If I loved my children

Helen Lewis-Hasteley of the New Statesman asked me to contribute to her article on the hate mail and threats received by female bloggers, as we seem to be particularly prone to receiving threats of a sexual nature.

The article is here, but the one thing I did note, is that although I do receive a fair amount of threats relating to sexual violence, threats of general violence are by no means limited to men. Some of the most hateful stuff has been written by women, but women by and large tend to articulate their violent reaction in a different way.

Whereas men seem to want to express their rage in the form of sexual violence, women articulate in it a way that often seems more carefully crafted. Using the metaphor or analogy of a missile, the comments that allude to rape and sexual violence are the equivalent of being at the receiving end of a boulder pushed off a cliff, as depicted in cartoons. Like Wile E Coyote, the sexual jibes knock the stuffing out of you, you are flattened, crushed but spring back into shape pretty quickly, ready to carry on. There is a comic element to men who are obviously so sexually inadequate and insecure that they seek to project the contents of their twisted fantasies onto you, and though desperately unpleasant to read, I wonder if it’s the emotional equivalent of a safety valve, perhaps that’s how they get their jollies, dishing out sexual abuse in a purely anonymous fashion. The worry is always that they won’t be able to keep their fantasies in perspective. If describing how they would like to commit sodomy or other vile acts (I confess to having to reach for the dictionary on occasion, not understanding what noodles had to do with anything) means that I save someone else from receiving the filth, who is less able to take it, that’s all well and good. I’ve set up a pretty effective spam filter in any event, which means that I’m no longer subject to it on a daily basis.

I wonder whether or not I might be hardened to it by my time spent as cabin crew? I remember once a customer filled out a comments card with the following immortal phrase:

“I thought that air hostesses were supposed to be good looking but that Caroline is a complete dog”

My manager suggested that I didn’t submit the card to head office, and checked I was alright, but I was happy to let it go through. The passengers on that particular route were known to be an unruly bunch (Ibiza charter, taking off at midnight on a Friday & Saturday night, giving the young revellers the opportunity to spend all night in the airport pub) and I wanted management to see the level the grief that the crew was subjected to.

I remember recording the following on a flight report, after an incident which had culminated in the Spanish police (who incidentally take no nonsense whatsoever, on they charge with batons aplenty) coming on board to arrest an unruly passenger.

“I asked the passenger if he could put his shoes on for take off , as he was sat next to the exits in an ABP seat. He replied in the negative and told me to get f*cked. I politely explained that if he didn’t put his shoes on, I would need to move him due to safety regulations, but that he could take his shoes off again immediately after take-off. The rule was, I said, for his own safety, whereupon he kicked me in the face and said “suck my toe b*tch”.

Ironically one female commenter felt the need to make the following comment in relation to my post. I have tried to respond, but the New Statesman seems to have a problem with its comments facilities.

I wouldn’t wish for one of your children to turn out to be gay – their sexual orientation will be what it will be, and with a homophobic parent like yourself, a child who’s lesbian or gay will have a much unhappier adolescence than any child should have. But it’s possible, if you love your child, that your love for your lesbian or gay child might just change you so that you were no longer homophobic.

Or less so, anyway.

So, surprise surprise, I am “homophobic”. Yawn. She has clear and concrete evidence that I wish to inflict hurt, harm and hatred upon people with same sex attraction as well having a deep-seated terror.

She knows exactly what my reaction will be if my childen express any tendencies towards same-sex attraction when they are younger. I suspect the reality is that my attitude would be infinitely more open-minded and compassionate than hers. For the record I will be encouraging my children to abstain from sexual activity until they are married and I will try my hardest to prevent them from engaging in any underage sexual relationships regardless of sexual orientation.

Furthermore if any of my children profess to having a crush on another woman, I wouldn’t encourage them to jump to any conclusions about what their sexual preferences might be, as my understanding is that adolescence is often a time of conflicting sexual feelings and emotions. I certainly wouldn’t be in any rush to pigeon hole them into any particular category, because there is a lot more that defines us as people than our sexual preferences. I would encourage them to wait until they are older and have had more general life experience before jumping to any hasty conclusions or doing something that they may later regret.

