This post is written by a very brave woman and dedicated to all of the other brave women and men who hold their ground publicly, in the face of adversity, to protect and support our right to choose. Sometimes they do it ideologically, by literally standing at a clinic for what they believe in. Sometimes they do it physically, by putting their bodies in between patients and protestors. And sometimes they do it spiritually, by denouncing hate and judgment in the name of religion and replacing it with love and acceptance. With her permission, the following is a post that Cindy Nolan, founder of Faith Action on Behalf of Women and Children, wrote on our Facebook wall about her experience as a Catholic in support of patients, providers and choice. Thank you, Cindy:
“I may get ex-communicated sooner rather than later. My first action, as most of you know, with my Faith Action for Women Now (FAWN) group, was to conduct a prayer/meditation vigil in support of patients, staff and Choice at a Women’s Health Clinic that performs abortions at the same time that a Catholic Church was conducting an anti-abortion prayer vigil. As I expected, I was the only person on my side of the driveway. It takes a lot of time to prepare oneself for actions of protest which are nonviolent and loving.
So there I was, with my rosary and my big sign that read “Catholics for Choice” and my smaller signs for FAWN that said things like “We Support You.” The Catholics were visibly shocked. They’d never seen anyone do such a thing before. So we all prayed. occasionally, one would drift over and say something to me. My planned response for all such intrusions was, “I’m praying right now, but if you’ll give me your phone number, I’d be happy to call you and we can talk.” A couple of people did, but most didn’t like it that I wouldn’t answer their questions or engage with them. If they asked my name, I gave them my first name only, and if they asked what was my parish, I told them St. Austin, without clarifying whether they supported me or not (they had no idea).
A couple of times I had a slip. An older woman, who I’m sure was a nun, came over and asked me if I had had an abortion. I love nuns, so I answered yes, two. She said, “That’s why you’re doing this, because of your pain.” I answered, “There’s no pain, only peace and loving concern for these women.”
Eventually, the priest came over with his loudspeaker and asked me what parish I was from. I knew then that it would start the wheels turning towards my ex-communication. With the bishop we have, nothing less will satisfy him, and there will be trouble for St. Austin’s as well. It all hit home, and for several minutes I felt scared and a real agony about losing my beloved Church and my friends there. But I made myself refocus on the women and staff, for they were my purpose. I had to refocus repeatedly during my time there, because I would drift or my ego would take over and I would begin congratulating myself. But most of the time I was keenly focused on my love reaching the clinic and its patients.
The Priest then asked everyone to pray the last decade of the rosary for me, as I was in a state of mortal sin. He said there were no pro-choice Catholics and that I was against the Magesterium, so I wasn’t really a Catholic. I kept praying. During the three hours I was there, praying alone in the sun with no shade, I prayed two rosaries, a chaplet of divine mercy, and spent much time on the Hindu chant “Om Namah Shivaya.”
Then the Church finished up and left, except for three people. These were the ones with anger and hatred in their hearts, and I told one of them so as they took turns passing by me and accosting me verbally. It was two white men and a white woman. Only one was nasty to me, a redneck-looking fellow who said things like, “I hope you burn in hell,” and “Which side of the driveway do you think Jesus is standing on?” and “You’re about the creepiest thing I’ve seen today.” I prayed on. He was the only one who never softened. I had nice moments with each of the other two. The woman admitted that I “seemed like a nice person,” and the other man and I walked to my car together and he told me how he became involved in the ministry.
Just proof that love works better than anything. I left feeling a great sense of peace and joy, grateful that I had taken up my yoke, and hoping first the first time in years that I continue living so I can fulfill my ministry. It’s a good mission, and I invite you to join me in it. Women have suffered while we remain silent long enough.”