“A certain woman who had taken the vow of chastity fell, through youthful desire of pleasure and her womb swelled with child. Brigid, exercising the most potent strength of her ineffable faith, blessed her, causing the child to disappear, without coming to birth, and without pain. She faithfully returned the woman to health and to penance.”
– Cogitosus, as translated by Connolly & Picard in 1987
That’s…an abortion. Cogitosus was a Kildare monk who may or may not have been related to Brigid but, in any case, penned the oldest surviving record of her life, Vita Sanctae Brigidae around 650 CE. This Life of St. Brigid has been translated at least twice in modern times, the aforementioned work by Connolly & Picard and subsequently by Liam de Paor in 1993. Both translations give roughly the same account of the abortion performed by Brigid.
So. Is there any reason why Cogitosus would lie? As a skeptic, I take all religious claims with a grain of salt…but assuming that you are the sort of faithful devoted Christian who fully believes that Jesus walked on water, surely this text is no more beyond the bounds of possibility than that cloak tale Brigid is otherwise renowned for? I mean, I don’t need words from 650 – words written by a man, no less – to justify free, safe and legal abortion…but if you are the kind of person who adheres to the moral values of Christianity, shouldn’t this give you pause?
Given that Cogitosus seems to have had no cause to fabricate the story, and that it is described in a pretty matter-of-fact tone, it’s possible to infer that the episode would have been much less controversial then than it is now. In other words, maybe back in 650 it was generally agreed that the miracle of life does not begin at conception – otherwise Cogitosus would have known that he was effectively outing Brigid as a murderer or murderess. Then again, I’m no mind reader – especially not of Irish monks who have been dead for over a millennia – so maybe he knew exactly what he was suggesting, and just wrote it in a remarkably nonchalant style to fuck with people’s heads centuries later.
I honestly wouldn’t put it past religious folk. The slippery bastards.
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…♀