Parting of friends?

A few years ago, before Robin and I got married, someone said to me, “you know what I can’t believe that you are a Catholic, you’re attractive, have loads of fun and seem so normal”! When we were dating I incurred plenty of incredulous looks when explaining what it was that my boyfriend did, not to mention salacious comments. I remember talking this over with a Catholic priest at the time, who said to me that it was precisely for those reasons, he thought, rather flatteringly, that I was a “great ambassador for Catholicism”.

This is why I have always been very open about my identity and probably at times, too open about some of the issues that I/we have faced. I didn’t begin to blog in order to present myself as a pious example of sanctity, but to share some of my insights and struggles in trying to live my vocation as a Catholic wife and mother. My aim was not to present myself as an object of admiration, quite the opposite, to demonstrate that like every other human being, I am fallible, I am fallen, but nonetheless trying my best. I hoped that by sharing some of my journey and insights, some of my joys and sorrows, I could thereby inspire others which is why I shared my identity.

One upside of being very open about my identity is that it forced me to be fairly circumspect and also ensure that I exercised the requisite charity in my dealings with others. The flip side to this, is that it has left me very open to attack from all quarters. What has become very obvious is that actually I don’t have the constitution to cope with with non-stop personal abuse. Over the past few years, there is not one single element of my life that has not been picked over in meticulous detail, no element has been spared, my family and children have been thought fair game and even the colour of my shoes worn on a recent TV appearance were used as ammunition.

It is a pretty open secret that I have been the subject of a despicable whispering and hate campaign, in which everyone with whom I have had any sort of relationship has been contacted with increasingly outrageous allegations. It is claimed that I am operating several twitter accounts under various pseudonyms and any time any anonymous unpleasant remarks appear on any blogs of those with whom I have disagreements, these are definitely my doing. It seems that every day a fresh allegation is thrown my way, all of them increasingly wild and tenuous. The latest I heard was that someone had traced an IP address to a road a few miles away from where I live, had a look on Google street view, saw a nursery and decided that was my modus operandi. I specifically go to a nursery a few miles away from where I live in order to secretly troll and abuse other people. As someone received a blog comment 4 years ago from this very same IP, it therefore *must* be me.  I should not really have to de-bunk this spurious nonsense, but it is just one of the extraordinary pieces of “evidence” doing the rounds.  For starters, none of my children have ever attended this nursery,  I wasn’t living in this area 4 years ago, nurseries don’t allow mobile phones, tablets or computers, nor do they to the best of my knowledge have WiFi, dropping children off at a nursery does not allow free time or hands for any other activity, and erm, I actually have a lot better things to be doing with my time. The internet, and/or those with whom I have ideological disagreements are not so important as to lead me to Inspector Clouseau type exploits. Besides which it’s just not really my thing. I am capable of being intemperate and ill-considered enough under my own name when so provoked.

I’m not naming names, everyone knows who the main protagonists in this sorry affair are. I’m not going to offer any comment other than my sorrow that seemingly fellow Catholics, could be driven to such lengths that are wholly contrary to natural justice. I have been contacted by a huge spectrum of people expressing support and sympathy who have attested to attempts having been made to co-opt them into this campaign. People have told me that they have been forbidden to talk to me publically, one person upon enquiring what it is that I am supposed to have done was told “it would blow your mind, she is pure evil. Trust me”.  Someone was told not to worry about the health of my unborn child because “she’s past the 12 week stage and won’t miscarry”.

There are no words. I have experienced months of absolute hell, where I have been unable to comprehend what on earth was happening to me and why. I have also been unable to restrain my hurt and anger, particularly when moves were made to affect my family life. It takes a huge amount of self-control and restraint, which I do not possess, to know that people are deliberately talking about you publically, deliberately defaming you, deliberately provoking you and deliberately abusing you – not to respond. I am still coming to terms with it and attempting to forgive those who, whilst allegedly going under the auspices of pro-life, have carelessly disregarded the health of a pregnant woman and indeed sought to cause her distress. My unborn baby deserves better, even if it is felt that I do not. The abuse seems interminable and never-ending. I have been pursued with the vigour of a fictional Inquisitor, indeed someone has spoken of me as being a “boil that needed to be lanced” and that I must be publically humiliated as a form of exorcism, in order that “repentance and reconciliation might follow”. Trouble is, it’s quite tricky to confess to something that one simply hasn’t done!

