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.
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.
Cremation. The Catholic Church recently decided that cremation is a valid burial option now, but for a while there, you couldn't have a funeral Mass for someone who was cremated. I never really understood why a whole body is better than ashes, since the body will turn into dust before long, anyway. Either way, it's going into the same place--in the ground. And it's not like the un-burnt body is better than a burnt body at the Resurrection. I would sincerely hope that we are going to be given a new or reconstructed body, because the idea of skeletons dancing around gives me serious heebie jeebies.
Birth control (medicinal). This topic could fill dozens of posts. But damn, from some peoples' reactions, you'd think I was actively going out and slaughtering infants in order to treat my PCOS.
Let it be said that many medicines has side effects that can be detrimental to some people in the long run. Natural means, where reasonable and possible, are often the best way of handling things. Natural family planning is cheap and effective, provided you choose the method that best works with the woman's cycles. Me--I had the best luck with the Creighton Model, which provided scientific improvements on monitoring fertility--that is, through monitoring cervical mucus. (Getting treatment from Hilgers' center is overrated and overpriced for what it is--when you can get the same treatment from preexisting medicines).
I had crazy irregular cycles, and it was the only thing that provided the best insight into my fertility (or lack thereof. Who knows on that front, yet). Eventually, I realized that my crazy cycles would adversely affect my health in the long run. Put bluntly, I'd rather not lose my ovaries or uterus. I'd like to try to have kids some day. So, I decided to treat my PCOS with Implanon, the progesterone-only medicine.
Some people interpret Humane vitae's directions to mean that birth control pills could be used as mere treatment, with birth control being an unfortunate side effect. However, the letter of the encyclical say that it's only for cases where the medicine provide a cure. It's another issue of creeping infallibility, I think. Encyclicals aren't necessarily binding, and some encyclicals are superseded when new popes come to power, or when new issues come to light. And yet people cite Humane vitae as seriously as they do the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
I was certainly not comfortable, then, that treating an honest-to-goodness medical issue would cause me to go to hell. I wasn't actively murdering babies as if I was using embryonic stem cells. I was just simply trying to frikkin' BLEED more than once a year so I wouldn't get uterine cancer. I was barely ovulating as it was, judging from my NFP monitoring. Creighton Model, Marquette Model, or Couple-to-Couple League all showed that I maybe ovulated once or twice a year. And judging from the sheer pain and from scans, the "ovulation" more often than not turned out to be cyst-making rather than egg-making.
I don't get the difference between medicinal use of hormones verses other medicines that could cause accidental spontaneous abortions.
I have found much more comfort and support in the Episcopal Church, and I no longer feel like I'm tearing apart the fabric of society just because I want to treat my uncooperative ovaries and uterus. I like how, in the Episcopal Church, the theology is more dynamic when it comes to science.
Birth control (family planning). I still think that if women have reasonably healthy periods, no matter how irregular it is, they should strongly consider natural forms of family planning. Yet, there are some times where condoms or the pill might be morally acceptable. After all, it is the equivalent to NFP in terms of how well it prevents conception. Any failures, whether with NFP, condoms, or hormones, can still be ascribed to God's will. Similarly, miscarriages happen. The miscarriage rate is similar--or even slightly less--for hormonal methods, compared to NFP.
The condom issue...well...Monty Python has an excellent skit snarking about the belief that all sexual encounters should end with the sperm in the wife's vagina. And sometimes condoms are necessary. They help reduce pain if guys have skin bridges. They're important when a spouse has a STD. Or when the wife is allergic to semen. The hardline approach to the usage of condoms ignores the fact that morality is not always cut-and-dried, black-and-white.
This is why I appreciate that the Episcopal Church acknowledges the various shades of gray of morality, that people are capable of making moral decisions with the help of God and sometimes a spiritual adviser, and that they acknowledge that sex isn't all about babies. It's a means of communication, and to deny people that form of communication just because it wouldn't be theoretically procreative seems...well...odd.
Filed under: Becoming Episcopalian