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I was raised in strict Catholicism, have an undergraduate degree in Theology from Loyola University, and a Master’s Degree in Theology from La Salle University. I taught high school religion, and then worked as a liturgist and assistant director of Campus Ministry in higher education for over a decade.
The Catholic agenda: I’ve lived it, I’ve studied it, I’ve taught it…and I’ve left it.
Leaving the Catholic church was the scariest experience of my life because it was my identity. I didn’t know who I was or what I believed outside of the church. But leaving Catholicism saved my soul.
I could finally step back, break free from the continual brainwashing, and put the pieces together that never quite made sense.
Please believe that the anti-abortion and pro-life movement in the Catholic church is just a “moral mask” to hide their true motivation: power and control.
If it were really about the babies, their pro-life and Republican-affiliated agenda would also endorse as a top priority universal healthcare to ensure healthy moms and babies, living wages so parents can afford to raise those babies, free education so all have a chance to develop and grow in those lives, and gun control so they can live past the first grade.
So no, it’s not about the babies. It’s about the oppression and repression of women.
Women have so many opportunities to grow into their authentic selves, to rise into leadership, to reap the rewards of their own intelligence and drive. Once a woman has a baby, her focus, her choices, and her priorities shift. Motherhood is not every woman’s calling, but neither is abstinence, which is repressive.
The scariest part is that some women have joined in their own oppression, unknowingly serving as pawns for the patriarchy. The loss of any right for women is the tipping point for all other rights to be taken away. Let me remind you that the right to not have an abortion has never been threatened. We always had the right to not choose to have one. Only now, it’s not even a right—it is a decision that has been made for us.
And are we surprised that women’s oppression is being promulgated by the Christian/Catholic Right? Church doctrine was created and written by men. Men, might I add, who willingly chose a career that does not allow them to have sex. Let me repeat that again. What biologically-sound male decides to willingly enter a lifetime vow of abstinence? That right there should make us pause.
In my years of working with and meeting hundreds, dare I say thousands of priests, I’ve learned a few things: many are gay men who are too afraid to openly love and accept their authentic selves. Many are pedophiles or have condoned these crimes by knowingly hiding it, or transferring those priests to other parishes where they can take new victims. Many struggled to acclimate to society, and the desire to fit in and attain the power and control they never felt they had, but also feel entitled to, gets fulfilled in the priesthood. These are the experiences that have quite literally created the Catholic doctrines on sexuality.
And these are the same men forcing their belief system on the country because, by God, they have been given the power to say: “We must save the unborn souls!”
No, “Father” (have I mentioned that in itself is creepy, like a weird sexual fantasy being fulfilled…Call me daddy!”).
Too far? Not far enough.
It is not the job of a priest or the church to save souls. It isn’t anyone’s job to save souls. Did you forget? Jesus already did that!
Does reading this make you angry? Well, now you feel the anger that will fuel the women in this country to rise and stand in their power.
Many of us have been raised to believe expressing our anger is wrong. It’s un-ladylike. It’s not our place. But Zen Roshi Bernie Glassman writes:
“Anger is considered a poison when it’s self-motivated and self-centered. But take that attachment to the self out of anger and that same emotion becomes the fierce energy of determination, which is a very positive force.”
When we are angered by injustice, by rights being taken away, by the last grasping effort of the patriarchy to oppress and control women, we become fiercely determined and are unstoppable.
We must remember that we are created in the image and likeness of God: God who is Love, God who is Absolute Source (okay, even I still use doctrinal language), who was never created or destroyed and has always been. We are an extension of that same love.
That is our nature—love and light.
So I ask this of every person who supports the rights of women, and anyone with a womb, in this country:
Please don’t hide your light under the bushel of shame, guilt, self-hatred, and fear the Catholic church uses to control and oppress you. Use your light and burn the bushel to the ground!
And for anyone who is still unsure of how the church is aligned with oppression, these are some of the lessons I was taught during my time in Catholicism:
Shame: We didn’t even have to do anything; we were already born with “original sin,” meaning an inherent predisposition to sin. Even after baptism and the so-called removal of original sin, they remind us that we are still sinners. Every week at church, we engage in public shaming: “I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault. In my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do. And I ask the blessed Mary, ever virgin (*because we must remind women their worth is bound with their virginity*), all the angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord, our God.”
How can we possibly know our worth when not only our words but our thoughts, what we’ve done, and what we haven’t done is held accountable. That’s a really heavy beating on ourselves. Words are powerful. When we speak them over and over again, they become our beliefs.
