"I think there were several last straws. The pope going to Africa and saying that condoms were not a good idea in the fight against AIDS. I found that outrageous, embarrassing, humiliating, frightening. The bishop of Phoenix, Ariz., Thomas Olmsted, publicly condemning a nun Sister Margaret McBride because she OK'd a life-saving abortion for a dying mother in a Catholic hospital," Rice said.
"The fact that my church, which I had supported over the years as -- you know, private -- how shall I put it -- I know. I supported it. Let's say that. I put my money where my mouth was. And that church then spent millions to come in to the state of California and deprive gay citizens of their civil rights to same-sex marriage? That was shocking. That was humiliating. That was the last straw. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles paying $660 million to the victims of clergy abuse? What does that say about organized religion? And finally, the pressure built up, the toxic anger built up, the confusion built up and I thought, 'I have to get out this. I want God to be the center of my life and somehow I'm in bed with the devil.' Trying to get up and get out," she said.
Part of her frustration, she said, came from the fact that her son Christopher is gay.
"I was for gay rights long before Christopher was born," Rice said. "But of course, it makes me sensitive to what is going on."
"I mean, it causes great moral discomfort when your church is calling homosexuality gravely disordered. And when they're spending money, maybe money that you, yourself contributed to fight -- to support Prop 8 [California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage], I mean, I can't emphasize how demoralizing that is to me. Why millions of dollars in church funds spent on persecuting these people publicly. I don't get it. I think it's wrong. I think it's evil," Rice said.
"I think the persecution of gays is evil. I think it's evil," she said. "I think it's gratuitous and it's evil."
To be clear, Rice said she is still a follower of Christ. She said she reads the Bible and prays every day just by herself. She said there were aspects of being an active Catholic that she would miss.
"I will probably miss the ritual, the liturgy, going to Mass, going to holy communion, but I really couldn't go anymore," she said. "I was too angry. I was too confused. That clergy abuse scandal, the defensiveness of Catholics about that scandal, their anger at not wanting to hear about it, not wanting to know what had happened with priests abusing people sexually and then being transferred to parish -- from parish to parish, I mean all of that was too much. I was -- I was sitting in church in a beautiful environment with beautiful music wanting to pray and I was too angry and too confused to be there. I had to leave. It was coming between me and God to be in that church. And the church should be the place that helps you get close to God."
Rice said her anguish over this decision will work its way into her books.
"It's tragic, but when you find yourself lying for God, something's really wrong," she said. "And for me to go on saying that I was a Catholic and for me to go on being in that church, or in any church, really, worrying about what they teach and what they do socially and what they might do politically, et cetera, et cetera, that was lie. I can't do that."