Grow up?


A few days ago a lovely young non-Christian girlfriend of mine messaged me on Facebook. “Would you ever consider getting a nine to five job?” she asked. “Sure”, was my response, “I’ll need to get a job at some point, but probably not until all of the children are at school”.

“Aren’t you worried” she said, “that your views on gay marriage will hurt you?”. Very telling from someone who has been, if not an advocate of “gay marriage”,  has certainly openly supported it, seeing no problem with gay marriage in a civil context, but vehemently disagreeing with those who would wish to have it imposed on religious institutions.

She has a good point. The two professions which I have oscillated over entering over the past few years, namely midwifery and teaching, I have to accept are no longer avenues that would likely be open to me on account of my views.

Recently there has been a ridiculous furore amongst Catholics (who should frankly have better things to do with their time) on Twitter over the use of pseudonymous tweeting and blogging. One tweeter, whom I shall decline to name, has been leading something of a one-man crusade against “sock-puppets”,  demanding that every new pseudonymous account provides him with their name and address and some form of credentials in order to prove that they are not in fact, a ‘fake’. Anyone who declines to do so, is instantly decried and publicly denigrated as a fraud,  pseudonymous tweeters should, in his humble opinion, be banned, either one should tweet in one’s own name or not at all. If you have something to hide, then you should not be on Twitter,  Catholics should be out and proud, happy to be derided and martyred for their views along with the likes of St Thomas More.

Which is all very well, but what when those views could seriously interfere with one’s job prospects, or result in your being sacked? I can well imagine that if I was still in some of my former jobs, this blog would result in my dismissal on the grounds of gross misconduct. Not that I have said or done anything scandalous, but simply being ‘out there’ as an opponent of things like abortion, surrogacy, IVF and gay marriage, would cause colleagues to feel uncomfortable, as though they were being ‘judged’ and an employer may consider that their reputation could well be damaged as a result of having an employee who held such scandalous and counter-cultural views.

It cannot be much of a surprise that the majority of non-clerical Catholic tweeters and bloggers employ pseudonyms which they zealously guard; being considered up there with St Thomas More is wonderful, the consequences of which may not be martyrdom, they could certainly impact on others such as vulnerable young family members. While losing your job may do wonders for one’s Catholic credentials, it doesn’t exactly put bread on the table for your children and certainly will affect one’s future job prospects. I wonder whether even a company like Tescos, former sponsors of Gay Pride, would give you a job stacking shelves in these days where one’s name and entire history can be easily googled?

Clearly, unless one has a ‘Catholic’ or even ‘Christian’ job, it’s inadvisable to be open about one’s faith on the internet. It’s not the same as being shot at in Eygpt or beheaded in Syria, but free-speech is limited for serious Christians, like it or not, which is in itself a form of persecution. Should Adrian Smith, the housing officer who was demoted over comments made about gay marriage on his personal Facebook page, have simply shrugged his shoulders and “grown up” as the former Archbishop of Canterbury would appear to suggest?

What about the pro-life GP hounded off Twitter by the Irish pro-abort crowd who reported him to the GMC and NHS because using his real name, he expressed pro-life views? Should he too just accept that his beliefs are incompatible with his profession (to save lives not take them) and therefore his freedom of expression is limited and he should just ‘man-up’?

Freedom of expression, is clearly not as serious as threats to livelihood, but it is very much tied up with freedom of association and the right to earn a decent wage in the profession of one’s choice.

Being a Christian is not just a ‘hobby’, it’s not like being a Stars Wars fan, or doing the odd bit of voluntary work, we are compelled to live our faith, which is more than simply going to Church on a Sunday or holy days of obligation and keeping our mouths firmly shut the rest of the time. Faith is not simply that funny habit which mummy and daddy have that we take out of a box and parade as necessary before putting back, but something that needs to be lived, daily, in our thoughts, in our words and in our actions. Faith is not something we leave in the pews on a Sunday. We are commanded to evangelise, and part of that has to be, at some stage, expressing our views, grounded as they are in compassion, hope and charity, not keeping our mouths shut out of fear. Obviously there is a time and a place to do that, no-one wants to be pounced on by fierce evangelisation, a colleague quoting Revelation and fire and brimstone at 9am round the water-cooler on a Monday morning, but neither should we be afraid to put forward or propose our views in the public square, as appropriate.

But increasingly, that is what we are having to accept and what the likes of the National Secular Society are wanting to impose upon us as well as removing our rights to educate our children in accordance with our faith.

I have to accept that even if I were to delete this entire blog tomorrow, due to my Catholic Voices work and my writing for the Catholic press, any future employment prospects outside of the Catholic or pro-life sphere, are limited.

Rowan Williams misses the point when he tells Christians to grow up if they are made to feel uncomfortable or made fun of.  When you look at my most persistent trolls and aggressive interlocutors, the verbal violence has stemmed from the fact that they are made uncomfortable by my writing. By rejecting their views and offering an alternative, I am, by their logic, rejecting them, rejecting their lifestyle decisions and by not unconditionally agreeing that abortion, gay marriage, promiscuity or whatever else is perfectly acceptable, I cause enormous amounts of anger and hate to be directed at me.

Surely it is those who cannot accept that everyone will approve of their choices, who should grow up, instead of seeking to silence opponents?

