A Bad Feast for Victims

A Bad Feast for Victims July 8, 2019

We got through another Feast of Saint Maria Goretti and its aftermath, somehow. It’s over for a whole other year.

I’ve already mentioned that I didn’t have a nice time. A rape survivor doesn’t look forward to fielding hordes of people who think that being raped makes you impure. That isn’t the saint’s fault; it’s the fault of victim-blaming culture and terrible catechesis. Still, I dread this time of year.

The person who asked if I was “slandering Saint Maria Goretti’s virtue” came back for a back-and-forth, which she eventually deleted. She wanted me to admit that St. Maria was dying for “virginity–” even though it’s the teaching of the Church that a virgin who gets raped is still a virgin. I’m not saying she didn’t act in the name of chastity in the best way she knew how.  I’m not saying that wasn’t admirable of her (whether it’s imitable is another story). But if St. Maria had submitted at knifepoint and then been killed anyway, she’d still have died a virgin.

In addition, I read a truly heartbreaking guest post over at The Shoeless Banshee, about a survivor who had to listen to a FOCUS missionary say that abuse survivors need to work on their own “individual conversion.” As if having been abused was a sin that victims needed to be converted from.

And I’ve got the tab open to the heartbreaking letter to Franciscan University by Karen, a survivor of assault by Father Sam Tiesi. I can barely stand to read it; I’m taking it one sentence at a time. I was horrified and sickened when I read the account of her assault in the Reporter last year. I loved Father Mike Scanlan and was devastated to find out that he, too, was an abusive monster who blamed and emotionally abused victims to shield his friend.

Somewhere in all of this, a friend got accused of blasphemy.

And what was her blasphemy?

She said that most of the original ancient Roman “virgin martyrs” were raped before they were killed. Which is true. Augustine and Aquinas both said the same thing; asserting it isn’t controversial. The very stuffiest of traditional Catholics are supposed to believe it. It’s a closed issue at this point. But my friend said this on Twitter, and yet another Internet Catholic accused her of blasphemy and of being unchaste.

Random Catholics on Twitter will say anything. But all this points to a pattern I’ve observed again and again: people hate victims. They’re willing to forgive anything else. But the one thing you cannot be, is a person who is suffering because something terrible was done to you. When I pointed out that Christ Himself was a victim of sexual abuse, I got slammed with accusations of blasphemy, just like I get slammed when I point out mistakes people make in recounting Maria Goretti’s hagiography.

And this is especially unacceptable for Catholics to do, when we look at what our Church has done to people. What we have on our hands, at this point in history, is a culture that goes around creating enormous numbers of victims, officially professing on paper that the victims bear no guilt, and then doing everything it can in practice to make sure that the victims feel ashamed and dirty. Yes, some people are doing this on purpose to be cruel. But they’ve got a whole laity backing them up because they think that they ought to; because they think this is something to do with authentic Catholicism. They think something else would be blasphemy.

Which is why Catholics who know the truth have to speak up even louder.

And I am speaking up, to anyone reading this who has been a victim: you are innocent.

There is nothing that anyone could ever do to you, which would make you guilty of what they chose to do.

I know that we’ve been trained to tell ourselves that’s not true. And I know from experience that we do it all the time. “If only I hadn’t been so stupid. If only I hadn’t gone on that date. If only I hadn’t worn that dress. If only I hadn’t trusted that person. If only I’d fought harder. If only I’d slept in my jeans instead of a nightgown. If only I hadn’t gotten in the confessional with that priest. If only I hadn’t gone to Franciscan University.”

Stop.

It’s not your fault.

No one is ever perfectly safe. We can always nitpick our every past move and find some way in which we could have made ourselves a little safer. But the fact is, it’s not your fault. You became a victim because somebody chose to hurt you. That’s why you were raped. That’s why you were molested. That’s why you became a victim of domestic violence. That’s why someone physically or emotionally tortured you until you came down with PTSD. That’s why you are in all of this unbearable pain. Not because you weren’t good, but because they were evil.

They are the ones who will one day stand before the Throne of Judgement as someone who raped, someone who abused, someone who took advantage, someone who hurt others on purpose. They will look upon the One they have pierced and find that everything they did to you, they did to Him.

You, He finds innocent of this.

We didn’t do this to ourselves.

I promise it’s true.

Abuse is the abuser’s fault. Violence is the fault of violent people. Rape happens to people who don’t deserve it, because no one does.  Victims do not have to be converted of being victims, because being a victim isn’t a sin.  A person who was chaste before they were raped is still chaste during and after the attack. God looks on someone who was split open in that agonizing way and sees a virgin. God looks on people who have had violence inflicted on them, and sees His only Son.

To profess anything else really is blasphemy– blasphemy against the Divine Victim.

It’s a blasphemy we  must all condemn, in His name.

(image via Pixabay) 

 

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