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Archive for February, 2012

Press statement from the Thomas More Legal Centre 29 February 2012:

Court ruling will make all Medical Staff complicit in abortion

Commenting on the ruling by the Edinburgh Court of Session in the case of Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood, Neil Addison, the director of the Thomas More Legal Centre, said:

“The case is yet another example of the way in which the UK Courts are interpreting s9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Freedom of Religion) in the most limited and restrictive way possible. The courts have not hesitated to use the convention to protect murderous terrorists but have refused to use it protect two midwives who do not want to kill unborn children.”

“What is more surprising is the extremely restrictive interpretation the judge has put on the Conscientious Objection clause in s4 of the Abortion Act. As the judge has interpreted s4 believing Catholics, Muslims and others will never be able to take any form of supervisory or management role as midwives or nurses unless they are prepared to be complicit in the provision of abortions.”

“This decision is in stark contrast to recent decisions in the United States’ courts which have applied the American First Amendment to protect the conscience rights of pharmacists who refused to dispense the morning-after pill.”

Caroline’s Comment

Since the birth of my first daughter it was my desire to go into midwifery. I made several enquiries, spoke to University admissions departments and was offered unconditional places. I discovered that there could be no guarantee that I would be exempt from participation in abortion procedures. Today’s ruling legally confirmed that. Catholics may not be midwives. Though we cannot claim persecution, it is a worrying state of affairs when religion disbars one from a profession. To deny reasonable exceptions (after all midwifery has never been concerned with the killing of babies) is, if not a form of oppression, a form of serious discrimination.

Ironic for a society that prides itself for its tolerance, diversity and anti-discrimination. There can be no freedom of conscience in the sphere of medical ethics it would seem. All must obey and/or be dammed. I sincerely hope that this decision is reversed on appeal.

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The tide is turning

Having given the matter much thought and prayer and following several requests to write regarding some of the big pro-life stories that are hitting the headlines and the moment, I am making a tentative return to blogging.

I am still largely staying away from Twitter, other than to occasionally check for links. The one thing that Twitter is extraordinarily useful for is keeping up to date with news stories, but other than re-tweeting links and making the odd comment, I am scaling back Tweet and general internet activity. I thoroughly recommend it. Though engaging and informative, the flip side of the net can prove thoroughly toxic. A friend made an off-the-cuff comment which is rather apt and certainly brought a smile to my face. “I think the fact that you have a complete stranger screaming and ranting at you on the net from the other side of the country, definitely counts as a form of corporeal mortification”.

I have written an article for this week’s Catholic Herald on how this week has been absolutely seismic for the pro-life cause. There has been a wave of revelations regarding unethical and illegal practices carried out by the leading abortion clinics. Dominic Lawson beautifully summarised the issue in yesterday’s Independent. Unfortunately today’s exclusive by the Herald, came after the deadline, but it is a chilling indictment and a logical conclusion of a culture that condones the killing of the unborn, to call for the killing of newborns. Still, at least the ethicists are not being discriminatory, stating that the killing of newborns should be acceptable in all cases where abortion should be a consideration both in disabled and able-bodied babies. Newborn babies are not actually people, therefore it’s perfectly alright to euthanise them if they are not convenient.

As Will Heaven points out, the only way forward is to oppose all abortion, time-limits only serve as fudges or compromises. Either a baby is fully human from the moment it is conceived or it is not. Though I support any reduction in time-limit, recognising that for now, a total ban is not on the table, thus I think pro-lifers have to fight for as many lives as they can, one stage at a time, there is a conundrum, because by supporting a lower limit of say 20 weeks as proposed by Nadine Dorries, that implicitly accepts that any abortion before then is fine. That is clearly ethically not the case. I am 14 weeks pregnant. Last week I had a scan and witnessed a fully formed baby. Not something that simply appeared to be human, but a clearly identifiable fully-formed tiny human being. S/he had tiny little feet and hands, we saw separate toes, separate fingers, hands reaching out to grasp the cord, little feet kicking energetically and a propensity for summersaults. Every time the probe was pressed firmly on my stomach, the baby either wriggled away or tried to grab the source of the pressure. I still have another 10 weeks in which the law says it would be acceptable to end the life of my child, for either social or medical reasons. Having seen my baby, and I don’t care what philosophers attempt to claim, the biology and physiology was undeniably human and alive, there is nothing on earth that could justify my arbitrarily ending of its life. Even something catastrophic happened in terms of our family circumstances which meant that we really could not give the baby the care it deserves, I can think of several childless Catholic couples to whom I would entrust the care and upbringing of my child. Heartbreaking though that would prove and it would have to be an absolute last resort, it would still be preferable to know that my child was being brought up by a loving family, rather than dead.  Adoption has to be a very last resort, the majority of mothers can be helped to look after their babies provided they have the right support.