Whatever the answer the fact that Christians are increasingly afraid to speak out under their real names on the internet (my mother is terribly anxious as a result of my writing), the fact that some feel silenced at work and that faith can prove a barrier to gainful employment in a chosen profession, is in itself a form of persecution. Whilst it’s helpful to keep this in perspective and remember that the situation is not as dire as in other parts of the world, we should not succumb to victim top-trumps, but neither should we deny that this is happening, turn a blind eye, shrug our shoulders and giggle whilst people are losing their livelihoods or are too scared to speak their minds.

Injustice is injustice, regardless of the semantics that one wishes to employ to describe the situation, but to try to pretend it is not happening, in a vain attempt to shore up our existing position and win popularity, is to co-operate in our own persecution. Losing your job for refusing to teach secular sex ed or gay ‘marriage’ might not be up there with getting one’s head cut off for apostasy. But that’s scant comfort to those who are in the firing line. Being disbarred from a job is more than feeling ‘mildly uncomfortable’.

Next time someone tries to smear my mental health or imply that my children are at risk and should be removed as a result of my ‘homophobic’ and pro-life views, as has happened frequently in the past, I’ll just giggle. I’ll accept that we could never be considered as suitable foster parents and give some temporary stability to needy children later on in life, due to our faith. Next time I see a job advertised that I could do with my hands tied behind my back in a local authority or a non-Catholic institution in Brighton, I’ll accept that it’s pointless to put in an application. It’s all my own fault for expounding my Catholic views in public, in today’s tolerant society.

If being grown up is about accepting, condoning, ignoring and laughing at inequality of opportunity as a result of faith, I’d rather be an idealistic child. Of course, when one’s entire ministry has consisted of serving God, when one’s religious views have led to positions within the highest echelons of academia at one of the country’s most prestigious universities and indeed when one as risen to the highest possible rank within one’s church, it is naturally very difficult to conceive of what persecution might look like for your rank and file Christian countryman.

38 thoughts on “Grow up?

  1. I agree that it is a shame, if what you say is true, that you would struggle to find a mainstream employer because of your private opinions. I think the opportunity for you to work in a truly open and mixed environment would be extremely beneficial in terms of opening your world to, for example, understanding real people in same sex relationships and the hardships they face because of opposition to their natural state from religious bodies and their adherents, or women in tremendously difficult situations who have abortions and don’t need to hear the usual middle class and male driven opinions that they are murderers. I sincerely hope you find a job somewhere that opens your mind to something beyond the narrow and harmful teachings of your religious organisation.

    1. Violetwisp, you may be aware that I worked for over 3 years as cabin crew on both short and longhaul routes, as a result of which I have many real-life friends who are same sex attracted or in same-sex relationships, none of whom, incidentally have a difficulty with my beliefs and who know full well that I bear them no ill-will, let alone hatred.

      Many of them in fact agree with me in terms of the fact that they do not believe marriage to be an institution into which they desire to enter, nor do they believe that two people of the same sex ought to deprive a child of their biolgoical mother and father.

      I sincerely hope that you open your mind beyond the bigoted viewpoint you seem to hold that religious teachings are somehow harmful, or that religious people have no understanding of the difficulties that those in same-sex relationships face, or indeed that they have no understanding of what the difficult situations that women face in terms of leading them towards the abortion clinic.

      Yours seems to be a terribly biased and prejudicial view of religion which is not rooted in any sort of reality, particularly not of the Catholic faith, which is predominantly populated by women and those who are not of a caucasian or British background. I suggest you do some research into typical Catholic congregations and their circumstances. This would be incredibly beneficial to your understanding.

      I sincerely hope you find a way of opening your mind to the very many benefits of religion, instead of dismissing adherents as being closed-minded, middle-class and misogynist.

      1. You’re right that I made some assumptions based on my low view of organised religion, and on reading a handful of your posts. There are a number of things I’d like to clarify here though.
        1. No-one wants to ‘deprive children of their biological parents’. It’s ridiculous to paint a picture of same sex parenting in this way. They should have the same parenting rights as any other couple. In many respects, the fact that same sex couples have to plan and dearly want children in order to become parents will I’m sure show further down the line that they are more competent than the mechanical and accidental parenting so often found in heterosexual couples.
        2. To suggest that because adherents of Catholicism are mainly women and from poorer backgrounds, does nothing to detract from the fact that all the rules are made up by middle class men. There are no rules in the Bible about homosexual marriage, about birth control, or about abortion. All opinions put forward by the Catholic Church on these issues are opinions formed exclusively by these men. Many other Christian organisations that allow women some part in the decision-making process hold very different views based on this same text.
        3. I’m afraid the typical Catholic congregation is irrelevant. It’s a seriously superstitious belief that most of it’s adherents do not even begin to properly understand, beyond turning up for services and other rituals, and confusing the beliefs of their religion with any other superstitions that come to hand. I find it deeply worrying and indeed harmful how indoctrinated with fear many Catholics are.
        4. What exactly are the many benefits of religion you refer to? I certainly think churches provide valuable social support for older people who may otherwise be quite isolated in the community, but beyond this, I can’t think of anything.

      2. Briefly (I have work to do)

        1) You talk about the rights of gay parents. What about the rights of the child to be brought up and maintain close loving relationships with both biological parents? Children’s rights are being put aside here. It is a well-documented fact that adoption does not come without issues and that while it may often be a better situation that leaving a child prone to neglect, it is deeply unethical to decide that a child does not have a right to be brought up by parents of both gender, or that one of their birth parents may be discarded.

