"The unexamined life is not worth living" Socrates

- - scatterings of ideas sent to my younger self, a sensitive girl who was fooled into believing she was a boy because of anatomy - -

Friday, 27 August 2010

A Committee Posing as God

I have sat on this one long enough.  Maybe by saying it some of my anger will leave. Disappointment, terrible sadness will remain no matter, because this is about how mean-spirited gangs of humans can be. Warning, this is about a religion and how one of our own has been treated there.

I love my spiritual friends. Good people usually have a spiritual side. I have a spiritual connection too and I’d like to think of myself as ‘good’.  There is nothing that needs to be mysterious and otherworldly about spirituality. If you want to believe in a higher power and that helps you to connect to fellow humans in a more powerful and peaceful way, I say GREAT! Personally, I don’t have a belief in supernatural forces; the natural ones do nicely to explain things for me. When your church and your spirituality match, the experiences you have at a church can be very uplifting. Sadly, the opposite holds true and as with a body and gender, incongruence is very unpleasant.

This post is about the Roman Catholic Church. These are the same folk who wrote the original rulebook, about three hundred years after the death of their ‘prophet’ or ‘lord’ (this is not my opinion; when the first council of Nicaea was held, bishops still were not sure which to believe) Jesus. In fairness, that church has been the one to ‘stick by their guns’ and you might give them some credit for that.

Diana of Salad Bingo, in her article “Transsexuals in the Catholic Church” quotes Catholic blogger and Senior Editor of Catholic Exchange Mary Kochan’s response to a letter from a Catholic transsexual female looking for guidance in finding a place as a woman in her church.

If you enjoy a ‘legalistic’ juggling act worthy of the best constitutional lawyer, the response to this seeker is for you. Maybe Mary could have left an opening for this poor soul to have some hope, any loophole would have done, but instead we get the following:

I understand that you were not happy.  I understand that you were in distress even to the point of your health being wrecked and I’m not in any way making light of that.  But objectively speaking, what you proposed and carried out as a remedy to your distress was the breaking of God’s law that says that you may not mutilate your body.  I won’t deny that God foreknew you would do this — He knows all things.  But to say he gave you a particular kind of body purposely to facilitate your breaking of His law is as nonsensical as for a cat burglar to say that God gave him nimble fingers and sharp ears for picking locks.  God did not make you a transsexual.  If there was indeed some kind of interference with your development in the womb, that was caused by human agency, not by God.

The old, “don’t blame god” argument of ‘free will’. The worst saved for the last, in the end, Ms. Kochan suggests her correspondent should have died (I kid you not) rather than break “God’s law”. That is her helpful hint for the rest of us. She doesn’t bring up the whole suicide being another big sin problem. Perhaps like this entry, her post was getting a tad long. What a mess.
Hopefully our sister went looking for another opinion within her church community and found solace; admittedly the Catholic Exchange is a conservative group even within the Catholic Church. However, what our seeker wanted was an answer to how she could carry on in her church and function as a woman within it. What she got was a shunning.

When an organization has a set of rules, a constitution, they have annual meetings at which the membership can vote for amendments. Countries (other than dictatorships) have constitutional lawyers and supreme courts and their government votes to create amendments to bring the law into line with current conditions.

In the case of a religion, the set of rules can only be modified at the risk of suggesting that the old ones were not really inspired by the divinity, even when these writings seem to have little relevance to the particular situation. What you need is ‘divine inspiration’ on the part of someone very powerful in the administrative end of the church.

There is hope within religions. I suspect that most local congregations are much more supportive of their own, even if they would fall short of disavowing the central church’s authority. Telling someone they would be better off dead is easy from a distance, when you do not know the sweet soul of that individual.

If you believe in a god, hopefully that higher power operates in a better way than some committee with an outdated constitution.  I hope you can believe he/she is a forgiving god who really does love you and all the rest of us, in spite of the complexities of a real life.

Peace, Love and Hugs


  1. As a small child trying to make sense of the world I was not impressed with that book of theirs. it was just about the only book in the house and fairly important looking so I gave it a shot and was not impressed.

    I was fairly young when I decided that I did not believe in any of the nonsense associated with religion. I thought my condition proved the non existence of a god to me and have yet to hear anything which would give me cause to reconsider.

  2. I guess as Mary Kochan would see it I would be better off dead, but then to take my own life I would fail as a mortal sin. I can't win. You wrote a good post as always Halle.

    I've been a practicing Lutheran my whole life and even attended seminary for a while. What has got me through was believing the Bible as part history, part folk lore, part mythology, and part truth. And yes, I was created and given this 'gift' too.

    Hugs, Elly

  3. @ Elly: It would help everyone to see our religious leaders come out and admit that they too see the Bible as part history, part folk lore, part mythology, and part truth.

    As moral leaders their position might even be stronger by giving up the appeal to a higher power and being human beings who are concerned with the welfare of other humans.

    @Caroline: When our children were young we decided they needed to be able to make a choice based on experience. We joined a local church, even though my younger experiences paralleled your own. They eventually left the church by their own mature choice, and we stayed a bit too long (sadly).
    We met some very good people, and some very bad people and many in between; just like any cross-section of our society.