Guilt: I mean, we hung Jesus on the cross, right? It’s our “sin” that put him there. That’s why it’s front and center at every church we enter, just in case we forget or think for a minute we have any ounce of worth. Yes, let’s glorify suffering because we deserve it for our sin and our suffering only makes us more like Jesus. I had a priest once tell me that being raped only made me more like Jesus because I suffered. That’s a mind-f*ck, for sure.
Self-hatred: Because of our “sin,” we can’t even trust our conscience, our own thoughts. We can only rely on the church and its teachings…are you listening to that?! Our life experience, our rights, our thoughts, our feelings don’t matter. I believed it, too. I hated myself so deeply. I struggled with depression and suicidal ideation for years.
Guess what happened when I left the church and stopped filling my mind with these shameful beliefs? Not one hospitalization, not one attempt to end my life. Those feelings of depression and unworthiness are literally a warning sign from our true self saying: “Hey! This right here, this is not you!” In leaving the church, I found my worth, my power, and a life I love living.
Fear: We’re taught that without the church, we will surely go to hell. Well, I’d love to know who went to hell and came back to tell us about it. I remember the first time I tested this fear. When I moved into my own apartment, I tried not to go to church one Sunday. I sat on the couch, staring at the door, overcome with anxiety. But what if I’m wrong? What if they are right? So, I got up and walked out. The fear was too overwhelming.
I’d like to know why we never question these archaic belief systems when we have so readily accepted cars instead of a horse and buggy, electricity instead of candlelight, stove tops instead of an open fire. Because we evolved, and we must continue to evolve.
The church teaches us shame, guilt, self-hatred, and fear during our most formative years, because our parents promised us to the church at their wedding. Hitler supposedly said: “Give me your child when he’s seven and he’s mine forever…” But Catholicism had Hitler beat! They get you from your first breath. Oh wait, no. Now they get you from the moment of conception, before you are even a viable human being.
So we must ask “Why?”
Our oppression, our shame, our guilt, our self-hatred, and our fear and feelings of worthlessness keep us from leaving. Deep down, the message is that we are not even worthy enough to have a thought, a voice, or to dissent and resist something that does not serve us. So we stay. It’s the same reason so many women stay in abusive relationships. Their worth, figuratively and literally, is beat out of them and they feel powerless to leave.
This is how the church makes their money, the same money that pays for their houses, vacations, cars, and maid services. The same money that the church uses to pay off the victims of sexual abuse by priests. It truly is one of the most heinous marketing schemes and modern-day cults in the world, so they would never want us to know that we do not need them as an intermediary.
This is how the church maintains control. If they keep us shamed and stuck, focusing on the crucifixion and “suffering” we’ve caused, we will never come to realize our own divinity. (Oh my God, I know, I said it—that which we have been taught we are not.)
We were taught only Jesus is fully human and fully divine. We are just human.
But I call bullsh*t. We are all spiritual, divine beings having a human experience. That was Jesus’s message: we are that same divine love that is God.
That is the key to unlocking the belief system that keeps us stuck in the cycle of shame, judgement, and self-hatred. Otherwise, all we have to give to the world is shame, judgment, and hatred. I can’t give you $5 unless I have $5. I can’t give love if I don’t have it first for myself. Not mercy, which insinuates we are underserving, but love. We can only give what we have.
I never saw it while I was in the church, but I can look back at my rigid religiosity, my judgment of those who didn’t follow the rules I was bound to follow, and see that it all stemmed from my own self-hatred, my own shame and guilt that was instilled in me. I was miserable and suffering, waiting for my reward in the next life. How awful! This world is too big, beautiful, diverse, challenging, and limitless to be living in suffering. I have shed those beliefs.
Once we tap into that divinity and realize our worth, which is actually what Jesus came to show us, we will no longer stand for an institutional religion that oppresses women, or anyone else, with control, fear, and indoctrination telling us that we are not enough, that we are not worthy, that we must bow our heads and shut our mouths.
The Jesus I know lifts me up and I walk right beside him—not behind, not below, and not with my head hung in shame.
So if our nature is not only an extension of, but also in the image and likeness of God, God who is absolute love, then maybe it’s the doctrine (created by man to oppress and maintain power and control) that is the problem. Not us.
Stand in your power, divine women, and let’s create a new world. We have learned HIStory; it’s now time to tell HERstory.