By Fr Dominic Allain - Pastor Iuventus column 5th October 2012
Reproduced with kind permission of the Catholic Herald
As I walk home across the park there is a carpet of brown dead leaves on the grass for the first time. Our Indian summer is over and autumn and decay are in the air. There is, as the book of Quoleth told us last week, a time for everything and there is no fighting this, not even after a pretty miserable summer.
I find it interesting that in an age which claims to have rediscovered the importance of being at one with nature, respecting the environment, learning to attune to its inner rhythms and celebrating our essential earthiness, there can be quite such a blind spot when it comes to the most primal life force of all. I would bet a great deal of money that many of the “Pro-Choice” activists confronting the Forty Days for Life prayer vigil outside the British Pregnancy Advisory Service in Bedford Square last Tuesday would have strong views on defending the planet but can somehow square these with the destruction they wish to wreak in the womb. It wouldn’t be surprising. It fits into the new morality, one of the mantras of which is the importance of choice.
It seems that choice is the only moral absolute. The object of that choice or even regretting the choice you have made, as something like 75% of women who have had abortions tell us they do, are secondary to the all-conquering right to choose. Since choice trumps ethics and since my choice and your choice may be for different outcomes, genuine “Pro-Choice” activists, you might think would follow the logic of their position and respect those who want to give women choices by proposing alternatives, but if Tuesday night was anything to go by, apparently the more “Pro-Choice” you are the more you have to silence and intimidate the opposition. The mood of the people confronting Forty Days for Life was very ugly. They were determined to drown out the prayer with shrieks and chanting, horns and whistles. They threw eggs at us at one point, apparently. I am not being pious when I say I just didn’t notice. They shouted some pretty vicious personal insults against por-lifers, against mothers, men, Catholics, priests . . . the kind of things that in another context would undoubtedly constitute hate crimes. They hurled abuse at Our Lord and Our Lady and four-letter words at those keeping vigil. None of this will be reported. The media is only interested in painting the peaceful prayer vigil of Forty Days for Life as extremists and political activists. They responded only by continuing to pray the rosary and then the Stations of the Cross. I thought of the story of Karol Wotyla when the Rhapsodic Theatre was meeting in Krakow to resist the destruction of Polish Culture. He was reciting a speech from a Polish epic when the Gestapo filled the square outside with cars with loudspeakers on their roofs. They broadcast news of fresh Nazi victories. They entirely drowned out what he was saying, but he went on declaiming his epic. That’s what the crowd outside the clinic did. They kept on praying, so that when the furious screaming and insults stopped for a moment there was a calm presence beneath saying “And blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus.”
We should stop referring to such people as “Pro-Choice.” It is an Orwellian hijacking of language, for their choice does not extend to allowing someone to express the opinion that abortion is a mistaken choice. If, as they screamed at us, pro-Lifers have no right to seek to impose that choice on others, by what right do they claim to uphold choice, let alone impose their own choice on their unborn children with fatal results to those most vulnerable members of society and deeply injurious consequences to women themselves?
“There’s a party in my uterus and you’re not invited.” they yelled gleefully. Like the unseen demons in Blessed John Henry Newman’s “Dream of Gerontius,” there was coming up from somewhere deep beneath the gleeful bragging a deep desperation; this was not joy but despair which voiced this appalling thought. “Some party,” I wanted to respond, “organized by surgeons, hideously invasive of a sacred space, traumatic and determined above all to see that your child is unwelcome there and must be fatally ejected.” But I didn’t, partly because the tactics ofForty Days for Life, whatever you read in the Guardian, are entirely peaceful and non-confrontational, and because fools rush in where angels fear to tread. These are men and women deeply traumatized by abortion –their own or those they have complicity in, or those for whom they were made complicit by ties of love - brothers and sisters, children, grandchildren they were never allowed to know. The trauma goes on feeding off itself as they scream abuse and hatred to prove that they have not been damaged by abortion, that it’s no big deal, that it’s a consumer choice without consequences. It is impossible not to feel sorry for them, despite the increasing ugliness and intolerance of their tactics.
For the kinds of things they were shouting are the desperate projections of their hatred of themselves, their anger with their choice and their grief. “Keep your Eucharist off my uterus,” “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries,” were their other favourite taunts. These combine the prejudice of old-fashioned protestant No-Popery with something deeply pathetic. It is in their own imaginative landscape that there lurks the terror of a strange and irrational connection between the Eucharist and their wombs or the rosary of the Mother of God and their reproductive organs. At a level below the rational and conscious they know that something which ought to be beautiful and life-giving has become something which feels untouchable, cut off from the realm of the spiritual, from the sacred. If they were alone and still for long enough the I think the cry would be “There is a wake in my uterus, a crying emptiness and I am protecting myself from its silence and its sorrow with anger and activism.” That’s why the sisterhood must band together for this show of strength. That’s also why I think this Forty Days for Life campaign is so worthy of support. It literally speaks the mystery of life in Mary’s womb and invokes the name of the child to whom she gave shelter and welcome so that He might bring the infinite power of His paschal love to where it is so desperately needed and so paradoxically feared.