Though the news is outwardly depressing; abortion has enabled widespread gendercide and the defence of this practice and now unbelievably a debate as to the ethics of infanticide, it has finally put abortion back at the top of the political agenda. These stories are forcing the general public to consider the very nature of abortion, that it constitutes the taking of an innocent life and whether or not this is something that we as a society should encourage. These stories cannot be reframed as “religious fanatics wishing to impose their will upon women’s bodies”, or if they can it is not very convincing. The issue is simple – can it ever be acceptable to kill an unborn child? Why is it acceptable to kill a disabled child, or a child who has arrived at an inconvenient time, but not on the grounds of sex? Why is it acceptable to kill some newborn children but not others? Are children, are humans, only worthwhile if they have been wanted or planned? Are some more equal than others?

Pro-lifers have the perfect opportunity to change hearts and minds on this most crucial of issues. Due to the constraints of the word count, I didn’t have the opportunity to note that I cannot help but wonder whether or not any of this success is down to the efforts of the Forty Days for Life Campaign. Robert Colquhoun’s mention in the Top 10 Catholics of 2011 was well deserved. The achievements of him and his team should not be overlooked here. We must never underestimate the power of prayer; reading the reports, the testimonies and witnessing the photographs of those who have bravely stood in silent witness outside these clinics praying not only for the women and their unborn children, but also the staff of the clinics, never fails to move me. This year the campaign has expanded to Brighton, Birmingham and Manchester, with plans afoot for Oxford as the next location.

If any more evidence were required, we need only to see the attempt at a counter-campaign, forty days for choice. Clinics are obviously feeling under pressure. In Brighton, activists are so concerned by the double whammy effect of Abort 67 and the 40 days campaign group, they have set up a counter group, which is attempting to forge trade union links (since when did being in a trade union mean that you had to support the killing of the most vulnerable, seems totally contrary to the aims of unions who should be fighting for the weakest) and lobby the Church at which members of Abort 67 worship. Interestingly they don’t seem to understand that 40 days for Life, though supported by Abort 67, is an entirely separate campaign. Perhaps most distastefully they have set up their 40daysoftreats campaign, distributing various cakes and confectionary to staff of the clinics and the women attending them. The sight of cakes and a thank-you card is far more stomach churning than the images to which they object. A thank-you card?! “Thank-you for being paid to abort the babies of vulnerable women. Thank-you for aborting babies, you are doing a great job. Have some cake or a piece of chocolate as a sign of my gratitude for the babies you got rid of today”. As for the women themselves, could anything be more patronising and indeed misogynistic in nature. “I’m sorry you’ve had an abortion dear. Never mind, have a piece of the cake I baked”. It would be funny, if it weren’t so grotesque.

The public are waking up to the reality and the issues of abortion. For the first time in recent years, the pro-choice lobby is on the defensive, there is much public appetite to re-consider the morality of abortion. There is the opportunity for much momentum, the pendulum is shifting, but we must not neglect the power of prayer. Last year Francis Philips  called for a March for Life, similar to the one held annually in Washington. Let’s use this opportunity and get mobilising. I’m game and so are thousands of others.

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Words of Consolation

I hope the person who sent this doesn’t mind me blogging it. It brought much consolation last night.

