Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The religion problem, part troix

I wasn't planning on posting today, but I am so seething mad that I have to get this off my chest. In today's mail was a package from my Aunt K and Uncle J, my mom's sister and her husband. We are not at all close to them, but since we passed on the news about the baby, they -- and my aunt in particular -- have emailed us and sent us a few books. While I expected the worst -- they are the same, hard-core Catholic as my mom, if not more so (my uncle is a deacon) -- the first two books were rather benign. The second, a book on being a dad that they sent to Darren, didn't contain a hint of religious material.

Then came today's package, which contained a book called "Your L@bor of L0ve: A Spiritual C0mpanion for Expect@nt Mothers." (It was sent before part deux of this (apparently ongoing) saga.) The back cover notes that it is "a Catholic book of spiritual encouragement for young mothers." I rolled my eyes as I glanced at the cover, but kept repeating to Darren -- and to myself -- how nice it is that they thought of us, and how much it's the thought that counts. I should have left it there.

Instead, I opened the book. This is literally the first thing I found when I opened it to a random chapter:
When you're feeling lonely or a little sick, you might be inclined to page through one of the many current magazines or books aimed at mothers which deal with the issues of raising and bearing children. There are many in stores and libraries today.... However, be aware that even among materials which claim to discuss having children and caring for them, you will find a multitude of articles on limiting the number of children and working while someone else cares for them. Indeed, "family magazines" unashamedly display advertisements for various kinds of birth control...
This section goes on to explain that it is a "sin to read books that endanger one's Catholic faith," and suggests that should you do so anyway, you ought to write a letter to the editor about your horror at discovering birth control ads in the magazine. And, since you are just a dumb woman and wouldn't know how to write one of these "letters," the book helpfully includes an appendix with a sample letter for you to copy. And, it goes on:

If the letter is published, who knows how many expectant mothers will read it! For many of them, it will be their first exposure to the fact that contraception is not only morally wrong but is also a serious threat to the happiness of their marriage -- as well as a serious threat to their bodily health.
I can't even begin to articulate my outrage at the sentiments this book (published in 2003) contains. It is the worst of Catholicism -- the harsh dogma, the high-minded belief that the rest of the (non-Catholic) world is full of unenlightened morons who simply need to be shown the truth, the flat-out lies about matters of women's health.

For the last few hours, I've been pondering -- but not sending, at least not yet -- the wording of the email I will send in response to this "gift." I will thank them for thinking of us, and then (I think) I will let them know that D and I are not practicing Catholics, nor are we planning to raise our daughter Catholic -- something I will assume they do not know since we've not been in touch for several years. Then I will thank them again for the gift, and say goodbye, perhaps with a PS that reminds them of what my last name is (ie, not Darren's). When I outlined this for a friend on the phone a few minutes ago -- someone who was also raised Catholic, who is gay and who is also not one to mince words -- she agreed that I should wait a bit before actually sending this note... which makes me think that it is more harsh than I think it is right now.

I dread having to fight this battle with each member of my mom's side of the family separately. But what I dread more is having them assume that I share their beliefs, and having them try, with all good intentions, to impose those beliefs on our child. Perhaps it's because D is a social worker and thus is well versed in appropriate boundaries, but I feel very strongly that I need to establish appropriate boundaries with our families. The only problem is that, because of the religion thing, it's only my mom's family that needs the boundary-setting at the moment... and that touches on all kinds of deep-rooted issues between my mom and me that I don't have the energy to explain right now.

The only good to come out of this? We now have an instant way to liven up dinner parties.