There is a strong theme running through the articles in this issue – the frailty of the human condition in the midst of struggle.
John Kleinsman in his editorial begins by offering some thoughts about the move to make the decriminalisation of abortion part of the Labour 2014 policy platform. Noting that 64% of women make the ‘choice’ to have an abortion under duress, he concludes that granting easier access to abortion without reference to any form of compassionate scrutiny would fail to uphold authentic choice.
Continuing the theme of pregnancy loss, clinical psychologist Meredith Secomb writes about the grief faced by women (and men) after a miscarriage, abortion or stillbirth. One of the consequences can be an identity crisis – ‘Who am I?’ When women seek help it is “very important to receive them in a non-judgemental manner, respecting the person and conveying understanding and compassion.”
We then offer a trilogy of articles based around the theme of ‘the reluctant caregiver’. New York Times columnist Paula Span uses the term to describe people who continue to care for someone even when they do it grudgingly. She concludes that reluctant caregivers probably deserve more credit than most, not getting any of the good stuff back even while they keep on doing the tough work.
Drawing on his own rich academic and pastoral experience, Michael McCabe draws attention to the biblical parable of the two sons – one who says he will go to the vineyard and doesn’t and the other who refuses to go but then changes his mind. We all minister out of our need to some extent and the reluctant wounded caregiver dwells in each of us.
Thirdly, Anna Holmes, a lecturer in General Practice, reflects on the cultural and social dynamics at work that are making the provision of compassionate care more difficult. “There is a clear duty to ensure that caregiver reluctance is not exacerbated by a lack of physical, emotional, spiritual or economic support.”
The struggle caused by the premature death of a person through suicide is addressed in a sobering piece of writing by Columban missionary Barry Cairns. “Itsukushimi” is a word in Japanese which is a combination of gentleness, understanding, love, mercy, compassion, warmth and the wonderful ability to feel with a person.
Finally, Neil Vaney offers a new synthesis of a traditional theological notion, ‘original sin’. Bringing together two seemingly unlikely bed-fellows, he finds there is synchronicity between the work of psychologist Harville Hendrix and anthropologist Rene Girard.