        2) All the rules are made up by middle class men? Could you evidence this assertion? The Catholic religion is not based solely upon Scripture, but also upon apostolic tradition. I can assure you that neither the Apostles, nor the early Church fathers were ‘middle-class’ men, and nor indeed were many of the great doctors of the Church such as St Catherine of Sienna, St Therese of Avila, St Therese of Lisieux and Hildegard of Bingen. It is absolute tosh to assert that women have no place in the decision making of the Church, again could you evidence this?

        3) I’m afraid it’s absolute superstitious and prejudiced belief to state that most of Catholicism’s adherents do not begin to understand the doctrine of their church. Again, I think you need to provide evidence for this, it’s certainly not the experience of priests and catechists on the ground. I find it deeply worrying, not to mention embarrassing for your cause that you are prepared to come on this blog and display such ignorance.

        4) Benefits of religion – I think you need to go away and do some research into the huge amounts of voluntary work, of time and money that is given to society on behalf of religious communities, who provide hospitals, hospices, medical care, to name but a few services in some of the poorest areas of the world. Look at organisations such as Mary’s Meals for example. Do we see equivalent atheist organisations? I’d also acquaint yourself with the work of organisations such as St Vincent de Paul society and look at the huge amount of voluntary work, visiting of the sick etc, that is undertaken by adherents of Christianity to name but one religion.

        However it’s good that you are asking these questions, I am charitably assuming that you are open-minded and not visiting this blog purely to troll.

  2. I do not understand, Mrs Farrow, if as you claim none of your gay colleagues had/has any problem with your views, why should your job be threatened? Also, even if Catholics such as you now feel persecuted for not being able to voice views on the marriage of a tiny segment of the population, this should give you an insight into what gay people had to go through to find or keep employment, having to keep silent about their families, partners, lives… Next time you see a job advertised which you could do with your hands tied behind your back but fear to apply, remember, they do not really hate you, only your ‘sin’.

    1. I am currently self-employed, hence I have no employer, however were I to reapply for my position as cabin crew for example, I would be surprised that an industry in which an overwhelming majority of men are gay, would be prepared to take me on, after having looked at my blog, despite the fact that my real-life gay friends would testify that whilst not encouraging some of their lifestyles, it doesn’t actually disbar friendship and neither do I pass opinion or hector.

      Homosexuality has rightly not been a criminal offence in the UK since 1967, i.e. for the past 46 years and a raft of employment legislation which has been in place for a good chunk of this time, has made it illegal for employers to disbar people on the grounds of their sexuality.

      The Catechism of the Catholic Church abhors unjust discrimination towards anyone on the grounds of their sexuality and explicitly tells Catholics that they need to fight this, something that was recently reinforced by Pope Francis, so one can hardly blame the Catholic Church for the bigotry of secular employers and institutions in the UK, which incidentally, has not been a Catholic country since the Reformation 500 years ago!

      Just because there may have been unjust discrimination in the past, it does not qualify unjust discrimination in the present.

      And whilst we as Catholics are more than happy to accept that people may hate our views, that should not justify hating us as people or denying us employment on the grounds of religious beliefs.

      Just as same sex attracted people should not be considered solely on the grounds of their sexuality, which should have little impact on their ability to perform a certain job, so too should those of religious beliefs, unless of course the job explicitly demands a religious person to go against their beliefs, such as for example, a Muslim applying to be a butcher’s assistant.

      Your response seems to be nothing more that a ‘tit for tat’, well it was done to them, so it should be done to you, which is not the most emotionally intelligent or rational response. As Ghandi said, if everyone went for an eye for an eye, then the world would be blind.

  3. 1. Unless you live in a world where all children have the opportunity to be brought up by their biological parents who lovingly planned them, and this is explicitly being torn from these children by only same sex couples, I can’t see what your objection to same sex couples having the same parenting rights as heterosexual couples.
    2. I’m not clear what you mean with these questions, given that the ‘Fathers’ of the Catholic Church are all males, the decision-making hierarchy is all male, and the priests as community leader representatives are all male. Can you show me where Catholic Church canon law has been made and passed by women? Can you show me even on a local level where Catholic community leaders (and not assistants to the male priest) are female?
    3. Perhaps I’ve just been misled by every Catholic I’ve ever met. As well as following official church practices which I would consider to be deeply superstitious, such as crossing themselves when they pass churches, or praying to dead people to help them by talking to a god on their behalf, they have mixed up local superstitious beliefs, such as screaming when shoes are on a table, or holding pendants over pregnant stomachs to divine the sex. I know this is anecdotal, but witnessing this behaviour in Europe is only a drop in the ocean compared to the mix of beliefs held in Catholic strongholds such as South America. No other branch of Christianity I’m aware of feeds this kind of ignorance, and perhaps I don’t know enough about Catholicism to understand why it does. Few Catholics I’ve spoken to know much about the Bible, but are clearly bound by repetitive ritual, rather than personal understanding Christianity. Perhaps it is different in the circles you move in, or perhaps repetitive ritual is just as valid an expression of religion as the understanding of holy texts.
    4. You’re right that I’ve probably underestimated a lot of the charitable work done by religious organisations. Of course you will realise that any genuinely helpful work is tarred by actions that discourage the use of contraception in areas with HIV problems, or that link the practical work with evangelical actions. I hope that the religious agenda is put to one side and that it is genuinely about helping people.

