LIBERA ME, Domine, Iesu Christe, ab omnibus iniquitatis meis et universis malis,
fac me tuis semper inhærere mandatis et a te numquam separari permittas. Amen.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Now . . . am I wrong, or is she ?

I don’t know if you know about the 40 Days for Life initiative, which started yesterday, and will end at 23:30 on October 31 ? It’s a clear Pro-Life Campaign which aims to ‘mark the beginning of the end of abortion throughout the UK’.

The ‘official’ statement reads :

40 Days for Life is a focused pro-life effort that consists of :

- 40 days of prayer and fasting

- 40 days of peaceful vigil

- 40 days of community outreach

We are praying that, with God's help, this groundbreaking effort will mark the beginning of the end of abortion throughout the UK.

While all aspects of 40 Days for Life are crucial in our effort to end abortion, the most visible component is the peaceful prayer vigil outside a London abortion facility.

(To know more, or to sign up for specific hours in the vigil, I suggest you look it up on facebook, or email the organizers for further information : )

You won’t be surprised to know that I support this; and am hoping to be able to fit it a number of hours at the vigil . . . and there are a great many other people who are supporting it in other ways, even people from thousands of miles away who can’t possibly be there, but who are keeping the Campaign in their prayers.

What I found really horrendous was the response of one young lady who was invited to join the Campaign, who responded thus :

‘Thanks for the invite mate, but sorry guys its a no. Despite being Catholic my views are definately in opposition to whats written above’ (verbatim quote)

Now; my understanding of the position is this : that the Catholic Church has a clear and unequivocal teaching on this subject, which is that abortion is simply wrong; it’s sinful, and must be opposed by all Catholics.

So how can one say, in the same sentence, that one is a Catholic, and that one is opposed to a campaign to end abortion . . ?

It seems to me that one of us has misunderstood what our Faith requires of us; which leads to the question, ‘Am I wrong, or is she ?’ . . . and if it’s her that’s wrong, to the secondary question ‘Who’s to blame for the fact that a young lady who has these opinions can also think that she’s a Catholic ?’ – or, if you prefer, ‘Who’s responsible for the fact that a young lady who’s a Catholic thinks she can also hold these opinions ?’

At the very least, it seems to me that there must have been some horrendous shortcomings in catechesis somewhere in the last (I’m guessing) twenty years or so.


  1. The young lady is in error. Many Catholic Christians maintain erroneous beliefs but this does not necessarily remove them from the Catholic Church; it merely impairs their communion with the Church to some greater or lesser extent and may imperil their attainment of their supernatural destiny.

    Coincidentally, this was a topic of conversation in our house yesterday as a result of certain (ahem) "incidents" locally concerning erroneous teaching.

    It seem that the root of this problem is a failure to grasp the fact that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church and that the deposit of faith passed down to the Church consists in matters-of-fact that are true. Additionally, there is an unwillingness to believe that Christ gave the Church the power to teach these truths as truths.

    That direct abortion is wrong is truth of reality; to deny it would be like standing up in front of my students and denying that two plus two is four. It is simply incorrect.

  2. Part of the shortcoming in catechesis arises from members of the clergy who fail to teach these truths as truths.

    The (ahem) 'incidents' that Gregory refers to involved laity in citing the preaching of clergy to support their erroneous understanding.

  3. First of all, this is a really thought provoking, and provocative blog - so thank you. This post in particular brought up a few serious thoughts.

