Life, light and love

So many unnecessary pixels are wasted on the ethics of social media, upon what people should say and how they should say it.

Here’s an inspirational young Catholic woman who is putting Evangeli Gaudium and the Gospel message of love into action. This is what Christian witness on social media should look like.

No lofty attempts at cultural analysis, no hidden political agenda, no passive-aggressive snipes, nothing but pure undiluted caritas.

Rachael Patrice has spent the past five hours attempting to show Josie Cunningham that she is loved and valued and drowning hate with love.


A host of freedom of information requests  submitted in the wake of the Care Quality Commission’s 2012 investigation into 14 abortion clinics, has revealed that 67 doctors were referred to the General Medical Council  for disciplinary action after it was discovered that they had pre-signed piles of HSA1 abortion forms.

This practice of pre-signing abortion forms is illegal and cases should be prosecuted, as Earl Howe (under-secretary for Health) confirmed recently, speaking in a House of Lords debate on 3 April:

Addressing Lord Patten’s question, Earl Howe confirmed that pre-signed forms are a clear breach of the law and if the practice is found to be happening, a prosecution should be brought. Earl Howe also confirmed that the CQC will continue to cover the issue of pre-signed forms as part of its inspections and action will be taken against any provider where there is evidence of pre-signing. Following a later comment by Lord Patten on the lack of prosecutions that have been made for conducting gender selection abortions and pre-signing forms, Earl Howe also agreed to circulate a letter to all Peers who attended the debate outlining the follow up actions that have been taken on those issues.

According to the GMC, 67 doctors were disciplined for pre-signing following the CQC investigations in 2012, none of whom had their cases referred to the police, none of whom were removed from the medical register, and none of whom had the details of their cases made public by Fitness to Practise panels. In one case, an abortion clinic continued to use a pre-signed form four years after the doctor had left.

There isn’t much to add to Jim Dobbin MP’s statement:

This is clear evidence of the abortion-on-demand culture throughout the medical establishment. 67 doctors happily referred for abortions without knowing a single thing about the woman requesting them. Worse, at the very top, senior doctors and lawyers at the GMC decided to keep these crimes to themselves. This shames the GMC and makes a mockery of the Abortion Act.
Good practice is that two doctors see and examine the pregnant woman before making a referral, for the sake of her own health. Yet the Government is in the process of liberalising this rule. In light of these revelations, I hope that David Cameron will overturn this madness and require both doctors allowing an abortion to have seen the women they are dealing with.

Regardless of where one stands on the abortion debate, the practice of pre-signing forms is a reckless endangerment of women’s health and safety. The two-doctor rule was implemented recognising that women would be put at risk by an abortion-on-demand culture and to stop doctors from acting with impunity. Abortion is a serious medical procedure which involves either internal surgery or large doses of synthetic hormones designed to bring on labour, it is imperative that a doctor examines a woman to ensure that there are no contraindications which could jeopardise her health.

The 1967 Abortion Act recognised that abortion was a grave procedure which should only take place in certain clearly proscribed circumstances, namely if the woman was believed to be at serious medical risk as a result of her pregnancy. The two doctor rule is the check and balance designed to protect the general public, in the same way that it is a mandatory requirement that a second doctor must examine a deceased person prior to a cremation?
As a point of interest, prior to a cremation, a third doctor has to oversee the entire paperwork. Why then is a living, breathing, pregnant woman and her unborn child believed deserving of less protection, especially when we know that coerced abortion, especially on the grounds of the sex of the baby or due to domestic violence, is a very real problem.
Lord Steel, the architect of the 1967 bill has repeatedly confirmed that the intention of the Act was not to usher in a culture of abortion on demand, he has said that he never envisaged the number of abortions which take place today and in a recent email  said that ‘it was just assumed that two doctors would see the patient.’
Once again, we need to ask ourselves what has changed and why have these breaches been ignored? And while we’re asking questions, the following present themselves:
- what were the doctors’ names?

- how did the GMC develop their policy of not reporting crimes of pre-signing?

- how many pre-signed forms were discovered in each case?

- what kind of abortions were pre-signed (spurious disabilities? Social abortions?)
- how far in advance of the referral the pre-signing took place. The CQC investigations said that, in one case, a doctor whose pre-signed forms were being used had not been working at the clinic for four years prior to the referral. This must be one of the 67.


