Monday, March 5, 2012

Politics & Religion: My Breakup with the Catholic Church

Disclaimer: High Heels & Flip-Flops is not a specifically political blog, but this is simply an issue I feel passionately about and a piece of my personal story I’d like to share with my community of readers. I welcome an open discussion about this topic, but ask that the conversation remain respectful and open-minded.

This Lent, I'm giving up something I now realize I probably should have a long time ago – the Catholic Church. As an American and a woman, the overblown contraception coverage debate recently instigated by the Church has angered and disgusted me, to say the least. Though I was raised as a Catholic and was once a strong participant in its traditions, I haven’t formally practiced for several years, for many personal reasons, including my ever-increasing lack of agreement with the Church’s stance on contraception, gay rights, women’s rights, its handling of sex abuse cases, and more. I have, however, up until this point remained somewhat amicable in my position toward the Church, attending mass on occasion with relatives and friends, getting married in the Church (which both my husband and I now regret), and remaining connected to the community in a cultural, “this is my Irish-Italian heritage” sort of way.

However, the Church’s recent outcry concerning an Obama administration policy – one stating that religious institutions, including hospitals and universities (not actual churches), should be required to provide contraception coverage to their employees – has pushed me over the edge once and for all. As some of my longtime readers and friends may know, I grew up without health insurance and didn’t have coverage until I got my first full-time job at 22. I know what it’s like to be in a doctor’s office or pharmacy and see my family dole out exorbitant amounts of money – often the only savings we had – in order to gain access to needed exams and medications, all because my parents’ employers did not provide coverage and because my parents made "too much" to qualify for federal or state aid, but not enough to afford independent coverage. To this day, I'm still dealing with certain health conditions, including gum disease, that are the result of my lack of preventive care as a child. I also began using contraceptives as a young teenager to help combat severe acne and the even more serious polycystic ovary syndrome, long before I ever needed them for “other” reasons. Too often, it seems that our politicians and religious leaders forget, or simply don’t care, that there are medical reasons for using contraceptives other than preventing pregnancy.

Plus, despite the fact that as many as 98 percent of Catholic women use birth control, and the added reality that not everyone who works for a Catholic institution – not to mention those members of their families who are also included under their coverage – is actually Catholic, the Church’s male leaders have recently turned this important women’s health issue into their own political football. Especially shameful and disgusting is the hyped up language being used to describe the situation by the Church’s leaders and others, including such terms as “intrinsically evil,” “war on religion” and “grave situation.” This is especially shocking and straight-up unacceptable coming from members of an institution whose leader – the pope – grew up in 1930s Germany. In one news interview, I even heard a bishop make a direct comparison between this situation – the administration’s so-called oppression of the Church – and the policies of Nazi Germany. To say that this outraged me is to put things far too mildly.

Have we forgotten that freedom of religion also means the freedom to not practice religion and to not have anyone else’s religious beliefs imposed upon you? In my eyes, the Church wants to do exactly this by restricting employee access to contraception. All I seem to hear in the debate taking place nationwide, however, are concerns about restricting the Church’s own religious freedoms, rather than concerns about restricting a citizen’s individual right to not have someone else’s religious beliefs forced upon her.

So, in light of these developments, the Catholic Church and I have from this day forward officially broken up. If a friend or relative has a Catholic wedding or other type of celebration, I will of course go, realizing that their views and decisions are their own. But as far as my personal life and identity are concerned, the Catholic Church will no longer play any role, including if and when I have children, who I refuse to raise in what I feel is an increasingly archaic, misogynistic and hypocritical tradition. While a part of me is definitely sad to say goodbye to what I've long regarded as a part of my heritage and personal history, I also realize that standing up for my beliefs means actually living them, every day. As such, I often wish that more women, Catholic and otherwise, would join me, rather than sitting silently by while others continue to make important choices concerning our personal lives and individual healthcare needs, which cannot be generalized and should never be politicized. 


  1. Thank you for being so honest on the blog! I, too, am on birth control for health related reasons (if any man bled for 6 weeks straight like I grew up doing - I think he'd understand bc is not just for sex. But hey, we must be evil because we can bleed without dying!) and I am disgusted by everything that has happened in the media.
    There are people dying in our own country because of lack of food and healthy living situations, we're waging wars in other countries and we're losing our freedoms every step of the way. These are the important problems, not a woman's right to protect her body! BAH!

    Thanks - I loved your well written viewpoint. It feels good to know we still have some sanity left in the nation!

  2. Thank you for this very honest post!

    I was raised Catholic but am not very active in the church at all. Like you used to, I identify with being Catholic as part of my Maronite Catholic "culture." My husband, an atheist, has always questioned how I can be pro-choice, pro gay rights and Catholic. I've always explained to him that I consider myself a "spiritual" person more than a "religious" one - I defined my own Catholicism in a way. Lately with some of the stances the church has been taking, I'm less and less inclined to associate myself with it, though I have not taken the plunge yet.