    I am Catholic and hold with the Church's teaching regarding the sanctity of life. However, as a compassionate woman I could not sign up to publicly participate in an event like this. I think the reason I would not go is belied by the title to this post - Am I wrong, or is she? Hand on heart I do not believe that any woman who finds herself in a position to have to make a decision about abortion, for whatever reason, does so lightly. For many, the decision is agonizing - for life. Women do not recover from decisions like that, even if to your mind, or to mine they seem like they are doing 'ok'. Therefore, I often find the public judgment of the 'pro life movement' deeply disturbing. Now, don't get me wrong. I believe abortion to be a deep wound in our society, it is a sign that so many things are wrong with the way we think about sex, sexuality, life, family and death. Women who are seeking and abortion have already been let down by society in so many ways - who are we to make that worse by pointing a finger? I want to pray for all those affected by the death of an unborn child, and for those who are considering having an abortion. But, the public condemnation of vulnerable women, through, of all things, a prayer vigil, I find very hard to swallow. I do not think it will change the minds of the women involved - but will only make them feel judged unworthy in the sight of God (how terrible!); I do not think it will save the lives of their unborn child. There has to be a more compassionate way of going about really listening to women who are considering abortion, and really, honestly trying to help. Prayer is a big part of that - but I am not sure it should be a public part in the way suggested by a public prayer vigil outside an abortion clinic. So, in answer to your question, "am i wrong or is she?" I would want to know something further, what exactly did 'she' really find so objectionable? why? And, why is it so important to hold a public prayer vigil, which (to me) seems to point the finger and judge, more than it seems to seek the Christian compassionate response of listening, understanding and seeking genuinely to help those who are suffering and struggling to make a decision that will affect the lives of two people forever. There has to be a better way, and I think it must start with private prayer, listening, compassion and practical help - I am sure there are organizations out there that do this, and I am with them.

    Just some thoughts - now, am I wrong - or is there more to this than black and white?

  4. Beautifully said, Cloister.
    I grew up in a country where 'pro-life' meant clinic bombings, murder, frenzied abuse of women entering clinics. What pro-life really meant was "Once you're born, we don't really care what happens to you. We're pro-war, so we're happy for you to be cannon fodder; we'll cut social services, so we're happy for you to abused or neglected; we'll make sure you can't get proper health care or schooling if you're not affluent, so we're happy for you to have no opportunity or die early once you're out of the womb; oh, and if you get arrested - we're happy for you to die via injection or electric chair. And if you're not like us, we don't want you near us: we're pro-segregation, anti-gay, anti-anyone who isn't our clone."
    So the real definition of pro-life is thus: "We're pro-life if you're white and middle-class; if you're not, you can have as many abortions as you like - we don't want more of you."
    The shrillness, bullying and lack of integrity with which the campaign is run is breathtaking. You see the same with SPUC and its like: lovely to people who agree with them, abusive to those who don't. And pretending to be 'advice services' when what they do is force women to do what they want is just despicable.
    I AM Catholic and pro-choice. I don't sit here easily, but I sit here with absolute conviction. As a cleric with far more empathy than you show here once said, "I don't agree with you - I don't think abortion is part of God's plan. I think we need to love and support the women who are considering this."
    Ah. A *truly* - and far too rare - Christian, pro-life stance. And one that allowed us to lean on the fence and really talk - and discover that our values are, in fact, extremely similar, though our expression of them may not be. Unfortunately, reactions like yours shut off conversation and encourage polarity and entrenchment in extreme positions.
    It occurred to you to be smug and self-congratulatory, patting yourself on the back for your orthodox stance. It occurred to you to be rigid. It occurred to you to question her right to be in God's Church - which is not YOUR place or business, but Christ's - but it never occurred to you to find out what her story was.
    As Cloister says, making a decision about abortion is difficult and heart-breaking. No woman does it for a good time, and the last thing she needs to do is be bullied. She needs *love*, *support* and someone who will *listen without judgment*.
    That is something that will be your job as a priest. You need to reflect deeply and decide if you can do it. If not, then you have some hard thinking to do. Because let me tell you, if you find that response 'horrendous', you are in no way ready to deal with what your parishioners are living through.
    Perhaps you need to go and learn from some of your Dominican brethren who, in my experience, are exemplary pastors - thoughtful, compassionate, orthodox, always charitable - and above all, ever aware of the spirit and nuance of the law.
    Remember - "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." To assume you know God's will for anyone - and whether or not they are 'imperil[ing] their supernatural destiny' is the ultimate in arrogance. None of us has any idea of the mind of G-d; how He is choosing to work out His plan for any and all of us. To do so is to worship an idol by creating Him in our image.
    Instead, your encounter with that girl's comment should have been treated as holy. As a moment of meeting, as a moment to wonder what her story might be, as a chance to reach out to her with compassion and show her that the pro-life movement may not be the monolith of intolerant, misogynist religious weirdos she may imagine them to be.
    That was a missed opportunity. Don't, in your need to be right, miss the next one.