Despite deleting my Twitter account, my timeline was still showing on my phone and I could see the cattiness and sniping continued until about 6pm last night. I’ve now deleted the app so I’m not tempted to read any more damaging poison.

Dear Caroline,

You have been significantly embedded into my thoughts and prayers for the last 24 hours, which included the early hours of the night. I came home from C****** rather late and read what was to be your final tweet, seconds before you deleted your account, but not before I was able to read your blog and then look back at what had been said by your detractors.

I am dreadfully sorry for all the bile and vitriol that was hurled at you. I am still trying to get my head around the nastiness that was thrown so mercilessly against you and was so far removed from the truth of what and who you are.

I came to know you through twitter, and of course, was copied in to an email from ******* a number of weeks ago and have only ever considered you to be a kind, VERY intelligent, gentle, Faith and love driven individual. That anyone could take anything else from your writing is beyond me.

I have no idea how you have coped with all you have, because, in all honesty, it would have given me a complete breakdown if I were to have experienced just a fraction of such abuse. The school yard bullies have all progressed to the twitter arena, haven’t they.

You have NOT “failed” anyone. It is just not possible to reason with some people; they are way beyond normal sensitivities, empathy, understainding and argument. Their agenda is totally different to yours and the devil is using them very efficiently.

You must be feeling totally drained, physically and emotionally, and bitterly disappointed in so many ways, but please, remember why you write what you do; it’s not for personal gratification, it’s to further God’s Kingdom. I believe those lovely words of Jesus are very appropriate to you, “When you declare me before men, I will declare you before my Father in Heaven,” for this is what you have done, so faithfully. You have nothing to reproach yourself for.

I am really sorry that you have deleted your account because I enjoyed reading your tweets, but I am also glad that you have because you deserve some peace; distance from people who relish hurting whoever they can, especially at the moment whilst you are in the early stages of pregnancy. You have a beautiful family, they deserve you to be happy and you deserve to be happy, away from the pernicious bullies, of which there are so many and who are only happy when they spot someone whom they can really hurt. That someone is invariably the opposite to what they are = lovely people like you. Don’t allow them to spew their vitriol in your direction any more.

You have so much going for you; they don’t.

I will continue to pray for you and all the family.

Lots of love and God bless Caroline. I will be in touch.
xx

Thank you so very much everyone.

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End of the line

This blog and my online life has reached the end of the line.

I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me with their comments over the life of the blog.

I’ve realised that attempting to be a voice in the public square takes too much emotional energy and I can no longer cope with fall-out.

I am not a professional, I’ve never done this for money, I didn’t join Catholic Voices for the money or for any personal reasons, other than I thought I’d be good at it; on paper it should work, I’m articulate, reasonable and presentable.

In the last few months, I’ve been criticised from every side. From orthodox Catholics for being too liberal and from atheists or members of the LGBT lobby for being too hate-filled.

I’ve had an online stalker, pursing my every move, contacting other Catholic bloggers to dig dirt on me, blogging nasty unpleasant and untrue fantasies, (apparently I always wanted to be a model – anyone) which most people thought seemed the work of a deranged lunatic and who, on being asked to stop, besieged Neil Addison, who was advising me in a private capacity, with 16 unsolicited emails regarding the state of my mental health. When Neil formally wrote to her to tell her actions could be construed as harassment, she publically blogged his letter, went off on several prolonged rants about me and then incited her 4,000 followers to have a go at my feed. All the while, I have had to stay totally silent so as not to incite the situation further. She sporadically threatens me with the police for some imagined offence or other. She claims that the police are on the verge of arresting me and protecting her from me. As many know, the truth is somewhat different. But being under constant threat of being reported to the police for something you haven’t done, and wondering what is going to trigger another outburst, naming me and ranting away, resulting in tweets asking me to leave her alone, when I’ve done absolutely nothing, takes its toll. Particularly on someone who is in the early stages of a difficult pregnancy with all the hormones involved. Obviously some people forget what it is like to feel pregnant and vulnerable.

