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Once again, I find myself shaking indignantly at my church’s leadership and at the same time contemplating what I should do for this year’s annual "Bishop’s Appeal" that supports our inner city Catholic schools, clergy and ministries in our parish. God, I hate Catholic guilt!

And make no mistake. I am Catholic to my core. I am a political progressive who has never voted for a Republican in her life and lives in the equally progressive enclave of Berkeley, California. Nothing has turned heads more here than the revelation that I attend mass every Sunday with my children and that I am active in various ministries at my Catholic church.

As a child, I attended Catholic school for nine years in my Caribbean working class neighborhood in Miami. My childhood memories are dotted by masses in Spanish, lovely images of Mother Mary processions and the hope that came with a Cuban rafter showing up to our shores with nothing but a statue of her. Many in my family and childhood best friends are Catholic. Catholicism shaped the person that I am today from the decision to marry my first serious boyfriend -- we’ve been together for 15 years! -- to my working in social justice. And I love my fellow Catholic parishioners, who thankfully, are nothing like…our church leadership.  

Once again, I find myself indignantly shaking my head at the church. Catholic Bishops -- who are old, celibate, largely white men completely out of touch with their constituents -- were on a rampage this week against the Affordable Care Act for a rule that requires coverage for free birth control. Never mind that this bill has already helped millions of Americans gain access to health care. Contraception itself prevents unintended pregnancies, improves outcomes for children already on earth, reduces abortions and saves lives.

And the hypocrisy that emanates from the Bishops' actions reek like a big pot of rotting meat. Just take a look at the number of them who covered up crimes of pedophilia in the Catholic church. These men do not have a moral leg to stand on that the president would have been wise to gently show them the door.

But so loud were these bishops that the Obama Administration has decided to give them an out from directly providing women, including non-Catholics, free birth control. The health insurance companies will have to pick up the tab, which is fine by me as long as women have access to this preventative care. But I am still peeved at the hypocrisy and unchristian actions by the Bishops.

Catholic Bishops’ outcry has NOTHING to do with "religious freedom"

It is disingenuous for the Bishops to say that the government would be overstepping its bounds and violating "religious freedom" by mandating that they provide birth control to their employees, including non-Catholic staff. Catholic hospitals, charities and universities have long received billions of dollars from the federal government whether for financial aid for non-Catholic students to attend a Catholic university or Medicaid dollars for low-income patients treated at Catholic hospitals. To say that the government "should stay out" is like saying that the average taxpayer giving to these institutions should have no say in how the money is spent. Talk about having your cake and eating it, too.

And just to show how out of touch the Bishops are from their Catholic parishioners, a majority of Catholics on the ground -- more so than the general public – supported having Catholic institutions offer their employees free birth control. A whopping 98% of sexually active Catholic women have used birth control at some point in their lives. As I often joke, without the miraculous invention of birth control many of us would have 15 children!

The outcry by the Catholic Bishops has nothing to do with their parishioners, performing God's will or the church's finances, some of which, again, comes from taxpayers. This has everything to do with their hunger for (more) power.

As I often point out to non-Catholics, the Catholic Church is a 2,000-year-old institution that doesn't reflect modern life at all. The leadership is a closed society of largely white men in luxurious dwellings, which I try not to subsidize by focusing my donations on specific ministries and my own parish. Thus, my confliction about the Bishop's Appeal this year. These men are so out of touch with their parishioners, who are juggling jobs, children and relationships, and politically, support women becoming priests and other reforms to the church.

It is our pastors, nuns and parishioners on the ground that visit the sick, feed the homeless and help people in need. We know how crucial birth control is to keep families from falling into poverty. We also know that birth control prevents abortions and saves lives. When I think of birth control, I often think of my own visits to Planned Parenthood when I was a broke college student who was trying to do right by me, my husband -- then boyfriend -- and our future life together. I also think of Catholic moms like Rita:

Rita was suffering from a serious heart defect. She was six weeks pregnant and had a defective cardiac valve that had to be replaced with a synthetic one. Pregnancy put her at high risk for a blood clot forming on the new valve and travelling to her brain, where it could kill her.

Rita had not been using contraception because she had no insurance to make it affordable—not because she didn’t want to use it. While in the hospital, despite taking blood thinners to treat her clots, Rita had a stroke. The woman I had spent hours with talking about caring for her five living children, her marriage, how to handle her unplanned pregnancy—that woman could no no longer speak or walk. When I think of birth control access, I think of Rita and her family.—Jen Russo, MD, Pittsburgh, PA

Where is the Bishops’ compassion for mothers like Rita? As I mentioned earlier in my piece, Catholics do use birth control  -- 98% of sexually active Catholic women! -- because, again, our lives do not reflect those of the Bishops. We understand that life on the ground is so much more complicated than it is within the walls of the Bishops' dwellings.

