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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"In memory of her"

The following story was posted at one of my favorite Blogsites “Of course I could be wrong” , which had appeared in a British newspaper (unfortunately, the source is neither named nor linked).

It is the advanced notice of a BBC broadcast about a young man in a Roman Catholic hospice whose wish is to experience sex before he dies.

Now, I can tell you from my medical and pastoral background and experience that this sort of thing goes on all the time. This is not a novel situation, folks. You know it as well as I do.

Given the discussion about the ethics of divorce and homosexuality, a few questions arise:

What does the church (that’s us, folks, the Body of Christ) have to say about sexual ethics and morality in this situation? What would Jesus have us do for this young man? Did Sr. Frances Dominica make the correct moral decision? What would any of us do were we in the position of Sr. Frances Dominica?


A young disabled man who receives care for his life-limiting illness at a hospice run by a nun spoke yesterday of his decision to use a prostitute to experience sex before he dies.

Sister Frances Dominica gave her support to 22-year-old Nick Wallis, who was born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Sufferers usually die by their thirties.

Mr Wallis told staff at the Douglas House hospice in Oxford that he wanted to experience sexual intercourse. He explained that he had hoped to form an intimate and loving relationship with a woman, but his disability had acted as a barrier.

He told The Daily Telegraph: "It was a decision two years in the making and I discussed it with my carers and my parents. Telling my mother and father was the hardest part, but in the end they gave me their support."

"There are many aspects of life that an able-bodied person takes for granted but from which I am excluded.

"I had hoped to form a relationship when I went to university, but it didn't happen. I had to recognise that if was to experience sex I would have to pay for it out of my savings. My mind was made up before I discussed it with anyone else."

The hospice staff, after taking advice from a solicitor, the clergy and health care professionals, decided to help him.

"I found an advert from a sex worker in a magazine for the disabled," said Mr Wallis. "The initial contact was by email and then by phone."

It was arranged for the prostitute to visit his home in Northampton. "My parents went out," he said.

"It was not emotionally fulfilling, but the lady was very pleasant and very understanding. I do not know whether I would do it again. I would much rather find a girlfriend, but I have to be realistic."

Mr Wallis has decided to talk in public about his decision as part of the BBC documentary series about life inside Douglas House and its associated hospice for children, Helen House.

"I have done so in order that people may understand the issues that face people in my situation. I suppose some people may be judgmental."

He said he did not discuss his decision directly with Sister Frances, who founded the two hospices. "But I know she gave me her support."

Sister Frances described Mr Wallis as "delightful, intelligent and aware young man".

"I know that some people will say 'You are a Christian foundation. What are you thinking about?'. But we are here for all faiths and none," she said.

"It is not our job to make moral decisions for our guests. We came to the conclusion that it was our duty of care to support Nick emotionally and to help ensure his physical safety."

Mr Wallis's story can be seen on The Children of Helen House, BBC2, 10pm Tuesday.

All I can tell you is that I can hear Jesus saying, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her?” (Mark 14:6a) “Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” (Matthew 26:13).

"Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little. (Luke 7:47)

"And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'" (Luke 7:50)


Bill said...

What comes to my mind right away, is that this was an adult making a decision for himself. Now that should end the debate there but I know that it won't. The act of sexual intercourse is central to being human. We've taken this very basic element of physical existence and made it a dirty thing in the minds of many. We grow up, we reach puberty and things begin to happen. We have needs and desires. We masturbate and have intercourse. It is the most natural thing in the world. The sister facilitated this and that is also natural. It's also part of being human. It's called compassion. I'm not one to quote the bible, but if I must, I must.

"But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not. So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground."
"And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst."
"When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?"
"She said, No man, Lord."
"And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." (John 8:2-11 KJV)

Jan said...

I am really quite astounded that you think there is something equivalent between the woman in the Gospels who washed Christ's feet with her tears and annointed him with oil, at the Last Supper, having as Christ said "prepared me for burial."

and using a woman (paying her is no defense) as a toilet. I credit the young man that he averred that he probably wouldn't do it again.

Apparently, his physical disability and the bad company he keeps hasn't completely erased any vestigal moral understanding that using the great creative force of union between man and woman as an exercise in mechanical entertainment is futile.

And for a Christian (which he may or may not be) sinful.

Christ also said, "Go and sin no more." He did not say, "Whatever"

But this, of course, is just another example of how the new understanding of the Episcopal church has lurched away from the old teachings of Jesus Christ, and his Church.

Hiram said...

"The act of sexual intercourse is central to being human."

