Psst! Don’t tell anyone, but… um, we actually think the Church’s teaching is pretty cool
“I think I was always secretly grateful for the Catholic Church. I sensed at some level that in standing against contraception, the Church was standing, more importantly, for a beautiful, holistic vision of sexuality that lined up with my deepest longings….”
THE COUNTDOWN: Only 100 more days until the current Administration brings down the ax on those who “bitterly cling” to the 1st Amendment, with its absolute guarantee of freedom of religion.
One of the things that perhaps empowered the Administration to assume they could get away with such an outrage as the HHS contraceptive mandate is the apparent disregard of most Catholics themselves for their Church’s teaching on the issue of contraception. Well, the Administration underestimated the intelligence of the American people, who can easily see the much larger issue involved. Even people who vehemently disagree with the Catholic Church on all manner of issues, including contraception, are appalled at the government’s willingness to run roughshod over the very principle that was at the core of the founding of the United States: freedom of religion — specifically the right of religious people to practice their religion without government interference.
But there’s even more to it. Despite the popular media myth that most Catholics believe their bishops to be out of touch, a recent Pew survey has found, surprisingly, that less than 10% of Catholics surveyed feel that the Catholic Church should change its teaching on contraception. Just let that sink in for a minute. Less than 10%! This is amazing, considering that numerous surveys have reported that a huge majority — greater than 95% — of Catholic women (or at least, those who self-report as Catholics, whether or not they even go to church) have used contraception. How to square these two seemingly contradictory numbers?
My own life experiences got me to wondering about one possible explanation: Maybe there are just a lot of people out there who recognize the truth, at some level, when they see it or hear it, even if they’re not quite “there” yet in their personal life.
I’ve been pro-life since the day after Roe v. Wade came down (I was in high school at the time). But for many years — certainly, all through college — I was an agnostic/New-Age/Hindu-wannabe/deist pagan pro-lifer. In those years, nearly all of my female peers were on the Pill — and my thinking was, well, that’s just fine for them. (Back then, I didn’t know the Pill was abortifacient, or I would have opposed it). I didn’t want to ever go on the Pill myself — I was an all-natural, earth-mama kind of gal, after all, and I was afraid that bombarding my body with massive doses of hormones would turn me into nothing more than a chemically-altered sexual thing – but that was just my personal preference, which I didn’t apply to anyone else. Plus, I was mightily concerned about overpopulation, and figured the Pill was probably a necessary evil in the world at large. I was both a Paul Ehrlich fan — and a pro-lifer! The Pill reconciled those two things, because, according to the myth, the Pill would reduce population and reduce the number of abortions. (We’ve since found out that the Pill actually correlates with an increase in abortion.)
One of the reasons I never loathed the Catholic Church with that visceral hatred that you often see amongst former Catholics, is that during all those lost, wandering, pagan years of my life, when I was so involved with the pro-life movement, I was pretty lonely philosophically. (After all, how many pro-life pagans — or pagan pro-lifers — do you know?) In my deep loneliness, I could always count on the Catholic Church to be there in the pro-life trenches. Indeed, for many years, they were the only church in the anti-abortion trenches. Even the Southern Baptists were pro-Roe until 1980!
The Catholic Church was also the only Church that opposed not just abortion, but contraception as well. I didn’t agree with that stance then, and I thought it was old-fashioned and just plain bizarre — but, though I don’t think I consciously recognized it at the time, at some level I think I was always secretly grateful that the Catholic Church was standing firm. Secretly grateful that it wasn’t caving to the culture. Secretly grateful that someone besides me was appalled at the culture of promiscuity and the Pill that reigned in my dorm and everywhere else on campus, where everyone seemed to be having sex with everyone else, sometimes on the first date, and sometimes not even remembering the other person’s name the next morning!
Maybe at some subconscious level, I sensed that in standing, nearly alone, against contraception, the Church was also standing, more importantly, for a beautiful, holistic vision of sexuality that lined up with my own deepest longings — my longings for fidelity and tenderness and the true intimacy of committed love — longings that I’d had to bury far, far under the surface when I lived in the degraded and degrading sexual wilderness of a modern college campus.
Just knowing that the old, “fuddy-duddy,” 2,000-years-encrusted Catholic Church was out there, advocating the same vision for love and marriage and sexuality and babies that it always had, made me feel somehow comforted and less alone.
It would be many, many years until I came home to the Catholic Church — but her holistic pro-life vision of life, love and the human person was a big part of what got me seriously considering the possibility of her being what she claims to be.
As this Pew survey seems to indicate, even Catholics who don’t always obey the Church’s teaching nevertheless find it, as I did and do, to be beautiful and appealing. And true.