  4. The Catholic Church has always been very legalistic, and that certainly shows in Mary Kochan's response(s). I'm very glad that I left the Church for good long before I realized that transition was the right course of action for me.

    I was glad to see that Kochan's earlier post acknowledged the existence of intersex conditions. That is more than one usually sees from the conservative Catholic position.

    And I was a little sorry that the writer claimed an etiology for her having been born transsexual. That was really a guess, or a rationalization, on her part, and all it did was allow Kochan to say that the writer was not born transsexual but rather was made so by human intervention.

    I can well understand your anger, Halle.

  5. This really annoyed me, and I thought I was beyond caring what any religion stated. I started my journey in the Catholicism but saw through the whole nonsense as my ability to reason developed. I try to ignore most pronouncements as little more than debates on "how many angels dance on a pinhead". Nevertheless, Kochan's argument on "mutilation" is not even consistent with her own sacred texts, (Mathew 12:19). This church endorsed castrati choirs for hundreds of years....I won't go on. I couldn't care less about the religion, but such bile seems to be at odds with the thoughts of a man who routinely entertained tax collectors and prostitutes.

  6. I too left the Catholic Church, for reasons other than who or what they think about transsexual. I left the church because I did agree on their doctrine of abortion, of marriage outside the church, of having a single man counsel me on love and marriage problems.

    I have always assumed that I needed a 'church' to maintain my connection with a 'god'.

  7. I'm not really sure where to start this, save for this is a great post and equally great responses.

    Though it may seem a bit simplistic, I view a religion the same way I view a physician. They are for me to go to when I need aid. If a doctor and I don't see eye to eye on a diagnosis, I am free to get a second opinion or change doctors. As it is with religion.

    My view of the Catholic church was founded very early. Jim is a "Cradle Catholic." Not too long after his mother passed, Jim stopped going to Catholic church. Most people who knew him would have asked what took him so long.

    One of the disagreements he and I have with the church is their view on artificial birth control. Life is too precious to be squandered. God made it possible for we his created to learn how to adjust whether or not we reproduce. By this we can keep life from being created that would not be appreciated or would be a burden to those creating it. And since we're not creating that life in the first place, we don't have to be concerned about what happens in utero. This is a double edged sword. Both abortion and birth control are sins in the eyes of the church. Jim put it best. When the Pope agrees to step in and pay for the upbringing of this child, new addition to the house, doctor bills, education, ad nauseum, then he can tell me not to don the rubber when I make love to my wife. I can't agree more.

    I would be curious as to Ms Kochan's views on an issue requiring surgery as in the case of a child born intersexed. Or an issue that's not sexual in nature. A small 3rd leg perhaps. Should such a person be deprived the God given knowledge and abilities of knowing people because this infirmity is God's will? And since when did anyone outside their own skin REALLY know what Gods will or plan is anyway. Jim and I have a tough enough time with knowing where it relates to us.

    On the subject of religion in general, and especially organized religion, Jim and I have a problem with how Jesus is viewed in the first place. The best description of Jesus for me came from a book written by an atheist. "2,000 years after a man was nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be for people to be nice to each other for a change." Like Claire said, Jesus hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes. He also traveled with lepers and in general the dregs of society. Jesus really did practice what he preached. Too many people in too many churches raise their hands saying "I love you Jesus!" Then have a really tough time showing it. "Sorry, I can't help you change your tire. I'd be late for a prayer meeting." Small wonder many in our group feel better off without hypocritical religions. It's been 2,000 years. Has anyone learned anything?

  8. They say empires carry the seeds of their own destruction. I wonder about the Catholic religion and some of the stuff they come out with and some of their employees exploits.
    The Catholic Church has many similarities to an empire so maybe it's leaders should take a long hard look at themselves

  9. Halle,

    I was so upset in reading that article too that I had to sit on it for a while. Maybe stew is the right word. Anyway, I hope you'll enjoy today's post. I have to face things like this with a sense of humor while still addressing the issues. When I saw your post I had to come over here and tell you this post was just for you :)


  10. Hey Laura, I did enjoy the post, as you knew I would. Your wicked sense of humour and irony scores bigtime with me.
    I do hope Ms. Kochan stopped by.
    Remind me never to get you upset by anything I post! :P


  11. Oh dear. There is very little you can say to Ms Kochan is there? Whatever you say she'll have an answer to, a smart twist of the tongue, a standpoint that shes not just confident in, but which she can project confidence with. All to get the little people (i.e. those who don't yet agree with her) under control.

    I'm a Christian. Clearly Ms Kochan is as well. But she doesn't write in my name.

    Alas I don't share your optimism about local congregations - I think any tolerance is more because a person with a misgendered history is outside of their experience and immediate cause for concern, rather than any positive act of acceptance - at present we are possibly seen as a side line to gays & lesbians, rather than a problem in our own right.

  12. Well, Halle, as is usual for me I'm late reading this post. Interesting that I did a similar post a few days after you did this one.

    What can I say? I totally agree with what you have written. Sad, isn't it?

    Very well written.

    Calie xxx