    1. 1. All children should ideally have the opportunity to be brought up by their biological parents. Whether or not they were lovingly planned is irrelevant to their innate right to life. When same-sex couples use either sperm donors or surrogates to deny children of a birth parent, it is inherently unethical. It becomes all about the rights of the adults, not of the children. Human beings have an innate and instinctive desire to know their family roots and beginnings, it is an innate part of our identity. No child should be deliberately deprived of their right to a natural biological father, worst still created to satisfy the whims of adults. No-one whether straight or gay has the automatic right to a child.

      2. I’m not clear where you are at with your original assertion with regards to all decision making of the Church is made by middle-class males. Can you give me an example of what you are talking about? The ultimate source of Canon law is God, but it includes Natural Law and Divine Law, not all of it being written. It’s rather too complex to go into in great depth here, but that Canon law may have been codified, by men, does not mean that it was actually written by them, nor indeed does it mean that it disadvantages women in any way. Can you give an example of where you feel that canon law disadvantages women – a particular written canon. How in any event does this back up your original assertion that the rules were all made up by middle class men. On a local level, I can point you to several catechists who are women, catechists having an extremely important role in local parishes, and several leaders of local Catholic parish groups who are women. In addition there are several well known leading women Catholic academics and theologians.

      3) You are displaying your prejudices here, obviously you believe that all Catholic practices are superstitious as outline above. I don’t know a single Catholic who screams when shoes are put on the table or hangs a pendant over their belly and I’d remind you that anecdotes is not the plural of data. You seem to have a rather patronising attitude towards Catholics, there certainly doesn’t seem to be much tolerance apparent in your attitude, regarding them as having an inferior intellect or education to yours, especially if they are not in the Western world. I know many many Catholics from South America all of whom are highly intelligent with a deep knowledge and love of the faith, none of whom describe or confuse local superstitious practice as being an integral part of their faith. You seem to be making wide and sweeping judgements about the Catholics you have met which bears no relation to my real-life lived experience, all of whom know their Bible well. Who are you to judge their understanding, especially given that you haven’t exactly shown much understanding of the faith, which you seem to think should be solely based on your understanding, interpretation and knowledge of the Bible.

      4) Re condoms and AIDS, this article on the BBC may enlighten you.

      I don’t think you know very much about the Catholic charities, whom incidentally are the second biggest global providers of care to those with HIV and AIDS.

      1. 1. “No-one whether straight or gay has the automatic right to a child.” I agree with you here, but I see no difference between homosexual and heterosexual couples in relation to adoption (which you haven’t mentioned), surrogacy or sperm donors.
        2. I don’t understand why you won’t acknowledge that all Catholic church leaders are male, and therefore all the rules have been written by men (even if you believe they are divinely inspired). The several local leaders or well known women aren’t in major decision-making roles. As for specific examples that disadvantage women: “a person who procures a successful abortion incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication.” or “Only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination.” or “”Women are ineligible to all civil and public offices, and therefore they cannot be judges, nor hold a magistracy, nor act as lawyers, judicial intercessors, or procurators.”
        3. “I know many many Catholics from South America all of whom are highly intelligent with a deep knowledge and love of the faith, none of whom describe or confuse local superstitious practice as being an integral part of their faith.” I lived in South America for three years. Everyone I met was a Catholic. I suspect you mix with the minority academic Catholics, I’m talking about your average adherent from the billion membership we hear so much about.
        4. Thank you for the link. I’m not sure if you read it very carefully. He did say availability of condoms seemed to increase risk in one area of the world BUT due to lack of proper use (i.e. increased risk behaviour), and, when pushed, he also confirmed that condoms are completely effective in many other areas of the world when used correctly. Nobody is suggesting distribution of condoms in a void of education would be effective. He also made it clear that he enjoys being controversial, and as a minor academic looking for publicity, I think we don’t need to take his attention seeking, yet qualified, agreement with the Pope seriously.

      2. (Reply to violetwep, but there was no ‘reply’ button)

        I seem to have read that article rather differently from you. The Pope said that condoms weren’t working in Africa and that sometimes they did more harm than good. The academic agreed that in countries where condoms were being distributed there was no fall in AIDs and suggested this was because of risk compensation (not inexpert use, as you imply, but because people have multiple partners and more risky sex because they think they’re safe). He then suggested that what really worked was fidelity (which is what the Catholic Church has said all along). He then qualified his statements by saying that in populations condoms did work to reduce AIDs. But he was talking about brothels and sex workers – and the Pope has already suggested that in these situations using condoms could be appropriate – a step towards responsible behaviour. He then qualified his statements further by saying that he personally thought that condoms should be available, but within the context of education about faithfulness (the ABC method taught by the Protestant churches).

        The interviewer then asked him the same moronic questions over and over again about whether condoms could reduce the incidents of AIDs – after he’d just explained that there is no simple answer to that question. As an academic myself I can just feel this man’s frustration with the ‘sound bite’ obsessed media!

        I find it really worrying that this man’s career has been adversely affected by saying what many AIDs workers in Africa have thought for many years. That’s the job of an academic – to start discussions and ask questions – not to give simple pat answers that fit on the back of a journalists notepad!

  4. I did read like tit for tat, I just wanted to highlight the annoying tendency of catholics of saying that they love the sinner yet hate the sin, or that they do not mind gay people, only their propaganda… cue the recent Russian laws. It simply cannot be done… and having as a Christian to shut up about a minor, minor point of Christian doctrine cannot even begin to compare with having to lie about yourself, your spouse, etc.

