Another interesting discussion on Facebook.
A friend posted a commentary on something a spiritual-director woman online posted about preferring that one's child die rather than commit a mortal sin. (She did a poll.) The comments were 'against it' or rather censorious, to put it mildly. I love little exchanges like that. There are so many examples of the saints, even in the Old Testament, who would rather die than sin against God. The most classic example is from the Book of Maccabees about the mother and her seven sons she urged to die rather than eat pork. One by one they were tortured and killed, rather than offend God.
At first I responded with my idea of where people get these ideas from - the examples of the saints. I wrote the following comment to be a bit tongue in cheek, making light of their 'piety':
Francis de Sales quotes Bl. Blanche of Castile, the mother of St. Louis King of France: "My son, I would sooner see you die than guilty of a mortal sin." Similarly, St. Rita prayed that her sons wouldn't take revenge upon her husband's murderers, and they died before they could do anything. These examples are meant to instill great fear of God - in a good way, that is, their devotion be so great, their greatest fear would be offending God. Traditional piety has always been full of drama of course. Consider that the modesty and chastity of St. Aloysius moved him to avoid looking at his mother. Pious folks seem to want to repeat these examples and are very good at trying to scare the hell out of apostates, heretics and libertines. Although it seems to me the notion of mortal sin is pretty much lost on us these days - this strategy doesn't work especially well.
It's good to remember that the children of the saints weren't always well treated or coddled, as we do today. We try to shield children from all sorts of evils and send them to counsellors whenever tragedy strikes. Just imagine Margaret of Cortona's son, what he had to go through with her penitence and poverty, only to be sent to a monastery when he was old enough? Then of course all of Angela of Foligno's kids died and she was free to pursue the penitential life. Jane de Chantal walked over the body of her (adult) son who laid on the threshold in his attempt to keep her from founding a convent. There are so many examples of saints doing crazy stuff. LOL! Religious people are rather queer, haven't you noticed? - My commentI took my comment down, pretty much because contemporary people seem to regard this sort of 'heroic detachment' as mere hyperbole, and one is more or less forbidden to even suggest such a horrific example to others. I was also ashamed that I made light of another person's piety. The original objection on Facebook was that it somehow contradicted pro-life ideology. To be sure that's beyond my competence - so I thought I better back off.
In another reply I had also cited Dominic Savio who at seven years of age vowed: "Death before sin!" I noted I made the same promise when I was about Savio's age, but it didn't work for me. I tried to make light of the whole thing, but it was wrong for me to play games like that. Gratefully I suddenly remembered something St. John Paul II wrote regarding this very same issue - which confirmed my reluctance to add more to the conversation.
The Church proposes the example of numerous Saints who bore witness to and defended moral truth even to the point of enduring martyrdom, or who preferred death to a single mortal sin. In raising them to the honor of the altars, the Church has canonized their witness and declared the truth of their judgment, according to which the love of God entails the obligation to respect his commandments, even in the most dire of circumstances, and the refusal to betray those commandments, even for the sake of saving one’s own life. - Veritatis Splendor, 91Of course, this leads one to consider the 'virgin martyrs', especially in modern times, with Maria Goretti at the lead. Parents are loathe to consider such an end for their kids. I'm thinking this must be the pivot of the argument. It seems to turn the tables and becomes a pro-choice argument against pro-lifers? I'm not sure, but I think I need to stay away from these online battles.