The Catholic Church is “Crunchy”, Too

Share on email
Share on whatsapp
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on reddit

Someone told me recently, in a tone of shock and disbelief, “Did you know the Catholic Church is even more to the right than republicans?” I tried to explain that the Church might be to the right on some issues, or to the left on others, but certainly cannot be reduced to “right” or “left” or to any political party. It might even be true that the Church is more to the right on most issues (against abortion, etc.), but the Church is not a primarily political institution. God’s plan for us and His revelation that is passed down through the Church certainly touches on all human aspects of life, including politics, but is not a simple “left” or “right”.

A couple of months back, this came to light for me in a special way when I did a birth preparation course with a doula. A doula is a woman who helps other women in childbirth and although they can have many different ideologies, and there are even Christian doulas, they are usually pretty “crunchy”. Crunchy is defined by the online urban dictionary as an adjective “used to describe persons who have adjusted or altered their lifestyle for environmental reasons. Crunchy persons tend to be politically strongly left-leaning and may be additionally but not exclusively categorized as vegetarians, vegans, eco-tarians, conservationists, environmentalists, neo-hippies, tree huggers, nature enthusiasts, etc.” People that are “crunchy” in parenting usually are in favor of non-medicated or even homebirth, breastfeeding instead of bottle, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, etc.

In this doula course I was attending there were no other Catholics. The doula made her own soap and cleaning supplies to avoid harsh chemicals (in a typical crunchy manner) and the other attendees included a worker for the communist party and vegetarian musicians. There didn’t seem to be many similarities between us and them.

However, throughout the course some interesting similarities did pop up. Mainly, the doula explained that she uses “natural contraception” by which she meant natural family planning. She explained how she tracks her fertility signs and abstains during fertile periods, because “it really isn’t that long” she said. She also mentioned how much she is enjoying teaching this method to her adolescent daughter, because it is counter-cultural and teaches her how to respect herself and her body, unlike the animalistic ideology she is taught at school. Another completely non-Catholic couple in the course was also using natural methods and another couple was interested. The doula told them where she had learned these methods and said many courses were given by “religious” people. I immediately jumped in and clarified that it wasn’t all religions that endorsed natural methods, no. It was the Catholic Church!

It was amazing for my husband and I to have common ground with such “crunchy” people, in natural family planning, in sexual education (kind of) and in more topics such as respecting the woman’s body in childbearing. It felt great to proclaim in the middle of the course that it wasn’t just any religion that was right about contraception being harmful, it was the Catholic Church. All other religions have backed down about this topic throughout the years.

The Catholic Church has common ground with people to the “right” ideologically, but also with crunchy people. With Pope Francis’s Laudato Si and attention to ecological topics, even more so now. I have already written that Pope Francis seems to use environmental issues to build bridges to more intimate issues such as spousal love, the domination of our bodies by human power and natural law:

“Consequently, the defense of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself, one which includes the natural difference between man and woman (cf. Laudato Si, 155), and absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions (cf. ibid., 123, 136).”

Laudato Si, and the entire tradition of social and economic Catholic teaching, also leads us to not buy into the consumerist culture, do our part and encourage others to live simply, respect natural resources, and think about a more humane culture when building cities and technologies.

“It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an “ecological conversion”, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.” Laudato Si, n. 217

So it’s true, the Catholic Church might be to the “right” on many topics, but it’s also very crunchy. The word “Catholic” means universal, and it is truly beautiful to discover God’s view and original design of every aspect of human life.

Julie Machado

Julie Machado

Julie Machado is a 30-year-old wife, mother and Portuguese-American who grew up in California, but moved to Portugal for college and has been there ever since. She has a degree in Theology from the Catholic University of Lisbon and has special interest in Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. She blogs at Marta, Julie e Maria.

Leave a Replay

2 thoughts on “The Catholic Church is “Crunchy”, Too”

  1. Avatar

    Hmmmm. Not all Church social teaching is written in stone ( or in clearly infallible form). The recent reversal on the death penalty by these last three Popes is an horrendous Eurocentric mistake that will get many poor people killed by murder in majority poor countries….not in Europe…in majority poor countries. Google “UN data homicide by country.”
    The tale is there. Northern Catholic Latin America from Brazil to Mexico is the most murderous area on earth and has majority poor, no death penalties and murder rates over twenty times that of East Asia which has a billion poor but has death penalties and probably stronger families than Catholic northern Latin America. We are protecting millions of preborn with our abortion teaching but ….going forward, we will get thousands of poor adults unnecessarily murdered yearly where the last three Popes are influential as two were in the Phillipines. Read Romans 13:4…it’s from the Holy Spirit and it affirms the state using the sword against evil doers.
    Right now if you were traveling in China, you are 25 times safer than were you traveling in Brazil the largest Catholic country….death penalty free for decades.

    1. Avatar

      I also have strong feelings about the death penalty, and I have written about it at some length on my own blog. However, I think a few points should be made here.
      1. The difference between Latin America and China goes quite a bit deeper than the presence or absence of a death penalty. You have found a correlation, but you have not proved causation.
      2. Historically, every place that is willing to use the death penalty still has need to use the death penalty. It is never a perfect deterrent, probably for at least two reasons. (a) Many capital crimes are crimes of passion, and the lawbreaker is not calmly reflecting on his odds of escaping punishment when he decides on his actions. (b) “Everyone is special.” Or at least, people have a tendency to think that they are the exceptions to the rules, and they will surely never be caught and convicted.
      3. The strongest argument in favor of the death penalty is not that it provides practical protection, but that it affirms the gravity of the acts we may choose to perform.
      4. The main problem with the treatment of the death penalty by recent Popes and bishops is that it is intellectually sloppy. That’s true even of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who as a rule were much more careful than Francis. It is really not enough to say that we should almost never put a lawbreaker to death; we need to know with some confidence exactly when we should, when we should not, and why. Some future Pope will have to sort this out later.
      5. Death is a terrible thing. It is the punishment for sin, and we were not made for death. Yes, yes, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints,” but still, ” I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.” For these reasons, I think it is fair to say that the Catholic Church is opposed to death as such, and many people, including many high-ranking priests, see opposition to the death penalty as an extension of this. They are probably right when they plead for the lives of the guilty as Abraham supplicated for Sodom, but as with Abraham, they need to be prepared for the answer of “no” without resorting to name-calling.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign up for our Newsletter

Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

%d bloggers like this: