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.

20 thoughts on “Victim?

  1. Oh, do put a sock in it. Then, if you fancy, light it on fire. Every time anybody has a go at anybody religious who sees through this “We just believe it should be preserved.” attitude they sulk off and pretend they’re the victim of anti-theist attacks and that they’re being persecuted for what they believe in.
    You’re not the victim in this. You put up your opinion and got feedback which you didn’t like. After using the same cliché argument which everyone using religion to cover up their hatred uses you started whimpering, blocking and pretending you’re some sort of martyr to a cause.
    You’re a bigot, you’re a hypocrite and, most of all, you’re a puss spewing, lice ridden cunt.

    1. It’s got to be said, every time I’m coming round to the idea of gay marriage, I see hate-filled language like this and I’m suspicious again. If your cause is right, why do you have to stoop to this kind of abuse?

  2. Well first of all having followed the discussion most (!) of the day you were very gracious, polite and well meaning – and that is plain for all to see in your timeline. This is of course totally lost on those auto-faith hating bigots who resort to ad homs, bullying, faux outrage mode when faced with someone willing to engage constructively but who does not share their world view. There were plenty of thrown about misconstrued notions directed at you personally rather than regards the points. I am in awe of your ability to be so patient. Do remember you are pregnant and must put yourself and baby first rather than subject yourself to misogynistic ad homs for the sake of this issue. Others will undertake these arguments and already are. Twitter is not the forum for any of it and always brings out those who prefer to deal in spite.

  3. Firstly, I must say I abhor the kind of bullying and name calling that has occured on twitter today. However, I do think you invite this by putting your opinions out there. When others respond in a derogatory fashion, suddenly you are being bullied. I would say that you make a very poor representative for Catholic Voices. Too often you cosy up to James Preece, Laurence England and Paul Priest who absolutely loath CV and fail to miss an oportunity to wade in and attack Jack Vallero and Austen. Not only are you a hypocrite but your loyalties are divided. Why on earth would a Mother of children spend so much time on twitter engaged in this inane drivel? You seriously need to get a life.

    1. ‘I abhor this kind of bullying – but, you know, it’s your fault’. Well, if it’s her fault, why do you abhor it?

  4. Caroline, I have found that you write thoughtfully and with clarity. You obviously take a lot of care over your writing. Having read your blog for a while, I have the impression that your ‘loyalty’ is with Christ and that you are constantly working through what it means to follow Christ, using the catechism to guide you.

    Whatever your feelings about twitter, one way or another, what will enable you to follow Christ as he walks through the desert, this Lent?

    If you do decide to fast from twitter, there are many good Lenten reflections on the Internet.

  5. Hmm. I reject the abuse you were getting today (and I apologise if anything I said caused you upset, btw), but to pick up one point:

    “If Henry had sought to redefine marriage then he would have introduced laws on polygamy”

    Well, I’m not so sure. Henry may not have rejected the one man, one woman for life model, (appearances to the contrary) but it’s pretty clear from contemporary sources, that he regarded an annulment as the ‘gold standard’- but he was perfectly prepared to countenance a divorce if he couldn’t get one. Fortunately (!) William Warham died, leaving Cantuar open for Cranmer who did declare the marriage invalid, giving Henry the annulment he wanted.

    So whilst Henry may not have had a ‘divorce’ himself, by making himself head of the CofE, breaking from Rome (which of course does not recognise divorce to this day), and allowing the ideas of the Reformation to take hold in England, it’s arguable he did enable divorce in this country, thereby altering the nature of what a marriage *is*- just not in the way that has been cited.

    One further point: I am truly sorry that you have been hurt. Some of what was said to you was completely inexcusable. I apologise again if I contributed to the atmosphere that lead to such comments being made or if any statement of mine caused you hurt.

    But I urge you to consider just how hurtful, and yes, potentially offensive it must be to be told that a loving relationship to which 2 people are completely committed is less worthy of a complete equality in the eyes of the world, and God than another-particularly when this claim is made in the name of a faith those two people may not share.

    I know all too well from my work in academia, that specialist language in not always well-understood: it is for this reason that I would tread very carefully before introducing terms such as ‘inherently disordered’: I accept completely that it is not meant as a abusive term, but I also think to expect people, not necessarily versed in theological language to not be hurt by its (initial, as I understand events) decontextualised usage is unreasonable & as we all know- wounded people have a tendency to lash out.

    I hope you take these comments in the spirit that they were meant: absolutely NOT to hurt, just to add my tuppence-worth & hopefully help understanding on all sides….

    1. Thank you – of course you did not contribute in any way.

      The thing is though Anna, I didn’t introduce “disordered” into the conversation at all. Peter did, having picked it up from a specific conversation I was having with another Catholic, as “proof” of something or other.

      I made it very clear that I understood it could be offensive, but he publically tweeted it to all his followers, completely out of context and forced me to defend it, something that I was happy to do.

      I understand only too well how same gendered people feel. I also understand well how many gay Christians feel, both those who are in agreement with Catholic teaching, and those who are not.