  5. Wow, this is a scary post. I couldn't agree with Irim more - how on earth can you possibly claim to know God's will? Do you really think that adhering to an orthodox fundamentalist stance on issues like this makes you closer to God? It worries me that you are preparing for life as a priest. You owe it to yourself, to your future parishioners and to God to learn some humility and empathy. The fact that your main interest seems to lie in being 'right' signifies not only a fundamental lack of understanding of the nature of Faith, but also a deep insecurity in your own. The love of God is unconditional. It is not dependent on who is "right" or on our actions.

  6. Irim, Cloister and Kate. I feel sorry for you. You've bought the lies of the proaborts.

    I expect that you don't think that it would be okay to not say anything if someone felt like robbing someone else. I mean, just because a person thinks they "own" something, doesn't really mean they are right, are they. They are probably just greedy for not sharing. And if someone thinks perjury in court is okay, well, then who are we to judge? Everything is relative, right?

    Sickening attitudes. Wrong is wrong.

  7. And cloister, you need to do a 180 here. You don't go down to a clinic primarily to point fingers, you go down to call attention to the mass slaughter that's going on in there, and hopefully, to change hearts and minds.

    PEople involved in prolife activities in this way have, do, and WILL save lives. Where I live in San Diego, there are active peaceful prolife warriors, yes WARRIORS, saving babies from the abortion slaughterhouses. Do they use "Weapsons" like the bombings? No. They use prayer and persuasion by talking to these women and their partners? Do the babies always get saved? Not by a long shot. But even if one life was saved, it's worth it.

    I get weekly reports from the prolife activity in my area, and know many people involved in the movement and putting THEIR lives on the line as regards harassment by evil clinic thugs (and that's what THEY are, thugs) and they make progress in the sight of God and before men.

  8. SILENCE against abortion is the devil's best weapon. Turning a blind eye to it because it's "uncomfortable" to confront evil, is also the devil's best weapon. Painting a fantasy that all prolifers are nasty people who approve of abortion clinics being bombed is also a bow in the devil's string - he loves lies and deceit.

    And if libera me's blog post makes you feel uncomfortable, than GOOD. Maybe you'll better inform your conscience regards not only sins of omission, but sins of comission by actively discouraging those with the courage to pick up the banner of prolife by witnessing the gospel of life to not only the women in distress, but to save the souls of those making blood money in the killing field.

    If you want to know what kind of work CAN be done by a prolife group, which HAS saved many lives and helped women in distress, if you have the guts to, you can inform yourself and check out this website,
    put together by a chapter of the helpers of God's PRecious Infantslocated in San Diego.

  9. @gemoftheocean Wow. Your words are like sledge hammers.

    I think where we disagree is not on the value and sanctity of life, but on the necessity of helping all people, born and unborn feel valued. I have never found calling people names helpful to this cause. As an RC ethicist I can confidently tell you that I have a deontological approach to moral thinking. Perhaps some women are touched by campaigns on the doorsteps of clinics, but I am not sure it is the most effective or the most compassionate approach. There has to be a better way. And to find it, I think the only way is to listen to those who feel so desperate as to seek an abortion in the first place.

  10. Cloister: You are hallucinating that I would be calling people names WHY? I am simply stating the FACT that lives have been saved by letting them know directly that there IS help available, and there are other alternatives to letting someone make blood money from killing their baby.

    Are you honestly saying that if Jesus Christ saw a woman walk in to an abortion clinic he wouldn't try and talk her out of the abortion? Well, Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist, and if we eat His body and drink His Blood than we are under obligation to try our best to act like Him when placed in those situations which require Divine assistence. WE are to be the person which picks up the cross and offers up our own discomfort in speaking out against the slaughter of innocents. If not us, who? IF not now, when?

  11. Sorry GOTO, I consider 'relativist' a name. :), and I find 'sickening attitude' a bit strong for the nuances expressed here. I want to look to the interests of the unborn child AND the mother. This is about listening to people, to how they have come to consider the actions they have. My concerns rest at how holding placards and praying encourages people to come and interact. I wouldn't for a moment want to say that Jesus would have something valuable to say and do in this situation, but I do think his approach might be more gentle. My position is not one of do nothing, but it is one of thinking more carefully about what it is I think it is right to do.