The law needs to be upheld and if not the public is entitled to a full and frank debate with regards to the protection of pregnant women,  the status  of the unborn and should demand accountability and an explanation from their elected representatives.

This weekend I have witnessed with horror the outpouring of hatred and disgust towards a vulnerable young woman who is seemingly aborting her fully-formed unborn baby so she can go on TV and pursue her quest for fleeting celebrity fame. The abuse has not come from pro-life quarters or activists, the majority of whom have either remained silent, stated that they will pray for her or have respectfully begged her to reconsider, even offering to adopt her baby in many cases. What’s been interesting is that an overwhelming majority of young people have recognised that this woman’s child is fully-formed and that while they might sanction abortion, this is only in limited reserved instances where it would appear that the woman has little other choice. The case of Josie Cunningham is clear reflection of British attitudes towards abortion; most people are repelled by an attitude which regards a baby as a disposable object and accept that by the 18 week stage, it is fully-formed and human.

The general public’s revulsion at the callous disregard for life displayed by a young woman aborting her baby, 6 weeks before the legal limit on what would appear to be a whim, is precisely what the law is supposed to reflect and indeed a recent poll of woman by Com Res demonstrated that 9 out of 10 women believed that women seeking abortion should always seek a qualified doctor. Furthermore 80% felt that women’s health would be put at risk if women seeking abortions are not seen by two doctors and 80% also said that doctors who lie about having seen patients should be prosecuted. Well over half believed that the two doctor requirement should be more rigorously policed in private clinics.

The two doctor law is what women want. 

Doctors who treat the law with impunity and put women at risk must be prosecuted. Secondly, urgent questions must be asked of the GMC’s role in all this. Independent witnesses should be appointed to Fitness to Practice panels to prevent crimes from being hushed up.

Thirdly, the remedy for all this is for two doctors to see and examine the pregnant woman. How on earth can anyone form an opinion in good faith without ever having seen a woman and how can her safety be guaranteed? These are precisely what the 1999 RSOPs required and it is absurd that the government is currently attempting to liberalise practice which only serves the best interests of the abortion providers. These measures come at a time when abortion clinics are currently suffering from a recruitment crisis and struggling to recruit enough qualified staff.

It’s difficult to see how a stealthy and undemocratic removal of checks and balances does anything other than feed a culture of abortion-on-demand, one which endangers women.

We have rightly condemned and cracked down upon the appalling practice of FGM in the UK. It’s time to do the same with abortion, which does so much harm to women, their unborn children and society as a whole.

pink range rover

More valuable than a baby?

A girl named Josie Cunningham, who is by all accounts  (in)famous has given an interview in the Daily Mirror stating that she intends to abort her 18 week-old unborn child later this week, in order that she can appear on Big Brother, ‘be famous, drive a pink land rover and buy a big house.’

The story merits comment and not for the obvious reasons; from reading a little bit about her and learning that she is unclear as to whether or not the father of the baby is a premiership footballer, a friend, or a former client (who happens to be a surgeon) from a period when she was working as a prostitute escorting, it is evident that here is an extremely vulnerable young woman who is a product of our consumer culture and who has very little self-esteem or sense of worth.

There is the possibility that Josie’s public deliberations over whether or not to keep her unborn baby is part of a cynical attempt to boost her fame and manipulate Channel 5 into accepting her as a contestant, however one has to feel desperately sorry for someone who feels driven to seek attention in such dramatic fashion, as well as for her unborn baby – the equivalent of a chance or community chest card on the celebrity monopoly board, with his or her life hanging in the balance.

The most responsible course of action for any media outlet would have been to completely ignore Josie instead of attempting to validate and endorse her search for fame and attention, until she actually did anything of merit. What message does this story send out to young girls today? Get the NHS to pay for breast augmentation as Josie did, generate publicity, become an escort, have a controversial abortion and your route to fame and fortune is guaranteed?! Is this really the sort of career investment which should be funded by the taxpayer? Does the potential future tax revenue from Josie’s career allow the state to co-opt her sexual exploitation by funding her unnecessary surgery and picking up her abortion tab? Are notions of self-improvement constrained to physical appearance  or economic contributions? Is this what constitutes social responsibility?

