40daysforlifevigil tonight at Bedford Square - photo courtesy of the Diocese of Westminster

I took the decision not to attend the pro-life vigil in Bedford Square this evening. Robin is on call and so it would have entailed a return train journey between London and Brighton together with 3 children, two in a double buggy and an eight-year-old. Though I was desperate to be there, having supported 40daysforlife  spiritually and certainly since the inception of this blog,  if not always physically,  it simply would not have been fair on anyone. The counter-40 days for life demonstration had the potential to turn unpleasant and I did not want to expose a sensitive 8 year old to potentially graphic slogans and a confrontational crowd.

I am also very torn about whether or not to explain the concept of abortion to my daughter. Robin feels very much that she is of an age to understand, an American priest friend of mine told me how he was taken to these types of vigils every weekend from a very early age, however no matter how sensitively I explain the issue, there is an intuitive part of me that wants to protect my children from the horrors of the adult world, until I feel that they are able to emotionally cope with them. I think my daughter could cope if I’m honest, I think she’d be quite shocked, but I also think she would be compassionate, as she understands that being pregnant is very hard for some ladies like mummy and she knows that life is going to be very demanding for us, come August, with 3 children under the age of 3 and not much in the way of practical support or childcare.

So we stayed home and prayed together as a family instead. Fortunately, it all seems to have passed off rather peaceably, although no official reports have been filed as yet. Madeleine Teahan from the Catholic Herald was live-tweeting, as were a few other Catholics and the impression that I got was that though outnumbered – there were approximately 300 vigil participants to 700 pro-choice demonstrators, thankfully  no actual violence took place. It seems that the pro-choicers did get a bit too close for comfort to those on the vigil and were predictably quite disrespectful to those who were praying, they attempted to drown out Soul of My Saviour with 10 green bottles and generally chanted and shouted some derogatory slogans at those who were trying to pray, but that was to be expected.

The instructions for those attending the vigil were not to speak to or engage in any way with the protestors and to make as little noise as possible. The vigil was to be a silent, peaceful and prayerful affair, and this is largely what seems to have happened, the peaceful, gentle nature of the 40daysforlife participants, providing a stark contrast with the brash noisy jangling chants of the protestors. Here is the statement of Bishop Alan Hopes, the auxiliary Bishop of Westminster who was leading the prayer vigil.

One always knows that one is doing something right, when one receives flack from all sides and certainly I had much sympathy for Bishop Alan who seemed to be coming in for rather a lot of harsh and unfair criticism over the vigil. The abortion industry had the gall to call him immoral, the irony of that statement obviously bypassing them and a tiny minority of pro-lifers who don’t think that 40daysforlife is a politically wise venture, similarly criticised him, for stirring up trouble.  As I said last week, Pro-life for Catholics, should consider of politics, prayer, PR and of course, positive action to help mothers with crisis pregnancies, not just in terms of short term measures but working for changes in society. As Catholics, we should never underestimate the power of prayer, our faith is empty without it, so it was profoundly depressing to see a Bishop being criticised, for what is his job, or more accurately vocation, in terms of leading his flock in prayer. As Christians we believe God is everywhere, not confined to the linear space of a Church and we must not be afraid to carry our faith with us wherever we go. 40daysforlife is not intended as a substitute for decent political activism but rather as a compliment. It has certainly been successful in raising awareness of the issues, but I agree with Megan Moore’s commentary that the pro-life “movement” such as it is, must ensure that it is not only associated with vigils. The Catholic Bishops in England and Wales often attract criticism from the Catholic blogosphere as do clergy who are often not perceived to be doing enough in terms of pro-life work. Therefore we have to give credit where credit is due, it’s a rum do if a Catholic Bishop can’t lead his flock in support of key teachings of the Church. To be fair to the Bishop, I don’t think he anticipated that there could have been a backlash, the counter protest was only arranged after he had announced his presence. Rumour has it that Laurence England was present as well as the stalwart Clare, so it will be very interesting to see their accounts of what happened as well as read Madeleine’s official account in the Catholic Herald.

On the subject of Laurence, his moving blogpost from a few days ago, detailed the case of a woman who had been a victim of rape, who didn’t really want an abortion but felt she had no other choice. I decided to go and offer 40daysforlife in Brighton my support earlier today. There were only 4 supporters, not particularly frightening, standing next to a banner stating “We are here to help you” in the late evening sunshine. They confirmed that this lady is currently staying at their house, literally having nowhere else to go, she is homeless, needs help on a detoxification programme, is under pressure from her GP and Social Services to abort the baby, who she would really like to keep. When I tweeted about this, I was overwhelmed by the offer of help from an incredibly kind pro-life tweep who has offered to pay for a private health subscription for her. Though hackneyed, I’ve literally been crying tears of joy that someone could be moved to be so astonishingly generous. When we decided that it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to take the children to Bedford Square this evening, Robin pointed out that there would be plenty of other opportunities and that prayer at home could be just as productive and certainly safer for us.