I would not tell adolescents who thought they might be gay, that they were evil, but would advise about not allowing oneself to be driven by or indulge sexual feelings. I would encourage my children to wait until adulthood before coming to any conclusions and hopefully, if they share my faith, help them to find ways of finding comfort and support. If they reject my faith, they will still be my children and I will still love, support them and be there for them, even if I cannot condone or sanction the decisions they make as adults. Pretty standard parenting stuff all in all.

But no, if I really loved them, I would change my attitude. Sexual satisfaction and romantic relationships are the only path to happiness. Encouraging appropriate sexual behaviour will deny adolescents of their rights to be happy which may only be found via sexual relationships and sexual confidence.

It’s possible that I don’t love my children, and even if I do that won’t be enough and I’ll still have this abhorrent attitude that needs to change. Who said tolerance was dead and who said that the only kind of damaging comments were threats of sexual violence? And just about everyone missed the point that homosexuality was being used as a weapon in the threat to which I referred. Ouch.

Cranmer’s Law

Archbishop Cranmer has to be quite my favourite blogger, even if His Grace is something of a heretic *. Today he has defined and articulated the phenomenon to be known hereafter as Cranmer’s Law:

“No matter how decent, intelligent or thoughtful the reasoning of a conservative may be, as an argument with a liberal is advanced, the probability of being accused of ‘bigotry’, ‘hatred’ or ‘intolerance’ approaches 1 (100%).”

This blog was founded upon the precepts of Cranmer’s Law. Fed up with being unable to discuss any sort of moral issue on internet forums without being called a homophobe, hateful, intolerant and subject to personal abuse, I then set up this blog, so that I could discuss things in a reasonable and rational fashion, on my own terms, without constantly being subject to abuse and incorrect labelling in an attempt to personally discredit and shut down debate.

As Cranmer says:

Thus is the level of political discourse in modern Britain: every contentious issue, no matter how worthy of scrutiny or debate, is swiftly closed down with threats of a fatwa or observable character assassination

Indeed. What people have failed to grasp with me, is that on the one level here is someone who appears to be warm, amusing, intelligent, witty and (I hope) kind. When Robin and I became engaged, I was staggered at some of the comments from my former work colleagues. “I can’t believe you’re going out with a vicar, you’re far too much fun”, or “but you don’t LOOK like a vicar’s wife, you don’t wear Laura Ashley, puffa jackets, flowery skirts and you’ve got nice teeth”, or even the staggering “but you’re really pretty and sexy, you CAN’T marry a vicar”. That’s right, because obviously being a clergyman means that one is so utterly dour, devoid of any sort of a sense of humour and generally boring, it is absolutely inconceivable that he may be able to attract a vivacious spouse with a mind of her own. Actually both of us found it rather amusing, particularly given that Robin had some  very beautiful, highly intelligent girlfriends in the past, at least one of them enjoying a high-flying career. Why does a love and desire to serve God in whatever way He may be calling entail a un-prepossessing spouse?

This blog is mine and mine alone, my husband has very little to do with it, other than to occasionally read it although I am careful not to say anything that could reflect badly or undermine any future ministry. What people have failed to understand is that I don’t just toe the party line, so to speak, my views are honestly, avowedly and straightforwardly held, I haven’t been coerced or brainwashed in any way. As a matter of fact, I was a practising and faithful Roman Catholic before my husband. My views just don’t tally with the side of me that appears reasonable, rational, intelligent and fun, therefore if I have not been brainwashed (which some people seem to refuse to believe, it must be the only explanation) then I must be absolutely stark raving mad. There’s something wrong, no “normal, nice or sane” person could be a Catholic, so it’s much easier to write me off as mentally ill, that’s obviously the answer. I must be psycho analysed and stuck into a box in order that I can’t actually challenge anyone or my views be allowed to gain any traction.