Whatever the outcome of Josie’s decision, her life and that of her child, even if she does go ahead with the pregnancy seems set to be blighted unless she gets out of the spotlight. The public needs to unlearn its habit of eager voyeurism which feeds the public car-crash of so many celebrity lives. How is her baby going to feel knowing that their mother publicly discussed getting rid of them? What about the impact upon her other two young children?

As Josie shows no inclination of keeping a low profile, Channel 5 should accept her as a contestant on Big Brother, only on the condition that she remains pregnant. If it is in fact true that negotiations stalled following revelations of her pregnancy, as a feminist statement Big Brother ought to prove that it embraces pregnancy in the workplace. Josie’s progression through pregnancy would provide a far more diverting narrative than their usual diet of has-beens resurrecting petty dressing-room squabbles of twenty years ago.

According to a poll currently running in the Mirror, 92% respondents have said that they will not watch Big Brother if Josie appears on the show having had an abortion which demonstrates the British public’s natural antipathy towards social abortion. Contrary to feminist rhetoric it is not seen merely as a woman’s choice, but rather as a necessary evil. That so many people have expressed their disgust, shows that we see an 18 week old baby as deserving of dignity, respect and above all, life.

This also busts open the popular idea that late-stage abortions are only due to difficult circumstances, Josie demonstrates a mindset which puts her own perceived needs and ambitions above the life of her child, regardless of their stage of development. It doesn’t matter that she might have felt her little boy or girl kick and move, it is her right to end her baby’s life right up until the 24 week limit if it interferes with her ambitions or plans. The published photographs of Josie posing with a visible four-month bump containing a baby who might never be born cause distress, irrespective of whether or not one takes a Catholic or absolutist position on abortion.

While no-one should condone the online abuse that Josie has suffered, it is difficult to feel sympathy for a woman who is exploiting her decision as to whether or not to end her baby’s life to make money and it will be particularly hard to swallow for those who have experienced the agony of miscarriage or infertility. Scrolling through her timeline, the insults and negativity is not emanating from professing Catholics or Christians, but from young people who are revolted by such blatant disregard for a baby’s life.

If, as Josie claims, she wants to beat the trolls, then actually the best thing she can do is to go ahead with the baby and prove her moral fibre as well as her ability to be a good mother. Who could really enjoy a house or car purchased with cash drenched in the blood of an unborn baby?

When the abortion act was passed, Baroness Knight was jeered at and derided for her ‘emotive’ speech in Parliament when she stated that the law would lead to abortion on demand and that unborn children could be disposed of on a whim. She was accused of scare-mongering.

Any doctor who signs a HSA1 form agreeing to this abortion should be prosecuted as it is a clear breech of the law. If it is illegal, as Earl Howe, under-secretary for Health has recently confirmed, to abort a baby on the grounds of gender, then how can be legal to abort one on the grounds of ‘being an impediment to a pink range rover’?

How does not appearing on a reality show as a result of being pregnant constitute a grave threat to mental health, greater than that of having a baby? Surely by aborting her baby so that she may be free to continue to sexually objectify herself and define the role of female reality TV contestants, Josie Cunningham participates in her own oppression and that of women overall?

How can this choice, especially when the potential fathers of the child have expressed their wish for him or her to be born, be in any way justified? The term ‘anti-choice’ has just lost its sting.

MY fertility matters...

MY fertility matters…

This piece from Philippa Taylor on the excellent new conservative woman website highlights how these days it increasingly feels as though we have all walked through the looking glass.

The complexities and ramifications of the case are headache-making. How on earth have we got to a point whereby children have a biological mother and father who have no legal rights over them and are at the centre of a battle between their biological mother who has no legal rights, and two legal parents, one of whom gave birth to them, the other who came into their lives later?

As Philippa points out case law now needs to define the three different types of parent; gestational, legal and social or psychological and accord respective rights.

No-one would disagree that this is a horrendous situation but it is the inevitable consequence which denies the importance of complementarity between the sexes and treats children as a right or option which should be available for every single couple who wants one and wishes to define every single romantic relationship as ‘equal’ and worthy of being given official family status.

