Roman Catholic Feminist

Daly Trimble | Rising Editor in Chief

“God, please don’t let me become a bigot.”

Of all the prayers and concerns that varied from “What am I doing here?” to “This an excessive amount of incense,” that petition was at the top of my list. Over the course of a two-year process that ended the spring of my freshman year at Pitt, I had considered joining the Roman Catholic Church in spite of being raised in a loving, stable, and agnostic household. If there could be one sound to describe that process, it would probably be a record scratch. I had little religious education within the public school system, and the only spiritual debate in the house growing up was when, deep in the tween years, one of my siblings expressed how cool it would be to become Wiccan. It didn’t pan out.

        While nobody got to be a teenage witch, I became the president of my high school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance. I engaged in spirited debates about female and queer liberation with classmates and faculty alike. I had also decided that I would become something offbeat, like Quaker or Unitarian, if I joined anything at all. Mainstream traditions appeared to lack the dynamism attractive to youth, and I assumed Catholicism was especially stifling and archaic. It was a church from the Dark Ages, bloated on wealth and hypocrisy, and it was able to stay alive only by siphoning resources from hateful, misguided, or habituated individuals. For the sake of love and peace, it seemed necessary to stay as far away from the Church as possible.

        So much changed when I learned Catholicism teaches that God is literally love itself. That, coupled with other theological and historical arguments inappropriately lengthy for an op-ed, unraveled what I understood of the faith. The elevation of every person’s life and worth to an indelible sanctity was something I failed to find consistently in any other creed, religious or secular. And I looked around, desperately, because I fell in love with it but didn’t want it to come from an institution I had felt was so cruel. I knew I was finding myself, but I was afraid of changing into someone tone-deaf and prejudiced against people who choose to live differently than I. If my faith doesn’t allow abortion or contraception, could I still call myself feminist? If the church I joined had conservative views on gender and sexuality, could I be any kind of ally to the LGBTQIA+ community? I kept kicking the paradox around. Could fully committing to a religion that boiled down to love and theology in fact stunt my capacity to care for others and think rationally?

        As a now five-month old Catholic, I believe it didn’t. Reconciling my identities and priorities continues to be challenging, but I get peace knowing that I can serve others better when I serve God first. I don’t have any quality strategies except to adhere to my conscience and to always recognize the validity and good nature of another person, however contrary their views may be to mine. In terms of maintaining rationality, I have to wake up and choose my faith anew every day. I rarely do it well, and the questioning can grow exhausting. However, I think that beats spiritual and intellectual complacency.

To me, identifying as an intersectional feminist while holding myself to the tenets of traditional Catholicism means being conscious that I’m entering spaces where there will be disagreement.  At the same time, it means remembering that I have as much a right to my own identity as others to theirs and that I can offer a viewpoint not often heard in feminist circles. It requires asking questions more than making statements, gauging the concerns and confusions of others, and offering my views when they’ve been thoughtfully crafted. Sometimes it means apologizing for offense, but it doesn’t mean apologizing for difference.  Being Christian in America is sometimes to wear a social privilege.  Being truly Catholic means bearing witness to and working to mend suffering by enduring pain for the sake of Christ, the most unbigoted person in history. At the end of the day, Deus caritas est