Her narrative, “Caroline plays the victim and has a track record for mental health problems” has fed into today’s attack. This is not my being paranoid. When attempting to discredit me earlier for being a hardline unreasonable fundamental zealot, this tweeter noted “she is a nutter with a proven track record of mental health problems”. I have no such history and I object to being smeared in the same manner and with the same malevolence as the targets of Johann Hari.

A comment today tells me that I am a poor representative for Catholic Voices, I should not spend time on Twitter. Apparently I am a hypocrite for trying to unite all sides, for “cosying up to James Preece, Laurence England and Paul Priest”.

I spend time on Twitter for the same reason many do. A bit of interaction with the real world, interspersed with looking after my children who aren’t always capable of giving great feedback. I spend most of the day with a baby and a toddler, my mobile phone is the odd distraction – I don’t buy papers.

Even at time of typing this, I can see someone on Twitter is inciting more trolling, saying “she is blondpidge, have fun”.  After two whole months of what feels like unprecedented abuse, I’ve had enough, I’ve reached saturation point.

It just seems wholly pointless. Traditional Catholics think I’m too liberal, everyone else thinks its fine to shout abuse and call names, without ever engaging in the points I have to make. Apparently I am a bigot who hides behind my faith, but no-one can actually tell me where I have shown any hatred or intolerance for other people.

None of the Catholics who attacked me for being too liberal have stood up for me today. The Catholic blogosphere seems to be for Catholics only, whereas what I have tried and failed to do is to take the debate into the public square.

Over the last 18 months I have been called every name under the sun and just expected to take it, that’s the price for putting your views out there. I never expected validation, but I never expected the unprecedented amounts of hatred and abuse either.

So trolls and bullies you’ve won. I can’t take it any more. You have to be made of hardier stuff than me if you want to be a Catholic on the internet. Or, you have to keep your mouth shut and your head down. Woe betide you if you actually dare to defend any of the stuff that you might believe in with people who aren’t Catholic. Other Catholics get by, simply by not engaging in the neuralgic issues. They talk about Catholic social teaching with each other, but don’t bother with the world at large. Perhaps if Catholics want to take a look at my timeline and those of the others involved, they will see what actually happens if you dare to use the theological language of the Catechism, even if it is in public conversation with another Catholic.

When I’m at the stage, where my head is literally banging from spending hours crying, when a false accusation “you LIE, apologise now”, repeated more than once, not followed up by anything resembling an apology, only a “oh sorry, I was mistaken”, after attempting to prove otherwise see there I go again, victim mode again, but as I said, this stuff hurts, when my husband is in tears at how his “lovely, gentle wife, who would do anything for anyone, is beside herself” when I literally don’t know what to do with myself, when I think I’ve failed, failed God, failed Christ, because all people can do is scream and shout hatred in my ears and tell me that I am insane I’ve had enough.  When people watch me cry and laugh at my distress, “lol, I saw her posts, 18 paragraphs of victimhood lol” then I’ve had enough. When a prominent Christian blogger seems to have bought into this narrative, despite being assured by those in the know that I am not guilty of whatever it is he seems to be accusing me of and spends 48 hours publically accusing me, despite others telling him to stop, I’ve had enough.  When my anger at the sheer injustice of this and my upset prevents me from sleeping and starts to affect my prayer life, I’ve had enough. When someone says, “I won’t allow her to affect my view of dozens of loving Christians”, despite the fact that at least one shares identical views to me, then clearly I’ve failed as I’ve not communicated myself as being decent, loving or Christian. That is perhaps what upsets me the most.

I’d still be honoured to write the odd feature for the Catholic Herald or other publications as and when the opportunities present themselves. That seems to be the one arena where I have been well-received perhaps because the readership doesn’t automatically view me through the lens of antipathy.

This is how battles are won by activists. By wearing the opponents down. By bullying, berating and discrediting. Someone stronger can do it. I don’t actually have the strength any more. Thanks for listening.

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Victim?

I am currently in Twitter jail, so I cannot respond to the repeated messages calling me a bigot and a “dumb bitch”.

What happened “this time”?

