In the summer of 1984 a friend of mine had an abortion. In the Canadian mid-eighties this was considered a radical thing to do. It involved the exchange of money and a trip to a clinic that may or may not have had pro-life protesters marching in front of it on the day of your appointment.
A further complication for my friend was that we were catholic so the whole mortal sin thing was hanging over our heads. I say our heads because I lent her money for the procedure. So, in fact, I aided and abetted the committing of the sin that was to prevent my friend from going to heaven directly upon death.
I now know that I was what we call book smart nowadays but man, I was a long way from being life smart that summer I was 17. And as a mother of a now 17 year old girl I see the mirror reflection of this reality.
This abortion was quite necessary for my friend. Her parents were staunch roman catholics and she would have been kicked out of the home and goodness knows where her life would be today. One thing is for certain though...it would have been a much rougher ride for her and that yet unformed child.
My musings of this time are brought on by my recent Linkedin re-connection with the religion teacher I had that year. He is now a principal of a catholic high school. I wonder, in his prior role of a religion teacher/counselor, how many young women he had to discuss abortion with. Because he did with me. My friend's abortion caused a major moral dilemma in my life. The first voiced dilemma of what would turn out to be many fruitless hours spent worrying and wondering if 'god' would be happy with my earthly actions. This young religion teacher, at the time of this moral quandary, was fairly new in his career and not too far removed from the hippie protests I know he participated in against things like nuclear arms. At this point of his new career he was also leading bus loads of people to the very pro-life protests my friend could have faced on the day she went for her 'secret' abortion. I don't remember much of what he said regarding my moral quandary but I do remember he pleaded with me to support my friend in her decision, in whatever form that took. This advice had the effect of soothing my conscience - at the time. Many years later I felt outraged that he had managed to bypass the whole pro-life debate with me and for that I am sure he was quite grateful.
Seeing his name pop up this morning as a new connection on Linkedin floods my mind with these thoughts. Thoughts of incongruent teachings by the church of my birth. A church that provided many opportunities for moral quandaries in my life. Parents separating/divorcing/annulling? Check. Not going to church regularly? Check. Not going to confession/communion regularly? Check. Eating meat on Friday? Check. Not giving up something for lent? Check. Masturbation? Check. Pre-marital sex? Check. Shacking up before marriage? Check. Marrying in a different church? Check. Using birth control? Check. Raising my child in the church? Check. A homosexual sibling? Check. Husband abandoning marriage and infant child? Check. Wipe slate clean with an anullment? Check.
Looking back on all those life events that shackled my moral compass for years I feel exhausted. I feel exhausted because the years I spent under the duress of the obligations of mother church were so futile. I can not take on the church. Any church. But as a parent I am proud to report that these shackles have been removed from my child. Her moral compass lies within and my hope for her is that this freedom will allow her to channel her youthful energy into making the world a better place. Because, you see, for too many generations my family has been segued through life with the roman catholic church observing and directing from the moral rafters. Enough is enough. I severed the cord and claimed complete moral responsibility for my child early on in her life and am almost ready to release her into the world. She will have complete freedom to choose whatever tools she needs to nurture her own moral compass and I will support her as best as I can with her choices. For isn't that the best we can do? My high school religion teacher thought so too and made sure I heard that above all else. I think I might send him this blog post as a thank-you. I hope he 'gets' it.