The Holy Spirit certainly knows what he is doing. Had I attended Bedford Square then I would not have attended the Brighton clinic, made plans to support them over the weekend and I would not have tweeted about this brave woman who deserves all the support and help that she can get. God always answers our prayers, but never in the way that we might expect. What a providential end to the day. Deo Gratias.

21 thoughts on “Providence

  1. For those of you who are not squeamish and don’t mind watching an operation on TV, I dare you to watch a short film of a human abortion, especially the late term pregnancies, you see the fetus in distress and try to move away from the attack, don’t just take my word for it, or be fobbed off by a Doctor.
    Educate your self to the truth.
    Yet you are probably the same person who will react to an animal being cruelly treated.
    I doubt you would go on another pro-choice protest after that!!!

  2. I couldn’t understand their chants of “Kneel down if you hate women”. Women were kneeling in prayer – are they seriously saying all those wome hate women? Surely allowing abortion where unbown girls are terminated just for being female is the true hatred of women. Why can’t they get that?

  3. “Kneel down if you hate women” they chanted – at women, Bizarre. Surely hating women is to allowing them to be aborted just for being female! Why don’t they get that?

  4. Eloquent and very down to earth article, as per usual.

    I was unable to get away in time to attend the vigil, which was quite upsetting to me. I was determined all week to make the time. I am aiming to be there on sunday, though I am saddened that I wasnt able to lend my support to the vigil as they faced such a mob of obviously morally and socially backwards people (apologies, I am not as forgiving as you!).

    They definately had the desired effect though. Colleagues who were in the local area were very impressed with how the people at the vigil conducted themselves, versus what they termed as the “yobbo element” that was the pro-abortion contingent.

  5. Hi, If we can help in any way with the lady from brighton, please let me know. As one of the guys at on the pro-abort side ended up holding the “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries” sign, we wondered if we should offer him a free scan, probably immediately… Clare

    1. Lol! Yes please, I think you could help. I am going to carry on with the 40dfl team down here, doing a similar thing to you, wondering if we could set up Good Counsel Brighton? There is definitely a need. Nothing practical available for women here as yet.

  6. As someone who was there on the pro-choice side I do want to say thank you for being honest about the numbers. In other news sources there have been accusations of lies etc from people who weren’t even there about the rough numbers of 2 pro to 1 anti choice person. It is what it is.

    I respect the right of individuals to have an individual view on abortion 100% just as I respect the right of people of religious convictions to hold them, but not to try to impose them on others. Can I just clarify that there was never any threat of violence from either side although there were taunts and provocations from both sides (not that I necessary agree with this) and some people from the anti-choice side did choose to come around to the pro-choice side and make accusations of assault that were physically impossible given that we were separated by barriers. The police really had to do very little yesterday as both sides stayed in line with instructions.

    I do have a question, and this is from a point of personal interest really, about your views on abort 67’s use of images. It’s interesting that you mention that you have concerns about discussing abortion with your children when they are very young. I don’t know if you noticed when you came to Brighton, but Wistons is on a crossroads and diagonally opposite is a nursery. Abort 67 protesters stand on the cross roads junction when they’re there, not at the actual entrance to the clinic, with their large images in full view of the nursery school. Parents have to walk their very young kids past the images to get to nursery.

    As a Brighton resident, and someone who works in the seven dials area this is amongst one of my big objections to Abort’s tactics because it takes away the ability for those parents to have conversations about pregnancy and abortion with their children in a manner they’d wish to. It essentially infringes on their rights as a parent to do this, something you yourself clearly feel quite strongly and torn about. What’s your view on this?

    1. I am a Brighton resident also. I’ll be honest I haven’t seen an Abort67 display when it’s mounted and in full view.

      I hugely admire the work of Abort 67, but I’ll admit I find the images too difficult to stomach and though I accept their arguments intellectually, in reality I am torn as a result. I guess that’s the whole point though, these are supposed to be difficult to view.

      In terms of nursery children, I am wondering whether or not they would be able to understand the images which are not of late term abortions or stillbirths? They are unpleasant, but would a young child be able to understand what they were seeing? Would they be traumatised? I don’t know, but then I do take your point about parental rights to address these types of issues as and when appropriate.

      Objectively the images are nasty because it’s a nasty business but I certainly wouldn’t take those images into primary schools.

      It’s an odd juxtaposition, the nursery near Wistons. You’d think the nursery would object to Wistons taking away their customers.

