***Please note: I would like to acknowledge a bout of empty-womb sorrow that informs the general frustration of this post.***
Geez, this is a lot of dark topics lately for a happiness blog, you might be thinking, but sometimes, there’s anger, sometimes you have to dig through three thousand porta potties of shit to unearth joy, or in this case, get to God.
Here’s what I see when I see the “Welcome, Pope Francis” signs everywhere, including at my own usually-liberal Unitarian Society:
Welcome, institutionalized rape.
Welcome, marriage and childbirth as coercion.
Welcome, only being worthwhile as a woman if you serve a husband and have lots of children.
Welcome, only being worthwhile as a man if you own a woman and have lots of children.
Welcome, birth control as sin and overpopulation murdering the planet.
Welcome, narrow definition of love that doesn’t apply to me.
Welcome, my ex-wife and I being told we’re sinners at most family weddings.
Welcome, even babies have inherent sin.
Welcome, the thought is as bad as the deed.
But the thing that makes me angriest is how Catholicism taught me that some of the best things about myself are what keeps me separated from God. My questioning, my strength, my sexuality—not even queer sexuality but the very fact of out-of-marriage desire; that these things kept me from feeling entitled to a relationship with God make me feel enraged. God made me this way, and the Church separated me from God.
I happen to be in a phase right now where I’d like a more openhearted relationship with the divine, where I want to come out and come to terms with my not-atheism. I’m not a cool agnostic, and I’d like to find some ways of expressing it. I do believe in a benevolent force that loves me. I do want to be grace-filled and joyful and accept that love. But right now all I can feel is anger for how long I was told I didn’t deserve that connection, that god belonged to more straight and well-behaved girls. I know it’s my fault for not realizing it sooner.
Mostly, like all things are to me, it’s personal. I am angry on behalf of child me, as is way-too-often the case. An example is this: When I was fourteen, I had sex for the first time. I did it right then because I was feeling sad and ugly and I thought I might never have the chance again. I thought it would make some sort of connection with the guy but he treated me like a stranger afterwards. It was so sad as to seem like a cliché.
I told my aunt, my favorite confidante. That evening, we were in church and I mentioned that someone had on my (recently deceased) Great Grandmom’s perfume. “Maybe she’s telling you she forgives you.” said my beloved aunt.
Here is what she should have said, and I’ll say it to myself now—
You are worthy and good and there is so much happiness and love in your future. Sex is yours and you will have it in the happiest, most playful, most exuberant, most loving ways. You can and should expect more from partners, and you have so much in body, soul, and heart to offer them in return.
Being shamed about sex, believing somewhere inside that it’s something for which I need forgiveness, has caused me so much pain and loss that at 41, I’m still working to heal the consequences.
Welcome Pope Francis, chip in on my therapy bills.
So, during Pope Weekend, I will do every kind thing for myself. I’ll pray for everyone who was hurt in large and small ways by the Church. I will take the opportunity to stay home and work on my sex memoir, so that this woman, at least, will continue to have a voice, so I can honor the hot-pants spark inside me that IS God, and it will be, loved, celebrated, and will know it never needs to be forgiven, that it was born forgiven. My family’s faith may have hampered their ability to raise me (and themselves) with love, but I can still raise myself, and still find my own path to God.