Saturday, January 07, 2012

Virgin martyrs...

What is required?

Dawn Eden has an excellent comment regarding the issue of virgin martyrs who may have been violated before actual death.  Very few Catholics seem to know about this stuff, much less understand it.  This is what Dawn has to say about it:
What is required for a saint to qualify as a virgin saint?

Bottom line: St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas taught that virgins who are raped do not forfeit their virginity. What is more, according to Aquinas, a holy virgin who is raped not only retains her virginity; she receives a second crown in heaven for having endured the outrage of being violated. He adds that she remains a virgin in the eyes of the Church even if her rape results in her bearing a child.

That is the doctrine of our glorious Church, and more people need to be made aware of it. There are a lot of Catholics out there who are hurting because they suffered sexual abuse and are under the misapprehension that the Church perceives them as being stained by what was done to them against their will. It is my hope that my upcoming book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints will dispel such myths and help victims find the healing that is available only in and through Christ in His Church. - Dawn Patrol

Saturday Update:

It was Fr. Z who originally posted on the topic and received some interesting comments, most interesting and informative of all however, is Dawn Eden's good response reprinted here:
dawneden says:

When I researched this question for my upcoming book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, I found that much of what Catholics believe the Church teaches on this matter–such as that rape is somehow voluntary if a woman is violated–is completely erroneous.

The actual teaching of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church is that the measure of whether a holy virgin who is raped qualifies as a virgin martyr (also known as a martyr of chastity) is not whether she was violated, but whether she resisted.

As Father Z would say, full stop.

Exhibit A: St. Augustine, City of God, Book I, Chapter 18. The chapter is titled “Of the Violence Which May Be Done to the Body by Another’s Lust, While the Mind Remains Inviolate.” That should tell you something right there. Augustine, writing about the virgin martyrs of the early Church, lashes out at pagans who claim that virgins who had been violated were no longer virgins: “What sane man can suppose that, if his body be seized and forcibly made use of to satisfy the lust of another, he thereby loses his purity?”

Exhibit B: In the Acts of the third-century martyr St. Lucy (which were first quoted by St. Aldhelm in the seventh century, but were probably written much earlier), when a Roman consul threatens St. Lucy with rape unless she recants her Christian faith, she replies, “If you cause me to be violated against my will, my chastity will receive a double crown.”
Exhibit C: St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Supplement, q. 96, a. 5, ad 4.  
Quoting the Acts of St. Lucy, Aquinas writes that a virgin martyr who was raped will receive a double reward in heaven—“one for observing virginity, the other for the outrage she has suffered.” He adds that “[even] supposing that one thus violated should conceive, she would not for that reason forfeit her virginity.”

In researching My Peace I Give You, I was told by a senior investigator of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in no uncertain terms, that the teaching of St. Augustine still stands.

It is a terrible loss for all Catholics that victims of rape are being told that, because saints like Maria Goretti were not violated, they themselves are somehow considered by the Church to have stained themselves by “letting” themselves be raped. We, as a Church, need to get our message in line with our own Fathers and Doctors if we are to begin to address the sexual abuse crisis in the culture at large, which the media is only beginning to acknowledge in the wake of the Penn State outrage.

Please say a prayer, as you read this, for anyone reading this who is a sexual-abuse survivor. Every Catholic bears a personal responsibility to show them, and all who have suffered injustice, the way to the healing that can be found only in Christ in His Church. Ave crux, spes unica.

Though your sins be as scarlet...

Finally, for those who may have lost their virginity, always remember, "the blood of Jesus makes fallen souls virginal."  The holy Archbishop Luis M. Martinez wrote that someplace, and I have never forgotten it.


  1. I once read about how St Augustine was deeply troubled that people even thought they were "ruined" in such a way. He was actually very pastoral, apparently.