      1. Thanks for your response Caroline. I appreciate it. I will always support the right to protest irrespective of the particular belief but the tactics are of concern to me. I work in education and I’m a Holocaust educator, we never ever use shocking images to teach such a difficult topic to young people because all it does is undermine whatever matter it is your trying to discuss, debate or explore.

  7. With regards to the numbers I was surprised to read the media reports saying that there were more on the pro-abortion side, it most certainly did not look like that from where I was standing. It would have been interesting to have aerial shots. It doesn’t matter too much because we came to pray and that’s what we did. It was so powerful, beautiful in fact.

    Claims made that there were provocations from pro-lifers last night is baffling, the only thing that I can think of that might have been construed as provocative is the fact that we were praying. In that case the pro-abortion side are more God fearing than they are letting on.

    1. I’m going to post with a round-up of accounts from both sides later on this evening. Joseph Shaw seems to think there were more pro-lifers.

      Thank you for attending & the comment 🙂

  8. Wow look at all those people! We’ve never been to a pro-life event because quite frankly we thought we’d stick out like a sore thumb and don’t yet have enough courage to put ourselves out there.

  9. ‘is under pressure from her GP and Social Services to abort the baby’ is there any objective evidence for this Caroline? Or merely the woman’s words and the inference of the vigil group? I have worked as a social worker for many years – admittedly mainly in palliative care, not children and families work – and I find it hard to believe any professional would pressure a woman to choose an abortion. I know this kind of thing is believed to happen all the time in the minds of pro-lifers however I think the reality is probably far more pedestrian. I worked with excluded (from school) teenagers in the mid-90s and despite the fact many were expecting children, I never came across any professional urging these teen mothers to abort (despite the fact, it would be a cost effective solution!). They were always supported in whatever choice they made. Good social work is about getting people to own their own decisions; not make choices for them.

    There is a putative belief, particularly in minds of many religiously minded people, that government or health agencies are enemies of belief and eager to push a secular agenda. Again, from my own experience of working in both local and central government, this is just a fantasy (every local authority I have worked for over the past 20 years has had a Christian staff group allowed to meet and prayer on council property!). My own belief is that it is propagated by certain flavours of Christian (and Muslim et el for that matter) to excuse their own impotence in the world. ‘Woman have abortions because of the wickedness of the state and its professionals…’ is far easier to stomach than ‘No one listens to us..!’ It is far easier to blame others for the marginalisation of Christianity than face the harsher truth that the churches are empty because the vast majority of the population just aren’t interested in what Christians think! And I suspect for many people, what puts them off church is their experience of Christians! I think one of the great pluses of the vigils is the passivity – this is a far better witness than boring and/or shocking people with photos of bits of foetus. It is DIFFERENCE from the world that seems to spread the Gospel…

    1. I would urge you to read Laurence England’s blogpost if you have not already done so.

      Yes, the woman is under considerable pressure to abort her baby and has been told that she will be unlikely to be allowed to keep the baby once she gives birth. She is under a severe amount of pressure.

      This is nothing to do with “no-one listens to us”. This is to do with a woman who approached those on the vigils and told them she doubted that they could help her because she had no choice. We are working to make sure that she really does have a choice.

  10. Thanks Iskra. That looks like a ‘talk to the hand gesture’ but with a rosary, yes I agree that wasn’t dignified. We were there to pray peacefully and I think that is what you would have seen that we were doing.

    There were reports in the press association that there were ‘scuffles’ at the vigil. Did anyone see any scuffles? In the same report it says that our lot were shouting ‘go home and pray’. I’ve read so much that isn’t true in the media this week, I don’t understand how or why this is happening. Is this the case for all news stories? Are there any media bodies that report actual unbiased facts on any given subject?

  11. I thought about this post this morning, as we read the Passion reading. Jesus walks the road to Golgotha in a World where killing innocents is par for the course. I also thought about those who are killed in war, as a result of the operations of multinationals and child soliders. So much sorrow. When we shout ‘Crucify’ with the crowd we join in with that sorrow.

    I also thought about a quote from Kallistos Ware about the crucifixion: “God saves us by identifying himself with us, knowing our human experience from the inside. The cross signifies…that this act of sharing is carried to the utmost limits…Jesus Christ our companion shares not only in the fulness of human life but also in the fulness of human death…Christ our Healer has assumed everything even death.” God’s response to the sorrow was to come and enter into it, to become the victim, the murdered innocent.

    This time next week we will celebrate the Resurrection. In your post, there is the glimmer of that hope. Christ dies on Friday, but Sunday is coming. Hope of new life on Easter Sunday brings the proof that God loves to the end.

    I was also struck, when there was the censing of the congregation, that we take the Body of Christ and are changed into the Body of Christ (St Augustine). we too have to enter into the sorrow of the world in the way Christ did.

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