So Mother Teresa isn't human?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...


Of course, Mother Theresa, when she was alive, was very, very human. (You do know that she is dead, right Hiram?)

A reportedly willful, stubborn, often ill-tempered and otherwise very, very human being.

She also had a vocation to celibacy, to which she was faithful.

But, that doesn't mean that she didn't experience desire for sexual intercourse or that her denial of that desire made her less than human.

She chose to meet her needs for intimacy in other, non-physical ways because of the intimate nature of her call from God.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Um . . . Jan . . . read scripture. The woman who washed Jesus and annointed him with oil is referred to as a prostitute.

Her actions, while not overtly sexual, were an inappropriate and public display of affection (especially from a reputed prostitute, no less.)

As to the boy using her as - did you really say that? - "toilet" . . .well, that's about as low a description of semen as I've ever heard.

My goodness gracious!

Perhaps you might want to consider what these words of Jesus mean for you:

"Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” (Luke 7:47)

Ann said...

Having never been in the disabled state of the young man - I can't tell you what I would do in his place. I do remember being young (yes - it does come to me now and then) and full of desire. There are many stories of soldiers going off to war who wanted to experience intimate relations before dying and of women who would share in that experience with them. Seems like we are too quick to judge rather than have mercy and compassion. This young man is about to die - do you think God will keep him out of heaven for enjoying a few moments of ectasy. As he says it would not do for the long term - but he does not have the "long term."

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Note to Jan

Your second post was rejected.

I deeply respect intelligence and wit, even when I sharply disagree with it.

However, you may not dump that kind of garbage in this space.

Steve said...

Have you no fear of God?

muerk said...

I can certainly feel great empathy for this young man, but I truly believe that Jesus would not desire him to have sex he had to pay for.

I know Jesus would understand the very human desire for that physical closeness and the sexual release and I know he would forgive him, assuming he asked for forgiveness.

I think what this person wanted was not just sex, but all that sex implies - love, trust, intimacy and tenderness. No one can be paid for these things.

I think Sr. Frances Dominica make an understandable decision, but it isn't one I could agree with.

I also don't think the prostitute was used as a "toilet", I think she tried her best to give him a fleeting taste of pleasure. It's just that sex without love is kind of empty.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Than you, Muerk, for your thoughtful post. We agree on this: No one can be paid for love, trust, intimacy and tenderness. Sex without love is pretty empty.

Imagine - just imagine - what it is like to be locked up in your own body, knowing that you are about to die, and knowing that there are so many things - sex just one among them - you'll never experience.

Imagine how empty you feel your life must be.

I can't imagine it.

I can imagine that Nick, now having experienced sex without love, is even more painfully aware of what he'll never have.

Still, it was his lesson to learn, his insight to gain. Whether or not it is his sin is God's to determine and judge and forgive and ours to understand.

I'm assuming, Muerk, that you know this because you, at one time in your life (as many of us have) experienced precisely what Nick has.

And, because of that, you refuse to cast the first stone.

So do I - and Steve, it is precisely because I do fear God.

Lee said...

Thankyou for this post. Living in England this has made quite an impact in th press with some interesting responses. One correction. Helen House is not Roman Catholic but an Anglican Religious community (Society of All Saints Sisters of the Poor)

Grace said...

Mother Kaeton,

I so agree that no one should be casting stones, and thank God that we are unconditionally loved and accepted in Christ already.

I agree very much, also, with what Muerk has shared. My concern for this young person is that now this experience may leave him feeling even more frustrated and empty. But, as you have shared, it was certainly his decision to make.

However, if I were there I could not have offered my support or encouragement in this choice, but I would have given my love and understanding.

Also, I just want to offer my support and empathy to you. I noticed your sharing over at MP concerning all these hateful folks trying to post comments on your site.

Mother, I don't understand it. How can these people know the Lord? Whether we agree or disagree, we're still brothers and sisters in Christ. And, our words are worse than nothing apart from the love of Jesus.

God bless you!!

Bill said...

I choose not to answer the first comment. I do however defend my position that sexual intercourse is central to being human. Without it there would be no human race. We do sort of need it. I also believe that compassion is the high ground and that I will leave judgement to Our Lord. I believe that he is much more qualified.

Eileen said... seems some of us know the letter of the law, if not the spirit of it.

Nick will meet God sooner then many of us.

I somehow think God has bigger things on his mind then the dying wishes and desires of a young man. I wouldn't have the heart to deny him this opportunity, especially as he is an adult.

Like Bill, I believe compassion is the moral high ground, and am more than comfortable to leave the judgment to God.