I am angry and I am sad. Thankfully, the president has found a way to assure that women have access to ALL life-saving and preventable care, regardless of where they work. I can't say the same about my church's leadership. As a Christian, the Bishops' actions don't sit well with me as it seems to go against Jesus's teachings to put ourselves in other people's shoes and treat others as we would want to be treated. I can’t help but think that if these privileged men lived one day of their average parishioner's life, they would be singing a whole new tune.

I still don’t know what I am going to do about the Bishop's Appeal. But I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide these men towards genuine understanding and compassion.

Originally posted to Elisa on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 09:35 AM PST.

Also republished by LatinoKos, Permanent Glory, Spiritual Organization of Unapologetic Liberals at Daily Kos, and MomsRising at DailyKos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks Elisa (8+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Boris49, lcrp, Ahianne, OIL GUY, poe, Rolling, Avila, TexMex

    It is 2012. There should honestly be no reason that the media would be willing to create a flap over contraception as though it were a controversial idea. It is not.

    This "controversy" is the dying breath of a pre-20th century idea that should not be given the attention that it is.

    •  Thanks K! (9+ / 0-)

      It's amazing to me that this was even an issue. For the Bishops, having sex except for procreation is a sin. Guess how many Catholics are following that one?

      •  Sex with little boys is not procreation, so they (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lcrp, OIL GUY

        get a pass, I suppose?

        All human organizations become corrupt over time.  What is somewhat amazing is that the church is still around.  I attribute that to the faith and acts of the priests, nuns and laity who continue to function despite the church's obvious corruption.

        The dude abides, now get off my lawn.

        by Boris49 on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 10:04:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Boris49, OIL GUY, Avila

          I almost held off on calling them "celibate" as even that's not true for all of them.

          •  Betrand Russell, 1927 (0+ / 0-)
            There are a great many ways in which, at the present moment, the church, by its insistence upon what it chooses to call morality, inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering. And of course, as we know, it is in its major part an opponent still of progress and improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering in the world, because it has chosen to label as morality a certain narrow set of rules of conduct which have nothing to do with human happiness; and when you say that this or that ought to be done because it would make for human happiness, they think that has nothing to do with the matter at all. "What has human happiness to do with morals? The object of morals is not to make people happy."

            The dude abides, now get off my lawn.

            by Boris49 on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 12:05:42 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  I was raised Catholic (11+ / 0-)

    But I finally gave up a few years ago. The reasons are long and varied, and would be their own diary, so I wont bore you with them.

    Back when I was Catholic, though, the pastor at our church used to ask for "time, talent or treasure" for his fundraising. So, and I mean no sarcasm by this, but maybe your crisis of conscience over sending money in is actually the Holy Spirit already telling you what to do: spend some time and write a thoughtful, loving letter of truth to your Bishop in response to his request for donations, that you are praying for the Holy Spirit to guide them towards understanding and compassion. But, like an alcoholic craving the bottle, the money that has poured into the hands of the bishops has in fact focused them on power and priviledge, and they ahve lost the common connection with the people they are supposed to serve in the name of Christ. You would not enable an addiction, and at best, this is an addiction and a disease.

    Love the sinner, hate the sin -- but sometimes the sinner needs your Tough Love.

    New drinking game: Try saying "sullen scolding sanctimonious sourpuss Santorum" fast 10 times.

    by Cinnamon on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 09:50:54 AM PST

  •  Thank you, Elisa. (15+ / 0-)

    This is a topic that I feel very strongly about.  It's very personal to me.  My story is similar to Rita's.

    I am not Catholic.  However, 17 years ago, we got caught up in just this issue.  My husband worked for a large Catholic hospital system at that time.  Our insurance coverage was through their own HMO.  I always thought our coverage was good until after the birth of my last child, I became very ill with a cardiovascular condition.  I was told that under no circumstances should I ever become pregnant again.  It could prove life threatening and it certainly would be detrimental to my health.  Since we were sure we didn't want more children, and I was not a candidate for hormonal contraceptives due to the nature of my ailment, we decided that sterilization was the route to go.

    My husband made the consult appointment and set up the following appointment to have a vasectomy.  A few days before, we received a call from the doctor's office.  Our insurance would not pay for the procedure.  We were encouraged to appeal.  We did.  We brought documentation from my doctors stating the case.  They would not budge.  They did offer to pay for a termination, though, if I should become pregnant and it should prove to be life threatening.