This is why we see non-Christians attempting to define Christianity and what they believe it means, in order to deflect the notion that they might in fact be the intolerant ones. Christianity is this vague touchy-feely religion all about being nice to each other and never daring to criticise anyone else or cast any sort of judgement upon behaviour, because that’s “not nice”. Anyone who claims to be genuinely concerned about the spiritual welfare of others is simply using that as subterfuge for their own inherent bigotry or unpleasantness. No Christian who is opposed to same-sex marriage or parenting, women’s ordination or abortion is a nice or likeable person, unless, in my case, they are either mentally ill, brainwashed or both. These views cannot be accepted as being the product of rational thinking and must instead be attributed to deficiency of character.

Cranmer should win the Orwell Prize for his entry this morning. He won’t however. He’s far too much of a “bigot”.

*Note, no-one was more excited than I when Cranmer announced his intention to join the Ordinariate on 1st April. I gave thanks to God, excitedly texted everyone I knew and danced around the kitchen. I still haven’t quite got over it.

The smiling face of evil

Dr Evan Harris and Nadine Dorries were interviewed by Sky News yesterday.  I watched the clip of it first thing this morning and was so incensed, I made the fatal error of tweeting in haste, calling Dr Harris “the smiling face of evil”. I have not heard the end of it from his supporters. I did apologise to Dr Evan Harris, unfortunately the 140 character medium of Twitter does not allow for nuance, his response was to call me “un-Christian”, retweet my sentiment (which was never directly addressed to him) to all his followers who piled in, and then retweet a selected part of my apology, together with his response of “Yabba, Yabba, Yabba”. Not the most reasoned discourse one would expect from a former Member of Parliament.

As I said, it was not the most judicious of tweets, sometimes in my passion I forget that one needs to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. I will explain what I mean in very simplistic terms. It is worth bearing in mind, that a basic definition of evil is the opposite of good, or from a Christian perspective, God. The killing of the vulnerable, be they unborn children, the sick, the disabled or the elderly, even when carried out with the best of intentions, still constitutes an evil act, given that it is in opposition to good, or indeed God. Most people, regardless of where they stand on the pro-life spectrum, would not consider the act of abortion or euthanasia a good thing. How may the desperate act of a woman who feels that she has no other option than to prevent her child from being born, be a good thing? How may the act of a person who feels unable to cope with the poor quality of life afforded by a debilitating condition that they have no other option than to kill themselves, be described as good?

Objectively, one might be able to argue that it is “good” that these options exist, however that is not a point of view that I share, nor do I feel that the individual acts of abortion or euthanasia are anything but an occasion of sadness. They are, by my definition, evil both in secular and theological terms. Dr Evan Harris is a pro-abortion and voluntary euthanasia activist. He campaigns to make voluntary euthanasia legal and for looser regulation surrounding abortion, policies which are an absolute anathema as far as I am concerned. Whilst I do not know enough about Dr Evan Harris that warrants describing him as an evil man, I do believe that the policies which he advocates could be described as evil without stretching the imagination too far. By describing him as the “smiling face” of evil, whilst not casting judgement upon his motives which, in the absence of any personal knowledge about him one must assume are sincerely held, or casting judgement upon his personality or his immortal soul, I meant to convey that he is the poster-boy for something that is evil and/or bad. I apologise for any implication that he himself is evil. I am not a moral relativist and cannot hide my abhorrence and repugnance for these acts which derogate humanity.

What rankles hugely is that by describing him in an injudicious fashion, Dr Harris, the avowed atheist, has accused me of being “un-Christian”. Whilst I am undoubtedly sinful and full of imperfection, Christianity requires the identification of those things which are good and those which are bad or evil. Christ himself was not afraid to call things for what they were. Those who talk of Christ as being a hippy figure with nothing but peace and love seem to forget the Christ who overturned the tables of the money lenders in the Temple and drove out them out with whips in furious, but righteous indignation. Of course, by mentioning this, I was informed by someone else that I was “comparing yourself to Christ. Special”. Absolutely not. I aim to be a disciple of Christ and follow His teaching, I don’t try to imagine that I am Christ, but I do try to model my life upon Christ’s in as best a fashion as I can.

