I had RCIA last night. It was good, but, now that we are getting close to Easter, we are starting to deal with the sacraments. For those of you who don't know, the sacraments include: baptism, confirmation, marriage, Holy Eucharist, holy orders, and penance. This weeks focus was on baptism (check! no problem here! baptized at 6 years old!) and chastity. That seems to be a rather disconnected set of topics, but so be it.
The chastity discussion was one of those moments when I realized that my relationship with God is far more important and supersedes the doctrine of the Church. Yes, I try hard to be a good Catholic. I pray, I ask forgiveness, I do good works (or at least try to), I pay penance for my sins, all that jazz. The Church's position on extramarital sex is, well, "no." The Church has also stated that only "mild pleasure" may be derived from sex between a married couple (this is an improvement from the previous position that no pleasure should be derived!). I understand that the whole purpose of sex is for procreation (according to the Church) and that sexual intimacy should be a statement of deep and selfless love and devotion between two people who have joined their lives together. I completely agree with the latter half of that statement!! The Boy and I have that relationship, minus the documentation. I do not support sleeping around or casual sex because it is dangerous to your health and your human psyche. The whole idea that God will banish me to hell for having an deeply emotional and monogamous sexual relationship with a man I intend to be with for a very long time (forever?) seems unreal. The Church believes that marriage is a pure, self-less, and intimate devotion to another human being, placing yourself and your needs below those of your partner. Isn't that what we have? While I understand that marriage is a sacrament, cannot marriage be a commitment of the heart and not a legal and religious display? Is faith and spirituality not enough?
The Church is also opposed to fertility treatments and artificial insemination. This also bugs me a bit. The Church is opposed to birth control but yet opposes ways to encourage reproduction? I struggle with this dichotomy. Not that I want kids, but this just doesn't make all that much sense.
As with any faith, I think it is important to think critically about the promises, requirements, expectations, and doctrines that the faith dictates. Blindly accepting all that you are told makes you sheep. It makes you unable to truly believe. I truly do believe in so much of the basis of Catholicism. But I also believe that my personal relationship with God far outweighs the rulings of an earthly body that "interprets" God's words. These interpretations have changed over time and evolved to reflect the current society and the world in which Catholicism exists. This makes me wonder what other doctrines will change in the future? Perhaps in fifty or a hundred years, when the world is over-populated and starvation and disease spreads, the Church will review their position on birth control.
The most important thing about religion is the ability to rest your head after a long day and sleep well, knowing that you have lived a good live and done good things. You haven't kicked puppies or stolen food from paupers or cheated cancer patients or spoke cruelly to those less fortunate. If you think the best of people, try to make their lives better in whatever way that you can, recognize the blessings that you receive, and live in humility and justice, you will sleep well knowing that you have done God's work. Perhaps God really cares about all these petty things that make up the different doctrines of all these faiths, but I like to think that He cares more about living a good and honest life centered on charity (in all of its forms) and faithfulness.
All I know is that each night when I go to bed and say my prayers, I sleep the sleep of the dead and wake up feeling renewed and rejuvenated. Surely if I was living such a torrid and sinful life, my rest would be far more fitful and unsatisfying.