Broken relationships cause havoc and heartbreak for children and I speak from the perspective of one with personal experience of having to manage and mitigate the fall-out for a child. The situation is a lot better than several alternatives, I have a happy and well-adjusted child, but nonetheless it isn’t ideal for her. It would be delusional to claim otherwise and no amount of civility, maturity or friendship between the the adult parties will entirely repair the damage for the child who is forced to emotionally navigate the complexities of having biological parents who live entirely separate lives and switch into different modes or personas depending on which parent they are with as well as the upheaval of splitting their lives between two homes.

There is no easy solution. My paternal grandparents’ marriage was a casualty of World War II, and it was decided that it would be confusing for my dad growing up if he had regular contact with his father. Consequently they did not meet until my dad had reached what was then legal adulthood at the age of 21. It’s a loss that he still feels keenly. Single-parent families and step-families can and in many cases do an admirable job, but there is an additional barrier when it comes to ensuring the psychological welfare of the child.

Knowing how hard these situations are for the child, why then contrive a situation in which a child will be deprived of a mum or dad? Leaving aside the manner in which such a child is conceived or procured which infringes their intrinsic dignity, you are from the very outset creating a set of circumstances which will require compensating for, regardless of whether or not you are a single woman exercising your choice to have a child at the most opportune age, or a same-sex couple.

Right from the moment of deliberately contrived conception, one is automatically creating an extra layer of complexity for a child to negotiate as they are growing up, regardless of whether or not the parent is single or in a same sex relationship. In both cases you often end up with the situation of a woman giving birth to a child who is not biologically hers. That matters, every child has a innate longing for identity, to know who they are and where they are from, as well as a curiosity, not least in terms of hereditary dispositions.

In the case of gay parenting, if the relationship is stable and lasts the course, that’s all well and good, but as gay marriage is a relatively new phenomenon there is little in the way of firm data to indicate whether these unions are likely to be more or less long-lived than heterosexual ones. This matters, because in the case of same-sex parenting, say in the case of two males, you then have custody of a child needing to be split between two ‘dads’, only one of whom may or may not be biologically related. Then if these two men go on to find new partners, you have the case of a child who has two fathers and then two step-fathers. Arrangements become extraordinarily convoluted and onerous for the child. Of course its fair to mention that it’s not right for any child to be subject to a series of transient step-parents or families, regardless of sexuality, but neither can it be right for a child to have to divide their time between two families each comprised solely of one gender with no other example of other gender parenting modelled for them.

Yet this is the risk that is being taken and these situations will become increasingly common. For those who point to the relatively small number of people who identify as LGBT (around 1-2%) and corresponding marriages, that the number of children who could be affected might be small, doesn’t justify the situation. Doesn’t every single child deserve a loving mum and dad or do the wishes of the parent trump the needs of the child? Do we treat children of same-sex couples as being less important in terms of their rights?

Yet this attitude towards children as rights or objects is not merely confined to one section of the community. Yesterday as we were hurriedly bundling the children into a lift in town, another, slightly older couple bustled in. Looking at our family, the man noted the appearance of 4 girls and smiled benignly “ah so 4 girls then?” Yes we said, bracing ourselves for the usual “you’ve been busy, don’t you have a TV, don’t envy you when they are teenagers” banter,  when the man ventured that they too had four girls, but added “you need to do what we did, get  yourselves to the doctors for IVF for a boy.”

Not wishing to get into a protracted discussion we smiled weakly whilst exchanging wary eye-contact. There was just so much wrong with that statement, from the assumption that we only had 4 children because we were trying for a boy, the assumption that having a balance of genders in your offspring is important, that boys are better, more important and necessary than girls, so much so we ought to go in for physically, financially and emotionally costly treatment. The consequences of IVF, the wasted embryos and lives, the environmental impact and the eugenic nature  of the procedure all seemed to have escaped this guy. The fact of having four children of one sex meant that we were justified and entitled to take whatever action necessary to ensure that we had one of the opposite gender. All other ethical considerations should pale into insignificance next to our projected desire to have a boy.

