If there’s one thing I’ve never been ashamed to do is reaching out for help. Many times in life I’ve been drowning in a sea of I don’t know what and seek Godly guidance. I’ve not always been a regular visitor to a counselor type but not afraid to pick up the phone for help either. One such occasion was almost a decade ago…
I adored that priest… let me put that out there first. He reminded me of my dad in his facial features, smile and the way he thought a bit before he would speak. He was also gentle and kind and brought a presence to church I had never experienced in my entire life. So when I had a struggle, which I did from time to time, I had no problem going to him, seeking some “fatherly” advice.
One particular issue revolved around infertility treatments. After a few years of trying to conceive and taking different pills, my infertility specialist was telling us the only way I would conceive was if we did artificial insemination or in-vitro (IVF). My church’s dogma has some pretty strong “rules” on the matter, and being the rule follower I try to be I assumed church’s law equalled God’s law.
I told my fatherly priest my quandary and even though we weren’t inclined to conceive in those scientific ways, my heart still hurt very badly and I was struggling. The priest grabbed the very thick “Catechism of the Catholic Church” and pointed to something that had never been shown to me before. At paragraph 1782 it says the following,
Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.
He also turned to paragraph 1795 that says,
Conscience is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.
He then proceeded to tell me that his niece had children of another race than that of her and her husband. This girl’s husband had a sports injury that left him unable to procreate. While my priest told me that he could not tell me it was okay or “bless” it if we did seek out more extensive fertility treatments, he did say that some decisions are up to the person and God.
I took this conversation to heart and the theologians’ writings on conscience (so much so that I dog-eared that section of the book). However, my husband and I never did feel comfortable enough to conceive in that manner (coincidentally, we later conceieved two children without the aid of any infertility treatments or medicines).
In order to get where I’m headed with this, I need to touch on judgement a bit…
I used to stand with the pro-lifers on street corners and pray. Now, let me preface this by saying we weren’t the ones holding the grotesque signs or shouting at the people going in and out. We all just stood on the public right-of-way and said prayers. Then I got to thinking… What if there’s a young girl who’s struggled so hard about that decision and still arrived at that conclusion. I’m talking about a girl with conscience who was making that decision. My presence out there was just rubbing salt in an already open and very horrible wound. I quit going.
Some would argue that it is our duty to do it and that many women stop or turn away and there are victories for those babies. Maybe they’re right but my conscience was telling me otherwise.
And cue up the fanaticals who like to point fingers in judgement about fire and hell and where those ladies and doctors are going and all that kind of thing.
That is not love. People who love don’t point and sneer and make nasty comments. People who love don’t arrive at quick conclusions about how people’s level of education, socio-economic situation or church attendance makes them a bad person. People who love aren’t afraid to love, aren’t afraid to be vulnerable and genuine to people.
Doctrine, and anyone’s interpretation of the Bible, mistakenly gives some Christians ammo to fire away when they see another person walking a different path. While we should discern for ourselves what is right and wrong and live as best we can according to that path, we should speak no ills upon others who are walking other paths. We are unaware of their own conscience, their sanctuary with God, and Lord help us if we had to walk in their shoes.