Abstract: This essay presents an ethnographic account of two divorced Catholic women’s memories of praying to the Virgin Mary while seeking illegal abortions under the Romanian socialist regime. These women’s stories focused on troubling memories of being in love, reflections that were retrospectively shaped by divorce. Drawing on Sigmund Freud’s notion of the uncanny, I call these recollections uncanny memories of the self in love. Uncannily remembering one’s self in love combines experiential self-examination and ethical assessment of actions. The notion of the uncanny self in love thus helps bridge the divide between experience- and action-oriented approaches to lived ethics. I argue that the ethical significance of the Virgin Mary’s actions depended on my acquaintances’ approach to love. For one woman seeking to stay estranged from her ex-husband, the Virgin Mary’s actions accentuated his ethical immaturity. My other acquaintance harbored more ambivalent feelings toward her ex-husband; for her, talking about the Virgin Mary helped her relativize feelings of ethical indignation. As a core implication of this argument, I urge greater awareness of the problematic tendency to include the need for greater awareness of tendencies in theories of lived ethics to reify socially situated perspectives on love.
Clements, Ben. 2014. “Research Note: Assessing the Determinants of the Contemporary Social Attitudes of Roman Catholics in Britain: Abortion and Homosexuality.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 29(3): 491-501.
Abstract: This research note examines the determinants of British Catholics’ social attitudes using a nationally representative survey undertaken in 2010. It examines attitudes towards abortion and homosexuality, issues where the Church has clear moral teachings and has recently intervened in national debates, but where significant proportions of Catholics currently hold dissenting views. Noteworthy findings are the consistent role played by sex, age, and religious commitment in underpinning attitudes towards social issues, while party political support only affects attitudes towards homosexuality. Men, older people, and those who attend religious services more frequently represent the sections of the Catholic community which are particularly likely to hold traditionalist views that accord with official Church teaching.