I have been besieged by those today who are assuming that my pro-life stance is as irrational as they consider my faith. Once again I reiterate that a pro-life stance is a perfectly logical philosophical stance which requires no recourse to theism. For those who insist that the bible makes no specific mention of abortion, I would note that neither does it mention other issues that are considered wrong or immoral by Christians and atheists alike. There are several passages in the Bible in which God’s love for the unborn child is enunciated, the most famous being Psalm 139, 13-16 and Jeremiah 1, 4-5.  Plus there is the not insignficant matter of the fifth commandment.

Whilst blogging, Red Maria found me this interesting quote from Dr Evan Harris, (column 260), during the 2008 debate on the lowering of the abortion limit. When discussing the subject of an aborted fetus being born alive, Dr Harris suggests that the sight might be distressing to some people, implying that most people would not find the sight of a fetus dying at 20 weeks distressing. He very carefully avoids referring to the unborn child as such, not even using the more medical term of fetus, preferring instead the description of an unborn child as “an abortion”.  To suggest that the natural response to witnessing the death of a 20-24 week fetus should be one of clinical dispassionate detachment is chilling.

I went to see the controversial speaker Michael Voris last week, who reminded Catholics, that they should be aspiring to sainthood now, in this life, not to become the dusty relics to whom people will pray in 300 years time, for the healing of one’s foot. Like a saint, I aim to be transparent to Christ, meaning that His love may shine through me and lead others to Him. Given the amount of vitriol I’ve faced today, I’ve clearly failed in that task, something which I regret and from which I will learn.

But I will not apologise for either my pro-life stance or my identification of the killing of vulnerable people as being evil – such a stance requiring no religious belief whatsoever. I will also not apologise for or be embarrassed about my faith. Although I do intend to avoid causing undue offence and making personal remarks. I am sure Dr Harris would agree with the notion that liberalism entails freedom of thought and speech, even if those ideas and words have the potential to offend other people.

Dr Harris has finally accepted my apology and jocularly granted me “absolution”. I trust my penance for a hasty tweet was the sheer amount of flamers and trolls I received yesterday. Dr Evans suggested that my response should be to turn the other cheek. He may be right about that but nonetheless, I am not afraid to make a defence for the hope that I have within me.

Beware of lies

The twitter user who had said false things about me has apologised for the hurt she caused me in relation to what she publicly concedes were the untruths about my family and my finances which of course she could not substantiate. I have apologised to her for questioning her sanity.

I was going to remove the post, but as I closed the Guardian CIF page where she clearly alludes to and defames me, I re-read what she said. She accused me of persecution and lies. Anyone who reads my blog regularly or follows me on Twitter will know that up until today I have kept my silence and ignored her as not to give her credence.

However, given I was publicly accused of telling lies and persecution, I’ll let the reader be the judge as to who was the real victim of tweet and blog trolling, not to mention untruths.


It’s all the same though. I’ve read blog after blog accusing those who are pro-life of being propaganda peddlers, supporters of eugenics. I’ve read attacks on Diane Abbot, suggesting that by supporting a woman’s right to choose, she is going against her “people” because of the high number of women from Black British backgrounds who have had termination, using the word “holocaust” to describe it.

And yet these same people, in the very same paragraph, speak about how their opinion is the only RIGHT way – that pro-life is all about fluffy bunnies and happy endings. They talk about LIFE offering impartial counselling, but cannot accept that a pro-choice organisation could be similarly open minded about options.

I support choice – whatever that choice might be. I don’t think people who think abortion is wrong need to change their opinions, because I think if we lost a strong pro-life voice from our society, it could lead to abortion on demand. What I DO object to, is the hysterical screamings from the anti-abortionists (and I make a very definite distinction between pro-life, and anti-abortion) which are full of hypocrisy. These same people shout from the rooftops when they feel their right to raise their own family without state interference is being infringed, but they think nothing of heaving their weight around when it comes to their “moral duty” to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of unborn babies, and effectively tell other people that they MUST become parents because it’s the ONLY RIGHT WAY.

But the very worst thing of all of this, is the LIES they tell. I mean really, it’s utterly breathtaking. I had to stop discussing this in the past, because of persecution by a anti-abortion fanatic, which started to impact on my own family life, such is the ferocity with which they will campaign against those who disagree with them.

