Poll Reveals Catholic Base is Strong in US

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Prayitno/Thankyoufor https://www.flickr.com/photos/prayitnophotography/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Prayitno/Thankyoufor https://www.flickr.com/photos/prayitnophotography/

It appears that reports of the Catholic Church’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

In fact, it appears that they are 180 degrees off the mark. American Catholics chalked up astronomical percentages of approval for both their Church and the Holy Father in a recent poll conducted by the Public Religion Institute.

There were sighting of the usual Catholic confusion about their Church’s teachings. I think that’s to be expected. After all, the Catholic Church is both the largest church in the world and and the largest religious body in the United States. There are a lot of Catholics, which means there are also a lot of opportunities for addlepated thinking.

That’s what makes these survey results so compelling. If you can get 90% of a group of people this big to agree on anything, you’ve pulled off quite a coup. Considering the the Church has been under continuous attack and bashing and that it has managed to add a lot of fuel to those fires with its own clerical failures, the numbers are even more astounding.

I wrote about this for CatholicVote. Here is a bit of what I said:

How does the much-vaunted power of Pope Francis’ open-hearted approach to the papacy play with American Catholics? It turns out that it plays very well. The numbers reflect an almost universal love affair with this black-shoed, old-car-driving, selfie-taking man who is Peter.

American Catholics are happy their pope. Fully 90% have a favorable view of the Holy Father, and 89% also have a positive view of the Catholic Church. Those are power numbers that any world leader would envy. They don’t just reflect popularity. They speak of the sheer political power of the Church, of our ability to reconvert Western Culture, if we will just do it.

Any politician will tell you that their single most important demographic is their base. Most of the time, if your base turns on you, you are dead in the water. That is why it’s so hard to get an elected official to change their position on barn-burning issues such as abortion. A move like that is a little bit like jumping from one horse to the next in the middle of the Kentucky Derby. Chances are, both the jockey and horse are going down.

The Catholic Church may very well end up as the last lone soldier in the fight to re-convert Western civilization to traditional Christianity. This survey provides good news concerning that task. Our base is solid, if confused. Go here to read the rest.

NOTE: The opening sentence of this post is a paraphrase of a quote by Mark Twain.

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Why Would a Pro Life Catholic Stay in the Democratic Party?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Daniel Lobo https://www.flickr.com/photos/daquellamanera/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Daniel Lobo https://www.flickr.com/photos/daquellamanera/

Why would a pro life Catholic stay in the Democratic Party?

In my case, it was because, when I prayed about it, the direct and clear answer was that I had to stay. I didn’t understand it at the time. It was the exact opposite of what I expected, or at that moment in my life, wanted to hear.

But later on, I saw that God knew what He was doing. I was like a chess piece that someone moved into place for a design play and the play would only work if I was a Democrat.

Maybe God trusted me by leaving me in the lion’s den, trusted me not to cut and run, not to go all rubbery and waffle. Maybe He simply gave me an opportunity to make good the things I’d done wrong in my past. I only know that the way He used me was an extra measure of forgiveness that I did not deserve.

The point is that you can serve God from anywhere. You just have to be willing to do what He tells you, and then take the incoming flak for doing it.

I wrote about these issues for the National Catholic Register.

Here is a bit of what I said:

… That is the cautionary side of the story concerning Arkansas Representative Mike Holcomb. Representative Holcomb split with the Democratic party this week by changing his registration from Democrat to Republican. When you or I change parties, it’s just a matter of changing a letter on the voter ID. But when Representative Holcomb does it, he’s switching his entire House district, right along with himself. The next election will determine how his constituents feel about this.

Representative Holcomb’s reason for doing this this makes a lot of sense to any pro-life Democrat — he can no longer sit on the side of abortion. The Arkansas Democrats’ position on funding for Planned Parenthood is said to have triggered the move.

Arkansas Ds have been quick to announce that, so far as they are concerned, Representative Holcomb’s departure from their column is good riddance to bad rubbish. Their public statements are a classic case of “don’t let the doorknob hit you in the you-know-what on your way out.”

It’s easy for someone like me to read between these broadly-drawn lines to the personal acrimony and anger behind them. One article I read said that Representative Holcomb has been caucusing with the Rs, anyway.

I don’t know of course, but I can extrapolate from my own experience to what seems like an understanding of the name-calling, verbal hazing and threats that led to this situation. It can get ugly inside those caucuses, especially when one member paints a bulls-eye on themselves by refusing to do the due on something as explosive as abortion.

Nobody outside the inner world of elected officialdom can imagine just how personal and ugly the pressure can be on a pro-life elected Democrat.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/rhamilton/political-parties-have-group-think-but-we-have-the-mind-of-christ/#ixzz3jljChyd1


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Swiss Catholic LGBT Money Targets African Bishops Ahead of Synod

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Marcel Grieder https://www.flickr.com/photos/thegrid-ch/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Marcel Grieder https://www.flickr.com/photos/thegrid-ch/


Politics of any sort runs on money, and the Church has its own politics. That’s a given.