    All I can say is that I've never felt my life to be held in so little regard.  I've never felt my children's or husband's interests to be given so little consideration.  Didn't my existing children deserve a living mother?  As to the offer of termination, let's just say it's a nightmare to think that these folks would get to be the ones who decided whether or not my life was sufficiently endangered....

    My husband changed employers the following year and we then had coverage that covered reproductive services.  I've always been a live and let live kind of person....I'm not religious myself, but I try to respect the beliefs of others.  I have to say that this brush with the Catholic hierarchy has left me very, very bitter about the Church as a whole.  

    •  I am so sorry... (9+ / 0-)

      to hear about this and am so angry for you. It is unconscionable and immoral that caregivers -- especially the religious variety -- would play Russian Roulette with women's lives. I agree that there is definitely a holy war against women.

      Okay, I am going to write a letter to the bishops and include this blog. Not a dime from me to support these immoral actions!

      •  Do they care (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lightbulb, mijita, Avila

        about how this makes women feel?  As I said, I'm not Catholic, but it astounds me that an organization that seemingly is very empathetic to most human needs can have such a huge blind spot.  

        If an individual doctor chooses not to perform or prescribe certain treatments, well, I can sort of understand that.  However, when coverage is completely denied, well, I have a hard time with that.  We all compromise all the time.  We're asking nothing from them that all of us living in a democracy don't live by ourselves.

    •  The thing about (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mijita, Avila

      the Bishops  is that they always require  others, Catholic or not, to suffer and die for their beliefs.

  •  I won't give to the BAA. (6+ / 0-)

    I'll give to my own parish; I want to keep the lights and heat on and the food pantry running. But the heirarchy under JPII and now Benny the Rat has been getting more authoritarian and less compassionate, and they're not getting my money. Damned if I'll let them drive me out of my church, but damned if I'll help them drive it back before Vatican II either.

    Cogito, ergo Democrata.

    by Ahianne on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 10:22:15 AM PST

  •  It is certainly the case that the titular leaders (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    boophus, mijita, Avila

    of a large body of people, can NEVER provide an accurate representation of the views of all of those people, and often not even of the majority of them.  Most of us would never dare travel abroad if we didn't hope and trust that the actions of Bush and Cheney would not be held personally to our account.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 10:27:04 AM PST

  •  Muchisias gracias por sus pensameintos! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila, Ahianne

    (Sorry I can't get to the international keyboard and do the correct diacritical markings.  LOL)

    I am not a Roman Catholic but I am a person of faith.  Sometimes the hierarchy drives me crazy -- my theory is that the higher you go (in a hierarchy), the further removed you get from reality.  This goes especially for clergy -- sometimes when you think you are the voice of God, you begin to think that you are God.  

    But fortunately for us, there are people like you who can sift the wheat from the chaff.

    In my church, there are ways to opt out of the fund that goes to the national church and still support the programs you wish to support.  Good luck with how you end up doing about the Bishop's Appeal.

  •  Thank you all... (9+ / 0-)

    for your supportive and thoughtful comments. After much consideration, I am going to write a letter to the Bishop with my reasons for not giving to the BA. Then I will give a donation to my own parish, which is doing amazing work on the ground.

    Thank you for helping me think this through!

  •  Hold on a minute. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I was under the impression that in the Catholic Church, the bishops do speak for you - at least in public. Publically disagreeing with the bishop on a matter of faith is an offense punishable by excommunication, last I checked.

  •  Conservatives Never Believe What They State. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    They know it's not about religious freedom or about some new onerous burden.

    What it's about is them seeing an opportunity to take a new step forward in reducing availability and support for contraception.

    Like any conservatives they'll string together any sequence of words that will get media and leadership attention. But they haven't necessarily anything to do with what their actual purpose and strategy is.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 11:03:40 AM PST

  •  Well said, Elisa (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, Larin

    As I said in another diary. Not All Catholics are Irish Catholic. There are many types and ways that different people practice their faith.
    Catholic practice varies from people to people.  When I was married, "un lasso" was placed over each of us.   A lasso is a two looped Rosary with loops big enough to go over the bride and the groom. "tying the two".
    But probably, many people do not do that when they get married.
    And similarly, I know of Catholics who only go to church on Easter. Which was pretty much how I  was raised. We did ALL the sacrements in the church, but we only dressed up and went to Easter Mass, once a year.  