The French have intuitively understood this, which is why the Manif pour Tous movement enjoyed such success. They realised that rejecting the notion of complementarity could have disastrous effects for the rights of the child, they recognised same-sex marriage as being all about imposing  gender theory of homogeneity on the wider population and blurring the differences between male and female. Gender theory, as promulgated by the likes of Judith Butler, is helpful for this cause in that in validates individual selfish desires. It allows for the importance of  gender and complementarity in child-rearing to be disregarded in order to qualify the pursuit of personal happiness. Which is what allows women to feel that their children don’t need fathers and has in turn allowed men to get away with irresponsible feckless sexual behaviour together with the idea that promiscuity can be consequence free. Sexual libertinism and gender theory are complementary; each feeds the other. Combined they produce a dystopian society which declares that children no longer need loving mothers and fathers as a way of justifying lust and all-consuming natural biological desires for children. In our brave new world a child (free of any discernible disability) and even of a specific gender is no longer a gift or blessing, but an inalienable human right and marker of equality.

Which is why we then wind up with a situation whereby a woman is jeered, booed and hissed at for attempting to point out that every child deserved a loving mother and father. There is a dissonance in a society which calls for equal numbers of men and woman in business and politics but wants to deny children the equality of a mother and father.

I’ve come in for a lot of “what about the children” mockery, but a child is not merely an object or a pet, which needs to be provided with resources from any loving or caring party in order for it to thrive. Why is the statement the needs of the child, supersede those to have a child, quite such a radical heterodoxy in twenty-first century western society? And why can’t we see that driving a coach and horses through the rights of a child and denying the importance of a child’s natural parents has terrifying implications in a state which seeks to impose its own vision of parenting and checklists upon the population, especially if they are perceived as disadvantaged.

The Blind Man

I just wrote a long post, having been subjected to yet another load of online abuse, which is still rumbling on five days after appearing on BBC’s Question Time, but deleted it, because these people aren’t worth the emotional energy. Rather than bore you all with the unedifying details, which frankly speak more about the perpetrators, who seek to tweet details of my personal life, I thought I’d go for something more spiritually nourishing, to act as a counter to this little parody currently being tweeted with glee.

Devastating satire at its finest, eliciting lots of comments along the lines of “she’s special, Twitter’s Mrs Mad, Question Time’s troll”. That’s right, going on national TV and proposing a viewpoint contrary to the liberal consensus is “trolling” and merits comments about my weight, my family and casting doubts upon my mental health. Someone really went to quite a lot of effort here.



Anyway, I was delighted to receive an email from the Very Reverend Leo Chamberlain OSB who will be familiar in Catholic circles as the  former headmaster of Ampleforth school and Master of St Benet’s College Oxford.

He very kindly offered his support having seen the show and sent me a copy of Sunday’s homily, which he has graciously allowed me to reproduce below which not only caused me to take heart, but gives encouragement to anyone who is fearful of speaking up or challenging the liberal consensus, that seeks to jeer, ridicule and mock a woman who points out that every child has a biological parent.

The sentiment is very timely.

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent A 2014 Fr Leo Chamberlain 1 Samuel 16:1b,6-7,10-13a; Ephesians 5.8-14; John 9.1-41

The idea that affliction, physical or financial, is a punishment of God – just as equally prosperity proves God’s favour – is still common. Both ideas are wrong. The HIV-AIDS epidemic indeed affected promiscuous homosexuals most, but to say that infection is a judgement of God is something different. Nor does God reward virtue with success. The psalmists spent a lot of time complaining about the opposite, that evil men thrived, and too often the good suffered. So the disciples in asking whether the man had sinned, or his parents, were asking the wrong question. Nor did this mean that the Father had set up a life of suffering in order to prove a point. The man’s blindness was a physical fact: Jesus saw him and his state gave the opportunity for his healing – and, as the gospel records, much more. We can hardly penetrate into the mystery of suffering in the world – save to recall the suffering of Christ himself.

Samuel had anointed David, and from then on the Spirit seized on him. In Jesus, the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us creatures of dust. Jesus mixed spittle with earth and anointed the blind man. The man washed his eyes in the pool of Siloam at Jesus’ command. This was not just any old pool, but the pool from which the water was drawn to celebrate the great feast of Tabernacles, of the bringing in of harvest and the blessings of the Messianic age. We too, said St Augustine, are born blind from Adam. The Christian is anointed in Baptism and Confirmation. With the eye salve of faith, the Christian comes to the light in Christ and to the life of Christ.