The scandal — and it is scandalous — is that Catholic bishops are reported to be using monies raised from the faithful as part of Lenten almsgiving to put pressure on other bishops to accede to gay rights. I have said repeatedly — and I meant it — that I have no problem with homosexual priests. However, I have a major problem with insincere priests who do not hold an authentic faith in and followership of Christ.

It makes no difference to me if the priest is homosexual or straight. But they must be priests first.

I hope more details about this emerge quickly. If the Swiss bishops are mis-using alms in this manner, they need to be brought to heel. If they are truly engaging with outside groups to pressure other bishops to accede to external, secular, political agendas that run counter to Church teaching, that needs to stop, as well.

We need leadership in these times. This has the earmarks of self-serving misuse of power and mis-appropriation of funds that violates the trust of those who have given money to the Church. It also raises real questions as to whether the Swiss bishops are following Christ and teaching the Gospels, or attempting to lead the Church away from Him and His Word.

From The Catholic News Agency:

.- The Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund and a major U.S. foundation have helped fund an LGBT activist project intended to counter West African bishops at the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family.

The Netherlands-based European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups originally planned to make a documentary film of self-identified LGBT Catholics in Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Cameroon.

“Reacting to the extremely negative influence from bishops from Western Africa on the final document of the Family Synod 14, we found it important to bring the voices of LGBT Catholics from this region to broader attention,” the European Forum said in its 2014-2015 activity report.

The forum’s activities report said the project was funded by the Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund Fastenopfer and the Arcus Foundation. The wealthy U.S.-based foundation has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to LGBT activist groups to target the synod.

But Fastenopfer is a Catholic development organization. It traditionally raises its funds during Lenten almsgiving. Its Italian-language name is Sacrificio Quaresimale, which means “Lenten Sacrifice.”

Bishop Felix Gmur of Basel, Switzerland is president of the Lenten fund’s foundation council, which oversees the NGO’s directors group. Two of the nine members of the foundation council are named by the Conference of Swiss Bishops, with the rest being named by a separate body.

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Converting the World, Ending Abortion, the Jesus Way

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Koshy Koshy https://www.flickr.com/photos/kkoshy/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Koshy Koshy https://www.flickr.com/photos/kkoshy/

Mama is scheduled to come home from the hospital today. It’s a new reality. Most of what she could do before last week, she can no longer do.

I’ve enlisted the help of hospice, and they’ve already been great. They brought over a hospital bed, oxygen, and all sorts of helpful equipment. But I am concerned about my physical ability to do the lifting and such. I’m asking for your prayers.

In the meantime, I wrote this post for the National Catholic Register about the need to pray for those we would like to hate. I’m talking about pro choice politicians, in particular those who voted against the attempt to defund Planned Parenthood last week.

We can lose our souls while we’re trying to serve God if we become instruments of hate instead of love. Scripture tells us that God is love. So, if we do not love, including those we feel are the most unlovable, then we have no part in Him.

Remember that Jesus is God, and He showed us a new and history-changing dynamic. Jesus died for us, and we are not the least bit lovable by the yardstick we use to judge others. We are, if we will admit it, full of angers, petty grudges, lies, selfishness and greed. That is the best of us, those who do not commit the wrongs we read about on the internet or see on the news.

But He died for us. He came down from heaven and became human, with all its aches and pains, loneliness and hardship, and He did it for us.

That is an example of loving someone who doesn’t deserve it that goes beyond our understanding or capacity for understanding. We can try to approach it by thinking on the wholly human side of Jesus, that part of Him that understands us because He consented to be one of us. But we can not begin to understand what it meant to give up heaven, to go from being God to become a helpless baby and on through dying as a criminal, hanging on a cross.

We can’t comprehend that, but we can know that it calls us to more than just genuflecting and crossing ourselves and the showy stuff of empty piety. It calls us to emulate this divine love as best we can when we are given the opportunity.

Jesus told us without any equivocation to go out into the world and teach what He taught, to convert sinners and baptize them in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This was His commission to us. The mission statement for all of Christianity, everywhere.

He also told us to pray for those Who hurt us. Then He modeled that for us from the cross.

I applied that commandment from Our Lord directly to the political situation we are facing now. Here’s what I said.

From The National Catholic Register:

I was once one of them. The pro-aborts, I mean.

After my conversion, when I began to understand that abortion was wrong and, worse for me at that time, when I felt the Holy Spirit calling me to change, the major obstacle for me was pro-life people. I had been the Oklahoma Director of NARAL. I had been a pro-choice legislator who used my position to kill pro-life legislation.

I had made speeches, organized and worked for abortion rights with all my little heart. I was as sincere and committed in my pro-choice advocacy as anyone could be. Pro-life people in Oklahoma counted me as the enemy. And they came after me.