Well, stupidly enough, I spotted a tweet on the subject of same sex marriage which was hoping to make the point that the Church of England in this country, some of whom are opposing same sex marriage, is apparently undermining it’s very foundation which is based on a redefinition of marriage. That’s a point with which I disagree, being historically inaccurate. Henry VIII did not seek to redefine marriage. On the contrary he was a great believer in it, so much so, that he wished to have his existing one nullified, but the Pope would famously not agree.

If Henry had sought to redefine marriage then he would have introduced laws on polygamy. What he was trying to do was get a ruling on whether or not Catherine of Aragon could in fact be considered his legal wife, given that she had been married to his elder brother Arthur. The case relied upon whether or not her previous marriage had been consummated, the subsequent investigations, caused great personal anguish and humiliation to Catherine.

I corrected a Retweet that was being propagated as a meme which then descended into a general “debate” about same sex marriage. I am so fed up with this perjorative “bigot” label. Just a reminder of what it means from the OED:

having or revealing an obstinate belief in the superiority of one’s own opinions and a prejudiced intolerance of the opinions of others

But of course, that’s hiding isn’t it? Hiding behind language apparently. Like Humpty Dumpty, language can only mean what the person using it wants it to mean.

I have repeatedly been called a bigot, friends have weighed in and called me the same, I have been called me a dumb bitch, a moron, someone suggested that my private parts should be filled with cement, my mental health is smeared, I am a hardline zealot who hides underneath the cloak of respectability and reason, it is important to remember that I am not representative of all Catholics, people have been incited to look at my timeline, I am a tragic figure, ignorant, sad and grey, a loud victim Christian, not a normal kind reasonable one, delusional, a nutter with a track record of poor mental health (evidence please), my views are “dressed up as reason and truth”, a bully, a mentalist, a gobshite, on the fringe….

I was tempted to blog the screenshots. I won’t because it makes it even more unduly personal. But not once did I insult or be rude or personal. If I opened this tweeter up to the floor, it was because he had already incited his thousands of followers to weigh in and they have spent the best part of 8 hours attacking.

What caused it?  This exchange with Laurence England where he said:

The Church, doesn’t call homosexual orientation a sin but an ‘objective, instrinsic moral disorder’.

It is important the Catechism isn’t ‘spun’ on that point nor that it is overlooked.

It is there for a reason and a good one at that. It isn’t there to demean homosexuals but to state the Truth that the homosexual orientation is a disordered aspect of our human nature.

My response:

Laurence – yes I know that homosexual orientation is an intrinsic disorder and I am happy to accept and acknowledge that point.

The problem is, as you know, that many many people misunderstand what this means and find it offensive. Now the truth must not be hidden simply because it is offensive to some BUT when this comes up, I tend to explain that the Catechism is couched in theological and philosophical language as it is a teaching document. What the phrase morally disordered means, as I understand, is applying the principles of natural law, which isn’t as some people understand simply looking at nature (hence we get given examples of homosexual primates) but looking at what our bodies are “ordered towards” and that is not homosexual tendencies.

Not hateful, not intolerant, just stating that I agree with an opinion and accepting that it can be seen as offensive so it’s important to contextualise.

I like Twitter, I enjoy interacting with people, which is why I had considered giving it up for Lent. But if I do give it up, it feels very much like conceding to bullying. Someone has just called me a coward because I don’t want to engage with his insults.

I don’t play the victim. This kind of stuff does really hurt and upset me. Invective and insults tend to do that, I don’t have a thick skin, I wish I did. I don’t want to stop people’s freedom of speech, but I do wish people could stop and think that there is a human being at the end of the computer. One of the things my faith teaches me is that every human being is of equal dignity and worth. That is why I don’t stoop to nastiness, because a lot of the invective de-humanises others, it says “your opinion is not of value because you are not of value”. 

And that is why I get so upset, because I know how damaging de-humanising is, both ideologically and when you are on the other end of it. It’s a dangerous path. I don’t treat anyone as though they are worthless no matter how much I may disagree with them. If there is one thing that drives me, one principle that I attempt to zealously stick to its the Golden Rule. Treat others how you would like to be treated. Love one another. An opposition to same sex marriage is not an indication of hatred  or born out of fear or spite.