    "How quickly these kids have affected the public dialogue. So proud of them." Clarknt67

    by TexMex on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 12:32:52 PM PST

  •  My last few interactions with the Church have (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, Larin

    not been pleasant. My father's parish priest never got around to driving 5 miles to the nursing home to administer Last Rites. NO ONE ever brought Dad communion. And he'd been attending that church for a solid year. Hard to miss a little old guy in a wheelchair getting communion every week. And at Dad's funeral, he didn't ask for ANY info on Dad to personalize the service--and charged me for saying the Mass.

    Made me glad I'd left at age 20 over 40 years ago.  Every time I pass that church I flip it off.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 02:57:27 PM PST

  •  The task of a bishop is not always to speak (0+ / 0-)

    FOR a parishioner.  Sometimes, the task is to speak TO the parishioner to instruct as to actions the Church believes are sinful and to urge the faithful not to do those things.  Having free will, of course, the parishioner is free to reject the Church's teaching, but the Church's teaching will remain the Church's teaching, without regard to what the parishioner thinks of it.

  •  If I am not in the pew, if I do not (0+ / 0-)

    contribute with the weekly envelope, if I do not believe I can reject.  As more like me do, the Church must appeal to others for money, talent and helping hands.  Check out Catholic schools and see how many are closing because people aren't there to work for below average wages or go into the classrooms and libraries to be that helping hand.  Walking away from what I have known for most of my life is difficult, but because of free will, I can and did.  

  •  Stop the subsidies. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This Catholic Church, which is less than compassionate, deserves to be fully taxed on all of it's businesses.  We, the US taxpayers have supported this group far too long.  Start working for Income Tax reform.  Demand relief (freedom from) this group.

  •  So basically, these people speak for you (0+ / 0-)

    a lot more than the RC church leaders.

    (I hope that doesn't sound ridiculing or anything of that sort)

  •  Take a deep breathe (0+ / 0-)

    Have some perspective.

    This is just politics.  The Bishops are doing their job.  And President Obama is also just doing his job.  

    Think about what a big part of Catholicism is about.  What ever you do to least of my bretheren you do to me.

    In every part of these world in the poorest areas of the world is many Catholic missionaries, Catholic charities,  Catholic hospitals, Catholic schools doing what Christ told us to do --What ever you do to the least of my bretheren you do to me.  there are many Mother Theresa's working tirelessly around the world.

    If you are getting affected by what the bishops say you are reading too much dailykos.


    Root of Job Loss: Low capital gains (tax incentive) for stock market casino compared to real businesses that produces Jobs. Great Business idea A Dept Store that sells only made in america goods

    by timber on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 06:31:16 PM PST

  •  Don't send them a cent. In fact, (0+ / 0-)

    don't send a cent to anything having to do with the "One Holy Catholic & Apostolic Church". Because all that will happen is that anything more than the bare minimum needed to support worthwhile activities will get skimmed off for the benefit of the hierarchy.

    (You're in the same position as Irish-American Catholics 30-40 years ago who abhorred violence but allowed themselves to be hoodwinked into sending money to various charities associated with the Irish Republican Army "for the widows & orphans of the brave fighters"--which only meant that more of their proceeds from bank robberies & drug dealing could go toward Armalites & gelignite to make widows & orphans on the other side & keep the sectarian hatred & violence at a rolling boil. Happily the Irish seem to be getting past that now...)

    The only reason the Church hierarchy addressed the pedophile scandal at all is the threat of civil suits that would have endangered their balance sheets. The only possible way to change the Church is for their main cash cow--the US faithful--en masse to send their donation envelopes back empty or put empty envelopes in the baskets at Mass, and let them know what needs to change before they'll start contributing again.

    snarcolepsy, n: a condition in which the sufferer responds to any comment with a smartass comeback.

    by Uncle Cosmo on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 11:40:22 AM PST

  •  For crying out loud, Elisa, wake up. (0+ / 0-)

    If you don't like how the church hierarchy acts, stop supporting it. You do not have to be a member of a church to feed the hungry or visit the sick. Find another church, do it just with your family.

    All your love of the ritual, the mystery, etc., should be cancelled out by the thought of one boy being molested by a priest.

    And there are thousands of girls molested/raped also.

    What Would Jesus Do?

    If life gives you melons, you may be dyslexic.

    by glorificus on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 04:04:17 PM PST

  •  As a recovering Catholic, I must remind you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The Roman Catholic Church, founded by Emperor Constantinne was patterned on the Roman Empire. It's always been top-down, and always will be. It's an institutional monarchy as governance, and the monarch is infallible according to Catholic doctrine.

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