There are different kinds of blindness in this story. Jesus said, I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life. In daily life, we say sometimes, I see. Or, he saw the light. The disciples had hardly begun to understand what Jesus meant. They didn’t see. The blind man washed and he could see. Actually, he could see more and more. It started with the gift of physical sight. He said it as it had happened, and stuck to the truth in spite of everything. I am the man. He could see. But others could not. The neighbours were blind to what had happened, and uncertain.

They took the man off to higher authority. He told the Pharisees the same– but it had all been done on the Sabbath. They asked the man what he had to say about his healer. The man saw more and more: he is a prophet he said. So they called the parents, and asked them. They confirmed he was their son and was born blind. But they had their own blindness brought on by fear. Such a healing was a sign of the coming of the Messiah, but they could not risk saying that. Ask him, they said. So

they asked him again, and he asked why they wanted to hear it again; they told him to praise God because they didn’t know where the man had come from. The man, who now saw almost everything, absolutely contradicted them – a very brave thing to do.

So they threw him out; and Jesus found him: Jesus came to seek out what was lost. This brought the final step. The man came to the light of faith. Lord, I believe, he said, and he worshipped him. The Pharisees refused. They were guilty because they refused the light. That is still the question for all who read the gospel.

St Paul wrote that now we are light in the Lord: be like children of light, in complete goodness and right living and truth. That has always had a cost. The man who had been born blind was driven out by the Pharisees. The elite of that day would not accept him, and would not accept Christ. The influential elites of our day have moved away from the pattern of life taught for so long in the Church. The consequences are becoming plain.

This weekend, the weekend of Mothering Sunday, a celebration if ever there was one of the central purpose of marriage, the bringing of the next generation into the world, the first so-called equal marriages have taken place. The new Act of Parliament destroys in law the foundation meaning of marriage. The many who oppose this devastating change in the law are being painted as homophobe and reactionary. They are neither. They simply want the law on marriage to reflect the meaning it has always had: marriage is a lifelong conjugal commitment between a man and a woman, open to children. It’s not about equality. On Thursday evening, in a late flick on the TV, I saw a part of Dimbleby’s Question Time. I wonder how many of you saw it. The question of equal marriage was raised. The only panel member to defend marriage was attacked from an audience overwhelmingly hostile. Finally a brave woman in the audience defended marriage. I now know she is a Catholic called Caroline Farrow. She was abused and mocked. Afterwards, as she left the studio, she was told she was disgusting and was spat at. There is a group, Catholic Voices, which you can easily find on the internet. They work to make the Catholic voice heard on the public square: she is a member.

Catholics today have an obligation to make sure they are not blind to what is happening, that they see things as Christ did. We should at least be well informed. There is some danger now that we might be blind like the man’s parents, and fail to speak for the truth out of fear or embarrassment. Always remember that Our Lord said, many times, Do not be afraid. 



Party poopers?


The question on every talk-show host’s lips yesterday following publication of a poll that a fifth of Britons would reject an invitation to a same-sex wedding, was ‘would you turn down an invite’.

It’s what I was asked on both LBC and 3 counties radio as was any other Catholic Voice who did a press interview. (Do check out Fiona O’Reilly and Fr Edmund Montgomerie on the Catholic Voices website who both made outstanding representations of the Catholic position).

If nothing else, this poll demonstrates the undemocratic fashion in which the government pushed through the legislation despite a hefty opposition. David Cameron admitted that had he known the level of opposition that would have been stirred up, as indicated by the over 660,000 signatures on the petition by the coalition for marriage. that he would not have pushed the legislation forward. Perhaps this goes some way to explain why the government and other lobby groups have attempted to frame the issue as being purely about love and cast anyone who disagrees in the role of disagreeable irrational homophobic bigots.

A few Catholics have privately expressed their reservations to me about some of the Catholic Voices responses to the question about whether or not we would refuse to attend a same-sex marriage.