I am defending marriage because I feel passionately about it, not because I wish to do damage to anyone. If people think I am playing the pathetic victim, they ought to feel how they would like it if they were spoken about in such derogatory terms and discussed with acidity behind others’ backs.

I do think it is important to highlight what happens to Christians who dare expound these views in the public square. I do think people should see the ugly kind of bullying which attacks the person and not the argument. What started off as a historical debate, dissolved into personal abuse. And yes, I do consider having my private parts filled with cement an abusive thing to say, I do consider being repeatedly called a bigot without that being qualified abusive, I do consider having my mental health smeared, called names, accused of being unrepresentative of Christians, a coward and ignorant, abusive. It is certainly hurtful. My point about disorder that was thrown about has not been meaningfully engaged with.

I haven’t named the tweeter involved, most people watching will have seen who it is, but I understand that this is a difficult issue for him, hence the passion and at times vicious ferocity.

I have accepted that having a certain number of followers on Twitter incurs a certain responsibility. Hence I try to be aware of what I say about others. If anyone called anyone else a name on my behalf, I apologise. I did not see that happen however.

If you don’t want others to “play the role of persecuted Christian” then there is a simple answer. Engage with the arguments, not the person.

It’s interesting, not once did I play the “persecuted Christian” role, I expressed that I was personally finding a lot of the perjorative name calling hurtful. That’s probably the reason why I elicited the response stating that I was hardline, not like proper Christians and not a victim but pretending. The LGBT lobby don’t like having their victim status taken away from them.

I’m very tempted never to defend marriage again on any forum, on the internet or in public if asked, having yet another experience of what happens when you dare to do so. But then to do so is to let bullies win.

Those who criticise Catholic Voices remember that this is going to be the level of personal abuse and invective that we, as individuals, are going to be subject to if we go on the media. You’ll have to possess skin like rawhide. I don’t know if I’m up to it.

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Firstly a quick bit of housekeeping – blogging may be sporadic over the coming weeks and months because I am up to my eyes in other projects, starting with a talk at the University of Oxford’s Catholic Society, next week entitled “Catholicism and Feminism”. This post therefore will be mercifully brief.

On the subject of the Personhood Bill passed in Virginia, whilst whole-heartedly agreeing with the notion of personhood from the moment of conception, when it comes to the idea of a compulsory trans-vaginal ultrasound prior to an abortion, the answer has to be: NO, NO, NO!!

Has whoever dreamt up this scheme actually been subject to this procedure? I have had one or two in my time and it is a deeply distressing, invasive and humiliating procedure. It doesn’t matter how nicely the nurse holds your hand and comfortingly talks about where you are going on holiday, the procedure is still unpleasant and uncomfortable.

The medical grounds are spurious, I have been able to have an abdominal ultrasound that saw a sac at 5 weeks in pregnancy which is possible with a full bladder. By the time most women discover they are pregnant they are usually at least 5 weeks pregnant. Modern day detection kits may tell you earlier, but these tend to be the preserve of those hoping to conceive. Most who are attempting to prevent pregnancy won’t be testing 6 days before their cycle is due to start but tend to leave it a good week after a missed period, hoping that the delay is caused by stress or another factor. By this point, most women will be a good 4-5 weeks pregnant if not more. An abortion is an abortion, no better for the baby at whatever stage it is performed.

This kind of law buys into the silly polemic that one gets so sick and tired of hearing from the pro-choice lobby, such as “Stop poking around between my legs you vicious bigot”. It confirms every single negative prejudice held about those who wish to protect the lives of our unborn and speaking from an unashamedly pro-life perspective, it gives the impression that women who seek abortions must be punished. How does punishing women help to provide better pro-life solutions? A woman seeking an abortion may not be deterred but she will be resentful and humiliated. How does this treatment display care and compassion?

