Friday, March 9, 2012

on contraception and the cross of Church Teaching

There has been a lot of sex talk lately.

Unless you live under a rock, you've heard that there are some "issues" with the Catholic Church and the coverage of contraception indicated by the HHS mandate. Even though I try really, really hard to be quiet on these matters, I have shared a few links and made a few comments on Facebook. OK, more than a few.

I get fired up about things, and this is one of my favorites. It's a high peak on the range of Mountains I Will Die On, a remote and rocky region in which I so frequently find myself. I perch there, usually alone, cold, without a decent jacket or a St. Bernard to take care of me. It's a lonely place, and I'd roll right down if I could. But so often I get all St. Catherine of Siena-y, and shout that "My nature is fire!" and try to tell people, up to and including the Pope if necessary, that they are wrong.

When I was a young teenager, my father would say, "You'd argue with the Good Lord." My response: "Yes, but only if He was being unreasonable."


I don't want to write about contraception today. But I'm going to - this time not to preach at anyone, or to tell you I think it's bad. You already know what the Church says, and you know I believe the Church. OK. Today I want to say something long overdue.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry if my words have hurt you. I'm sorry if I have made you feel judged. I want so badly to be understood (being Right is a god to me) that I forget sometimes that real, sincere, hurting people read what I write sometimes. And that my words might do nothing but cause them pain.

Regarding contraception and Church teaching, I need to say this. It is a HARD teaching. I was pregnant eight times. I had one miscarriage and gave birth to seven children, including one who died as a baby. I loved and wanted each of my children. And every single time I found out I was pregnant, I felt completely and utterly frightened and freaked out.

I know what it is like to see a positive pregnancy test and think that my life is over. I know what it is like to cry tears of relief and guilt when a late period finally arrives. I know what is like to believe that there is absolutely no way that it is a good idea to have a baby right now.

I also know that NFP is annoying sometimes. It's not always rainbows and butterflies and "Wow, isn't this great for our marriage?". Did I mention it is a HARD TEACHING?

Some Catholic women have been writing lately about how joyful and wonderful the Church teachings are, and how they are a gift to embrace. In fact, I've been one of those women. But it would be a lie to say that I haven't struggled with this. And it would be wrong not to acknowledge that many, many women suffer because of it.

It would also be wrong to judge my Catholic sisters who do not embrace the teaching.

The statistics going around, stating that 98% of Catholic women have used some form of contraception, are being criticized for being inaccurate. I'm no statistician, and I don't know if they're right or not. But ya know what? My experience says the numbers are spot on. When I meet a Catholic woman of childbearing age who is not contracepting (and not related to me), I'm floored. We NFPers are definitely the exception.

And while I stand by the teaching and want others to do the same, I want to make it clear that I'm not judging the many women who aren't there yet. I'm not "there yet" on plenty of things. I just want to let them know that I know how very difficult this is. I have lived it. I'm still living it. It's hard.

But hey, there is hope.

There's Jesus. He's the only reason I even try to follow this teaching or any other. He is the only one who gives me the strength to try. I believe with all my heart that He loves me and wants the best for me. I really do in fact actually believe that the Catholic Church is a gift from Him, and that He wants me to be obedient. I trust Jesus, with my will, not my feelings. I give everything to him, including my fertility and my pride and my selfishness.

Today, I give him any spirit of judgment I have been harboring against other women. What we are called to live as wives and mothers can be a heavy cross.

Wherever we are on the journey, let's not add to one another's burdens. Let's pray for each other, and do our best.


Ria said...

That was beautifully written and is exactly what I have wanted to say as the debate goes on. I'm off Facebook for Lent, but will link to this when Lent has ended.

Amy Ekblad said...

Loved this! Thank you for writing the truth.

Lora said...

This is beautiful. :-)

Anonymous said...

Great blog & post!

If you would like to post occasionally for the association of Catholic women bloggers please email me Jackie on

Sandy E. said...

This was a beautiful article. But I want to say that even though in ways the teaching of the Church is hard, it is so wonderfully filled with joy! I have 8 children and also had two miscarriages. And even though I knew the fear of a positive pregnancy test, I think that with every pregnancy test I ever took (and some of them were even negative) a little part of me hoped it would be positive. Even through the nausea, and wondering how we would pay the midwife's bill, and wondering how I would manage with a new baby when I already had several little children, I had a certain hope that the test would be positive. Even when I was a protestant, I knew the Catholic Church had this one right. Now I know, as a Catholic, that the teaching of the Catholic Church is truly right in every way.