Last Saturday it was my final day of university. After a wonderful day of morning prayer, Mass, lecture + then a successful off the cuff pastoral plan presentation, and after all the goodbye’s filled with hopeful salutations, I headed off to Spitalfields to meet a friend for food and drinks. We had a lovely afternoon, chatting, catching up with each others lives, and eating healthy delights from that land called Leon. After having been replenished and chatting for an age, we wandered the Spitalfields market stalls and lanes, and decided to pause in the one day instant height of glorious summer sun at the Be At One Bar.
It was happy-hour so we decided to indulge in a little summer happiness by indulging in the two-for-one cocktails – whose name, colour and ingredients had us suspended in a Paradise of English Fizz. We basked in the summertime where the living is easy, on our own little paving slab of hot pavement as others gathered and basked accordingly. The concrete softening. The atmosphere was beautiful – you know those long slow hot balmy days where you just can’t plan the perfectness – it just is – and in the just is – you just are – and its good.
It was for me a meta and a physical location of gentle peace-imbued celebration, whilst pausing on a Threshold defined by a marker of circumstance, situation and atmosphere – you had to be there. It really was a ‘Be At One’ day in life. Two years of my beautiful university coming to a close, pausing and breathing on the Threshold – before a future seemingly un-written. This left me days later pondering upon the words I Am. Note; not I Was (in the past), not I Will Be (in the future), but I Am. Fully Present. Now. Nothing Extra or Less. All.
A little English Fizz, a little balmy joy, and a little Paradise later however and my friend had drunk enough confidence to brand me with an accusation. She accused me of becoming closed-minded and conservative and linked her accusations apparently to my becoming a Catholic, when once in earlier days I was seen as so very open, not at all conservative and not practising a religion. I caught hold of her accusation with lavender hands and I asked her to elaborate. ‘You are un-generous about a [mutual friend]s situation’.
Our mutual friend wanted a child, so proceeded to conceive artificially with the aid of a ‘turkey baster’ with sperm donated by an especially loved and chosen gay couple who were dearest friends. The family now consists of Mummy, two children, a little boy and a baby girl, each who are fathered by each of the men (who are in a committed relationship with each other), and everyone lives together as a happy family unit.
Our other dear friends are two gay women in a married relationship, they have two children fathered in the same way by one gay father who is their beloved friend. He also is in a committed gay relationship and is a wonderful father to his now growing up children. This family lives in two separate homes. They are all bright, highly successful, lovely, happy, Good people, who are cultured, educated and have a rich life with much Love. The children are rounded, well-balanced open, ethical and happy.
My friend called me judgemental and ungenerous in my opinion of how I believe a child should be conceived, I thought about her accusation, and I responded as only I could. ‘I am not judgemental, I am not judging [mutual friend] on her choices, or on her parenting skills, or on the Love she has for her family, but you asked me what I thought about the way the children were brought into this world and I gave you my honest opinion upon your asking, I disagree with the way in which all of these children were conceived. I have no doubt that these children live within a loving, caring and warm family. I have no doubt that these children Love and know Love, but I do not believe this is how children were supposed to be conceived. Natural Law is the Truth. A woman and a man are supposed to come together in intimate union out of deepest Love and respect, and out of their Love for one another, a beautiful and intimate union makes them open to the conception of new life born because of that unique Love.’ this of course was especially difficult for me to say.
I stressed that regardless of what happens to the parents relationship in the future, that child should always know that its very life was conceived from a life of intimate love, and in my opinion, not from artificial insemination, turkey baster style or otherwise. For me it is not acceptable that out of convenience a mother can conceive a child in this way, without authentic intimate Love just because she wants a baby. Of course I should have expected the next question ‘So what about sperm donors? Shouldn’t the people who want to conceive a child (who are not successfully conceiving) be allowed to conceive by sperm donor?’ I say ‘well funny you should ask that question as on the way here on the tube train, I saw this advert;
And I have to say it repels me that you can choose a sperm donor. R’s first wife could not have children, in fact she was the other patient in the hospital with the parents of the first ever test tube baby Louise Brown. Louise Browns parents were successful at conception, R and his first wife were not. However in compassion for other couples in the same desperate situation as them, R allowed for the excess of his sperm to be kept in a sperm-bank to help others in a similar situation conceive. I have never agreed with the donation of sperm, and I have always been absolute in my response to this. Even years later when R and I first met, I still absolutely believed that being a sperm donor was wrong, and I said so, because as far as I can see R could now be a father (unbeknownst to him) and the welfare of his child that he may well have fathered will never be known to him. ~ How could this possibly be just action, responsible or right?