  5. plus the Roman Catholic church sacks gay people regularly. There were several cases of people losing their jobs straight after marrying recently. Some friends have also been sacked.

    1. Even if this is true, surely we should be working to put a stop to this and establish a principle that your views on sexual ethics should not bar you from a job in the secular work place? Otherwise we’re heading for a real mess.

  6. Lorenzo, Pope Francis only recently made comments on the Gay clergy something like ‘ Who am I to stand in the way of someone genuinely seeking Christ’. There has always been a history of Gay priests in the Church but Pope Francis has just clarified their mission, providing of course they are in full communion with the Vatican.
    I too have seen articles of Gay teachers being sacked from Catholic schools although these seem to be from the US. Providing they were teaching within school \ catholic guideline I can’t really see the justification of their dismissal.
    To finish off there is a Lot of inaccurate assumptions put out by the National Secular Society, who by the way, last time I checked do not offer a right of reply and aggressive Gay rights groups.
    You repeat a lie often enough until you believe it’s the truth.

  7. Caroline, you are a very brave woman. God bless you. I will pray for you and for those who mock our Catholic faith.

  8. I think it is important to remember that our situation in the West is very different from those in more volatile parts of the world. It is why in our parishes we need to support those Christians (Maybe via Aid to the Church in Need). New martyrs are made every day.

    We also have to be aware of the movements in our own society. Having only been a Catholic for a couple of years, I know it doesn’t take long before anti-Catholic feeling raises its head. It has been part of the British establishment since it was created and fed in Tudor times. Although we might not face anti-Catholic riots, like those that happened in the 18th Century, we have to accept that we are not liked.

    We are also in a country where the secular media are determined to push a particular set of views. Where anyone expresses an alternative, they are going to get clobbered.

    Some of the comments on this post show that there are those who think debating is about throwing their prejudice at others, repeatedly, even if worded in different ways.

    Caroline, you think very carefully about everything you right and take a lot of time to set everything out clearly, to consider the other side and present your case articulately. In the current climate this is never going to go well. The ‘liberal’ establishment is liberal until it comes across someone who disagrees. Then they are very illiberal.

  9. Caroline, as I am the tweeter you decline to name, perhaps you’ll let me clear up something that’s been misconstrued.

    I do not insist that all tweeters use only their real name. Where I know the people behind the pseudonyms, I engage with them. Examples are readily available.

    When I don’t know the person behind the profile I do not engage and I explain why. Some get upset, others prove who they are without issue.

    I am well aware that you have seen pseudonymous accounts make unkind unnecessary comments to people, or even as we’ve seen in my own case, blog unkindly about my wife and parish, and set up a fake and very unkind profile for my wife. To date I am told by anyone I speak to about this, such behaviour should not be endured or encouraged. Sadly though, some then go into their shell, or even stay sniggering behind their own pseudonymous profile, justify their behaviour in blogs and conveniently forget the words of Edmumd Burke “all it takes….”

    Fake accounts tend to latch on to others with whom they become friendly. The friends give the fake accounts a credibility which in turn emboldens the faker to behave ever more inappropriately.

    Take for example the tweets to Maureen Clarke by an anonymous account on 21 July. Some of the comments made to Maureen at that time were outrageous, unchristian and juvenile. But while this was going on the account is tagging you in, a “Catholic Voice”, you make no attempt to be removed from the conversation which could be perceived to give said fake account some esteem.

    On 17 August a second account, again anonymous, took a wholly inappropriate swipe at Mary Clarkson when she entered into a conversation with you. Others defended Mary’s words. Your own standpoint was to simply asking for a cessation of the conversation. This might be interpreted as you defending the anonymous account. I suspect you saw it differently but it was the view of the person who pointed me to the exchange.

    After your tweet on the excellence of the Southwark Vocation Service on 15 August, another account took an opportunity to have a dig at Fr Stephen, the director of the service. The account purports to be a former seminarian, even giving a name, however, attempts to reach the gentlemen through known legitimate channels are proving fruitless.

    More importantly Fr Stephen is a friend of Fr Terry Martin, vocations director for the diocese for which Mr Farrow might be ordained, this could prove a little awkward for the two gentlemen who we can be assured work closely together in sharing best practice. Surely it would be appropriate to distance yourself from such anonymous activities.

    You may feel you can dismiss my sensitivities as ‘ridiculous’ but when misfortunes happen to me, my instinct is not to bleat and cry victim but to work to prevent anyone else from enduring the same. If that makes me ridiculous I’ll happily accept the charge.

    As you say, an injustice is an injustice regardless of the semantics. If we don’t speak up, like More, then we are simply in cahoots with the bullying, ridiculing unkind people who employ anonymous accounts for improper ends. I have the parody accounts and screen caps of the deleted blog posts to prove it and look forward to the harping of said accounts should you publish this in your comments box.

    Finally “It cannot be much of a surprise that the majority of non-clerical Catholic tweeters and bloggers employ pseudonyms which they zealously guard” I think if you look you’ll find again the ‘majority’ of these blog posters, who are in fact a minority and simply identify as Catholic, do so for inappropriate use such as sniping and bullying others anonymously which is not something I will align myself to.

    I hope that clears up things there.

    1. Thanks for your comment Deacon Tony.

      You seem to expect me to act as ‘Twitter police’.

