I was raised in an Italian-Catholic family outside Providence, RI, which is an area that tends to be more socially progressive and “left leaning”. One fact that I always found strange was that many of the same people that I shared a pew with on Sundays were also the neighbors protesting about social inequalities and human rights. “Why is this strange”, you may ask. Well, let’s do a mini-dissection the Catholic religion in regards to its view of women:
- Women cannot hold certain positions in the Catholic Church such as priest, or even Pope
- The story of Mary bearing God’s son without her consent
- The story of Eve and mankind’s downfall
- And so many more…
So, the dilemma that I was faced as a young girl being brought up in a religion that, in many ways, had archaic ideals that promoted suppression of women was: do I chose religion, which is supposed to morally guide me through my life or do I choose feminism because I have a responsibility to my fellow women in the world? Well the answer to that question came from someone I least expected: my CCD teacher.
Growing up, I attended catechism (CCD) classes once a week in preparation for my first communion, and then my confirmation. And boy, was my teacher a saint (pun intended) for putting up with me and my game of 20 questions each week. I would often ask questions, such as, “How could Jesus walk on water?”; “Why does the priest say that is the body of Christ when it’s a stale cracker?”; and finally “But what if I wanted to be a priest?”. Usually my teacher would just calmly entertain my questions and spout back some words from the Bible, but I had a difficult time understanding why my male cousin, who went to CCD classes with me, was allowed to be a priest if he chose to, but I couldn’t have that same opportunity if that’s the path I wanted to take. Finally, my teacher said something that really resonated with me. She told me, “Stephanie, religion is all about lessons to teach you to be a good person in life. You don’t need to believe the details or agree with all of the practices, but you should let the good messages from the stories of the Bible guide you through life.” This changed my whole view on religion. Could it be possible to be a practicing Catholic and also sport a pink vagina hat in the women’s march? My answer is, most certainly, yes!
Catholicism is based off of stories from the Bible that were written over 2000 years ago. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, we have progressed, socially, since then; of course there are different principles that we hold today than our ancestors did then! What has not changed, is the overarching themes behind many of the Bible stories: love thy neighbor; stealing is wrong; cheating is wrong; killing is wrong; humility and kindness are good; etc. My choice, as a woman, is to make religion be what I want it to be in my life. I am able to dismiss the things I disagree with and instead search out meaning in the good lessons. Everyone needs something to use as a moral compass in life, and I feel as though I can choose parts of Catholicism to fit my life and be my guiding light.