The trouble was, they made it into a personal fight against me instead of advocacy for the babies. Instead of speaking for the humanity of the unborn, they tried to hate me to death. They said I was a communist, a prostitute, a lesbian, a whore and a slut. They claimed all sorts of political positions for me that I did not hold, and that ultimately were proven lies by my actions.

These lies hurt me as a person and as a woman. They wounded me, and they hardened me in my pro-choice resolve. They also enraged people who know me and who knew full well that the pro-life people were telling creepy, hate-filled, low-life lies about me. What they did not do was convert anyone to the pro-life cause. To the contrary, they tempered all of us into pro-choice steel.

After my conversion, when the Holy Spirit began urging me to change on abortion, I was reluctant and fearful precisely because I didn’t know one single pro-life person who I thought was sane, much less trustworthy and nice. If God had asked me to jump into an active volcano, I could not have found it more dreadful.

I believe this same dynamic is at work with pro-choice politicians today.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/rhamilton/we-can-stop-abortion-only-with-christs-weapons-not-the-devils/#ixzz3iW2d3N1r


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The Future of the Catholic Church is the Same as Its Past

Father Stanley Rother Copyright Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved

Copyright Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved

Ok, so I’m the daughter of a mechanic, the granddaughter of a laborer who at one time dug ditches and was glad for the work on one side of my family, and a real-life horse-breaking, cattle-branding cowboy on the other.

My great-grandfathers were farmers and blacksmiths. Cherokee blood flows in my veins from a time when being Cherokee wasn’t cool.

I am working class from the soles of my dusty bare feet to the top of my frizzy hair. My generation was the first in our family to darken the doorway of an institution of higher learning, and I think we all felt considerably out of place there. Our background, the pond that spawned us, did not fit us for the many pretenses and — to us — absurdities of indirection of the intellectual world. At the same time, our education unfitted us for the world from which we came.

We were, all of us, doomed to wander through life as strangers in a strange land of social dislocation.

Patheos’ symposium on the future of the Catholic Church has some mighty fine thinkers contributing to it. All of them approach the question from an intellectual viewpoint. We have people telling us about how their ministries have informed them of the lacks in the Church’s outreach, others discuss how the future of the Church should be for gay people, or from the viewpoint of clergy.

But I don’t see anything there that even acknowledges the existence of people like me. The working class is right out in discussions of much of anything these days. The people that fight the wars, build the buildings, unstop the plumbing, lay down the roads, grow the food and keep the wiring from frying us, are invisible in almost all discussion of anything in this country, whether that be the ubiquitous “rights talk” that Mary Anne Glendon references, or, sadly, the future of the Catholic Church.

I am going to posit that the major failure of both American government and American Christianity in these past decades is the abject failure to protect, nurture and dignify the working class. It seems that every single thing we’ve done, whether it is the revision of our tax codes, our constant war-making, the destruction of the family or the la-la-la attitude of so much of our clergy, has fallen on the heads of the working class.

Make no mistake about it, our tax code is now constructed so that government is supported by the workers of this country, even while that same government exports jobs, and degrades our public education into a method of transmitting social values that are anathema to the survival of working class social structure and values. At the same time, our religious leaders, both of the right and the left, have gone off chasing after the whiff of close contact with the powerful and abandoned the full Gospel calls for justice and mercy.

How does this apply to the future of the Catholic Church?

It applies because of all the babbling voices of moral exhortation in our splintered and polarized society, the Catholic Church is the only one that speaks for the whole Gospel of Christ. Almost in spite of her clergy, the Catholic Church has refused to hew either to the right or the left, but has laid claim to the calls to human dignity that are inherent in the teachings of Christ for all people. This means that the same Catholic Church which speaks for the sanctity of human life also speaks for the dignity of the worker, the right of working people to earn a living wage and labor in an environment that treats them like people, not chattel.

Instead of following demonic influences that seek to deny the Beatitudes on the one hand or the Ten Commandments on the other, the Catholic Church recognizes that they are both the same and must be equally honored.

Right now, the Catholic Church in America is foundering like a horse that has gobbled down too much soft grass in the springtime. It has imbibed of the cultural riches and now many of its institutions, including its institutions of higher learning, flat-out refuse to honor Church teaching and be Catholic in a real-world way. When they are called to choose Christ or to choose Caesar, they choose Caesar.

Catholics as a whole have taken to heart the unspoken message of do-what-you-want that they frequently get from those in leadership positions in the Church who do what they want themselves. This feels like a kind of freedom to those who are doing well. But for those on the bottom side of the wheel, this moral dissolution leads to life destruction.

Working class people suffer from being disrespected by everyone from presidential candidates to the Church itself. While presidential candidates Obama and Romney both took a turn at dissing working people in private fund-raisers with rich folk, the Church disses them by ignoring them.

