Monday, October 6, 2014

Catholic Church, Organized Religion and Women

by Wendy Forrest, Toronto

Several days ago a contributor to this blog posted an excellent piece on the role of the Catholic Church in the perpetuation of poverty and inequality world wide and the oppression and exploitation of women over the centuries.

It almost seems an insult to the above mentioned author not to comment fully and responsibly. I hope to be able to do this, or at least give more attention to this topic in the future. At this moment though I will confine my contribution to a brief anecdotal response based on my personal experience as a woman as as a health care worker.

Organized religion has no place in education and health care and to the degree that it exerts influence it never fails to perpetuate the oppression of women and control over our bodies, minds and emotions, our sexuality and by implication our social and economic well being and safety. Often one small every day experience,  a few small moments as we go about our lives, can reveal an entire narrative of pain and terror, fear and anger.

What follows is merely an example of this . It seems an embarrassment to offer up such a tiny anecdote in response to the profound and accurate contribution made by the author of the recent blog piece.

Approximately 20 years in Ontario massive health care restructuring was unleashed by the Tory government. This involved closures of community hospitals, the loss of hundreds of much needed hospital beds and local outpatient services.

At the time , despite a significant community mobilization against it , a much needed and loved downtown hospital was forced to merge with a larger catholic hospital in downtown Toronto. This catholic hospital funded by the state, denied abortions, restricted access to contraception and education around women's reproductive rights to birth control. Each hospital had its own family practice unit.

As a patient of one of these family practice units I along with hundreds was forced to become a patient of the catholic hospital family practice unit.

To make a long story short I recently had an ultrasound of my face and neck , related to a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. As I sat in the waiting room at St Michael's Hospital, with 10 other patients I looked around for reading material to ease the boredom of the wait.

The only reading materials on offer were magazine extolling the joys, wonder and sanctity of family as well as several glossy pamphlets promoting private education/schools. For a tiny moment I thought "what the hell- what is this propaganda doing in the waiting room of a publicly funded health care facility".  I quickly made the connections and the anger , not yet rage , quickly started to simmer in my belly.

I refocused and talked myself down. Then looking at the wall facing me I saw a huge graphic display of the development of the human fetus-the only picture, sign, whatever on the wall of the entire waiting room. Approximately 16 photos of ultrasound images of the human fetus from 2 weeks to term.  Were I not vulnerable in that I cherish my status as a decades long patient of a family practice unit, I trust and rely upon and did not want to end up having to resort to walk in clinics , I literally had to force myself to stay in my seat to avoid ripping these images off the wall.

As a woman who opted for an abortion, 3 decades ago I can still not look at images of a first trimester fetus. An ultimate rationalist, socialist, feminist and hard core realist without a sentimental bone in my body, I have no regrets, I bear no shame and will support women's rights to choice until I draw my last breath. The choice I made was painful and accompanied by several weeks of sadness- a sadness no priest or pastor representing a patriarchal, rigid, misogynistic institution and force can even imagine or have the right even to try to imagine until and unless he throws off his vestments and trappings of illegitimate and abusive authority.

I made my decision to have an abortion as a well paid worker. I was not poor. I did not have to worry about feeding and clothing any children I may have borne. I was not in a in an abusive relationship, I had not been raped.

Those who foam at the mouth at women's right to choose care nothing about who will provide for children. In fact by collaborating with, filling the role of right hand man to the capitalist class who by its very nature will force poverty upon working and poor people worldwide, they are in fact nothing less than guilty of inflicting starvation, disease and death upon billions.

So my rage was not about my sadness.

It was about the terror inflicted on women and children physically and psychologically every single minute of every single day, for centuries even till now by the patriarchs of organized religion. In that waiting room were patients with all kinds of physical ailments and problems. In fact there was only one pregnant women in the room. Was it just coincidence that they chose to mount images of fetuses. Not a chance. I wondered as I was called in to the examining room if the Catholic Hospital funded by public money via the state would pick up the tab for the food, care and education at one of the private schools they were promoting.

No of course not. The most they will do is piss a few pennies and nickels into the charity pot in order to whitewash their crimes against women and children world wide.

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