    But one thing I don't understand - like the quote you use - is that doesn't this imply that those who have voluntarily renounced virginity have in fact given up some of their purity? I really have never understood this in the Church's tradition - except in tge sense that a virgin dedicated to God is dedicated body and soul and gives up the great good of marriage.

    But that's not at all how most Saints saw it - Gregory of Nyssa regretted that he ever married, St Jerome clearly believed that sex decreases holiness and spoke of the "stain" of marriage, and up to the past few centuries we see saints saying that they would only recommend to marriage those who struggle with purity. So in other words, only get married if you have a porn addiction or catch yourself cruising for chicks? How's that gonna work out?

    So I am just wondering how Jesus feels about people who do not want to be "virginal souls" or how to avoid the erroneous notion that since virgins are purer than non-virgins, marital chastity is practiced by trying to be as much like virgins as possible? And most married saints did this - I can't imagine any of them having sex simply because they love and desire one another - most did so explicitly for procreation alone. I think even St Therese's parents slept in separate rooms ( that's the impression I get).

    Sorry for being an obsessive :(

  2. I guess what I mean is that we esteem virginity so highly and believe that virgins are most pure, most of all tge Blessed Virgin. But if we are always talking about virgins being "undefiled", how does that avoid the notion that married women are "defiled"? Or if St. Joseph is a model for chastity, the "most chaste spouse", how does it not mean that men who have physical relations with their wives are not "less chaste" or impure in some way?

    Or if virginity is most preferred by God, what of those who have not considered that path? Is he angry with this who COULD have been virgins and avoided marriage, yet chose to get married anyway? With those spouses who COULD give up their use of marriage but choose not to do so?

    It's so confusing. I guess I do not want my soul to be made virginal - I want to be married. But if I do not want that, am I not rejecting God somehow? Like "I wanna be pure but not THAT pure"?

  3. Mercury,

    I think St. Paul answers your very dilemma in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 7:

    "So, brethren, in whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God. Now concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is well for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a girl marries she does not sin. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that."

  4. Yes, I know the passage, an I appreciate it - still, again it leaves me with tge impression that marriage is only for those who struggle with chastity, that a "real Christian" with a pure heart should not seek marriage.

    This is not what tge Church teaches, but it is the opinion o many, many saints. St Alphonsus writes in a letter that be recommends marriage to no one except those struggling with chastity, since St. Paul doesn't commend it. Other saints write that even those who'd rather marry than enter religious life still please God more by not marrying. And others write that even I one does struggle, you can just pray for the grace to handle it.

    So again, why marry - or under such conditions how can God see marriage as good, and more, what about regular relations within marriage, when so many saints commend aloofness towards and minimalism on tge physical side o marriage as more holy?

  5. After all, if you do not marry you do not sin is a pretty low bar. You do not drive the nails deeper into Christ's flesh if you marry, you do not offend God. But does it please him?

  6. Merc - I use the Martinez quote thinking of sacramental confession - the Blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

    The other stuff I don't know about.

  7. Best Roman Catholic post I have read in a long time.



  8. Saint Augustine? Challenge yourself. Google First Scandal.

  9. Brings me to tears that you would post this, Terri.
    30 years it's taken me to be able to speak out and now reach out to other victims..

    As the commenter noted:

    'healing can be found only in Christ in His Church.'

    I pray to be able to point others who have suffered toward that healing.

    Caroline +

  10. @Mercury:

    Marriage is seen as a good by the Church; as early as 208 Clement of Alexandria talked about marriage was necessary for society and "perfection of the world"; it is considered objectively superior to be celibate, because of the sacrifice it requires, but not all people are called to that, and that's something Clement implies, and not by talking about temptations against chastity.

    I'm still reading sources on marriage, so I'm sure there's other sources like Clement in the over 1800+ years between him and JPII, but JPII says in the Theology of the Body that sexual intercourse between a married couple in the state of grace open to life could confer grace.
    I know there's more that qualifies that statement, but there is positive teaching on the marital act within marriage, you just see it more within different contexts.


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