It is not enough to lobby for reversals in the legal shearing of working class lambs that has been taking place in government, although that is certainly salutary. It is also not enough to provide ministries of food, medical care, etc, to people who cannot afford them, although that is both necessary and wonderful.

The Church cannot simply “minister” to working class people in their physical needs and stop there. It must lead and convert the exploited and abused working class. I believe that is what Pope Francis has been saying when he tells bishops that they must get out among the people; that the church is not just another non-profit charity.

The future of the Catholic Church lies in the same place as its past. It lies in doing what Jesus directed Peter to do: Feed my lambs.

Too much of Catholic school education has become a rich kids’ privilege. It does not matter if the kids are Catholic or not. It does not matter if the teachers and officials in these schools follow Church teaching or not.

The Church needs to go back and provide Catholic education that is actually Catholic, and it needs to make sure that it is available to the people who need it most. People who are stuck holding down two or three McJobs simultaneously to support their families cannot nurture their children properly and often end up with failed marriages. Add the abominable inner city schools to this, and what you have is a recipe for one lost generation, going on to attempt to raise another generation which will be even more lost.

Meanwhile, the Church closes its parishes in the inner cities and builds both churches and schools in the rich suburbs “where the people are.” The fact is that the moving vans that trundle the vestments and hymnals from the slums to the wealthy neighborhoods are driving past tens of thousands of people who are in desperate need of the Church. They are being abandoned with the idiotic claim that they are not there.

Father Stanley Rother showed us the way, if we would but see it. We need priests who will go into the inner city and into working class neighborhoods with the same missionary fervor and loving heart that he took to Guatemala. We need a Church that ministers to working class people as if they were actual human beings. The bizarre otherness that has been imposed on them by those who are exploiting and using them has no place in a Church that follows Jesus the carpenter.

Father Rother, servant of God, is a true priest for our times. He embodies both the Church’s past and its future.

The Catholic Church is either a missionary Church, bent on conversion and mission, or it is a sacrament dispenser that has no part in the lives of its people.

I could go on and on about the plight of working people in America. I could, and I probably should, write a book about it one day.

The future of the Catholic Church in America could not possibly be brighter. This nation is imploding morally in both the social and the economic realms.  There is one answer to the anguish and misery this will create, and that answer is the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

The Catholic Church is the full repository of the faith. It does not trim the Gospels to suit secular power politics. As such, it is the one institution that has the prophetic and moral voice to speak for everyone.

As Jesus said, the fields are ripe for the harvest. What the Church needs is laborers who will bring in this harvest.

I don’t think it will find them in its various ivory towers and islands of privilege.


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10th Circuit Rules First Amendment Protections Don’t Apply to Little Sisters of the Poor

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Goat_Girl https://www.flickr.com/photos/112363286@N08/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Goat_Girl https://www.flickr.com/photos/112363286@N08/

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Little Sisters of the Poor are not affiliated with a specific church and they are a non-profit, so the First Amendment doesn’t apply to them.

Ditto for the Christian Brothers Services and Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, the Catholic organization through which the Little Sisters buy their insurance.

While that may sound a bit off-the cuff, it’s the gist of the ruling.

This is how the on-going war against people of faith is played out. It rides in on the back of the legal sophistry that the First Amendment only applies to recognized churches and then only to what is done within the aegis of that recognized church. The verbiage is to limit “freedom of religion” to “freedom to worship.” This kind of limitation effectively destroys our most cherished freedoms, including freedom of speech as well as freedom of religion.

The 10th Circuit has bought into this fiction big time, because … well … because they are idiots. Or rather, because they are ideologues. But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, I repeat myself.

There is a growing — and I mean rapidly growing — opinion in this country that We the People should begin to ignore the courts. That is a dangerous notion that I will write about at length later. But the public attitude underlying it has its roots in this kind of absurd ruling. This is a re-writing and abrogation of the First Amendment that damages the freedoms and liberties of every American citizen today and into future generations.

The people who support this are throwing away their own freedoms for no other reason than a desire to get at someone whose opinion and beliefs they do not share. The courts are playing fool to this because — and this seems obvious — at least a number of members of the judiciary are ideologues with only a narrow understanding of their responsibilities to our country.

This particular move is a result of the HHS Mandate which is a result of the hubris of a president who seems addicted to an imperial view of himself and his office. How many times has President Obama made statements that he can enact policy without Congress? How many times has Congress answered him in the affirmative?

Congress has always had the power to rescind the HHS Mandate. They did not have to let it go into effect in the first place. They have not used this power in any way except as a campaign tool to win elections. If campaign promises were Congressional action, this would be an entirely different country. It would be a country in which We the People would have some hope of making a difference when we vote.

As it is, most of us have figured out that, no matter who we elect, they end up lying to us, ignoring us and doing things that hurt us. Why should we be surprised when the judges these folks appoint behave in the same way?

