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.