Thanks to Mollie Wilson O’Reilly for her article (“Her Too,” October 5). I have been upset about the reasons for the canonization of Maria Goretti for decades and it is very disappointing to me that Pope Francis would characterize this brave young woman as a saint because she died rather than be sexually abused! What does that make of all the victims of sexual abuse by clergy? I agree that she was brave and a victim of violence. I also agree that the perception of virginity by the hierarchy is distorting, ill-conceived, and toxic.
Forest Hills, N.Y.
MARTYRS FOR CHARITY
Like Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, I was stunned to learn that Anna Kolesárová had been beatified as a martyr for chastity. I was left speechless and discouraged not just by the beatification, but by the oblivious praise by a Slovak bishop and others suggesting that Anna’s example would inspire young people to chastity. Such stupefyingly clueless attitudes endure in the church. Maria and Anna were brave young women—correction: Maria, as B. D. McClay pointed out (“Problems Like Maria,” September 7) was a child—and their suffering is one more example of the horror of sexual violence. But in an addled zeal to find examples of chastity in extremis, the architects of this beatification have grotesquely failed to understand that Anna (like Maria) would not have been the least bit “unchaste” had she responded differently to her tormentors. Thank you to Wilson O’Reilly and McClay for saying this clearly. St. Maria and Blessed Anna are martyrs not for chastity but for the basic charity that was not shown them and that continues to be denied so many others.
A FLAWED ARGUMENT
Charles Camosy’s suggestion (“Better Dead than Disabled?” September 21) is that an effective argument against abortion supporters is “to walk them back from their reasoning about infanticide [which they believe is immoral] to see how it might affect their reasoning about abortion.” In his article, Camosy is concerned that current culture often supports the morality of infanticide and so undermines this effective argument against abortion. Be that as it may, the real problem with Camosy’s argument is the major flaw in the standard Catholic condemnation of abortion: it bypasses the woman. An infant can live without its mother; the fetus cannot. That reality places a powerful moral claim on the woman—but it also raises serious questions about her life and condition. This is obvious when pregnancy threatens her life. Pregnancy from rape may raise questions about the moral compulsion to sustain the pregnancy. Other external conditions the pregnant woman faces (extreme poverty, psychological trauma, the needs of other family members, work demands) may also affect the severity of any moral assessment of abortion. How far can one demand heroic virtue from a woman seriously distressed in her pregnancy? In short: the condition of the pregnant woman is an integral part of the moral judgment about abortion.
The flaw in Catholic prolife arguments is matched with the flaw in pro-choice ones. If you can’t talk about fetal life without talking about a pregnant woman, you can’t talk about a woman’s choice and overlook the fact that it is a pregnant woman’s choice. Her moral choice is deeply affected by incipient life in her womb.
George Dennis O’Brien