Jim said...

It seems to me that the staff did exactly the right thing. Wanting to "have sex" ( a phrase I hate) in the face of death is very much in our dna. It is in all of nature.

I recall an early experiment in biology class when I was young and dinosaurs roamed the earth. If one lets some mold grow on a piece of bread, and the takes that bread and heats it, as the temperature approaches a deadly level for the mold, one can observe the pace at which spores are released skyrocket. The explanation is that living things are geneitcaly inclined towards reproduction in the face of death.

I can imagine that the desire to act for a young man in this circumstance could be nearly overwhelming.

As he now is, he seems to have learned that for humans, as opposed to mold, the simple act of sex is not enough. We need the love, companionship and caring that he missed. He will enter life eternal with that knowlege, and that can not be a bad thing.

Enter not into judgement with him Oh Lord, who comes soon into your presence. Regard him with mercy, let the angels and saints welcome him and may he pass from life through death without fear. Amen


Weiwen Ng said...

Rev E: "Her actions, while not overtly sexual, were an inappropriate and public display of affection (especially from a reputed prostitute, no less.)"

Someone correct me if I'm wrong. but, I was told by my priest that hair likely had sexual meaning in those days (in much the same way, these days, we sexualize (ahem) women's breasts). for this woman to wash Jesus' feet with her hair could have been a very sexual gesture. this could be one reason why Paul was so concerned about women covering their hair in church - would distract the (straight) guys.

either way, at best her actions were merely inappropriate. and Jesus didn't seem to mind.

OK, maybe Nick sinned. I don't think he did, and I would likely do the same in his position, but I could be wrong. however, I would remind us that even if what Nick did was a sin, we Christians have more pressing issues: feeding the hungry, taking care of the homeless, opposing unjust wars, preserving the environmental integrity of the Creation, stuff like that.

it's interesting that this post is about sex, and it gets 15 replies. if Rev E had asked us to go and shelter the homeless, would she get 15 heated replies in the same post? I mean, the way we treat the homeless in the US is frankly a crime against humanity. we get this upset about sex, why can't we get this upset over genocide, or human rights abuses, or nuclear proliferation, or poverty?

muerk said...

Weiwen Ng:

Because we all agree that poverty, genocide, nuclear proliferation etc. are bad. Right now the great debate within the church is over sexual morality.

Grace said...

Well, I think the sex trade, and how this involves the exploitation of women, using women as sexual commodities also is a form of social injustice, and has implications for our discussion.

Should Christians support this or be involved under any circumstances?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Yes, Grace, the social justice issues of the sex trade are important, but Muerk's point is a good one.

However, I disagree with Muerk. I think we DON'T all know about poverty, genocide, etc., because we have ALLOWED 'sexual morality' the great debate of the church.

Sexaul morality has always been the 'great debate' of puritans and neo-puritans.

They have always forced their judgemental agenda on the church.

History demonstrates, over and over again, that there is always a punitive aspect to the agenda.

Someone is always "in" and someone is always "out."

And, the one who is "out" (as it were) and those who stand with them are always banished from the flock.

Finally, I think the point of keeping the spotlight on issues of sexual morality is that it not only keeps us from doing the work of the Great Commission, it also allows those who feel "morally superior" to have an avenue of instituional power that would never open up to them otherwise.

Okay, back to work for this priest who is seen by many a neo-puritan as morally deficient but who needs to tend to the sick and care for the dying - and prepare for her parish's Annual Meeting this weekend.

Lord, have mercy.

Eileen said...

In order to answer Grace's question adequately, I'd need to know a few more things.

I'd need to see the original ad, and how her services were advertised.

I'd need to know how arrangements were made: through the woman herself; through a John; through an "organization".

I'd need to meet and speak with the woman herself, and try to get a sense of what is in her mind in chosing to provide these services.

In my mind, if this woman is making up her own mind to provide services in this way, markets herself, and makes arrangements for herself (or thruogh an "agency" through which she is a willing participant), this would be a woman chosing on her own to use her sexuality/sexual talents in this way, then this is between her and God. Not between me, her and God. She has not been coerced. She has made her choice, and it's not mine to judge. I have enough logs in my own eyes.

If however, this woman is a slave, is controlled through a pimp, and exploited against her will (either due to fear or addiciton, or lack of mental facility), then I would agree that this is socially injust. I would hope that this type of woman wasn't chosen for this young man, and I gather, since much discussion surrounded the decision, that this woman was carefully screened.

Grace said...

