Thursday, April 05, 2007

1 April

We had the best April Fools day ever. The lesbians baptized their baby in the Catholic church.

Ha, ha.

No really. We did.

Before Cricket (I almost said his name! I'll post the winners of the contest soon!)... Anyway, starting again: Before Cricket was born, and even before he was a reality, I thought about religion and his life. I feel like my own faith has gotten me through some bad times. Organized religion isn't for everyone, and I can understand that. My own Partner goes to church with me I think just to support my need for it. She's not sure what she makes of the whole thing.

I felt pretty embraced by the church until my relationship with Partner. Then things got more sticky, as you can imagine. If it was only ever going to be Partner and me, I would have had less questions about what to do. I would have stayed in the Catholic church without ever reaching out to other faiths. I would have believed my role was to stand up and make noise. Agitate for change from within, so to speak. I don't want to leave the Catholic church. The rituals have meaning for me. But I knew we wanted to start this family, so I thought again.

Was it fair to have children raised in a faith that didn't recognize the legitimacy of their family? Nope. Absolutely not. After all, one of the things that my faith taught me was about the unconditional love of God. Wasn't this just the church putting conditions on it? Does God love our family less because we are two women raising children together than he loves the family of one man and one woman? I know the answer to that in my heart, and it's a rousing no. God loves us all. And my family is so right, I just know that God smiles on us, and often. Yet the church's very position did seem answer that question with an affirmative, so I questioned.

I went to a priest and talked about it and his answer was that the church was schizophrenic on the issue. He encouraged me to explore the Episcopal church, but said he'd regret if I left the Catholic church. I listened to his words, but I didn't really hear them. We kept going to the Catholic church, at least once a month when I was scheduled to do the readings, and we went to the Episcopal church too. I liked it there. I liked the people. The smallness of the congregation compared to our large Catholic church was both refreshing and scary. If we weren't in church, people knew it. Whereas we could be gone for a year from the Catholic church we attend and I don't know that anyone would know. Yet I never felt the same after leaving the Episcopal service as I did after leaving mass. Even the services are largely the same, I just never quite got "there" after an Episcopal service. More and more we were Catholic. I haven't been to our Episcopal church in months, although we plan on attending the Easter Vigil there.

I ran into an acquaintance from this Episcopal church when I went to get my hair cut last week. She remarked on our absence, and I admitted to her that we had been increasingly Catholic, and I spilled the beans about Cricket's impending baptism. She said that she though being Catholic was a lot like being Jewish, almost a cultural thing and hard to fully ever walk away from. I get that.

When I called the Deacon about the pre-meeting for the baptism, he said I should bring my husband along. I was surprised by this because I assumed he knew I was a lesbian. I had a letter published in the Detroit Free Press when the state had the divisive proposal two on the ballot and I also very publicly walked out of the church when the Bishop sent his taped message to churches urging us to vote yes on this proposal. So taken aback, I said to him in one rushed breath, "There's no husband, but I have a partner and she's a woman; is that going to be a problem?"

"Not for me," the very conservative Deacon responded.

And it wasn't. Frankly, it hasn't been a problem for anyone we've talked to in the RC. The nun who runs the music at the church brought (only) us a book for Cricket about his baptism. It's a beautiful book. The pastor was welcoming to us as we came into church for the big day. It seems that the priest I talked to wasn't just spouting platitudes, but he was actually telling it like it is. He said there'd be some people who had a problem with it, but only because they'd be concerned about me. But I haven't run into any of those people yet, and if I did I'd try to educate them. More and more I wonder if it is our particular mission to be open and out in the Catholic church. Often Partner and I talk about how we feel like we are ambassadors for gay and lesbian people.

I was raised in an upper-middle class neighborhood-- or rather the whole city was that way. Conservative politics are de rigueur, and the whole place is rather homogeneous. There was one African American at my school. Thus this is the pool from which my parents have their friends, and when we had our commitment ceremony, many of them attended. I hazard to guess it was probably the first lesbian wedding many had attended, and I further that by supposing that it will be the last too. Not only did these friends come, but they really celebrated with us. At our baby shower, I told a few of these parental friends about the draconian adoption laws in our glorious state. Both of the women I was talking to had adopted their own children and both were appalled. Now one of them sends me clippings from her lawyers office detailing attempts to allow second parent adoption. They dote on the Cricket. I think in our own way we've changed some peoples minds about gay people.

We do this by just being who we are. I'm going to be honest here and note that I think it helps that we're perceived to be young, healthy, and in a rising middle class ourselves. Neither of us gets too strident in mixed (political-parental friend) company. We're both relatively cheerful and intelligent people. Our style is best described as preppy. I can talk about my crystal pattern. And that seems normal to these parental friends. Because we look like and act like their own children, our message about the normalcy of gay and lesbian relationships does get heard.