      The homophobia thing makes me laugh, but also really very upset. When I was cabin crew, many moons ago, a gay member of my staff was attacked upon leaving a gay sauna. Had it been discovered where he was he would have been sacked, not for homophobic reasons, but because a) he was violating his rest period b) he could have brought the company into disrepute, crew are warned about behaviour on nightstops, a straight person would have been disciplined if they were caught in a brothel, whilst abroad you are representatives of the company at all times and c) this specific sauna had been banned. It was a homophobic attack, but rather than make him face the consequences of his actions and lose his job, I took him to hospital, covered up for him with the company, let him stay behind in the hotel, flew with minimum crew and told the company he had been taken ill. Those are not the actions of someone who is filled with hatred.

      I was utterly shocked and devastated by the turn things took today. It felt wholly unnecessary and from what I’ve briefly seen of Twitter, I don’t want to go back, I still have his followers expressing hatred.

  6. It is inherently hateful and intolerant to a gay person to be told they are “disordered”. You can hide behind the doctrine of your faith, but if you have expressed this as your own belief (which you did), many people both gay and straight will find it offensive. You are standing in personal judgement over other people and their sexuality because of your religious belief.

    You are of course entitled to that view, along with other Catholics, but do not be surprised when people react in a negative way to it. This does not excuse personal abuse of the “dumb bitch” type, but it does justify a response that you are being a bigot. It is a completely natural reaction to your personal judging of others. Most people in this country are not Catholics and simply do not agree with you. Attacks were not invited against you: you are followed by enough people to have invited them yourself on the basis of the expression of your views in this way.

    This blog is ostensibly an attempt to prove you are not a victim. The vast bulk of it then seeks to portray yourself as one in every way possible. “Not once did I play the Christian victim role” is followed by “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.” This blog screams “give me pity, I’m a victim.”

    Am I alone in seeing the absolute irony of this?

    Caroline, if Twitter upsets you to the extent you say it does, then perhaps you need either to limit your interactions to your group of friends who believe in the things that you do, or you need to leave it. If you can’t stand the tweet, get out of the twitchen. It is never pleasant to hear someone has been in tears as a result of exchanges online, but remember it was entirely in your power to have disengaged or blocked at any stage today with all of those you interacted with. You chose to continue, repeatedly, taking on person after person in your personal battle. You evidently caused only upset to yourself in so doing.

    Please reflect on this, it is not meant with any malice. I have no desire to interact with you on Twitter again following today, but I wish you all the best and hope you will be able to read this in the spirit it is meant.

    1. Peter.

      We are ALL disordered in some way or another. No-one claims that somehow gay people are more disordered than others. I am not “hiding” behind anything, nor I am standing in judgement. I am not presumptuous enough. I suggest you read one of my earlier posts about this. No-one must judge the holiness of another. To do so is Pharisaical.

      What is bigoted about expressing my faith? Am I saying that I am not prepared to tolerate homosexuality or I wish to make it illegal? I was discussing a theological concept. A bigot is someone who is not prepared to accept the views of others and who wishes to assume superiority. I have not once done that in any of our discussions. I have not told you that I am not prepared to tolerate you or your opinion, not once.

      Attacks were invited against me, in that you deliberately opened this out on to the floor several times and also made quite a few derogatory remarks about me and my bigotry without ever actually engaging. All the people who weighed in on me, were not my followers Peter, but yours.

      Your opinion of my post is your opinion. But today has been truly awful and very telling of what happens to those who don’t happen to agree with your viewpoint on gay marriage. I don’t care what it screams, what it is trying to say, is look Christians and other Catholics, look at the kind of abuse that comes your way for defending a mainstream Christian viewpoint and like it or not, opposition to gay marriage, is a mainstream Christian view. There is no irony.

      The interesting thing for me, is that you can’t seem to see how hurtful some of the abuse that came my way was – you yourself said I was a nutter with a track record for mental health problems? Really? You have evidence for this, access to my medical records, or just going on gossip. As it happens my mental health is fine, although yes, I do suffer from ante-natal depression and none of this is helping. But it doesn’t matter whether I am mentally ill or not. Is that a good reason to discredit me. I am insane, therefore my views aren’t rational? Mental health is still a taboo, unlike being gay, and though I assure you I’m fine, it was really upsetting to have this thrown at me. I was really tempted to C&P your tweets, but decided that despite it all, I still have too much respect for you as a person, but I wanted people to see that all you could do was call me bigot, but without demonstrating how.

      You say it was all in my power. At time of deleting account, despite not having been on Twitter for 3 hours, I noted the inciting was continuing. Or are you suggesting that people should be able to call me names and really I should not respond? Someone can call me a hate-filled bigot etc, go on and on and on at me but I must not respond. Even if I had not, then it would still have continued. By not engaging I was called a coward? I was in Twitter jail, but that didn’t stop Jason or Lewisham Dream from going on. Whatever I said, or did, no-one appeared to be wanting to listen or engage. I am a bigot, I am hateful etc etc and I must not do anything to defend myself from that.