The 10th Circuit does not necessarily have the last say on this issue. The Supreme Court can chose to hear the case and overturn this ruling. The question is, will they?

As for the Little Sisters of the Poor, they intend to continue in their ministry and stay faithful to their faith. This is the challenge and the example for each and every one of us.

From CNA Daily News here at Patheos:

Disappointment follows ruling against Little Sisters in mandate case

Denver, Colo., Jul 14, 2015 / 11:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Little Sisters of the Poor have reiterated their commitment to following their conscience as they care for the poor and dying, following a federal appeals court ruling that they must obey the federal contraception mandate.

“As Little Sisters of the Poor, we simply cannot choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith,” said Mother Provincial Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire.

“And we should not have to make that choice, because it violates our nation’s commitment to ensuring that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives. For over 175 years, we have served the neediest in society with love and dignity. All we ask is to be able to continue our religious vocation free from government intrusion.”

Sr. Maguire responded to a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the Little Sisters of the Poor on July 14.

The sisters are among several hundred plaintiffs that have challenged the federal contraception mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.

Employers who fail to comply with the mandate face crippling penalties. In the case of the Little Sisters, the fines could amount to around $2.5 million a year, or about 40 percent of the $6 million the Sisters beg for annually to run their ministry.

Met with a wave of protest, the contraception mandate has undergone a number of revisions. However, the sisters say that it still requires them to violate their beliefs.


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How Do You Leave the Catholic Church?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Robert Cheaib https://www.flickr.com/photos/theologhia/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Robert Cheaib https://www.flickr.com/photos/theologhia/

How can you leave the Catholic Church?

I ask this question and give my answer at the National Catholic Register.

How can you leave the Catholic Church?

The question was rhetorical, not literal. I asked it of the air, more or less, as my husband was driving the car. At the same time that I asked it rhetorically, I meant it absolutely.

I recently talked to someone I know who told me that she’d “left” the Catholic Church. She’s now attending one of those smorgasbord mega-congregations where they serve you Jesus-as-you-like-him. I felt as if I was listening to a person who’d told me that they had decided to give up eating balanced meals and ingest nothing cotton candy and donuts.

I get as aggravated with the Church as the next Catholic. I don’t mind at all saying that I think this bishop or that has gotten it wrong. I’ve been very outspoken about the failure to stop child sex abuse by priests. Very. I’ve been equally outspoken about the failure in some quarters to take a strong stand on basic Church teaching, and the propensity of some bishops for throwing hapless underlings under the proverbial bus so the bishop can pander to the crowds. I just recently wrote a rather strong series of posts on the question of the Church and rape.

Our wonderful Church gives us great freedom to think and let think, and I exercise that freedom.

But … leave the Church?

I mean, how does one do that?

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/rhamilton/how-can-you-leave-the-catholic-church/#ixzz3fVe8nwAU


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Was St Maria Goretti’s Purity in Her Body? Let’s Ask St Augustine.

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Purity is a virtue of the soul … not even when the body is violated is it lost. St Augustine

St Augustine had a lot to say about rape.

His teaching on this subject is the historic Christian attitude toward rape victims. It speaks comfort to the victims of ISIS and sex slavery today, as well as rape victims all over the world and throughout history.

St Augustine also discusses at length the practice — which is certainly still practiced in certain cultures today — of women who have been raped killing themselves from shame. He speaks forcefully against this.

St Augustine’s words on this subject separated Christianity from the world around it, and continues to do so today. It is a powerful affirmation of women’s rights as full human beings and, more importantly, as co-heirs of eternal life.

Augustine states clearly that rape does not defile the person who is raped. He says without equivocation that purity does not reside in the body, but in the soul of the person. He even goes so far as to say that the purity of soul of women who has been raped keeps their bodies pure, as well.

This is an enormous advance in the moral thinking of the world.

Christianity began in a world where baby girls were murdered for no other reason than that they were baby girls. It was a world in which women who committed suicide after being raped were thought admirable for having killed themselves; that they are “reclaimed” their honor by their suicide.

This carries over into our world today in many guises, including the gendercide of baby girls and demands from whole communities that women who have been raped commit suicide. In some countries women are actually sentenced to be raped for the crimes of their menfolk and then are expected to commit suicide afterwards to clear the family of the shame of having a woman who has been dirtied in this fashion in its midst.

Christianity, with its powerful affirmation of the eternal value of every human life, changed this. It stand as a sign of contradiction to it now, as if always has.

Christianity affirm the human rights of all people of every stage of their lives in a dramatic and powerful fashion. We do not offer our children to the Baals. We do not bend our knee to Moloch by murdering our children, our disabled, our elderly and our mentally disturbed.

We also do not condemn women who have been raped to the living death of life-long shame.

Or, at least, we shouldn’t.

