Saturday, July 28, 2012

40 Days for Life in England

I read this article today in Human Life Review. Sorry the articles in this publication are not available online, as it is a subscribe-only journal. The old-fashioned kind that arrives in your mailbox. It is published four times per year and is loaded with excellent articles on life issues.

The article was written by Pastor Iuventus, which is the nom de plume of a priest who writes for the London Catholic Herald. This article was printed on April 6, 2011.

Standing for Truth in Bedford Square

The Guardian, champion of the marginalised, described it as having a "carnivalesque" atmosphere. Well, I suppose so, if your idea of fun is trying to make sure that no voice but your own may make itself heard, and you find it amusing to insult and ridicule the religious sensibilities of one of the country's minority religions.

The newspaper was referring to the "stand-off" which took place on Friday evening in London's elegant Bedford Square. The 40 Days for Life group was winding up another campaign for peaceful witness and prayer with a vigil attended by Bishop Alan Hopes, auxiliary in Westminster. The vigil was confronted by an angry group of "pro-choice" activists who objected to their presence and tactics, which, as anyone who has had anything to do with 40 Days for Life will know, are entirely peaceful, non-confrontational and respectful of women.

Hearing the baying and insults of the crowd I don't think it is being fond to say that all I could think of was Jesus before the Sanhedrin and Pilate. It felt like a confrontation about truth. All who are on the side of truth must expect such opposition - and more. I don't know what I expected to feel, but after the initial shock of the hostility I began to feel quite calm. I wasn't there as an activist in any political sense. It wasn't about protesting or winning. I was there to pray as an expression of a desire to listen to the voice of truth and literally to stand there to advert to it. Confrontation was inevitable not because these were evil people or because of the strength with which they expressed their views, but because our peaceful presence drew their fear and anger, which are painful reminders of their own feelings about the abortions they have had. In reality, their "choice" was under no threat whatsoever but it is, in reality, as vulnerable as hell to the truth - and that was what drew their reaction. We needed to be there not in any political sense of confronting them with a show of strength, but to witness that truth does not "empower" you. You can concur with it, witness to it, be a victim for it, but you can never control it or silence it. Jesus left such an example, for he allowed distortion of the truth apparently to prevail in order to reveal the inner impotence of anything, however powerful, but truth. What is truth? Jesus cannot engage with this question by Pilate for much the same reason that one could not engage with the crowd screaming at us last Friday night. He can just manifest that it is there, that he is it. With his last breath he will manifest it, because if you cannot recognise your need to engage with the truth when it is literally standing before you, what is the chance that someone's clever arguments will convince you?

And there, before both groups last Friday night, stood the shocking truth: an abortuary. Not a women's gynaecological hospital, a women's crisis centre, a refuge for abused or pregnant women, but a facility which exists to kill children who are not required, who are inconvenient or unwelcome. What is truth? That this is a place where women are "empowered" by choice or that this is a place of death? Nor can it be allowed that the "choice" is one between having a baby and not having one. It is between having a baby or having the most appalling invasive intervention to destroy that child within you, with all the concomitant hormonal, physical, and psychological consequences of dealing with pregnancy, the genesis of new life, as though it were a medical crisis like cancer. One of the "pro-choice" women opposite us described that action on her blog as "a minor medical intervention." Whatever your take on "choice" this is a simple denial of truth.

The underlying realisation of this by the pro-choice demonstration was hard to miss, for the truth cannot be silenced, not even by our own conscious minds. A slogan like "Keep your Eucharist off my uterus" is tragic, for in psychological terms it is a projection of what these women fear in the depths of their hearts they have done: that they have made their wombs, which were sacred tabernacles of life, places where they fear nothing holy, nothing life-giving, now may have place. By screaming at a group of people praying as though their prayers would somehow touch them in that intimate area they were telling us in the most shocking way how they felt about the "minor medical intervention" - in reality, an appalling invasion of that sacred space - which they subconsciously regretted submitting to. In truth their cries, did they but know it, were directed against the very clinic they were "defending."

Every so often they would lapse into silence, and there would remain just the quiet sound of a crowd of 400 or so saying: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners ..." Truth sounding out falsehoold. Then their silence began to speak of the desperation, the sorrow, that lay so immediately behind the anger, so that they would quickly rouse themsevles again to trying to drown out the prayer with cacaphony.

The unborn need our voices to remind those who would destroy them of what they are doing. And those who have done so need our witness to draw their anger so that they can begin to see its real source and object - their much vaunted "choice." We must love them and pray for them. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

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