June 11, 2018 by lucieromarin
When I turned fifteen, a Catholic adult gave me a book about how to summon demons. It was based on the work of an Elizabethan wizard, and came complete with naked pictures, so it rather confused me, given that I already owned several saints’ books telling me that one should be prepared to die rather than so much as look at something sinful. The book also came with an editorial warning, which was that the wizard in question had disappeared forever on the day he attempted to summon the evilest of demons. The warning was illustrated by something dark, fiery and horrible clearly about to eat the terrified wizard. So, overall, there was not much incentive to try any of the spells therein. I do not know what the gift-giver was thinking.
Not long afterwards, I found a book in my local library, entitled ‘Satan Needs You.’ That book had the naked pictures on the front cover. I was horrified but too shy to yell at adult strangers (i.e. the librarians) so I dropped the book behind the shelves, where I assume it remains to this day. (If an exorcist is reading this, and you feel I was being targeted, feel free to offer some deliverance prayers on my behalf. If you are the exorcist of my Diocese, you owe me an interview.)
A priest once told me that when Catholics get into witchcraft, it is because they have been hurt, and they are trying to build walls around their hearts to prevent further hurt. I’m not convinced by wall-part of his thought, but it did interest me to find that in one (creepy) article, both a sociologist and a witch claimed that suffering or trauma is a necessary precursor to the study of witchcraft. It is true that trauma is like being split apart and then frozen in that moment of splitting, so, whatever we make of psychic/woo-woo phenomena, it makes sense that someone who has found no method of re-connection anywhere else, might turn to ritual exercises of connection with nature, the body, the mind, and other people, especially when that connectedness is related – in theory, at least – to self-protection. It makes me wonder what our apologetic might become. Suppose, when discussing witchcraft or paganism (they are not always the same thing) or talking with a practitioner of either, we began, not with the assumption that someone had misunderstood something, but that someone had been hurt by someone? What if we began with the assumption, not that a wayward mind needed to be fixed or a power-hungry soul needed to be saved, but that a story needed to be heard and a heart to be healed?
I was happy to discover that a group of pro-life pagans existed in my city. I do not mean that I celebrate the rise of paganism but that I admire people who choose to be pro-life against all cultural odds. A pro-life Catholic once told me once that I was wrong to praise the movement of pro-life feminists. Of course I disagreed with them about contraception, but I thought the rest of their resources were excellent, the presentation professional, and the voice both strong and compassionate. Yes, said the pro-life guru, but most of them are living lives that are at odds with pro-life values. The gist of the argument was not simply that unless you live like a pro-life Catholic you’re not really pro-life; it was that unless you live like a pro-life Catholic, you shouldn’t speak in defence of the unborn child at all. Taken to its logical extension – though obviously she wasn’t thinking this – this argument means it is better for a baby to die than to be saved by a non-Catholic.
I do understand that your pro-life pagan, feminist, humanist or atheist will be wrong about some serious stuff, but I see such a person’s defence of the unborn child as more impressive, not less so, because of it. None of them were raised by parents, teachers or clergy committed to imparting a pro-life message. They haven’t grown up surrounded by pro-life sermons, processions, books, prayer-groups and t-shirts. In fact, they’ve grown up in a culture drowning in the opposite message, and, despite this, they see the unborn child with the eye of truth and stand by that child without the support either of the home culture or of the pro-life Catholic (at least, of my interlocutor’s ilk). Surely there is a goodness here that we can work with, without needing to condemn for being imperfect? Surely, if a Catholic priest can do as my director did, refuse to apologise for it, and still be considered fit for chaplaincy work, a non-Catholic pro-lifer can still be considered pro-life, even if he or she has yet to learn as much as that good chaplain?