This of course caused further accusations from my friend.
My friend then approached the topic of terminations. She now at the age of 42, has a partner who lives in Dublin and wants to begin a family, he is an Irish man from a traditional family with strict values, but he is a contemporary man. He is employed as a skilled camera man for T.V and film, and a modern thinker. Me and my girl friend briefly discussed the Catholic Church in Ireland, to which I am mostly naive, and my friend in her opinionated way and in her ignorance fed by the British press vocally expressed her dislike, disapproval and prejudice towards the Catholic Church. Apart from the fact that she sees them as anti gay (I put her straight) :O) she also has a different view on abortion. She was absolutely adamant that abortion should be the sole right of the mother, she was adamant that a woman should be in charge over her own body and have the right to terminate that pregnancy in any situation should she so wish. She stated with experience that termination was a very quick procedure to get over, far more than if you were forced to carry-on with the pregnancy and then to have to go through the ordeal of having the child adopted. . . . And then the biggy came . . . and what about rape. . . ?
I of course have the utmost compassion, ‘But my friend’ I said, ‘you have not gone on to experience the birth of your first child yet, and although I do not know from my own experience, I do know that many people who have experienced a termination and seemingly were unaffected by it, do not experience their full bereavement of the terminated pregnancy until their first child is born. I also know of friends who have had terminations and then gone on to lose their very next pregnancy to miscarriage.’
Having been raped when I was 19, I am left with a hypothetical guilt, because I believe in my heart that had I become pregnant, I would at that time of had a termination. To feel violated and to have the product of that violation growing inside of me, would have been too much to bear, and without the support of my family and a close community, and with all the implications of being labeled a single mother, and of having to live with the implications of that for the rest of my life, I am almost sure I would have gone through with a termination at that time. I of course now having had my children would like to think that if I were pregnant from rape, my hormones and feelings of compassion for the life within me, would mean that my maternal instinct would not have allowed me to terminate that life, but having been through my ordeal, I hand on my heart could not be at all sure that this would be the case.
I of course have considered this much and I have an absolute compassion for those very mothers that go on to raise their unplanned children conceived in rape. I often think that had I have been a woman of faith right back then, Mother Mary herself would have been the greatest source of comfort and strength to me, and maybe then with faith my thought process would have been different. But if I am honest, back then my faith was undeveloped and the Virgin Mary was nothing more than a Christmas card character to me.
My dear friend earlier on in the day had waxed lyrical about her tender male house-mate who is an admirable man, who was brought up as part of a religious sect. These gentle people sweep the ants out-of-the-way before any building work can be carried out, so as to preserve all life. She positively gloated about her house-mate, who has found a love of the whirling dervishes, and of their other cultured house-mate who often recites the beautiful poet Rumi. I made a connection between the two, ‘how can you so admire somebody who so cares for even the tiniest life of an ant, and yet so not care for the life of an unborn child, a child that can be terminated after the term that that very same child can live unaided outside the womb.
It was a delicate conversation to have. At one point I thought our evening would come to a quicker end than expected, she was quite sharp and hard towards me. She summed up our whole conversation with ‘since you have become a Catholic you have become so closed’ I said in response ‘No – since I have come to God I have become open – open to natural law and open to life, where once I was closed. Now I am open and you have become closed. And then I gave her my example of entering out through a double portal.
