By Edward Kendall in THE TABLET, 18 September 2018 

A senior editor of Catholic magazine Commonweal has criticised the tendency of the Church to make saints out of rape victims.

Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, an editor at large and columnist at the USA-based Commonweal, was writing about the recent beatification of Anna Kolesárová, a sixteen-year old Slovak girl who was murdered in front of her family by a Soviet soldier in 1944.

“When I read the news about the sixteen-year-old murder victim who was beatified as a ‘martyr to purity,’ I had to check the date on the paper,” writes O’Reilly.

The Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life said in a statement that Anna “repeatedly rejected the young man’s advances, preferring to die rather than give herself to him.”

O’Reilly responds to the statement by saying: “A church that continues to talk this way about rape, murder, and chastity is a church that cannot credibly face its own crisis of sexual abuse or repair its damaged moral authority.”

She asks: “Was Anna murdered because she heroically resisted “temptation”? Or was she murdered by a man who tried to rape her at gunpoint?” She adds, “It can’t be both.”

“For too long the church has been fixated on women’s virginity as an end in itself, as if chastity were a possession a girl can lose for good, rather than a virtue to be cultivated,” she says. “This view reduces women to objects that men can posses or spoil, and makes men – all men – a threat to be deflected. It is warped, toxic, and totally at odds with everything else the church has taught me about love and relationships, and so, like many Catholic women, I’ve spent a lifetime shrugging it off.”

Despite her claim that the Church has a fixation on women’s virginity, O’Reilly still “cannot fathom how the church, in 2018, can talk about a murdered girl as if she were holier, by virtue of her death, than one who was raped and survived.”

“Young women know the difference between assault and seduction,“ she writes. “Anna was attacked by a violent stranger. It was not up to her, in that moment, to avoid the sin of sexual impurity.”

She adds, “A church that badly needs to offer healing to survivors of sexual assault must stop suggesting that those victims would be better examples of holiness if they’d fought harder.”

She concludes her piece with the following statement: “Young people (and all people) need guidance to make moral choices about sex and love. But they won’t get it from a church that’s still telling girls they’re better off dead than raped.”

The full article can be found here