All I can say, is that I haven’t done whatever it is that I am accused of. Given that no-one has ever had the courtesy ever to present detailed or precise charges, let alone any sort of evidence then it is very hard to defend oneself. All I have gleaned is snippets from various accusations thrown about in public and from third parties. When I found myself writing to the police, because it was claimed that I had asked an MP whom I’ve never met,  to obtain a police order on my behalf banning publication of evidence, in order to clarify that no such order in relation to myself existed, I realised that the situation was way out of hand.

To those who would attempt to paint me as a careerist, I would say only this. A few years ago we were living in a lovely Rectory in a flourishing parish. We had stability, a wide network of friends and support, an income, a pension and guaranteed job security for life. I had the choice whether or not to work, to build up a career, or to be a stay-at-home mother and volunteer. I could have attempted to build up a career in either writing or the pro-life movement, frankly, in terms of my own material needs and security, it would have been infinitely better had Robin stayed put in the Church of England. If I was the pushy careerist type portrayed, I would have been urging him to continue to stay where he was, to fight for traditionalist views in the Church of England and nudging him towards becoming a Cathedral canon and more. Though no saint, I took a back seat and when it became so clear that Robin could no longer remain an Anglican in good conscience, I encouraged him to pray and follow God, no matter where that might be leading us, knowing that it would come at a personal cost and that the road ahead would not be an easy one. I do not regret that for a single moment, however I am glad that the internecine fighting and shenanigans between Catholics on the internet, are not reflective of the welcome he has received from the much wider Catholic community, including, most importantly, at parish and diocesan level. For those thinking of crossing the Tiber, the internet is not indicative of the Church as a whole.

What I didn’t realise when beginning to write this blog, is that holding such strong pro-life and indeed Catholic views would lead to such strong and extreme reactions from others. I think when one adds a very unusual set of family circumstances into that, I can see that I seem a curiosity and object of interest. A former air-hostess who went into investment banking and private equity with a public boarding school background, a seemingly intelligent, lively, fun and engaging woman who was married to a vicar, is clearly able to make a good account of herself but yet has “batshit bigoted” views and lives a weird lifestyle of martyrdom where she seemingly can’t stop herself from getting pregnant. It’s not surprising that at times the stats on this blog have gone stratospheric.

What has become clear is that recently, this blog and my twitter account have become all about “me” and the horrible controversy rather than the things that I have to say. This seems to be an enormous shame,  because many have commented that I do have a valuable contribution to make, not only on the Catholic blogosphere, but also to the pro-life movement as a whole.

All of which has led me to ponder whether it really is time to stop for now and certainly time to stop writing under my own name. Ironically those who have accused me of running various pseudonyms have forced me to do consider doing just that. I am devastated, I think I still have a lot of valid things to say, I had been planning some storming pro-life posts, these past few weeks have given me some much deeper insights, but I have to put my family first. If I stop blogging it lets those, who openly admitted that their aim was to get me off the net, win.

Robin is going through the ordination process, if, God willing, he is ordained, then this blog will be a renewed source of interest to many. It therefore seems sensible to halt. His vocation is of primary importance and I therefore need to support that by ensuring that whatever I do, does not detract from his priestly ministry in any way. I do not want to be a source of scandal to either my husband or the Catholic Church or detract from the causes that I care so passionately about. I can only see the obsessive interest and abuse getting worse. Before Robin converted, I remember a former young parishioner quizzing me about our intimate life. I refused to answer and gracefully changed the subject, not only is our private life just that, but furthermore I did not want anyone to be distracted from worship in Church by thinking about the vicar’s private life.  The same principle applies here. My aim is to be an enhancement, not a distraction and definitely not a scandal.

