“The Church’s hard teaching on marriage saved my life”
by TA Pascoe
‘I beg the synod not to deprive others of the true love we find in orthodoxy’ (CNS) - “Why I hope the synod will give a huge boost to holy matrimony” (TA Pascoe)
“Upon this rock I will build my Church.” When Christ commissioned St Peter he demanded a Church which stood above the swirling seas of politics and society. Not only above the waters, but fixed in one place, a testament to eternal truth and a safe refuge for man. If he had wanted a Church which submerged itself, travelling on the currents of fashion for long intervals before appearing in an entirely new place, he would have built his Church on a whale.
That’s an image that returns to me again and again as the family synod draws to an end. The Church has a duty to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. To do this it must stand as a witness to God’s truth, which is fixed and eternal. At the same time, it is a human institution and seems to have picked up some of the political spirit of the age.
A cadre of churchmen are forever searching for an immaculate compromise which would allow those hardened in sin to be brought back into the flock without the need for renunciation or reconciliation. This is particularly the case with marriage and the family. The synod debate has included calls for a more accommodating attitude towards polygamy, same-sex marriage and Communion for the remarried.
This attitude is pastorally negligent. The Church must call to repentance those who are in error. I should know: orthodoxy saved my life. I come from a wonderful family and had a very happy childhood with a strong, reciprocated and unconditional bond of love with my parents. I was baptised into the Church of England at eight and left school a decade later with the intention of working for a year before applying to read theology at university. I knew right from wrong and was decent.
Then I met an older woman and began an affair. Pride led me to believe I could go wrong in one aspect of life without compromising my overall integrity. This isn’t an unusual belief: I have seen it in so many divorced men whose fling has seen them exiled from their family and their home. Perhaps the lesson in everything that follows is that nobody who chooses to descend even one step can control how far downwards the path will take them.
The older woman’s values and my own were not aligned, and because I had given way in one area, mine held nowhere. In quick succession I had gone into the City, dropped the theology idea, allowed my relationships with family to be distorted and abused, and become fully immersed in miserable, faith-free materialism.
One evening, sleeping next to this woman, I had a terrible dream. I use the word “dream” because the language lacks a better one – it had all the qualities of physical presence which a dream lacks.
I was conscious of being in an abandoned lunatic asylum: there was a huge full moon at the open window and a solitary swinging light in the corridor beyond the rusted bed on which I was lying. Against the chipped plaster of the wall was the only other item of furniture, a tall wooden cupboard. On top of the cupboard was a creature. I cannot describe what it looked like, only the effect: it was inordinately ugly. It said to me in a low, growling man’s voice: “I will have you.”
I was aware of a noise becoming louder as consciousness returned. It was the sound of my screaming. The woman rolled over to me and asked if I was all right. I nodded. She rolled back and began to snore.
I stayed perfectly still for some time, too terrified to move. I was filled with regret and understood with horrible clarity the love I had turned from and the pain I had caused. A rush of instinct told me to cross myself. It is was not something I had learnt from low Anglicanism and I had never attended a Catholic service in my life. Even so, it seemed the only protection available to me. I did so. The room was black and the woman was facing away from me and apparently asleep. As I completed the Sign of the Cross, she erupted into laughter. It was a sound that for a moment I couldn’t place. It was the gruff, deep laughter of a man.
From that evening on I have never doubted the existence of demons or the possibility of possession. That evening, more than any other, pushed me away from death and towards the Catholic Church.