The story of St Maria Goretti, as it has been told and is presented, is a reversion to the pre-Christian notion that women should commit suicide if they have been raped. Only with this story, the suicide comes before the rape.

I have a tremendous sense of oneness with Maria Goretti, this little girl who died at the hands of a murdering pedophile. But her death was a wanton murder by a grown man who wanted to rape a child. The miracle is that she forgave this man and converted him from the grave.

A few Public Catholic readers seem focused on whether or not there was “penetration” of Maria Goretti’s body by her murderer. I have trouble following their logic, and, to be honest, I find the whole line of reasoning disturbing.

St Augustine taught what has become the constant Christian teaching that purity resides in the soul. Nothing that is done to the body can defile a pure soul. In other words, if Maria Goretti’s murderer had raped her, her purity would still be intact. If it wasn’t for the misogynist character of the discussion, that would be a clear point.

If, say, we were talking about a man who had been drawn and quartered for his faith, no one would be debating whether or not the knife had “penetrated” his abdomen or if the rope had crushed his larynx. Everyone would understand that his body could not be defiled against his will, that the blood, gore, stink and filth of having his intestines yanked out and emptied around him could not touch the purity of his soul.

It is only women, only rape victims, who are subjected to the indignity of this kind of discussion.

The power of this shame is so strong that it multiplies when the victims of rape are men and boys. They feel the shame of having been raped and the additional shame of misogyny, once removed.

I’ve encountered a number of male rape victims, both in rape counseling situations and in my work as a legislator. I’ve actually passed new laws because of my encounters with adolescent boys who were violently assaulted.

The misogynist attitude toward women that informs much of our attitude about rape increases male victims’ shame. Part of their horror is that they have been used as if they were women. They feel debased and degraded in a unique way.

Rape is an attack on the humanity of another person. It is an attempt to deny and destroy that humanity. Because of its sexual nature, it is a powerful attack on the sexual identity and sexual pride of the victim. It is an attack on the life-force itself.

Because of the underpinning of misogyny that seeks to deflect victim’s rightful and righteous anger at what has been done to them, rape is also a kind of cultural warfare. This unspoken social construct of rape as a terrorizing thing men do to women which shames women and puts the in their place makes the shame and self-loathing of men who have been raped even greater.

The quotes below are the City of God, by St Augustine. They have been explicit Christian teaching for almost 2,000 years. St Augustine wrote at a time when an old world — the Roman Empire — was ending. He wrote in the midst of terrible persecution of Christians.

We live in just such a time today.

I copied this from the book itself, which I’ve read and have on my Kindle, so I don’t have a link. You can find a low cost (mine was free) Kindle copy of The City of God on Amazon.

The Violation of the Consecrated and Other Christian Virgins to Which They Were Subjected in Captivity and to Which Their Own Will Gave No Consent; and Whether This Contaminated Their Souls.

But they fancy they bring a conclusive charge against Christianity, when they aggravate the horror of captivity by adding that not only wives and unmarried maidens but even consecrated virgins were violated.

But truly, with respect to this, it is not Christian faith nor piety, nor the virtue of chastity which is hemmed into any difficulty; the only difficulty is so to treat the subject as to satisfy at once modesty and reason.

… It is, in the first place, laid down as an unassailable position, that the virtue which makes the life good has its throne in the soul, and thence rules the members of the body, which becomes holy in virtue of the holiness of the will; and that while the will remains firm and unshaken, nothing that another person does with the body or upon the body is any fault of the person who suffers it … But as not only pain may be inflicted, but lust gratified on the body of another … shame invades even a thoroughly pure spirit.

… is there a fear that even another’s lust may pollute the violated? It will not pollute, if it be another’s …

… purity is a virtue of the soul, and has for its companion virtue the fortitude which will endure all ills … and since no one, however magnanimous and pure, has always the disposal of his own body, but can only control the consent and refusal of his will, what sane man can suppose that, if his body be seized and forcibly made use of to satisfy the lusts of another, he thereby loses his purity?

For if purity can thus be destroyed, then assuredly purity is no virtue of the soul … If on the other hand, it belongs to the soul, then not even when the body is violated is it lost. Nay, the virtue of holy continence … sanctifies even the body and therefore when this continence remains unsubdued, even the sanctity of the body is preserved because the will to use it holily remains.

For the sanctity of the body does not consist in the integrity of its members, nor in their exemption from all touch … so long as the soul keeps this firmness of purpose which sanctifies even the body, the violence does by another’s lust makes no impression on this bodily sanctity, which is preserved intact by one’s own persistent continence.

… We maintain that when a woman is violated while her soul admits no consent to the iniquity, but remains inviolably chaste, the sin is not hers, but his who violates her.


For another take on our modern world and rape, check out Simcha Fisher. 

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What if We Took a New Look at the Story of St Maria Goretti?