      I tweet in the capacity as an individual. I do not have time to be admonishing others for the contents of their tweets, where a conversation makes me uncomfortable I remove myself from it.

      The two anonymous accounts to which you refer belong to real people. While I do not condone all their comments, neither may I be held responsible for them and where a conversation takes a turn I do not like, I put an end to it.

      I would remind you that those two accounts are also followed by other tweeters who engage, including Catholic priests. Are they equally responsible?

      Generally speaking, it is better to deal with issues outside of social media, therefore if I believe someone is perhaps behaving inappropriately, I would deal with it by other means instead of causing a fracas.

      My response was well received by Fr Stephen and I am sorry but I see your attempt to link in others such as my husband as trouble-making and an attempt to create problem and conflict where none exists as well as threatening. The same with a colleague of mine, you are sowing discord and division where none exists, by trying to prescribe what you believe my actions should have been. The best solution to conflict is not to publicly feed it. Removing myself from the situation was the best solution in both cases, making clear as I did, that I was not comfortable instead of pouring petrol on the fire. Re the tweets tagging in Mrs Clarke, I may not have even seen them, that lady is blocked as she has spent every day for the past 6 weeks monitoring my timeline and sending me a barrage of aggressive tweets as well as hectoring me.

      I note you are following my timeline avidly despite being blocked, an activity which is unhealthy.

      May I remind you that as a Deacon of the Roman Catholic Church last year you repeatedly accused me of having ADHD, asked “when are people gunna wake up and smell the Ritalin coming from the South Coast” and said that you had worked with enough children with ADHD to recognise attention seeking when you see this. How do you feel justified in using a condition to pathologise and attack someone you don’t like who had never been rude or unkind to you? How would the parents of those at your school who have this condition feel? How appropriate is it to diagnose strangers of mental health issues over the Internet and then use such presumed issues to attack them? For the record I do not suffer from the condition.

      When one ‘Caral James’ tweeted about Madame being found out, you tweeted in response ‘what other accounts does she have. Let’s screencap the evidence, DM me’. You also tweeted ‘I see people are waking up to the foibles of Madame de Marionnette de Chausette sur le cot de sud, Bon bloody bon”. To whom were you referring if not me? If you believed I was responsible for these ‘sock puppet’ accounts then the Christian action would have been to approach me first, instead of accusing me all over Twitter. You’ll be aware that your holy orders give credence to this.

      For the record I was never responsible for ANY sock puppet account but you used your intuition to join in part of a terrible campaign, claiming that my pregnancy was no excuse ‘she wasn’t pregnant last year when it started’ was your response. Actually in 2011 I WAS pregnant and in any event was not aware of any sock puppet scandal then. The accounts you accused me of having involvement in, tweeted repeatedly when I was on air several times and also when I was in the operating theatre giving birth! The ‘narwhalmaria’ account began tweeting when I was at an Ordination Mass, I remember returning to find myself subject to a barrage of accusations. It also tweeted whilst I was on a diocesan pilgrimage in Lourdes in the company of several people, with no Internet access.

      Shortly after my daughter was born you RTed an Eccles’ post with the added comment in caps “HOW DOES SHE DO IT?”. You later admitted that you believed me to be responsible for Bruvver Eccles. Can you not see your habit of public accusation, having involved yourself for well over 17 months in publicly slandering and accusing a Catholic wife and mother and as you note, the wife of a seminarian, does not fit with your public office?

      That’s before we come to calling another woman abhorrent names like a “skank, a dog, a horse, a venomous and heinous individual”.

      You’ve also repeatedly accused real individuals of being sock puppets and demanded that they provide you with credentials such as real names and addresses and publicly derided them to all your followers. Why should people be obliged to do this?

      There’s the other matter of attacking people of good faith for tweeting prayers, accusing them of false vanity.

      So while out of 50,000 tweets in 4 years a few may not have been great on my part, it is not fair of you to expect me to act as some kind of Twitter policeman and if you are going to take me to task over whom I interact with, you need to do the same with others, including priests, who can verify that people whom you deem fake, are in fact real.

      I would suggest however that policing others on Twitter is not in the cause of the New Evangelisation nor the model of service.

      Recently you referred to two anonymous accounts as ‘pieces of sh*t’ without using an asterisk and then tagged me in to your next tweet as if you were holding me accountable. They were both genuine people of good will, one later DMed me to tell me she had never received any emails that you had claimed to send her and was so upset, she deleted her account. The woman had never tweeted anything aggressive or unkind.

      Perhaps when you rather aggressively refer to my bleating and calling victim, you may wish to consider that having been repeatedly accused of something of which I am wholly innocent upon the grounds of no evidence, and your deciding that I need to waste my time reporting to you, that perhaps I may be one.

      Your aggressive comment here, calling me to task for not getting into further twitter spats and not attacking other people, your attempts to cause and stir up trouble where none exists, not only for my husband but also in my relationships with others, reinforces that.

      I really have nothing else to say Deacon Tony, aside from screencaps of how a Deacon in the Catholic Church repeatedly attacked a woman who was heavily pregnant and clearly distressed, can be provided.

      Through monitoring my timeline you will have been aware of when I gave birth. I was not gratified to receive an email out of the blue (you never told me from where you procured my email address) when still in hospital, 3 days later, following a difficult and complicated c-section, you took me to task for the tweets of other people to whom once again, I did not respond neither had I solicited a conversation.

