Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

11 February 2012

Occupy the Pews

The past week's brouhaha over religiously affiliated entities having to provide their women employees with birth control was infuriating to watch. I agree with the original stance of the White House that churches and houses of worship are exempt. But religiously affiliated hospitals and universities are different. Especially hospitals.

According to Religion & Ethics Weekly, "Catholic hospitals have become the largest nonprofit health care provider in the US, with over 600 hospitals. This year, one in six patients will be cared for in a Catholic hospital." For those of us living in large cities, we have a choice as to which hospital to use. But families who live in rural America have little, if no choice. I believe that even suburban families are also impacted.

But during the past week's "debate" over birth control, Anthony Picarello, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops general counsel finally revealed to the world their ultimate goal - no birth control. I know, I know, some of us knew this already, but it was great to hear it from their mouths and not just feminists piecing it together from other statements. His desire for even a Taco Bell owner to refuse birth control to employees based is just the ultimate.

This Sunday a letter from Chicago's Cardinal Francis George was to be read. I'm not sure if it still will be, but I suspect there will still be some sort of lecture from the pulpit about the evil of birth control as the Church is not happy with the "accommodation" the White House issued yesterday.

The last time I was at Catholic services, I'm pretty sure it was for a funeral. I grew up Catholic, but my mom made it crystal clear that we didn't go to services because of she didn't agree that "they" could tell her what to do about birth control.

But I am asking feminists who do go to Catholic services, Catholic women who use birth control and go to church on Sundays to stand up to the men in power.

Here's where Occupy the Pews comes in:

1) Go to Church as you normally do (Or if it's been awhile, consider attending)

2) When the offering basket comes around, feel free to still donate to the Church, but include a note with your donation telling the Church that you, a donating and supporting member of the Church uses birth control. Attach your name if you are so bold or not if you want anonymity. Just tell them that the women and men sitting in their pews, loves and respects the Lord, but believes in birth control as well.

3) When the lecture happens walk out. This will tell your priest that you do not agree.

These are simple and respectful ways to protest the Church leaders wanting to tell you what to do with your body. Not only that, as the statistic shows, the Catholic Church through their acquisition of hospitals is increasingly telling families of different faiths what to do with their bodies. How's that religious liberty, eh?

The Church moved pretty darn fast to protest women having access to birth control. Imagine if they moved that fast when dealing with priests who rape and abuse children?

My rule would be if a religious entity is doing religious work, their rules. But once they enter into providing services for the masses (hospitals, health care, adoptions) then they need to abide by secular law. If they don't like it, don't do it. Recently a Catholic adoption agency changed to a Christian adoption agency in order to adhere to an anti-discrimination law and retain its lucrative state contracts. So yeah, a compromise can be lived with.

And when should you Occupy the Pews? EVERY SINGLE SUNDAY that you go to Church. A Twitter friend told me that the last time there was a lecture on abortion, she walked right out. I truly believe this statement should come from those of us raised Catholic and especially from those who still regularly attend services, send children to Catholic schools and are connected to the Church.

As I said, I was raised Catholic, but didn't attend services on a regular basis. But I still have an affinity to parts of the Church. When I was in Mexico, I made it a point to visit the Basilica of Guadalupe. It's the church for the Mexican Virgin Mary. I made it a point because my in-laws asked me to "visit and just take a picture." But I believe in the positive images of the Virgin, especially a brown Virgin. When I walked into the square I was overcome with energy. I believe it was the energy of all of those around me. The love and peace was awesome. Then I walked into the old Basilica, I almost cried. I held onto my goddess necklace in prayer. Then I saw this:

The peace and love was gone. Why do they do this? According to polling done in the USA by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, "a strong majority of Latino registered voters - 74 percent - agrees  that a woman has a right to make her own personal, private decisions about abortion without politicians interfering." A display like this just offends those who believe in a woman's right to decide her own fate. Thankfully the goddess and the Virgin (some would say she's one in the same) restored the peace in my heart, but it wasn't the same.

If you do Occupy the Pews, please report back!


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