Obviously there is no  stock answer and a question such as that requires a nuanced response, which isn’t always possible in a short media slot. Speaking on a personal level, none of my gay friends, some of whom are in civil partnerships, some of whom are single, have expressed an interest in getting married. Some take a similar view to the leading art critic Brian Sewell who is gay.

The response that I might well attend the reception, provoked the understandable response that “you’d eat their food and drink their drink, but not attend their wedding”.

The attitude I would take would depend entirely upon the situation and those involved. There is no formal Catholic teaching on what we should do in these situations and it seems to me that we need to balance demands. On the one hand, a same-sex marriage is not what we consider to be a marriage, regardless of what the law might prescribe. The state has eviscerated marriage and stripped it of its meaning. As Catholics we have the need to witness to truth, therefore we cannot do anything which might imply that we accept or condone the state’s new definition of marriage. This would include doing anything that might cause confusion or scandal or imply endorsement, such as for example,participating in a ceremony  signing a civil marriage register or doing one of the readings.

Out of love, we must continue to witness to the truth. However there is also something of a delicate balancing act to consider. Any witness to the truth, must not include a rejection of the person. We must always leave open the opportunity for reconciliation and conversion of heart. Whatever we do, we need to do all we can to ensure that we do not facilitate a total breakdown of a relationship.

So it seems to me that not attending the ceremony but attending the after-party, might be one such compromise. Especially if it were a family member and one was under pressure to be a part of a family gathering. These are where the situations are often fraught with difficulties. Maybe a better compromise would be the other way around? Non-attendance of the ceremony could prompt questions as to why you weren’t there and provide a discreet opportunity for evangelisation, at a later more opportune occasion.

In any such situation, the only thing to do is to discuss the situation with the couple involved and also think hard as to what your presence might achieve. Would it signal an implicit acceptance or could it be a chance for reconciliation/later evangelisation. It’s a judgement call that is best left in the hands of the individual to prayerfully discern. The Church doesn’t ask her members to estrange themselves from their family. It really is a delicate balancing act of the demands of truth and the Gospel with those of personal relationships.

The situation is similar in terms of what to do when you have a family member who is going against the Church’s teachings on marriage in some other way. You cannot pretend that you approve of the situation, but must find a way to express this charitably making clear that it is the objective act of which you disprove, not the person themselves, whom you still love.

The Church’s teachings are that this is not a real and valid marriage. That is an uncomfortable and for many an unpalatable, truth. As to how we negotiate the delicate balancing act of being witnesses to truth and maintaining loving relationships and keeping the door open to future communication, that has to be a matter of personal conscience. If we are to rebuild the culture of marriage we have to ensure that we don’t close down opportunities to evangelise in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.

Looking at the coverage of the first same-sex marriages that took place last night and up and down the country today, what saddened me was that with Peter Tatchell as a witness and the rainbow themed cakes and flags, some of the ceremonies appeared to be concerned with making a political statement rather about love.

Tonight I appeared in the audience as part of BBC’s Question Time.

I hadn’t been planning to, I was asked by a friend on Tuesday who had a ticket and couldn’t go. The questions I had planned were about the fetal remains scandal and teachers.

I hadn’t expected gay marriage to come up, it’s done and dusted now in the UK and I don’t expect to see a reversal in my lifetime. That’s not to say that I am not sad about matters, in my view this contributes to a weakening of marriage and a denial that as study after study demonstrates, unless there are overwhelming circumstances such as violence or substance abuse, children fare better with and have the right to be brought up by both biological parents.

I am not going to regurgitate once more my views on the issue – if anyone is genuinely interested they can look at the category tag on this blog.

I didn’t recognise Marilyn who asked the question about gay marriage as being from my parish until after the show. She didn’t recognise me either. Probably because I had brushed my hair and didn’t have at least 2 young children hanging off each hip. Catholic parishes are large. Mine offers two Sunday Masses which are packed out. I am usually too preoccupied with stopping the kids from immolating themselves on the candle stands and making mischief therefore many people I only know by sight and the questioner is one.

So I hadn’t planned what I was going to say on the topic, otherwise I would have made a few other more salient points, elaborating more precisely on Roger Helmer’s theme about how freedom of religion and conscience will be affected.