There is much to look forward to, much that I had hoped to share, such as our daughter’s First Holy Communion and the birth of new baby, but I am no longer sure whether or not this is wise?

Maybe a short break is the answer, or maybe I should just disappear and regenerate under a pseudonym?

All (sensible) thoughts appreciated.

PS Arise from Darkness: What to do when Life doesn’t make sense by Fr Benedict Groeschel. This book has done much to restore my equilibrium. An absolute must-read.

15 thoughts on “Parting of friends?

  1. Its your blog! I see no reason not to talk about First Holy Communions and children. If you do need to unload, write the post, but you don’t actually have to post it!

    You seem to be dealing with some seriously bizarre & cruel people on Twitter etc. I don’t know what to say about them. But I imagine you’ve blocked them from commenting on the blog.

  2. I have certainly enjoyed your comments immensely. It is a sad commentary that civil discourse is dead. I have no good answer other than that you need to do what is right for you and your family and if that is a tactical withdrawal, there is no shame in that .

  3. IMHO you’re doing something very right.

    The genuine Christian and RC is filled with joy and love. They are at your side with joy at your successes and with compassion for your pain. If there is a need for correction then it is done privately and with love. The correction is usually in the form of have you thought about this or that, rather than loser you are wrong.

    As you have realized not all who profess to be RC or Christian are actually the genuine article.

    Most mean spirited people are in the thrall of their own ego and the desperate survival need of that ego is to be right at any cost. They genuinely believe they are saving you from yourself and the way to do this is to bully you to admit they are always correct. After all, they have to be perfect or their world view would collapse..

    Some however, are in the power of the opposition. Most from ignorance but some from deliberate choice. They appear nice and make friends but after a while when they have your trust and access to your pressure points, they show their true dark colours. After all, not all angels are on the same side as Michael.

    Overtime, each of these three groups are known by their actions and in the case of blogs/twitter words. If you are attracting the attention of the final group. Then be glad. For you are a foot soldier for Christ. They would not bother with you unless you are a thorn.

    God Bless you and your family. May the Arch Angel Michael guard you all in your time of need. Keep your focus on Christ, stay true to his Truth and he will light and protect your way.

  4. So, first of all: while I don’t know all the details of what’s been happening, being largely on the fringe of Catholic Twitter, I know enough – have seen enough, been told enough – to understand something of what’s been happening, and to know that it has been and still is absolutely horrible for you. You are, and have been for the last few months, in my thoughts and prayers. I should probably have made a point of saying that; I didn’t, and for that I’m sorry.

    Secondly, I agree that you do have a great many valid, helpful and valuable things to say, and it would be a great pity if you were unable to say them. Blogging can be, and be part of, a true vocation; it’s not merely a hobby, and it’s important to recognise that.

    Thirdly, your family certainly needs to be your priority. Whilst ideally you would be able to blog *and* do what you need to do for them, these are plainly circumstances very far indeed from the ideal.

    That said, I think it’s a bad time to make irrevocable decisions, or begin again under a pseudonym. While there are arguments in favour of adopting a pseudonym, I think you’re right to say that your identity is an important part of your blogging.

    On the other hand, taking a break might very well be helpful. That could be helpful in itself, and also a good first step on the way to deciding what to do in the long term. After all, making decisions under pressure isn’t always a good idea, and taking a break until the current horribleness is resolved might help to give you some breathing space to consider more clearly.

    I hope you’ll feel able to continue to blog as you have been doing, but ultimately you must do whatever is best for you and your family.

    Continued ((hugs)) and prayers.

  5. Caroline, your posts are very interesting and intelligent. I would follow my heart if I was in your shoes, whilst putting the well-being of my family first. If writing under a pseudynom works for you then go for it. Alternatively, do your posts and refuse to analyse the reaction. There’s an element of paralysis by analysis. Deal with your hurt to the reaction by other means including prayer and the sacrament of reconciliation. Your writing is fascinating and excellent and clearly this also bothers your opponents.