      That you continue your crusade, attempting to implicate and involve me in a non existent conspiracy causes both me and my family enormous distress along with your trouble making.

      I hope that clears things up.

      1. Dear All,

        I am sorry to come late to this party but wasn’t aware that this issue was still trundling on. I have held off commenting or responding for a very long time but I would like to make the following comments as, for me, the impact has been negative.

        I want to comment in charity and with respect. I try to comment on behaviour rather than on perceived personal characteristics. I have also kept to what I think are facts rather than my judgement upon others. I have kept this as short as possible.

        I am the person referred to here:

        “Recently you referred to two anonymous accounts as ‘pieces of sh*t’ without using an asterisk and then tagged me in to your next tweet as if you were holding me accountable. They were both genuine people of good will, one later DMed me to tell me she had never received any emails that you had claimed to send her and was so upset, she deleted her account. The woman had never tweeted anything aggressive or unkind.”

        Reverend Flavin has, I think, been advised by others that some people have valid personal or professional reasons for having pseudonymous accounts. This applies to me. I do not have tell him why.

        I did not follow this gentleman on Twitter and I was informed that he was calling me names from a protected account which I could not access. I was also informed that certain of his followers were also making allegations about my account. I did not know who Reverend Flavin was before all this. In my world he is not very important. But his behaviour has a public impact and I think he should be aware of that.

        I did not receive any emails from Reverend Flavin because he does not have my email address.

        I have never publicly or privately traduced him. Protesting my innocence, however, does not seem to work!

        I had *one* Twitter account (now, as correctly stated, deleted). I was not a sockpuppet.

        I do not live in either Southwark or Arundel and Brighton and what goes on in those dioceses is pretty much none of my business.

        I had a Twitter account which followed people with a wide range of religious and political views. I think I have the moral and human right to operate on ‘Catholic Twitter’ without interference from total strangers as long as I do so within the rules of Twitter and of civilised behaviour. Reverend Flavin did not communicate with me directly but about me behind my back from a protected account. He now has, I note, a locked blog.

        Some of the people I followed and/or who followed me seemed to be in public conflict with each other. I was not. Whom I follow or RT is my business. It is no-one else’s. I did not RT anything I considered to be distressing to another person. I noted that there were several parody accounts. I did not follow or RT them.

        I had a newish blog which was attempting (naively) to promote the beautiful and the good. I did not know one would be attacked for posting blogposts which were mainly about soppy religious art – but you live and learn!

        Just a correction, Caroline. I did not delete my account because I was upset. I deleted it because I could not see that the harrassment would end once I had been traduced unfairly and once the poison had spread. I deleted my blog for the same reason.

        Finally, I heard a broadcast about the commandment ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’ recently. The speaker made the point that, if you steal someone’s peace of mind, this is the same as stealing material goods. In my opinion, it is often worse.


        Saint Triduana

      2. So sorry St Triduana.

        Your observation about peace of mind is spot on. This whole business has has a similar effect upon me. It is disturbing to be informed that one has been under constant surveillance for at least a year for no discernible reason.

        That you felt it necessary to delete your blog which existed purely for spiritual enrichment is both tragic and telling.

        I do hope that you can reinstate it at some point.

        I have been praying a novena to St Michael with this affair as an intention and holding you as one of the unfairly accused in prayer.

      1. Actually I am beginning to believe that there is a serious problem here.

        3 people have independently contacted me this weekend to let me know that they have been tracked down on the Internet by an account purporting to be Tony Flavin via Google Plus, one person in particular is very concerned about how his email may have been obtained.

        In addition, as I mentioned, I was contacted out of the blue by Deacon Tony when my daughter was 3 days old and I was still in hospital connected up to IVs and catheters, complaining about the content of others’ tweets to me. He has yet to clarify from where he procured my email, it was not via the blog.

        Another lady had Deacon Tony write to her at her home address, after his friend published it on Twitter, much to her dismay. Deacon Tony did not take his friend to task for publishing such confidential information online and neither did he when his friend did the same to me recently, publishing my former surnames, not available online, whilst addressing @frererabit and seemingly accusing a fifty/sixty year old Spanish ex-pat who runs a donkey sanctuary of being me. I sense double standards applying here.

        Furthermore another friend has told me how Tony tracked her down and sent a letter to her work address, something which she found very peculiar and rather creepy and today, another friend has just informed me that she has discovered an email from him from April this year, admonishing her for RTing another account and asking her motivations for doing so. He said he googled her email address and every single person who had RTed, to check if they were real or ‘socks’.

        This is extremely concerning behaviour. Twitter is not so important as to waste valuable amounts of time on, let alone tracking women down in real life, to let them know he knows where they live and work and pursuing a vendetta. It seems verging on criminal activity and that’s 4 women now (in his email Tony mentioned a fifth woman he’d contacted) who can attest to being dismayed and concerned at his tracking them down in real life.

        I do of course have all the evidence to substantiate this as I would not be so irresponsible as to publish false allegations.

    2. I am back on Twitter and wanted to follow up my comment from September 11. Being told I am a ‘piece of sh**’ by a deacon of the Catholic Church had a very serious effect on me. I note that Mr Flavin has never acknowledged this or apologised. He did not address this matter in the blogpost he wrote in response to this post. He has not publicly denied making the comment. I wonder why not?

  10. Mr Flavin has clearly been paying very close attention over a long period of time to your Twitter account, and to the accounts of those with whom you interact.on-line, even after you requested he stop so doing. This is not behaviour that I would expect from a school chaplain.