It actually scares me. Really really scares me.

It scares me too. Enormously. Such is the ferocity of those who cannot stand challenge, that they project and distort. It scares me how dirty people are prepared to fight in the name of “choice”. We fell out after she found it acceptable to tweet and blog about my family. As she notes in one of her blogposts when attempting to parody me she says “Hey buddy only I get to choose whether or not I can use my personal circumstances to further my point or elicit sympathy from bystanders when I can’t think of anything else to say. Subjects that induce the rage are children (or lack of them), personal income, private education or anything else which indicates why they might be taking a particular angle on something”.

She is right: only I get to talk about my children, in a way that is entirely appropriate, only I decide which bits of information, if any, I want in the public domain. I tend to be quite circumspect about what I say about my children for obvious reasons. I have however learnt that any information that you put out there, is considered fair game and that in their desperation to discredit you, people will make what may be charitably described as suppositions or assumptions without any sort of fact checking and present them as truth. To use an assumption as an attempt to score a personal point in an attempt to discredit is a tactic used by someone who has run out of ideas. Of course it is unacceptable to blog about another person’s financial and personal circumstances when you know nothing about them and when that person is not a professional politician, but one blogger and tweeter out of a multitude.

Whatever her motivation, as she accepts, this action was wrong, hence why she apologised and removed. I have absolutely not persecuted her, a simple check on Twitter will verify that, I only know her real name which I have not divulged, I have no idea as to her address or email address so I am unsure as to how I am supposed to have launched a campaign of persecution that has impacted on her family life. Up until this point she had been ignored. I should also mention that during this period, particularly during Lent, I pared down online activity. I had a traumatic cesarean birth which took quite a bit out of me as indeed did the demands of 2 babies 17 months apart. My primary focus was and still is the demands of my family. I blog in my precious spare time.

If we fell out, it had nothing to do with the pro-life cause. The lies some people will tell are indeed breathtaking.

I won’t Fisk the rest of her post, it speaks for itself.

EMA, Marriage and “Emancipation”

I had a slight online altercation with Johann Hari on Twitter earlier this week. Altercation is probably too strong a word, more like I insinuated that his stance was slightly foolish, he attempted to justify it and then he ignored me. Quite right too. I have to confess to a shred of disappointment that I didn’t join that elite band of Tweeps who he has blocked – “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers”…

Mr Hari had, in his infinite wisdom, exhorted his followers to join a Facebook group entitled, “I would happily sacrifice my married couples’ tax allowance to save the EMA”.

The logic behind it being that EMA currently costs the treasury £500 million per annum with the proposed married couples’ tax allowance estimated at £550 million per annum. I don’t feel particularly inclined to discuss the EMA issue, other than to note that it seemed like a charming piece of naivety to assume that the coalition who are ideologically opposed to EMA, faced with an electorate who were declining a potential tax benefit, would say, “you know what, not many of our voters are that interested in receiving their £150 per annum, so let’s just keep the EMA after all”. They’d still cut EMA regardless.

The other point that this group failed to grasp was that the £150 a year, which they quantify in terms of buying married couples a Big Mac a week between them, compared to the resources needed to attend FE, is not about providing a financial incentive to marriage. What David Cameron appears to be wishing to do, is to provide married couples with a reward, for society to grant some recognition, no matter how small, to the contribution that marriage makes to society. Whether or not this is some sort of misguided sop to attempt to appease his core voters as well as an attempt to give a nod to the religious communities who all strongly advocate marriage, particularly in terms of being the most stable environment in which to bring up children, is a matter of conjecture. Whether or not it is a worthwhile use of resources is an entirely different matter and one on which people may draw their own conclusions.

