So, why did I hang in there with the Catholic Church?
When I was going into fifth grade, I went to summer school at a public elementary school near my house. I normally went to Catholic school, which I detested. This was not because of anything having to do with religion, though. It was because of the atmosphere at that particular school -- untrained teachers, large class sizes, insufficient school supplies, overzealous disciplinary measures.... (But, that's another post.) When I went to the summer program at the public school, I found a very different atmosphere -- calm, relaxed, orderly.... And one of the best things I encountered was a teacher who had been a former priest. His name was Sid. He told me that the story I wrote and the picture I drew were beautiful because I had done them -- something I had NEVER heard before. And he let me play Dorothy in the school's production of The Wizard of Oz. He was the director. He actually let three of us play Dorothy, because he didn't have the heart to cut anyone (we just rotated scenes). It was an altogether delightful experience I had with him that summer.
Years later, after I was married, I met up with Sid again at the Catholic parish we attended. Even though he had left the priesthood, he was still very active in the Church. He always loved The Lord so much! We were together at a party one day, a day when I was just fed up with the whole "Catholic Scene". I said to him something along the lines of -- "I don't even know anymore what we are supposed to believe. And this whole anti-contraception thing is just too hard." Sid looked at me very kindly, because he never failed to be kind, and he told me, "First of all, remember that the Lord loves you unconditionally. UNCONDITIONALLY." And then he told me that there was a new Catechism of the Catholic Church that had been promulgated by Pope John Paul II. He told me that it was wonderful and that I should get a copy. The next day, that's just what I did. And I read the whole darn thing from front to back. And it's pretty long.
I learned a lot from that read. But, in a nutshell, I found that ALL of the Church's teachings, including the one against contraception, are based on the idea of loving one another in a completely selfless, self-giving way. I liked that idea, and that's why I hung in there.
Do I still struggle with this teaching, and sometimes other teachings of the Church? Sure, I do. Do I believe that people who practice contraception can still love each other completely? I absolutely do. But, when I struggle these days, I always remember what Sid told me. God loves me UNCONDITIONALLY. And He loves you that way, too -- no matter your sins or your struggles.