  11. Deacon Flavin, you are wrong as usual in your claims: “After your tweet on the excellence of the Southwark Vocation Service on 15 August, another account took an opportunity to have a dig at Fr Stephen, the director of the service. The account purports to be a former seminarian, even giving a name, however, attempts to reach the gentlemen through known legitimate channels are proving fruitless.”

    In a Tweet responding to a link to an CH article, I pointed out that the rigorous approach to social life of seminarians did not accord with my experience. Fr Stephen read my Tweet and offered to continue that conversation by email. I declined, as it was a conversation that should have taken place in 2009 when I needed that advice, but it is too late now. Since you have already emailed me with your univited messages, you know very well that I am an identifiable individual (not a sockpuppet) and also contactable so your above remarks are absurd and – as usual from you – a rhetorical ploy without substance.

    In fact Caroline distanced herself from my remarks immediately and Fr Stephen is well aware that there is no connection between my experience, or my views, and her own or her husband’s. Your implied threat above is a disgrace.

  12. You write well and are orthodox. That is enough to earn you enemies. You also have the misfortune to have befriended, in the past, someone who has proven herself unbalanced and untrustworthy. That is sad for you, and even sadder for her. As someone who tried to fight her rages with parody, I have come to the conclusion that such approaches are pointless. This is a “prayer and fasting” situation, and whatever prayer or fasting we do should be accompanied by a total avoidance of engagement with the party concerned. That means not reading her output, however tempting, and ignoring her ludicrous retinue’s provocations.

    I hope you will not let the antics of one disturbed person and a gaggle of miserable lapdogs to cause you to lose heart or peace of mind. Keep writing the excellent blogposts, use Twitter to promote what you write and to engage with the sane majority of the human race, and remember that none of this amounts to anything if it is not helping us to grow in holiness.

  13. Since I wrote my comment above to Deacon Flavin who originally stalked me on my Frererabit email account, he has now stalked me on an old email account which is no longer used by me. The mistake he has made, however, is that account was last used when I was a seminarian in Rome and it will only now be found in my old Southwark diocesan records. Nobody else is aware of that account which has had no traffic for three years, until Deacon Flavin added me to his “circle” of stalking victims two days ago. How was that email address obtained by him?

    I have made a complaint to the Vicar General.

  14. Deacon Tony. I have been advised that it would be a kindness to you to remove your incriminating comment in which you admit that a group of you have been monitoring and watching my timeline since last year, explicitly referring to my account being watched around the time I was due to give birth, behaviour which could well amount to criminal conduct.

    I shall continue to hold you in prayer and hope that you find a more fulfilling way of spreading the Good News of the Gospel in accordance with your ministry.

    1. “I do of course have all the evidence to substantiate this as I would not be so irresponsible as to publish false allegations.”

      Caroline I will ask you a fourth and final time to provide me with the evidence before I select a more public way of contacting you.

      If there is any ambiguity my email address is

      Please do not attempt to persuade anyone you have not seen previous posts awaiting moderation

  15. Maybe it’s been deleted now, but I am told that there was a ludicrous comment on this blog accusing me of being a sockpuppet, fake account, or whatever. I have been commenting on Telegraph blogs since the days before they switched to Disqus (5 years ago?), happy days in which I had never heard of stalking deacons. This should be easy to verify: see for example my moment of glory:

    I have lost interest in Twitter, so, if I can remember my password, will delete that account. Nothing on Twitter smells very well after 6 months, anyway. In the case of some people, it smells bad as soon as it is posted.

    The real Clothilde Simon.

    1. I still have a copy Clothilde, I deleted it in the spirit of generosity. I’ll forward it to the email address you left.

      Great poem by the way 😀 I’d not seen that previously. (Despite the fact that I am secretly you and wrote it, myself being quite so mad. See, look she’s talking to herself again, cluck gibber wibble, hatstand .)

      PS In Sept/Oct 2010, we were in the process of moving out of the Rectory, house-hunting and I was once again in the throes of morning sickness and at university. So time to be commenting on Telegraph blogs and writing poetry, I had not!

  16. Thank you, Caroline. ‘Nuff said, I guess. Saint Michael gets invoked quite a lot round here, too. God Bless. Saint Triduana

  17. Enough is enough Caroline. We have been asking you to prove your comments about Tony Flavin for nearly a year.

    We will give you until Monday to supply the proof or retract. If not we will seek the help of your employer, Catholic Voices and the bishop of your husband.

    1. Loath to give you the attention you so desperately crave “Lauren”.

      As you say, you have been pestering me and hectoring for over a year on my blog, even continuing to do so while I was recovering from a miscarriage.

      I do not know why you believe you are entitled to confidential information, given that I do not know of a ‘Lauren Prior’, let alone the organisation, if any, you purport to represent.

      I suggest that you should seek legal advice as opposed to your repeated threats on my blog, threats which as you will be aware cause alarm and distress and were designed to do so.

      I also note that you have made good on your threats to contact employers etc, which have been treated with the contempt with which you deserve and back up the well documented campaign of harassment of a pregnant woman.

      I am in possession of your IP address(es), I note your service provider is O2 from a static address and certain linguistic traits in these messages give a strong indication as to your identity.

      Any further comments or threats will not be responded to but kept on file and you ought to be aware that your conduct constitutes harassment and will be legally treated as such.

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