Prayers, ((((((Mother Kaeton))))). I can see what you're sharing.

Eileen, part of my concern, just putting Biblical texts aside, even, is that such a high percentage of these women have been sexually abused as young girls, or emotionally violated in other ways. (Why have they chosen to sell their bodies?)

Others may not have been forced by a pimp, but are impacted by financial pressures, or have been implicitly coerced by other social factors.

(There are young girls around the world right now being sold into sexual slavery.)

My heart goes out to the young man, but is this the best we can offer as support both for him, and for this woman? In the long run, does this all actually show the love of Christ.

I know we've talked about this before, Eileen, but is there a difference in just having a harsh, judgmental spirit, and exercising wise spiritual discernment to speak into people's lives because we care?

I can share absolutely as a Christian that God is not calling people into prostitution or pornography for a vocation as His ideal will.

Weiwen Ng said...

Rev E: "However, I disagree with Muerk. I think we DON'T all know about poverty, genocide, etc., because we have ALLOWED 'sexual morality' the great debate of the church."

muerk, I wish she was wrong, but as far as conservative Protestants go, she isn't. I disagree deeply with the RCC about many things, but Pope JP2 opposed the Iraq war. conservative Evangelicals generally did not, and certainly not their leaders. iirc, Billy Graham's son practically told people to take advantage of the war to go do evangelism. and remember how the president-elect of the Christian Coalition had to step down because he wanted to broaden their agenda away from the sex stuff?

Eileen said...

I agree Grace, it's not ideal - not my idea of ideal, anyway.

But I don't know why this particular woman does what she does. Only that she did it. I can't make any assessment of what occurred until I have more information.

All I know is that this young man wanted to experience something quite human, and she was willing. I don't condemn him for his need or desire, and I don't know enough about this woman to make any kind of call about her role either.

I've been sexually abused, Grace. I'm not a prostitute, and never even considered being one. (Not that this doesn't happen to others out there, I know it does)> By the same token, you can't assume that people working in the sex trades aren't there out of their own choice

Grace said...

I'm so sorry ((((Eileen.))))) Well, I'm sure that we can both agree that this sister, and the young man's caregivers are sincere, compassionate, caring people. They would have to be to do this kind of work, I know.

I guess we could talk this to death, but ultimately it's all in the hands of the Lord.

For now, friend, we'll just have to agree to disagree in this, among many other things. :)

BTW, my whole diet and fitness thing is coming along great, so far anyway. ..I"m up to 3mi. jogging, yeahhh!!

Talk to you later, and God bless. (Poor MP is closed down for the day. Maybe we should send personal e-mails of encouragement. ) LOL

Take care, and God bless.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Her actions, while not overtly sexual, were an inappropriate and public display of affection (especially from a reputed prostitute, no less.)

Absolutely. Think of certain cultures in the Middle East, even today, and you see that this type of behavior is not permitted. The woman's actions were, in the context of the times, intimate beyond what was acceptable between men and women who were not married.

And, as Elizabeth reminded us, she was a prostitute.

This was one more example of Jesus' disturbing the order of the day, one more reason to plot to do away with him.

Ann said...

Congratulations Grace on hitting the 3 mi. mark. And for all who have compassionate caring hearts. I have often thought that the scene in John where the disciple Jesus' loved has his head on Jesus chest is a summary of all Christians who come close enough to hear the heartbeat of God and look out at the world from Christ's view.

Eileen said...

Congrats Grace - 3 miles is AWESOME. I can fast walk 3 miles, but I cannot run it!

I'm slowly but surely getting there with my health regime. My need to fill my head with religious information is consuming my spare time.

You see, people keep giving me things to read! LOL I can't read on the treadmill - too bouncy for me. I think I need more books on tape!

Jim said...

Two thoughts:

On, "the woman" there is no evidence I can find to suggest that the woman at the stoning and the woman who annointed Jesus were the same person. Jan's scholarship appears to me consistent with her theology.

On "the one who is "out"" and "those who stand with them." You know, in large part, I hope, Sue-z and I are among the standers for the right reasons, justice, Christian principals all that stuff. But, in truth, it is worth noting that the company is better.


Paul (A.) said...

The original article, by the way, is here.

I had read years ago about groups who provided sexual "services" for the disabled and the dying. Not quite your typical streetwalker. For those who find the "paying for it" part offensive, perhaps a new holy order might find those with a calling.

Doasyouwouldbedoneby said...

helen House is run by Anglican nuns who follow the New Anglican theology, not followers of Benedict XVI and the Old Roman theology.