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

What have I started . . ?

Wow ! I seem to have started something with the last post . . . but I have to be honest and say that I'm not sure I do claim to know God's will on this issue : all I’m trying to do is to say that I know what God’s will has been perceived as being for at least most of the history of the Church, and that as humanity’s perception of what is right and wrong in this particular issue has changed drastically in the comparatively recent past, and as most of Christianity seems to have changed in the wake of that ‘development’, I am now confused, and seeking to make sense of it in the light of the Church’s understanding of God’s purposes and teaching.

At the same time I’m slightly concerned by the criticisms of me, as they appear to be based on various misconceptions - mainly of me, but also to some extent of the Campaign.

Let me make it clear : I am not supporting the Campaign with the intention of inherently criticising the women who go to the abortion depot outside which the Vigil is being held; or even the decisions they have made. which have led to them going there. My criticism – such as it is – is restricted to the way the world’s thinking has ‘developed’ over the last half-century or so, so as to suggest (in effect) that abortion is a trivial issue which hardly need be thought about; that it can almost be viewed as a legitimate option to contraception; and that in any event, it’s entirely the woman's choice.

As a result of that viewpoint - which is a well established one - I have to say that Irim's comment that ‘No woman does it for a good time’ is demonstrably inaccurate.

I freely accept that for some – even many – women seeking abortions, it is the most traumatic, difficult, and even heartbreaking decision they will ever make : but sadly it cannot be denied that many women nowadays use abortion simply as an alternative to contraception, which is ultimately merely the last stage of a laissez-faire attitude to sexual licence . . .

In any case, though, my post was not discussing the issue of abortion per se; rather, the question I was trying to consider - on an academic level, if you like - was whether one can legitimately claim to be both Catholic and ‘pro-choice’ . . . which is sadly not quite what, it appears, my critics have construed my remarks as doing.

As a matter of hard fact - and as many ladies of various ages, including some of my dearest and closest female friends, can confirm - I have infinite compassion and support for those who are considering abortion out of difficulty or fear (those who are not in such circumstances simply do it, and don’t discuss it anyway); and I have given a great deal of support over the years to women who have chosen to have abortions in such circumstances. I may never have encouraged them to follow that path; but I have always offered them both practical and spiritual support and care, and unending sympathy . . . not infrequently a good deal more than they got from the man whose child they felt obliged to destroy . . . and I have certainly never been found guilty of criticising, still less condemning, them – that’s not my job, nor my inclination.

Apart from anything else, I have come to recognize that, if I was female, it’s infinitely possible that - whatever I may believe as a man - I might in certain circumstances come to the conclusion that an abortion was the ‘only way’ for me; and follow it . . . so I don’t actually feel that I can criticize women who do that.

My commitment to the Pro-Life movement is fundamentally a criticism of the changes in thought which have led people to see sexuality as a purely recreational activity, and coping with the physical consequences of that activity as simply a necessary - but unimportant - result : it’s certainly not – ever – a criticism of women who find themselves having to cope with the consequences.

And my interest isn’t in ‘being right’; not least because I have myself been wrong in such matters in the past : it’s in the Church's obligation to try to work out what it’s proper position is, so that it can continue to fulfil its responsibility to God to preach and teach His truth in the world . . . which is why I ultimately have to repeat the question, albeit in slightly modified terms : ‘Is the ‘pro-choice’ position one which is compatible with God’s wishes as held and taught by the Catholic Church ?’


  1. I fail to see how 40 days for life can be seen as judgmental in the way your commenters have claimed. Praying for an end to abortion is utterly appropriate - helping women to change their minds is utterly appropriate - and NEITHER is uncharitable, indeed quite the opposite.

    The difficulty many women face with their choice is precisely why events like this are needed and should be supported.

    As for your original question - well, it continually staggers me that anyone can claim to be both pro-choice and Catholic. The teachings of the Church are clear and in dissenting against them you are risking the soul. The Irims of this world may find this scary - but then she finds most Catholic doctrines scary as I recall - but it is scarier still if people start assuming that they are cleverer than 2000 years of Christian teaching and practice.

  2. Thanks for some clarifications here, it is helpful. Do you really think 'most' women are using abortion as an alternative to contraception? I cannot believe it - but I will look into it. In my experience, women who feel forced to consider abortion as an option have done so because they have felt they had 'nowhere else to go' - that was where I was coming from when I said that they 'had been repeatedly let down' by a society who has them believe they could not cope, but a society that will scorn them and not support them as much as they need, and quite possibly by a partner who has walked away. For the moment, before I try and find the statistics, I have to agree with Irim - it is just not my understanding that women are likely to choose abortion as an alternative to contraception, the risks, physical and psychological are too high.

