Sunday, November 10, 2013


Every time I write a post about the error of reducing abortion to an isolated political issue I hear from at least two types of people. One is the type who says "Oh say you're saying abortion is okay? You hypocrite." The other is the type who says "Excuse me, you coward. Those of us with courage speak out against abortion."

I have had abortions myself and thus know first-hand the excoriating wound: to the child, obviously; to the mother; to the Mystical Body of Christ. Twenty-plus years after the fact, I spent a year healing from, and three months in solitude writing a book about the violence of abortion.

Surely as followers of Christ we are called to speak truth to power in a way that while it may include, also goes way beyond, partisan politics. Surely we are called to an examination of conscience that is going to leave us deeply uncertain and deeply troubled: not on where we stand, but on what we are called to do about it.

Referring to the title of her novel The Violent Bear It Away, Flannery O'Connor wrote, "And more than ever now it seems that the kingdom of heaven has to be taken by violence, or not at all. You have to push as hard as the age that pushes against you."

Love, mercy, and openness to grace are not easy things. They are hard things. They require all our strength, all our hearts, all our minds, and way more integrity and courage than I, for one, often feel I can muster. They require us at times to "hate" our fathers, our mothers, our brothers. They require us to say things that are not going to endear us to much of anyone.

The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence. And the violent bear it away.



  1. Excellent post Heather. So hard to not just go with the flow, to say I was just following orders, to conform with the culture, to submit to being bullied and oppressed and to turn around and do it to those weaker than ourselves - weakness being seen as a weakness and unworthy of any 'right' thinking (self righteous) citizen- in Christ's day we would fit in well with the Pharisees.

  2. I am sorry that people willfully reduce and misinterpret what you say. You have spoken so frequently with nuance and with depth on this topic, that its boggles the mind that anyone could read your thoughts and take away nothing but a political position. You have a radical stance indeed, and one perhaps harder to comprehend in a culture that reduces ideas so that they can fit into one of two camps.

    I think you "include, but way go beyond" in everything you write, and this is what makes your writing so exciting.

  3. As usual I am grateful for your words, pondered, weighed, prayed over and helpful. having said that, I think that thoughtful and nuanced discourse on a public level has ALWAYS been a tough sell. Rabble rousing knee-jerk reactionism rising from pervasive fear is the human condition. it makes you all the more precious. The fact is, we live in fear. And it is difficult getting good conversation out someone who is afraid.
    The medievals were deeply suspicious of popular discourse for these reasons.

  4. The Kindgom of Heaven suffereth violence. And the violent bear it away... that verse itself is not an easy thing to understand, but hard. A great verse for Lectio. I don't pretend to understand fully it's depth; I'd like to hear your thoughts on it sometime. I will say this for you, Heather. You seem to love Christ "violently", and perhaps it is only through such violent devotion that grace, mercy and love can navigate through all the clever ways of men. I am so thankful to read that devotion most every time I come here. (And surely your stance on abortion does not waiver and has been consistently very clear and straightforward.)

    1. Hi Steve, yes, I've read the O'Connor novel a couple of times and am always sort of bewildered/challenged by "The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away." I'm thinking this morning maybe those are two different forms of violence. Heaven is under constant siege from the violence of hatred and evil, and it's defended or stormed by the "violence' of love. The fierce vulnerability by which Christ consented to die on the Cross...Almost all of O'Connor's work is about how grace often comes to us through violence of some kind--the psychological/spiritual violence that knocks us off our self-erected pedestals, that strikes us blind, the way St. Paul was struck blind when he was thrown from his horse...much to ponder....

      Thanks for weighing in...

  5. Bless you all, thank you for bearing with me as I...grope. As I continue to grope. As I just wrote to an email correspondent: "Abortion is of course totally totally wrong, a sorrow, a heartbreak, a monstrous failure of love...but to me I can't think of abortion without thinking of mercy--the mercy that was shown to me by God, by Christ, by Mary, by the Church when I finally came stumbling in. I'm sure my ongoing wound colors the whole subject for me but politics is not about mercy, it's about power, and it's a venue and a system that is never going to be very congenial for me. My model is the Sisters of Life, who quietly, more or less hiddenly, make the MOTHERS a priority--because they know only a very wounded mother would want to destroy her kid"...

    And Fr. Vince, I have always known I should have been born in the Middle Ages! Seriously, I agonize about when and whether to "speak"...I always come back to the Mass, Adoration, daily life is very small, silent, hidden. I'm a huge believer that our hearts, burning for Christ, are what will save the world and I certainly get a chance to practice that as the folks in my immediate circle are almost comically uninterested in the things I ponder in my heart day and night....

    Still, there's another way in which it's so easy to mouth the platitudes, to not "freak anyone out," to not ever make clear what exactly we are talking about, what exactly we are calling ourselves and each other to. I do think it is part of our duty and obligation as Catholics to remind ourselves, e.g., that the United States government has stockpiled enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world, a plan that is not exactly of the Gospels. If for no other reason than also to remind ourselves that our prayer, our fidelity to the Sacraments, our little acts of charity and kindness, our allegiance to Christ are literally a matter of life and death for the entire planet...

    With all that, God is in charge. So on that note, I am going to lie down, listen to the birds, and take a nap...

    Again, thank you all for accompanying me on the journey!...

  6. Your posts are creative and provocative! You always make me think more deeply about something whether I agree with you or not. Life is too simple if you just divide it into pro and con. You go more deeply - I have never commented on your posts but many times I have wanted to - love the photos too! p.s. I am a Flannery OConnor fan also!

  7. Preach it, sister. And do not stop preaching it.

  8. I've read your books and have tried to keep up with your blog and have been a fan for awhile but I must say that you are on a roll lately! There's a lot of things about Catholic Orthodoxy that actually contradict much of what the Republican party espouses and yet to be considered a faithful Catholic, it seems that we must pledge blind allegiance to it. I like you and everything you represent!


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