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

This is for those who lie in the field, the lake, the dump and the shallow grave. It is for the ones whose bodies will never be found, whose names will go unrecorded; for the forgotten, unidentified, unfound women who died at the hands of their attackers. Rebecca Hamilton

I know a simple way to turn St Maria Goretti into a saint that rape victims and battered women all over the world would turn to in gratitude and adoration.

Why don’t we look at her story from the angle that rape is a mortal sin, that it is a sin against the humanity of the individual person who has it done to them, and that it is a sin which is so ubiquitous that it keeps half the human race in fear?

How about if we approach the story of St Maria Goretti as an admonition for men to stop raping?

Yes, she appeared to her would-be rapist from beyond the grave, and yes, this moved him to remorse. But the story is not that she died “for purity.” The story is that he was a grown man who repeatedly tried to molest a child, then murdered her for resisting him, and she forgave him and appeared to him from heaven to save his sorry soul.

We might also consider her story in light of the reality of child sexual abuse. Her murderer was 20 years old. She was 12. He had been repeatedly attempting to molest this little girl before he murdered her.

I have a lot of love and tenderness toward a little girl of 12 who was murdered while fighting off her rapist. I have tremendous sympathy for a little girl who is being subjected to repeated sexual advances from her adult neighbor.

What I do not see is that she is a saint because she died rather than be raped; that the salutary tale we are to take from her story is that she died “defending her purity.” This is a view of little girls and women that has led to enormous suffering for women for millennia. In some parts of the world today, rape victims are expected to commit suicide because they have lost their “virtue.”

Let’s be clear about this: The one without honor is the rapist. The one who has no purity is the rapist. If anybody deserves death because of this crime, it is the rapist.

The truth is that the “purity” of a human being does not reside in physical virginity. It resides in a soul that rests in Christ. A woman’s “honor” is the same as a man’s honor: It is her honesty, her loyalty and her courage.

A woman’s honor has everything to do with whether or not you can rely on her word, if she will be honest in her dealings with the world and if she keeps her commitments. It has nothing to do with whether or not a rapist has destroyed her hymen.

Purity is a matter of the heart and soul, not the physical things that are done to a person. A comfort woman that the Japanese raped over and over again may very well have more honor than any of the people commenting on this blog, including me. A victim of sex trafficking may have a soul so pure that it rings like crystal when she stands before the Lord, while those who claim that she is besmirched and worthless are without honor, kindness or love.

The story of Maria Goretti is a story of child sexual abuse and attempted rape that resulted in the death of a child at the hands of her attacker. The miraculous element in it comes from Maria Goretti’s forgiveness of the man who did this. It is a forgiveness that reaches from beyond the grave.

However, even this element can be completely turned on its head if we follow the way that St Goretti’s story is currently told. Can child-murdering pedophiles be forgiven?


There is no sin we can commit that is greater than God’s mercy in Christ Jesus.

Did Maria Goretti feel concern for her attacker that led her to come to him and seek his conversion from heaven?


But that is because hell is so terrible, and because this child-murdering pedophile was so dastardly that her compassion reached out to him in love in spite of what he did to her.

Maria Goretti did not die to save her murderer. She acted in love after her death to save him. Her death is not a wondrous tale of how women are supposed to value their “purity” above their lives. It is a story of how a person who is one with Christ can forgive the unforgivable, just as Christ forgave from the cross.

It is not a story to be used to exacerbate the guilt and shame of other little girls, and indeed, of older girls, who are sexually molested by adults when they are children, or who are forcibly raped when they are older.

There is no requirement on any woman to resist her rapist to the death. Getting yourself murdered because of a misogynist notion of “purity” that says that a woman’s “honor” resides in whether or not she has had sex should never be taught as an ideal to little girls.

The way that St Maria Goretti’s story has been used harms rape victims. It adds to their shame and increases their misery. It can make recovery from this horrible crime impossible.

I have had enough in my young life of my fellow Christians turning their backs on rape victims. I once witnessed a church that actually voted on whether or not to allow a rape victim to remain a member of the church.

I have known rape victims who committed suicide over this kind of attitude toward them. I knew a woman who had been raped by 5 men who, when she encountered this kind of “why didn’t you fight harder, why were you at that concert in the first place” condemnation climbed into her bathtub, put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger.

I do not care — let me say that again – I do not care if I am the only person on this planet who speaks out against the abusive use of this saint’s story to shame and blame rape victims. I will still do it.

I do not care – I do not care – if every single person reading this blog opposes what I am saying.

Blaming and shaming rape victims is anti-Christ. Claims that He somehow or other regards half the people he made this way defame His holy name.

These women are Christ crucified, standing right in front of you. If you don’t get that, then you really are missing the whole point of Christ’s passion.

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Many Rape Victims Have a Bit of Trouble with St Maria Goretti. Here’s Why

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Elvert Barnes https://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Elvert Barnes https://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/

I’ve spent a fair amount of my adult life, trying to help rape victims.