    Also, thank you for your beautiful comment on my blog this weekend! We all go through "down" periods and I think it's great when the blogging community opens up and shares them with others. Have an amazing week!

  3. I frankly have never understood why other people care so much about what I or other women do with our bodies in regards to birth control. It's really non of their business.

    My husband was raised Catholic but no longer considers himself Catholic or goes to church, he doesn't buy into what they preach any longer.

  4. Heather,
    Thank you for your honesty. I hope that you and your husband can find a new home church.

  5. A mutual friend shared this post with me and I'm so grateful. Though I admit I need to read this again more carefully, I agree with what I've read, so far. I want to join you in giving up the same thing for Lent...however, familial obligations mean that I will most likely end up wedding in a Catholic church. :( If only this religion could be more about including than excluding, loving instead of judging.....

  6. I agree with your thoughts, Heather. And I support and love you no matter what religion you choose to identify (or not) with.
    I agree that this has gone too far; isn't there something called separation of church and state? How can the church impose its regulations on the state when there should be a line there? Besides, it's up to the followers of a religion to base their own actions off of their personal values. It's not up to the religion to change the law as it sees fit because their followers aren't behaving like they'd prefer them to.


    PS: a happy thing you might enjoy: it's been almost 100 years since the gift of D.C.'s cherry trees...

  7. Honesty is the best policy, right? I can't believe all of this crap about birth control that is going on. It makes me sick. As someone who is on birth control, I don't appreciate being called a slut or thought of as "dirty" or "promiscuous." It's just stupid. Believe me when I say that most Catholic women are on birth control, so their opposition to it doesn't make any sense.
    Twitter: @GlamKitten88

  8. Heather, I appreciate your honesty in this post. I am not catholic, and in fact just like what Kim says, I am just a spiritual person. When I heard about this whole fiasco I was in complete disbelief. Similarly to you, my parent's owned their own business and while we had health insurance, it was very very very meager coverage with a high deductible. I didn't have the best preventative care as well...but we do the best we can with what we have...

  9. I swear the world is going crazy! I appreciate your honesty and stand beside you on this!!

    Jayme @ Her Late Night Cravings

  10. Ah, religion. In my family just about every religion is represented, so my beliefs a a mishmash of all. I believe in kindness, treating everyone fairly and loving who you love, without judgment.kudos to you for standing up and your honesty

  11. You have very valuable point about both religion and politics. I am also Catholic but many aspects of my faith and beliefs DO NOT reflect what they preach every day.

    I didn't practice it for quite a while simply because of the many reason you stated on your post and perhaps even more.

    Now and for a few months I been attending a church here on island almost every Sunday and I like that I can go and be grateful for all the things I have.

    But I also know that the important thing is not only going to church but being spiritual and a good person in your everyday life. I am also a firm believer in God and if he is around all then we don't need to walk into a temple to honor him and believe in him...

    Great post!

  12. I appreciate your honesty and hope that you and your hubby can still find a place of spiritual fulfilment. Like I said in my post not too long ago, the tradition and comfort of mass works for us as we move around often, so I am more focused on that than the politics I suppose. There are things I agree and disagree with, but we just do what works best for us. It probably doesnt hurt that the only time my tv is on, we are watchign curious george, so I am terribly unaware of current event (hehe or *hangs head in shame*..which ever you think is more appropriate).

    Posts like these are hard to write and even harder to share, so I admire your courage and your thoughtful decision to leave.

  13. Wow, thanks for sharing! I was raised Catholic too, but my husband and I got married in an Episcopalian church (to the dismay of my godmother). I do like that Episcopalians are more progressive while maintaining some of the traditions that I am more familiar with.

    Faith is such a personal choice and journey and we are still working on ours!

    Chic 'n Cheap Living

  14. Thank you. This post was very well written. I'm so sick and tired of women's health issues being used as political weaponry by a whole bunch of lunatics who don't have any business telling me what I should or should not be doing with my body...and whatever happened to separation of Church and State?

  15. What a great post! I was christened a Presbyterian and, while I am a firm believer in God, I too identify as being more spiritual than religious as others have stated on this post. I never really 'got' the Catholic faith; I like the idea of it but it always seemed far too extreme and hypocritical for my liking. I so appreciate you writing this honest post! A very brave move in what can be an extremely judgemental and nasty forum! Bravo!!

  16. A very, very interesting post. Please know I'm not judging with the rest of this - but I thought it might be interesting to you and some of your readers.
    For what it's worth - insurance "through the church" will cover birth control if it is a medical necessity (the example of bleeding for 6 weeks at a time isn't far off). You do have to have a letter from your doctor and jump through a hoop or two, but it is possible.

  17. Thank you for such an honest post. I hope you and your husband find the place you're looking for in the future. Honestly, I am mystified by the current political conversations regarding conception, rights, and other extremely personal/private health care decisions. I feel like we've been transported back in time in the worst possible way.


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