      As a Catholic I must accept the label. I must accept that I hate other people and cannot tolerate them, even though that is not what my instincts tell me.

      I have deleted my Twitter account as a result of today.

    2. I just had a look back at my screenshots. One of the things that upset me was this “disorder” business being used totally out of context. Actually I was conceding it was a potentially offensive thing to say and should not be used in general discourse, whilst accepting the philosophical principle.

      Which isn’t a point that you wanted to engage with, although I well understand why it upset you. Equally upsetting to me, was the amount of times you incited others to bitch about me, by using that screenshot of my blog.

      I denied using that language, because it isn’t something I could remember explicitly blogging about, i.e. I have never written a blog in the inflammatory terms that you claimed.

      I felt, and to some extent, I still feel, that you were using that quote to justify your opinion of me as being some hard-nosed hate filled zealot, pretending to be unreasonable, when really I am filled with hate and spite, instead of attempting to engage with the context or indeed the philosophical point.

      I was not saying “you Peter are disordered”, I was talking about acts, not people, which again is clear from previous posts and Catholic doctrine, although I stand by my assertion that all of us are in some way disordered.

      In terms of mental health, I can see that you did not explicitly say that, there was an intense speed of tweets, however you did accuse me of lying twice and you did say that I have a “track record of being a nutter”. Which is a smear pertaining to my mental health and a particularly unpleasant one.

      Never once Peter, did I engage in any bitching about you or your personality or views behind your back, I deliberately refused to do so, although I got increasingly infuriated and upset about the way that you publically bitched about me, and by all accounts continue to do so.

      My behaviour was not disgusting as you claim, I just got terribly upset at being accused of lying and of being some hard-nosed, unrepresentative Christian who wants to hurt people.

      You should have seen some of the grief I took from Catholics for supporting Civil Partnerships, but you chose to ignore this point. I will be interested to learn if you continue to maintain your relationship with another Catholic Voice with whom you have previously been on very friendly terms. They describe their views as being identical to mine on same sex marriage and on Catholic teaching, but somehow they are still in one of the “lovely nice Christians”, although they watched what happened yesterday with dismay, given your previous blog on “how to behave on Twitter”.

      When Hyperbolic Goat tweeted that I should be hunted down and my vagina filled with cement, I tweeted that in disgust so people could see the level to which the debate had sunk. You ridiculed my retweeting, calling me obsessive, actually I wanted people to see the level to which the debate had sunk which was simply “bigot, bigot, bigoty, bigoty, bigot” without ever explaining how I had demonstrated any sort of intolerance.

      As a matter of note, one of the things that hurt me was a person I have never met claiming to “know” me, having house-shared with my husband at university. She made quite a snide remark, which she later deleted admitting it had overstepped the mark, stating that my husband had converted to Catholicism and it was fairly obvious why, together with a knowing wink. That kind of behaviour, seemed overly personal and hurtful, particularly from someone my husband had always viewed as a friend.

      I am not returning to Twitter, nor have I played the victim. The behaviour has spoken for itself and the nutter comment was particularly hurtful when you yourself had been party and privately commented to me, on some of the obsessive ranting that I had been party to.

      If you want an independent perspective of what happened, I am more than happy to put you in touch with someone who can give you an unbiased account. Perhaps if you had experienced a year of the type of behaviour I have, you might understand why I am sensitive, and why I do not condone homophobic bullying nor would I attempt to deal with anyone who came out with anything but sensitivity.

      It’s interesting I still have very many close gay friends from my flying days. They aren’t Catholic and nor do I feel the lecture them on what they get up to in their private lives. Nor do they feel the need to tell me I am intolerant, although most don’t subscribe to gay marriage for a variety of reasons.

      But I appreciate you have been just as hurt and I am sorry for that too.

  7. Caroline did not introduce the term into the debate. One of the others did. She then tried to explain it and was literally forced to *personally* defend it. The term does not “belong” to Caroline. And the context of the expression go way beyond homosexuality. But in explaining so gently today, openly stating she understands the potential for offence it might cause and without injecting personal sentiment into it she was exposed to the kind of hatred that Twitter atheists are becoming routinely famous for – and having exposed myself to this tonight in defending Caroline I seriously question what their motivation is. It isn’t (clearly) because they are better kinder people of reason who want to engage in any kind of meaningful constructive discussion on the matter of marriage – but rather to indulge in a curious form of bullying. One designed to coax out a perceived slur directed from you to them and return fire with palpable bigotry and hatred. They don’t want a discussion. I wasted a good few hours of my life tonight – s’ok I wasn’t busy 😉 – trying to see what motivates some people to be so ugly towards people of faith and project a hatred that simply does not exist in those they are tweeting with. It was tiring ignorant dull and mannerless of course. Fortunately we all know people whose sexuality and faith place them at the heart of this particular debate (as abortion places me at the very heart of it quite frankly) but who reject this tiresome idea that faith equals hate – they/we are capable of far more honest and reasonable discussion so don’t despair!

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