    @Athanaisus, I agree that there is a need for prayer on this issue, serious prayer. And, I agree that where listening to someone in difficulty, and offering them real practical support can help them change their minds, that support should be given. My only concern is the public tone and nature of a prayer vigil which takes place outside an abortion clinic. In such an environment, if I were a vulnerable young woman seeking abortion, I would feel intimidated, judged and frightened. It is knowing that which makes me sound a note of caution.

    As for being pro-choice and Catholic - I think this issue is so deeply complicated sweeping judgments cannot and should not be made about an individual's perspective, neither mine, libera me domine or Irim's. Often it is the labels used, like 'pro life' and pro choice', which mask the truly good ends which people are seeking. For me, listening to those good 'ends' helps me to build a clear picture of the foundational values people hold. This is not only a debate about 'how to save the life of an unborn child'; it is pointing to the need to consider the lives of an unborn child and its mother equally, with dignity and compassion. For me, 2000 years of Christian teaching tells me this is possible.

  3. My Cloister;
    forgive the correction, but I don't think I said 'most' women, I think I said - I certainly intended to say - 'many' women use abortion as an alternative to contraception.
    I'd not suggest that the majority do; but I have certainly had plenty of experience, over the years, of women who have done this, and of a substantial number of other women who have made it quite plain that if they forgot to take their Pill, for instance, they'd use abortion without hesitation rather than have a baby which was not in their plans.

    Equally, I have to say - apropos the Prayer Vigil - that whilst you are quite right in pointing out that many women who go to an abortion clinic do so out of desperation, it might be - and not infrequently is - true that having it made clear to them that there is support - sympathetic, uncritical, support - available to them to help them through their pregnancies is often all they need to do what they really want, and keep the child.

    In fact the only thing I would criticise about what you have said relates to the question of 'good ends' in the context of 'pro-choice'; because I am not convinced that there can be such ends in that approach . . . but I shall try to explain my thoughts on that in my next (and hopefully last) post on this issue.

  4. The world is my cloister said:

    'This is not only a debate about 'how to save the life of an unborn child'; it is pointing to the need to consider the lives of an unborn child and its mother equally, with dignity and compassion.'

    I have known many women who have had abortions. Apart from myself, during my last pregnancy, I have never yet met a women who's life was perceived to be in danger, due to her being pregnant. I have never had a conversation with a women where she or her 'counselor' ( the person working at the abortion clinic) were considering her and her baby's life equally either. By the time abortion was being contemplated, they weren't even looking on the baby as having a life worth considering. The word baby was not being used, at all. I think you must be living in a different world to me, if you see pro-life/choice counselling as being something that includes the baby's short or long term interests. It doesn't.

    I went to 'Life' ( a Catholic run organisation, I think?)as it was then called for pregnancy counselling.I did not feel pressurized by the people there to keep going with my pregnancy. I managed to get to a position where all the external factors I was really worrying about could be clearly seperated from my own true choice, It was amazing how the counselor did this for me, and I am forever grateful to the woman I spoke to, who, after our interview told me that most of her work involved post-abortion women. Once again, you mentioned the need to treat women with dignity as well as the babies. Life certainly offered this to women, whether contemplating or dealing with the after effects of abortion. (There are after effects not mentioned by the pro-life/choicers).

    The reasons given for abortion, by the women I have known varied, one was that they were not 'ready' for a baby at that time, another had just stopped drinking and felt it was her time for more independence rather than responsibility, this person actually said God would not expect her to go through the pregnancy 'right now'.

    The others had fallen pregnant accidentally, having only wanted to have sex, but had either not bothered to use contraception, or it had somehow not worked.

    My health was compromised during my pregnancy, also my personal circumstances at the time. I was certainly at my most vulnerable to date, health-wise mainly heart issues,but I was always only a short call away from medical help and after fourteen years I can honestly say I made the right decision. To have aborted would have been wrong. I do not judge women who have had abortions, because I have been in their shoes contemplation-wise, and who knows, without the support of the Life counselling, I may have chosen a different path myself, but I know some of the women I have met, do judge themselves, some many many years after their abortions. They reach a point where their brain says "I have killed a baby. My baby"
    It is at that point that forgiveness and healing can begin. Both are available to any woman who finds herself with that thought going around her head.

  5. Shadowlands, thanks for your thoughts, I think they touch on some of the issues I am really getting at. I am glad LIFE offered such a positive service and helped. I think that there should be more services run to help people in this way, and genuine consider the two lives that are being spoken about. Thanks.