I was one of the six original founders of the YWCA Rape Crisis Center here in Oklahoma, the first such center in the state. I have passed a ton of legislation to help end the scourge of violence against women, including more than a few laws to help rape victims. I spent a number of years on the board of an organization that rescued women who were victims of sex trafficking.

I know that many women, including most rape victims, are affronted by the story of St Maria Goretti. This one story becomes for them a symbol of what they believe is the Church’s utter blindness to the reality of rape and what it means to women. The way St Maria Goretti has been presented to them is certainly why.

A few years back, I was making a speech on the subject of violence against women and I said, “This is for those who lie in the field, the lake, the dump and the shallow grave. It is for the ones whose bodies will never be found, whose names will go unrecorded; for the forgotten, unidentified, unfound women who died at the hands of their attackers.” I say that again now.

Rape is a crime of extreme violence and dehumanization. It is so ubiquitous that fear of it forces half the human race to live in constant vigilance, in a sort of war zone mentality.

St Maria Goretti disturbed rather than comforted every rape victim I have dealt with who knew about her. The reason lies in the dual impressions taken from her story that (1) The Church is teaching that is better to die than suffer rape and live, and, (2) The Church is teaching that if a woman really wants to, she can avoid being raped.

Both these ideas are cruel and misogynist to the core. Rape is a crime of extreme violence. It is committed by bigger and stronger people against physically weaker people because the weaker person cannot successfully defend themselves.

The purpose of rape is to reduce another human being to an object, to destroy their humanity and lower them to the level of meat. Gang rape also has the effect of bonding the guys together as part of their sadistic recreation.

I’ve read the blog posts of my two colleagues Michelle Arnold and Simcha Fisher. Both of their discussions of Maria Goretti’s short life and death are couched in language and a manner that reflects the fact that they understand and are sensitive to the feelings of women.

Many rape victims find St Maria Goretti, or at least the way she has been shown to them, to be a further affront to and attack on their dignity and value as human beings. This alienates them from the Church.

The crux of the problem with this saint is that misogynists have gotten control of her story. They have depicted her as girl of no real value in herself who became a saint because she chose to die rather than forfeit her hymen, and who then forgave her attacker who — get this — was so moved by her piety that he became a priest. (Actually, he became a gardener at a Franciscan friary or monetary, but that is not how the story is told to young girls.)

This manner of discussing Maria Goretti is right up there with the old story about the woman who stayed with her husband who beat her and suffered his battering prayerfully and piously right up to and including when he beat her to death. The murdering hubby was then so impressed by her piety that he — you know it’s coming — became a priest.

I’ve actually heard this latter story being told to young girls and women since I converted.

That’s sick stuff folks. It defames Christ to pin this misogyny on Him. Women’s lives matter more than any part of their anatomy. Their human dignity is real human dignity. It cannot be fluffed off with instructional tales of women who die to save their virginity and who sacrifice their lives by letting their husbands beat them to death.

This nonsense places the blame for the batterer and rapist’s behavior squarely on the shoulders of the battered and the raped. Somehow, women are, according to these stories, responsible for avoiding rape and converting their batterer by submitting to beatings.

If they fail in this, then, the implication is that they didn’t fight hard enough, resist long enough, pray hard enough, or submit piously enough. Not only that, but they are responsible for converting their rapists and batterers by how they die.

This notion of martyrdom is not martyrdom at all. It is a method and a means of enforcing and justifying social injustice against half the human race by the other half.

That is the rape victim’s perception of St Maria Goretti as she has been presented to them. That is the view of far too many women when it comes to the Church and what they can expect from it if they are themselves raped or battered.

I’ll leave the apologetics about St Goretti to Michelle and Simcha. They did a fine job.

I’m going to use my internet space to do a bit of apologetics for rape victims. Personally, my heroines are the ones who smash the guy’s nose and run for it. My heroines are the ones who crawl out of the dump where they were left for dead and rebuild themselves into productive and full human beings.

I’ve said a lot in opposition to divorce, but men who beat their families don’t deserve families. I think every battered woman should dump the dude. Every. Single. One.

My heroine is the woman who says you can’t treat me like that and gets the bleep out of Dodge. My heroines are the women who assert their own right to life and humanity in the face of those who would deny it.

I never want to see any young girl die for her virginity. Her virginity is not a physical thing. It’s a matter of spiritual purity, and the rapist, with his beer breath and disgustingly filthy heart, cannot touch that.

My advice to women who are confronted with the savage violence of the rapist is simple: Do what you have to do to survive. If submitting will get your out alive, submit. If you have to kill him to survive, do what you must. Fight, if you can. But if you can’t, don’t let the jerks of this world make you feel bad about it later.

Women’s lives are real lives. Their humanity is real humanity. Survival in the face of bestial behavior is not a sin. It is a virtue. It is also a God-given mandate.



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