the hosts made sure to include the disclaimer that the website supports birth control “for all of the usual, silly, illogical reasons” that they’ve gone into before.
When it comes to Catholicism, there’s not much that raises my ire more than three men sitting around calling birth control “illogical” and “silly.” I could fill a whole post with a rant about that (I sort of already did here and here), but that’s not what I’m here to write about. Not exactly.
Later in the show, the hosts discussed brain research showing that when men view images of tools and images of scantily clad women, the same brain area lights up: the area associated with using objects to attain goals. (When men viewed images of attractive but fully clothed women, the brain response was more complex, involving more systems). The hosts used this as an opportunity to bemoan the habit of seeing women as “objects” rather than as full people. I concur that this is unfortunate, even sinful, and that spiritual people especially should avoid cultivating this habit.
Last Sunday, at the beginning of the prayer after the offering at Church, the pastor faltered, stumbling over her words for the first time. She followed up with, “I’m sorry, but I’m not feeling well—I have to ask you to excuse me.” She requested that the choir director finish leading the prayer, and she disappeared.
Everyone deserves backup.
After a moment of surprised silence, the choir director took the podium and led the rest of the prayer. I was staring at the bread and pitcher on the altar, waiting for communion. Communion is only served once a month at this church, so my first thought was, “We’ll have to skip communion.”
A little over a year ago, I traveled to New York to attend a colloquium about the intersection of bisexuality and faith. The Religious Institute was calling together bisexual ministers and people of faith from diverse religious backgrounds to start a discussion that would ultimately inform their creation of Bisexuality: Making the Invisible Visible in Faith Communities, a guidebook for congregations to use in welcoming, affirming, and ministering to bisexual people. One of the women spear-heading the project emailed me several times before officially inviting me to the colloquium, mentioning that my name “kept coming up” in relation to Catholicism and bisexuality. I laughed and told her it was because I was the only Out Catholic Bisexual in the World. (Luckily, that isn’t true.)
While at the colloquium, I learned that the Religious Institute’s work targets “mainline” denominations who are already open to issues of progressive sexuality, and that their intent was not to “change the Pope’s mind” on anything. Still, I know that I and thousands of others have stayed connected to the Catholic Church precisely because we have found others–Sisters, monks, priests, or congregants–who are not waiting for the Pope to change his mind, but who are living a message of Christlike love and acceptance already. As such, this book might be especially needed by those CCD and Catholic High School teachers or priests or others officially affiliated with the church who sometimes feel like the only voice for an open and affirming vision of human sexuality. The Institute also has guidebooks relating to other issues of sexuality, such as reproductive technologies, sexual education, GLBTQ inclusivity, etc.
The book features a short excerpt from my essay about being bisexual that was published in Unruly Catholic Women Writers, as well as well as a reflection on Roman Catholic sexuality teachings by Kate Ott. It’s a great resource for those Catholics who strive to make the circle of acceptance within our denomination wider.
Two weeks ago, my cat Phoebe died.
I can’t totally shake the feeling that it was my fault.
Not because I made the choice to euthanize her, and not because I didn’t realize she was sick until it was too late, although both are true. But because of the thoughts in my head.
The day I realized she was sick came at the end of a week of trying to convince someone I love to get a restraining order because I feared for her safety and even her life. For several months, I’ve lived in fear that I will lose this person to violence and my life will be shattered. So when I left my cat at the vet overnight for further observation, I already had this niggling dread that this was the beginning of the end of our 10+ years together. And as I lay in bed with a migraine that night, I thought, “I would rather lose Phoebe than the person in my life I’m worried about.”
As soon as I had the thought, I wished I hadn’t. Although it was, and still is, true, somehow it felt like I was making an offering, a bargain. Hey, God, if you protect this human that I love, I’ll sacrifice this animal that I love. Continue reading