That's not to say that this is the only way to agitate for change. Or that everything about our relationship with the Catholic church is hunky dory. For example, when meeting with the Deacon, he commented on how certain nuns protested at the Pope's visit (John Paul, that is) and his position on women in the church. The Deacon was very critical and said they did more harm than good and I disagreed with him vehemently. I said that sometimes people did need to get up and rock the boat. That there were many ways to raise consciousness. I'm not sure he agreed with me at all, but then again, wasn't I raising his consciousness at that very moment by sitting his office with my partner discussing baptism for our son?

I'm more loose about the whole thing now. I think we've made a commitment to raise Cricket in the Catholic church, but I'm open to other faith experiences too. We'll take him to the Episcopal church also and let him make up his mind when the time comes as to how he'll choose to practice, or not practice, religion. I'll be honest with him about the shortcomings of the Catholic faith and the Episcopal and others for that matter.

Yet all in all, I can say the day was wonderful. He looked elegant in a baptismal gown that is over 150 years old, worn by many members of his family. He slept when the poured the water over his head. His family-- my family, Partner's family-- all came together on a beautiful sunny day to celebrate the role of God in his life. And ultimately that is what mattered.

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Anonymous calliope said...

so wonderful to read your thoughts on this today as I have been thinking about kids and religion. I guess it boils down to knowing who you are & finding a place that will let you BE that way.
that gown is stunning by the way. Does it have a history?

4:34 PM  
Blogger Suz said...

My first thought was one of humor, but as I continued to read, I felt angry and then relieved. I'm also Catholic and feel the same way about the church as do you. I remember talking to one of the fathers when we were doing IVF and having him tell me church's official line. I should have guessed, but it still came as a surprise. How could the CHURCH reject ME when I needed it the most? Positively unChristian of it. I'm thrilled that you got Cricket baptised and that everything went so well.

4:50 PM  
Anonymous j said...

Beautiful story, Katie!

And gorgeous gown.

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Jenn said...

We had a hard time deciding whether or not to baptise Catholic or not. We ended up doing it, mainly for the same reasons you did but obviously in a different situation. I'm glad it was a beautiful day and here's to acceptance.

8:52 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Sadly, we have yt to baptise our children, in part, because we can't seem to find a church in which to do it. Not that there aren't open and affirming churches out here, there are. We just haven't found one that we mesh with yet. Stacey is from a very bare bones Protestant church and I grew up RC, and we each prefer what we are used to. When we finally did settle on a congregation, it was the pastor that kept us there--she was phenomenal... then she left and the place disintegrated. So we are church-hopping again, hoping to find a place in which to raise our little ones. I am so envious that you have that already for Cricket--he's a lucky boy. And a gorgeous one, too.

11:37 PM  
Blogger Emma B. said...

Sometimes I'm really glad I'm an Episcopalian -- the ethical stuff is less thorny.

I'm glad the Church didn't give you and Partner any grief about Cricket's baptism. It seems pretty self-evident to me that they shouldn't -- baptism is about welcoming the child into a relationship with the Lord, regardless of what you think about his family structure and manner of conception. Sadly, we can't always expect them to be so sensible, but I'm glad they were in this case.

I'm a bit of a PACE churchgoer, but the day we baptised the girls was one of the most special days of my life. I had a bit of a rocky relationship (to say the least) with God while we were struggling with infertility, but something healed inside in that moment when we stood in front of the congregation with our children and made the baptismal vows. I'm so happy that Cricket's baptism was a beautiful day for you too.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I found this a very interesting read. I can't comment on church and belief systems and the like as I am agnostic. My ex husband was raised Mormon and I was raised Anglican, so we made the decision that we would not impose any religious beliefs on my oldest daughter and when she was old enough to decide on her own what faith she chose to follow (if any) it was her choice. And now I intend to do the same with Miss P.

I grew up in a very strong Polish Roman Catholic community in Eastern Ontario Canada, and being a child and forced to attend RC weddings in Polish that you have no idea why you've stood up, sat down and stood up again in less than 3 minutes is probably what put me off completely. :-) I always did attend Christmas Eve mass with my best friends though as it was beautiful and the singing was amazing (even though most of it was in Polish).

I'm glad that things worked out for Cricket's baptism and that gown is just gorgeous!

2:13 AM  
Blogger Emma in Canada said...

You are, I think, very lucky with your church. My church would never be so accepting, I went through a terrible experience when I wanted to have my daughter baptized and I was not married to the father. It was bad enough that he was opposed to her being baptized Catholic, but to have my church act as though they were still bothers me to this day. The youngest is not baptized, he refused, and I'm sort of glad not to have to go through that again.

5:35 AM  
Blogger sarah said...

i haven't visited this blog in a long time! this makes me remember why i liked it so much. very thoughtful.

I have very religious grandparents and very secular parents. But I went to church camp and to church with my grandparents: I realize now that it was a very loving thing for my parents to do, to give me lots of opportunities to experience religion even if it meant I ended up a different place than them. I'm not sure how we'll handle it with our son. I appreciate the community of a congregation, but my husband is very suspicious of the whole thing.

3:14 PM  

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