...to Bedford Square, where a prayer-vigil was being held outside an abortion centre. We prayed, led by Bishop Alan Hopes, and young people took turns to read aloud Scriptural meditations for the Stations of the Cross. The idea was to express sorrow and repentance that none of us have been able to stem the tide of the killing of the unborn that is happening in our country, and to pledge ourselves to renewal and hope. But it was not possible to hear much as a large group of angry protesters with loud hailers and drums and various instruments had gathered to drown us out. It was one of the saddest things I have ever seen: the protesters included a number of young women, angry and shouting, a picture of sadness and self-loathing such as I have never viewed before.
It used to be that even people who viewed abortion as a legitimate choice would emphasise that it was a sad thing, that no one really wanted it, that it could and should be avoided if at all possible. That was how people spoke in the 70s and 80s when I was first involved in debates on the subject. It is the saddest things on earth to see young women shouting things like "Get your Eucharist out of my uterus" and jeering when people pray.
I went to this vigil because it had been announced that some people wanted to prevent it happening: in the Britain I inherited, the right to pray in this way was cherished, so I felt I should be there. I met a great many friends and at one level it was, or should have been, a time of solidarity and and hope. The pro-life movement is strong and there were lots of young people praying earnestly, along with priests and Franciscan friars, and older people - like me - who have taken part in various such events for decades.
But my overwhelming feeling about the evening is one of profound sadness: the image that stays with me is of the young women on the opposite side of the barriers erected by the police, shouting angrily and sort of gleefully their support for the destruction of the next generation, affirming their right to eliminate their own offspring. Thus is a nation ending itself. Whatever comes next will be different. It all feels bleak.