    Pro- life will always attract evil and negativity so recommend that you pray prayers of protection for yourself and your family and continue to place your trust in God.

  6. I wouldn’t normally presume to offer detailed advice on someone’s life where I know only the barest details, but since you have invited thoughts!

    1) I think your absolute priority should be your own and your family’s welfare. I’ve seen far too many friends run themselves into the ground for a work or a cause which, though worthwhile in itself, is not worth the effects it’s had on them. None of us is going to be around in 100 years time. Catholicism will be. Our first care should be for our souls and for those for whom we have particular duties.

    2) That said, your blog and articles do have a particular niche that I don’t see being very often filled in the UK. (A combination of orthodoxy, personal life struggles of a young mother and commentary on public affairs.) I’d be sorry to see that disappear and I’d be sorry to think that your talents weren’t getting into the public sphere somehow. (And more specifically and selfishly, I’d miss the blog.)

    3) There is something horrible about the internet: it’s addictive and encourages bad behaviour. It’s also a wonderful tool for evangelism, learning and mutual support. But anyone who uses it needs to treat gingerly. (I tend to approach it like someone with an awareness of a family tendency to alcoholism approaches alcohol: watching carefully for signs of it getting in the way of what’s essential to a good life and cutting back or abstaining if necessary for a time.)

    4) I don’t really understand Twitter and -in part as a result of your experiences- I’m not making much of an effort to do so. As a result, I have little idea of the details of what’s been going on. Any anti-Catholics involved will doubtless go on doing what they do: having any sort of public presence as an orthodox Catholic will invite vitriol from them. For the Catholics involved, we are all called to Christ’s peace and love. I have no idea what that call involves in the present case, but that will be my prayer for everyone involved immediately after I post this, and I’ll leave it to Christ and the saints to work out the details.

    Sorry! There’s an awful impertinence in a stranger talking through another person’s problems in the way I’ve just done and I wouldn’t have done so unless you’d invited us first. It’s easy to forget how, in the excitement over the establishment of the Ordinariate, real men and women are making extraordinary sacrifices. Thank you and your family for doing that and I pray that God is with you in your struggles and your decisions.

  7. This all seems very reasonable to me. Blog your blog anonymously and share the other stuff maybe on Facebook or something, where you can control who has access better? Robin’s ministry is a blessing to us all & you’re right that nothing should detract from that. I think you have an enormous contribution to make and many of your posts have helped me better understand and indeed, explain to others, the Church’s teaching on topical issues. So thank you for that! You’re constantly in my prayers xx.

  8. Well, if you ever stop this blog, then please ‘friend’ me on FB, because I’d love to keep up to date with you and Robin’s journey towards the priesthood. I think you’re a nice person with a great ability to write interesting and encouraging blog posts and whoever these people are on Twitter: they are bullying you and need to get a life! Block them and don’t give them a second thought!

  9. Send your trolls to me. I haven’t had lunch yet, and I’m pretty sure troll doesn’t count as meat.

    Also, when you get nasty, cruel, offensive comments, edit their text to showtunes! Silly as you can find. It might help you feel better.

  10. It seems that some of this touches on vocation.

    Firstly, there is a vocation that isn’t about ‘doing’. God created you, to respond to his love in a unique way. Your response to God’s love is a vocation in itself. There is a unique insight into God’s love that only you can bring to His Church. It is in this context that you then consider specific discernments. What course of action will deepen you experience and love of God?

    Secondly, you have many gifts: a passionate concern for women and children, particularly those who are vulnerable; clear thinking and a flair for writing are some of the ones you have displayed on your blog. You might choose to continue using these on the blog or find other ways of using them.

  11. One of my responses to reading about your story and your issues with nasty people on line is to feel grateful that I am not a Roman Catholic. So for me its not working as a shop window for your beliefs.

  12. Hi, I found your blog by following a link back to your link to my blog NZ Conservative in the support Cranmer and his problems the government.

    I’m horrified by what you’ve been subject to, and so said a few extra prayers for you. I don’t know what the right answer is.

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