The state has no right to decide that a woman must undergo an invasive and medically unnecessary procedure. It damages the cause no end. A more sensible law would be that an abortion may not be performed until an abdominal ultrasound may be performed, which is normally possible at 5-6 weeks.

I suggest the following amendment as being the most appropriate if the legislators are adamant on committing pro-life suicide and retaining this barmy idea:

The partner of the woman presenting for abortion must be subjected to an anal probe in the name of equality. If the partner is unavailable then a representative of the legislature must make themselves available.

Horrendous idea. Utter madness. Not in my name.

Thank you well meaning GoPers. You can just see the foaming Guardian headlines over the forthcoming weeks. UK pro-lifers will be tarred with the same brush.

You know where you can stick that idea,

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Soho Scandal

Fr Tim Finnegan has posted a link containing footage from the infamous Soho Square Gay Masses.

Whilst I am always very wary about jumping on bandwagons, the footage shown does seem rather worrying. Without ever having attended one, I can only give the perspective of a third party, which is that from what I have seen, these Masses would appear to be very unhelpful pastorally. Whilst the magisterium is very clear that homosexuality is not a sin, it is also abundantly clear that we are made in the image of God and as such there are so many more facets to our humanity than our sexual preferences. The main problem with the LGBT movement and also with feminism to some extent, is that they identify themselves purely on the basis of sexuality, or in the case of feminism, gender. To live a lifestyle solely centred around one aspect of your humanity is deeply problematic as it limits spiritual growth and encourages self-centredness.

Rainbow flags and transgender wigs should have no place therefore in a Mass which is primarily concerned with sacrifice and following the example of Christ and giving everything up to the Lord. These very secular and earthly symbols are signs of our clinging on to ourselves, of celebrating our sins as virtues and of how we block out God.

With that in mind, I see no problem with holding specific Masses to meet a pastoral need. I can well see how a regular Mass offering intentions for those struggling to remain chaste could be enormously helpful and how Catholics with same sex attraction could find the support invaluable. I presume that this was the intention behind these Masses. Apparently some very reputable speakers such as Fr Timothy Radcliffe have been involved, so I am loathe to condemn them as a hotbed of heterodoxy and encouragement to sin.

I am also in accordance with the notion that those who are making judgements on who should receive communion must “hold their tongues”. Canon law is very clear that the decision on whether to receive or not lies with the individual worshipper and the priest. If a priest judges a person fit to receive then we must trust the judgement that accompanies his power as Christ’s representative here on earth in the sacraments and the charism of ordination. It is not for any of us to be Pharasaical based on assumption or outward appearances.

But what is apparent is that regardless of the intention behind the Soho Masses, regardless of the realities and the personal circumstances of those attending, they appear to be contradicting the teaching of the Church and reinforcing spiritually damaging behaviour. They are certainly causing confusion in the national press, with various commentators citing them as examples of a ‘more modern enlightened’ Church.

They therefore need to stop, not only for the scandal that they are causing, but also for the hurt that they are causing so many faithful Catholics including those who are eschewing a gay lifestyle and identity and attempting to live chastely. If not stopped, then they need to be radically overhauled, a specific targeted Mass is one thing, a celebration of a potentially erroneous lifestyle (I use potentially because I cannot judge the situations of those I don’t know), quite another. It is also not congruent with a Church who is fighting to stop the redefinition of marriage.

Perhaps a different location and a different liturgical feel is needed for these Masses? We are all sinners, homosexuality in itself is no sin, but living an actively homosexual life will damage your relationship with God and must not be endorsed. Even if the reality is very different, this seems to be the message that is being sent out so some changes urgently need to be made, whilst ensuring adequate pastoral support is in place.

Whilst a rainbow flag is a sign of welcome and indeed all sinners are welcome, regardless, in the Church, the flag is seen as embracing a LGBT lifestyle. Those brandishing the flag must be aware that it is a highly charged political symbol with no more place in a Church than a political party logo. I live in Brighton, I am surrounded by Rainbow flags, I know what they symbolise and that is not “we are living in accordance with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church“.

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