Not a Tame Lion

Zippy has an excellent post up on St. Maria Goretti. I have nothing specifically to criticize it, but I want to add my thoughts.

I understand the desire to try and downplay St. Goretti’s martyrdom for purity – I truly do. When one thinks of the Elizabeth Smarts of the world, who specifically made the choice to do whatever their attacker told them to in order to get back to their family and now serves as an activist for the abused and traumatized, the mind rebels to think that she would have been better off dying as a martyr to purity.

Furthermore, it is natural for every man to tell the women in his life that if they are attacked, they are to do what the attacker tells them to in order to get back alive, as opposed to resist.

Then there’s St. Maria Goretti, who stands as a symbol of a higher, holier way. What happened to her is deeply uncomfortable and unsettling. It was a horrible, horrible situation. That she died for her purity is disturbing, and it should be, because it was a disturbing attack.

But our response to it can be summarized like this: Aslan is not a tame lion. If purity is really something to aspire to, if it really is holy state, than the logical extrapolation from there is that dying to keep your purity is a holy, heroic thing. It is an unavoidable conclusion if we start from those premises. I don’t like it. I don’t think anyone does. But there it is.

The truth doesn’t exist to make us feel better. It exists because it is true. It exists independent of us and our desires, our worries and fears.

After all, Aslan is not a tame lion.

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6 Responses to Not a Tame Lion

  1. John says:

    Meh.

    It is also heroic to be a martyr for the faith if someone were to put a gun to your head and ask you to recant or else.

    But most people would not be able to do it, including most Catholics.

    But what makes both of these martyrdom cases much easier to swallow, at least for me, is the fact that the extreme fear and stress from having your life threatened would most likely severely diminish your culpability of failing to be heroic, if it were to turn out you couldn’t take the heroic path.

    • It is also heroic to be a martyr for the faith if someone were to put a gun to your head and ask you to recant or else.

      But most people would not be able to do it, including most Catholics.

      This is quite true, but I also have no issue with saying that one should do so; that the Church has a long history of martyrdom and that dying for Christ has a noble pedigree.

      Do you feel the same about a person dying for purity? I do not. I SHOULD, but I do not.

      • John says:

        ”Do you feel the same about a person dying for purity? I do not. I SHOULD, but I do not.”

        Not really.

        I know and understand the reasons why, but I just recently found out about this and don’t know what to make of it really.

        Oh well, at least the culpability for failing would be minimal.

  2. Joseph Moore says:

    She was also concerned for his soul, IIRC. She did not want him to rape her, for his sake, and was willing to face death – for him. She preserved more than just her physical purity, not that that isn’t enough. At least, that’s the way I have tended to think about this.

    • Well, that’s partially what Zippy’s post is about. That is POSSIBLE. But everyone prominent who has spoken about her tends to make it very clear that she dies for the sake of her purity. That’s what she said outright, what we know.

      That she died for her attacker’s sake is possible, but not necessary for her Sainthood.

    • Hrodgar says:

      I really do think it’s also important not to view St. Maria in isolation. Over on Zippy’s blog I mentioned another, St. Pelagia of Antioch.

      Rough account: Soldiers came to arrest her, she feared being raped, she got them to let her go to up stairs for a bit before they carted her off, she jumped off the roof of her house to escape and died from the fall. No mention of concern for the souls of her persecutors (though of course that doesn’t rule it out) is made in any of the hagiographies or accounts I’ve read, but the Church seems to have always very highly regarded her concern for her physical purity, all the more so because she would in all probability have been martyred anyway. That she was willing to be a martyr, yet also willing to forgo the privilege to preserve her purity seems to make her more impressive, rather than less.

      For my own part, I am beginning to doubt whether anything can really be “just” physical.

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