Dr Evan Harris and others have picked up on my appearance and membership of Catholic Voices. Firstly, I disclosed my identity to the producer when my friend nominated me for the ticket. Far more salient and relevant than Catholic Voices (which is unpaid voluntary work and therefore doesn’t count as an occupation), I did disclose that I write a paid weekly column for the Catholic Universe paper, present a weekly radio show on UCR Catholic Radio and write professionally for a number of socially conservative publications. Google is a tool available to anyone and they were at liberty to use it and decline me a ticket. I wasn’t asked to do the BBC’s 100 women with my CV hat on and neither was it in the blurb. So you can complain to them all you like, but actually this is precisely what Catholic Voices is about. Enabling people to take the initiative in getting their voice heard in the public square whether that be around the water cooler or on TV.

It does show that the BBC are willing to air diverse voices and as my view offered a counter-balance to the panel, that’s why it was given time. A secret stitch up it was not. It was a toss up whether or not to go earlier, I actually needed a night to catch up on work. You are not told to disclose your political or faith views prior to speaking. Several members of the audience were political activists and party members, with all sorts of specialised views. I am not sure why my faith needs to be disclosed before I am allowed to speak. I knew that if I did speak, there would be the inevitable outrage from the usual quarters.

When the question on gay marriage came up, I hadn’t planned on saying much, because the questioner did so well, but when David Dimbleby asked who in the audience didn’t agree with the new law it was stand up and be counted time. Proposing a radical alternative point of view in that environment which was extremely hostile and pressurized, was I think, the hardest TV gig I have ever done. It was very much on the hoof and I was on the defensive rather than being able to reframe. Especially when David then interrogated me about my views regarding gay adoption and children which are far more nuanced.

I stand by my comment that children shouldn’t be made to order. Using a surrogate or sperm donor is exploitative, it treats another person along with a child, as a commodity. The practice of surrogacy, in particular, is beset with ethical difficulties.

Here is a more nuanced appearance. http://youtu.be/vB_g4kHeV8E

Afterwards Lord Wolfson and Roger Helmer MEP both made a beeline for me to thank me for my ‘bravery’. I didn’t feel brave, I felt frightened and sick. I didn’t know whether or not I would be able to add much to what Marilyn had said. It was only when Dimbleby specifically asked who didn’t agree that I realised that not to put my hand up would be cowardly. I did it so as not to let down James, who had dropped out and who wanted to ensure a Catholic voice (with a small v) was heard. We both thought that fetal remains would be the topic but I also knew that had I sat on my hands, I would be letting him and every single Catholic who has ever supported me, down.

Getting up from my seat, the girl who had asked a question about help for those who rent, sought me out to tell me I was disgusting. I asked her if she knew me or my friends and how she could make that judgement. Other people came and stuck up for me, reminding her that one of the warm up questions was about good manners. The lady I was sat next to was very warm and good-natured and apologised (I told her none was necessary) if she had been aggressive. She respected my beliefs.

Other people said that they wished they had also spoken up in support of traditional marriage but were too scared.

On the way back to the car, a group of young people spat at me. Marilyn then caught up with me, calling out “were you the lady at the front”, neither of us recognizing each other before the penny dropped. She is not an extrovert, doesn’t enjoy the spotlight and was shaking like a leaf. We saw each other to our respective cars safely.

I was expecting a Twitter hate-fest but have still been shocked by some of the vehemence and spite. I am not advocating penalising or punishing people on account of their sexuality and neither did I say that marriage was solely about children. The Twitterati were hearing what they wanted. What intrigues me as ever, is why no-one can see that not once have I judged individuals but instead made judgement calls on situations, which is what we are called to do as Christians. As ever ironically enough, it’s those who are accusing me of judgmentalism, who are in fact being the judgmental ones and claim to be able to gaze into my soul and confidently state that the position is based on hate.

But this is the kind of thing that faces those of us who will continue to stick to our guns and propound a traditional view of marriage. As the night has gone on, I am beginning to worry about my safety. Back in 2011 when David Cameron suddenly announced his intention to introduce gay marriage, I didn’t envisage things would get so nasty. Given my time again, I would still do the work I have done but definitely used the net under a pseudonym.

Anyway, have a look when it’s up on iplayer.


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