You see I came from a white working class, East End, background – One generation on – living beyond the inner city. My family were all labour voters, no one had ever been to university, my sister was the first ever person to go. I grew up in the 1970’s and we never had a practising faith, we were not cultured. Most people in my area were unaccustomed to ethnic minorities, they were often hard and racist without even realising it. And so when I left school and joined the theatre in London my world just opened up, and I thought it was brilliant. All of my new friends were incredibly educated, open and cultured, they had far fewer prejudices and were alternative thinkers. They were aware of human rights and of current affairs and politics which affected their lives, and they took action and protested against unjust causes, they supported what they believed to be ethical causes. It was great, exciting, empowering and frankly an eye opener, and I couldn’t ever see myself returning to my old dead world. It was by this time the late 80’s and my new circle of friends were conservatives who voted labour for the sake of funding and supporting the arts and this was radical to me, middle class labour voters who were liberated in their thinking.
Then a couple of years down the line shortly after my horrible personal experience, I met my first husband and that is when I decided to settle down and leave the acting world behind me, I of course had withdrawal symptoms, all of my friends continued to live out their lives within that society – still today. I was worried about leaving my artistic world behind me, in which I had discovered all of my educated middle class friends, and I was worried of coming back into the real world, which I considered to be a far lesser world, a world that had previously been bigoted, less well educated and small-thinking, selfish, working class, racist, sexist and everything else’ist .
But that didn’t happen – I came some how through a double portal, and on the outside of the acting world, I coud see that my friends who all thought they were so cultured and radical and so open, actually in their mind-set had cast people outside of their way of thinking, and by default my acting friends made themselves and their lives exclusive, and all others on the outside of it became in an indirect way devalued. Outsiders were judged for their lack of openness without being shown compassion, my acting friends believing that their own society had it right and were just, believed that others had it wrong. And now on the outside I could see clearly – and I could value everyone regardless of their coolness, their class or their outlook, their traditions, their beliefs or their education – the straight school-mums or the square bods – the geeks or the working class narrow thinkers – the everyday salt of the earth and the them’s and the me’s of this world, no one was to be excluded or devalued.
My friends open life-style has bound her choices and her thinking tightly to a world where she has mistaken freedom and openness, for a lack of freedom and a lack of openness. Where the murder of a baby is considered just and yet where the admiration of saving the life of an ant is valued more, and where natural laws have been over-written by mans desires. Her argument and anger and prejudice was pointed at me because she has an issue with my sure stance and she blamed that on me becoming a Catholic. But in Truth most of my views have not changed in years, apart from the fact that I always believed that a woman who was raped should have the right to terminate her child and now I have softened to consider the baby’s rights too.
It is the greatest Law of Love that gives me my sure stance, a stance in God. But at the same time that greatest Law of Love does also cause me questions and difficulties, for e.g. In ancient times before a priest presided over a wedding, if a couple fell in Love bestowed by God, (a Love known and acknowledged through the eyes of their soul), the marriage was committed to by an exchange of personal ‘vows’ between the couple, and lived out by their personal commitment to one another usually before their community. If a hetro-sexual marriage can be known and sealed in this way, then how can that same commitment not be possible for a homo-sexual couple, who Love in the same God bestowed way?
We had a lovely day despite our different views and I was stimulated because I love to converse on the deeper issues of life. We went on to talk about how the majority of our society is under-developed spiritually, and because of this are un-developed morally too, for e.g How can she be angry (and she was angry) at the ungenerous stance she sees me taking on our friends conception, and yet not be angry at somebody taking the life of an innocent child? Despite our personal faith and our different choices, if we all remain spiritually-undeveloped and morally-unchallenged how can we ever make choices that will enrich our own and others lives, choices that allow ourselves to grow. Regardless of whether we practice a traditional faith or no faith, or whether we believe in God, in a higher power, or in no God at all, surely we have to believe that Love is the way. Love that doesn’t judge but that encourages everybody to take the choice of Love at every turn, despite those differences.
P.S (all photo’s are my own taken on Saturday) :O)