Now that I've been Episcopalian for a few months now (dang, time flies), stepping outside of the Roman Catholic Church has given me more time and space to consider the various things that the Church does that made me uncomfortable, because it made the Church seem so unwelcome, inflexible, and intolerant. Here are some of them, in no particular order.
(Hat tip to Jonathan C. from Facebook for helping me come up with a title for this series. Also hat tip to him for better describing how I feel as an Episcopalian: "As a current Catholic in the Western Church in the Episcopal communion, but former Roman Catholic..." I use Episcopalian or Episcopal as shorthand for this concept.)
Please recognize that I am not a Biblical scholar or a theologian, and it is very very possible that I'll make errors in this series. Please be respectful about providing any corrections and when sharing your viewpoints in the comments, below. Please also understand that two people looking at the same issue can come to two different conclusions.
Transgender children. Society is starting to recognize, accept, and act on the fact that some children believe they are born in the wrong gender. Unfortunately, transgender children are still treated poorly in the Catholic Church--namely, in Catholic schools. Cross-dressing isn't a sin, and yet they treat it as such. I know it can be disconcerting that a child who once wore boy uniforms now wants to wear girl uniforms--but with kids, it's not about sex. They just feel like they should have been born a boy, or been born a girl. It's like church and school officials are sexualizing an issue regarding children, and that's troubling.
I can understand that the Church wouldn't want a former female, who is now a male, to be a priest. I can even understand that transgender issues often preclude marriage in the Church. However, those are adult concerns, to be addressed as the trans individual grows up. It shouldn't be dragged into children issues. It's psychologically damaging to force children to dress as the gender they were born into, whereas it's not damaging to the other children to see a cross-dressing child. It will raise questions, to be sure, but it won't cause harm to the other children.
I can't understand why so many adults make such a big issue about kids cross-dressing. There are even some adults who blow up when a kid dresses as a character of the opposite gender for Halloween. Freaking Halloween, people, where the point is to dress up as someone, anyone or thing, other than yourself. My heart goes out to the trans-children.
For a man to get married in the Church, he needs to be able to have boners. Yes, I'm serious. My then-Presbyterian husband had to answer a series of questions the priest asked, and one of them was about whether he was able to get boners. Granted, the priest was more tactful about asking it, but I don't recall the phrase he used. My husband knew this question was coming, so he was prepared for it. The Catholic Church is seriously concerned about whether guys can "get it up," if he can't, because it might lead the couple into the sins of masturbation or of sex without the actual climactic intercourse.
I was posed no such questions. Women can be paralyzed from the waist down and still be able to get married. She could still have sex, since she could still satisfy her future husband, so there'd be no real need for him to masturbate.
I didn't think much of it then, but now...it strikes me as kind of odd. What if the man had a terrible accident as a teen and was penis-less? Why can't he and his future wife get married, provided she knows and accepts the fact that he does not have a penis? Or what if a spouse is partially paralyzed? Why would...why should the function of a male body part affect the marriage eligibility? Marriage is not all about sex. It's a perk, but it's a perk that can be easily lost after the wedding due to any number of things. The couple would just have to increase their other forms of communication to make up for the lack of sexual communication in order to keep their marriage strong. So why is it such a big deal before the marriage but not after?
It bugs me that sex looms so large in the Catholic Church.
Wheat-based communion wafers. I know wheat is part of capital-T Tradition, but why is that the only valid form? It seems cruel to stick to wheat when it keeps many people who are allergic to it from receiving the Body of Christ. Catholics aren't required to consume both the Body and the Blood--the same graces can be had from consuming only one. Unfortunately, many Catholic Churches provide only the Body during Communion. That means that sufferers must forgo Communion when they are arguably in the most need of God's grace. Fortunately, there are low gluten-content wafers that are valid, now, but it's not good enough for everyone.
Why can't the wafer be made from some other bread grain...like rice? After all, we're not 100% sure what was in the bread that Christ broke and shared during the Last Supper. There's some indication that it could have been made of barley and not wheat. Sticking with wheat for the sake of wheat is unnecessarily exclusive.
Filed under: Becoming Episcopalian