The opposition would do well to avoid claims that it’s an attempt to bribe people to get married or stay in abusive relationships; £150 will probably buy you a wedding cake and marriage licence, but that’s about it, certainly not enough to make couples commit to marriage in their droves. Equally no woman suffering from domestic abuse is likely to be swayed to stay in that relationship by the offer of £150. Many women in those situations (and I am loath to employ generalisations on this topic) are not likely to be in control of their finances and thus £150 will make no odds. I should imagine that when fleeing one’s home to a refuge with your children, taking the bare essentials, that lost £150 or Big Mac per week is going to be the last thing on one’s mind. What many detractors to the Married Couples’ Tax Allowance are against, is the idea that society might reward or recognise marriage as being the ideal, which conflicts with their personal ideology and situation and allegedly “judges” those who are not married. If the Opposition are going to fight this, they need to make a serious economic case, instead of anti-marriage rhetoric and talk of forcing women to stay in dangerous relationships. There needs to be dialogue about whether or not this would amount to unfair penalisation of single mothers and whether or not the government should legislate for private morality; not reduce the argument to a banal statement about whether or not married couples need an extra burger a week, side-stepping the entire issue.

The group itself is disingenuous in its objectives, and Johann Hari short-sighted in promoting it. When I probed him on it, he unsurprisingly patronised me by informing me that it was in the Tory party manifesto and that I needed to do some research on it. Rightyho then Johann, let’s just assume that most folk on Twitter expressing some sort of political opinion didn’t bother to acquaint themselves with party manifestos. Given that there currently is no Married Couples’ Tax Allowance for the under 75s, it is simply being discussed as a possibility in the next budget, it seems rather daft to be renouncing something that you don’t actually have. Makes you look, dare I suggest, a touch stupid.

My other niggle was that given Johann Hari is neither married or in a civil partnership, I take umbrage at him strongly suggesting that people should volunteer to relinquish a tax benefit that he himself would not be party to. “I want you to give up your extra £150 for students in FE, but I’m not going to because I don’t get it anyway”. Although, if I’m honest, I’d probably bristle at any well-paid commentator for a national newspaper telling me to give up money, given that I’m in less of a position to be able to afford it. The statement lacked integrity. His response to this was “but my taxes are going to be used to pay the new subsidy”. Sorry to let you in on a teensy wee secret Johann but death and taxes are a fact of life and there will always be disagreement as to how taxes will be spent. I’m also a taxpayer and there are plenty of things that I cannot abide my taxes going on. A democracy elects a government whom they hope will best represent their wishes on how to spend taxes and manage the economy, amongst other things.

The aspect that riled me the most however, was the attempt to rally political activism by means of a Facebook group. Don’t get me wrong, the internet and social media are extraordinarily useful tools in building online communities, gathering together support and fellowship and hopefully building coherent groups, but they are only a part of the story, only part of the armory in achieving real social and political change, no matter what one’s cause or ideology. To rely too heavily on the internet, be it blogs, social media, or both in combination is to waste opportunity. Though I find Twitter immensely useful in terms of keeping abreast of developments and in forming useful relationships and finding Catholic fellowship; one major drawback, is that too much time reading a liturgical blog can, if one is not careful, detract one from reading the source material itself. One picks up bite size chunks of this and that, without ever reading the text in its entirety, meaning that one is unable to form critical judgements, only gleaning from the opinions of others.

Reliance solely upon social media, risks, as the Pope said this week in his message for the 45th World Communications Day, enclosing ourselves in a parallel universe, and must not replace authentic human encounters. In terms of political or social activism, it can encourage laziness. In terms of spirituality it must not replace prayer or meditation, instead providing aids, such as the Universalis application, for example.

If we examine how social change has come about throughout history, it has been through cogent protest, demonstration and activism. What has had more impact, the student demonstrations and occupations, or an online protest group with say 1,000 members? It’s one thing to spout polemic on the internet, another thing to actually get up and do something, whether that be to protest, or to practically help those in need, instead of simply talking about them. Same applies for Christian spirituality. It’s not enough to go to Church every week, you need to actually live your faith by word and deed, proclaim and live the Gospel, not just tick the weekly Mass obligation box.

It is not enough to simply click “like” or “join” on a social media group and feel like you’ve done your job, if change is what you desire. The internet is not “the means of human emancipation”.

Which is why, Johann Hari, I found your exhortations more than a little lame.