Admittedly I’m feeling incredibly vulnerable following yesterday’s post, being ‘outed’ is an uncomfortable experience, but God willing, it could turn out to be something of a blessing.
Firstly I am beginning to feel a little more comfortable in terms of referencing my own very personal experience, which is not atypical of women who have been through an abortion.
It could also turn out to be an opportunity for apologetics.
Those who made the accusation have continued to taunt and abuse, openly discussing my blogpost (which is fine in many ways, if you blog about a personal situation you are putting that information into the public domain) and mooting whether or not I am excommunicated from the Church, whether or not our children are illegitimate (who cares) and indulged in the usual sixth-form pop psychology antics about the amount of guilt that I must be carrying around. How unfortunate, they say, that rules which she tries to impose upon others have got her into such a mess, whereas the irony is that had I been aware of the rules I wouldn’t have got into such a state in the first place! And of course living by those rules has brought me greater peace, contentment, joy and bliss and fulfilment than I ever gained previously, which is why I passionately promulgate them.
One of the reasons that I believe that those who promote an authentic pro-life vision come under so much attack is because time and time again, it’s thanks to that particular Catholic doctrine that attracts so many converts, whether it be through investigating what the Church teaches about marriage, about contraception, family-life or abortion.
My experience of abortion was definitely an enormous part of my journey home as for the first time I truly understood what was meant about God’s most severe mercy. A generic faith in God had never deserted me and bitter experience taught me that Christ’s commandments were not designed by an arbitrary capricious vengeful god, but are there to keep us from harm. I wondered that if the Catholic church was in fact right about abortion, then what else were they right about and why?
It wasn’t the great Damascene conversion, but a gradual process of looking back at my life and seeing those moments, where in retrospect, God was definitely present and planting seeds of grace.
To answer some of the ridiculous assertions, firstly I am not excommunicated from the church. Abortion does carry an latae sententia sentence of excommunication, meaning that one automatically excommunicates oneself from the church upon having an abortion, however one has to be over the age of 16 and aware that it is an excommunicable offence. In addition if you are are forced into it, acted out of grave fear, lacked the use of reason (unless culpably via drink or drugs) then excommunication wouldn’t apply.
It needs to be remembered that excommunication is a medicinal measure, the deprivation of the sacraments is designed to make people bring their lives back into conformity with the church, not cast them out eternally. Regardless of whether or not one was excommunicated for abortion, this is always lifted upon receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, although there are certain reserved sins that a priest needs to apply for permission from the Apostolic Penitentiary in Rome or his Ordinary, in order to absolve you from. Abortion is technically one of those sins which not every priest has faculties to forgive, however in the UK and other countries such as the US there is a blanket permission given to clergy to issue absolution for on the unfortunate basis that it is so common.
Are my children illegitimate? The answer is no, and I doubt anyone really cares. Illegitimacy is historically bound up with inheritance rights and though the church might recognise that a marriage never sacramentally existed, it does recognise that it had civil validity and thus any children are not deemed illegitimate. So neither my eldest child, nor my subsequent children are illegitimate as they were all born as a result of civilly legal marriages.
The Church does not care whether or not children were born within or outside wedlock, every single person is of equal dignity and worth, circumstances of birth are beyond all of our control and no decent person would wish to attack anyone’s children on this basis. Pope Francis has repeatedly called upon priests to ensure that they baptise the children of unmarried mothers and in a personal phone call offered to baptise the baby of a woman who wrote to him in great distress after discovering that she had fallen pregnant by her already married lover. It takes great bravery to decide to keep a baby in a society that looks upon abortion as a desirable solution for unplanned pregnancies.
But here’s the best thing of all, and that is that once you have confessed to having sinned, no matter how terrible or dreadful the crime, (provided that you make adequate reparation through penance and resolve not to re-offend) then you are forgiven. I don’t carry about a hulking great chunk of guilt, because I laid it at the foot of the cross and trusted that it was forgiven. Regret remains, but all of this is a manifestation of Romans 8, 28. The abortion can never be justified, God neither wanted or willed it to happen, He allowed me to make my own choice, however now He has caused good things to come out of a terrible evil and sadness.
It is true that having confessed I felt liberated, I made my confession in Oxford and remember almost floating down St Aldates on a cloud of air, but actually confession is not about how it makes us feel. Sometimes you can go and for whatever reason, not feel wholly forgiven or that perhaps the priest didn’t really take your sins seriously but the whole thing is an exercise in faith and trust. A little like having been forced to make a public confession in fact.
There is a large part of me which feels that having admitted to such a terrible thing, I can never show my face in public again, a feeling which is exacerbated when I see Catholics quibbling over whether or not I incurred an latae sententia, together with their friends who outed the information in the first place, stating that I only confessed for ‘attention’ and I may now regret it as everyone will know that I am excommunicated and my children are illegitimate. It is hoped that I will now face great shame and disgrace.
But my faith tells me that I am a walking lesson in the power of redemption and how Catholics apply the principle of hating the sin but loving the sinner. What I did was undoubtedly wrong, but in common with most post-abortive women, there were several mitigating circumstances. Abortion is murder, however that does not make post-abortive women murderers and I have always been extremely judicious in my choice of language. A murderer, especially if one adheres to the legal definition, is someone who possesses intent. Most women who have an abortion do not have the intent to take the life of a human being, rather they do not see the baby as a life, and tie themselves into Gordian knots of illogicality, aided and abetted by contemporary attitudes and abortion providers. There is a silent unspoken conspiracy between the woman seeking the abortion and those who participate in the act, to obscure the nature of what is happening.
Of course I was misguided hoping that people might now leave me alone, my existence is naturally going to be jarring and dissonant to those who disparage the Catholic church, those who have been laughing about the bones of St Peter and transubstantiation as being sick and hocus pocus.
What self-identifying ‘liberals’ (who are in reality anything but) hate most is grace, repentance and transformation because it assaults them to the core of their being. It tells them that they can change, sin can be forgiven and that God is calling them to repent. Which means that they have to accept that they might be doing something wrong in the first place, a concept which the narcissist cannot cope with. Why does it matter if I consider certain actions to be sinful, i.e. separating from you from God?
I have to be attacked for having once been in a similar state of mortal sin, because to do anything else accepts that their position is not immutable. Admitting that something could be wrong is an anathema. They have to scream hypocrisy because the alternative to is run screaming for God’s mercy.
There’s a certain provenance that all this has occurred on the occasion of the end of the year of faith. Reflecting upon yesterday’s readings, Pope Francis said this in his homily;
Jesus speaks only a word of forgiveness, not of condemnation; whenever anyone finds the courage to ask for this forgiveness, the Lord does not let such a petition go unheard. Jesus’ promise to the good thief gives us great hope: it tells us that God’s grace is always greater than the prayer which sought it.