I am not a practicing Catholic. This means I was raised as a Catholic, went to Catholic schools, been baptized, had first communion, and was confirmed in my teens as a full-fledged, bona fide Catholic. Years of schooling, church on Sundays, Holy Days of Obligation,(there are many) confessions to the Priest, and more than a few raps on the knuckles informed my childhood. I was devoted, more than anything, I wanted to become a missionary nun, not unlike those three in Nicaraugua killed in service to God. Bishop Romeros assasination had a profound impact on my dedication in those early years. I was in CYO, I wore the little footies on the collar of my uniform.
As I entered my adult years, something changed how I felt about the Catholic church, how I felt about myself, and how I connected to other people based upon the lens that had altered my perception of anyone I would have called non-Catholic. An event occurred in my later teens that irrevocably distanced me from the Catholic church. My Dad got an annulment and married in the church.
My mother, having adopted me after their non-church marriage at the age of three, insisted dad work toward annulment and I be raised a Catholic. She could not recieve communion, but more importantly she was "living in sin". For sixteen years they lived in sin. She went to confess repeatedly. We sat in the back pews. She became more fervent. Without an annulment, there can be no marriage in the church, and without a sanctioned marriage, it is cohabitation.
My dad complied, years of study, interviews, paperwork, and finally an annulment. More years of religious instruction to become a Catholic.
There were of course those inconsistencies that kept nagging at my conscience. The rigidity of prayer, the eternal infantilization of girls in those childish costumes, while boys were dressed in suits, as little men. (I was always uncomfortable in those uniforms.)
My father's first marriage was annulled, basically considered a sin of cohabitation, as far as the church was concerned, I did not exist. I only existed as a remnant of sin. I had spent my entire life in loving devotion (not without a few attempts at sin myself) to God, and I was reduced to a byproduct of a sin with the signature of some Bishop or Cardinal that I had never met. I was happy for my parents, they could be married in the Church, but I was in limbo. I was my her bridesmaid, a simple ceremony at the alter. But I left my devotion there. I left who I thought I was. I had been stripped of my personhood after years of believing I belonged. I had been made an outsider.
The sin of divorce in those days seemed so grave as to send a person to hell. Divorce issues tore the Catholic Church from England. Divorce issues tear families apart, and in the Catholic Church, if you are divorced, you cannot be married in the eyes of the church without an annulment. You cannot recieve communion, and you cannot drink the wine. You have to sit down while everyone else goes up, so everyone knows you are not in a state of grace. It is subtle, no one calls you out on it, you perhaps only forgot to go to confession, or you are tired, but week after week, month after month, your congregation knows why you sit. You are living in sin.