Saints and Sinners . . .

Again back on the gay marriage backlash, apparently PATRE had a letter published in the Irish Times last week, causing an understandable level of offence to readers of the paper.  One friend of mine has pointed out that the most disturbing aspect of this organisation is its seemingly innocuous name, which basically hides the edifice of an organisatin dedicated to preventing the implementation of sex education in catholic schools.  They do not seem to be related to the CSPA (Catholic Secondary Parents Association) who insidiuously printed the details of a Dept of Ed project survey without premission because the project was a study of homophobic bullying in schools.  More on this organisation later in the week.

After moving house last week, I discovered that somebody locally delivers the catholic freesheet "Alive."  This used to be quite a nice little read but seems to now be completely obsessed with sexual mores.  I noticed that the first 4 pages were totally dedicated to issues regarding sexuality and what is often odiously called "familiy values" (usually a basically patriarcal ideology which usually exemplifies traditional female roles).  What caught my eye was some information about the newly sainted Gianna Beretta Molla, who died in childbirth in 1962, due to complications associated with fibroma.  This has to be one of the most insiduous of all the current pope's sainthoods.

Molla, an Italian, was diagnosed with fibroma whilst pregnant, and refused treatment.  Its usually implied that the treatment for this condition is abortion - but this contradicts heavily the catholic medical teaching that abortion is never a treatment for any disease.  What is more devious about this case is that officially, the catholic church advises that in the case of a risk to a mother's health due to pregnancy, that the doctor is entitled to go ahead with treatment that may result in the death of the foetus.  This is standard catholic teaching and it is usually made clear that no mother should be denied treatment or refuse essential life saving treatment because of her pregnancy.

However, to glorify, and go as far as sainting a woman who went to the point of martyrdom (also, incidentally, leaving her child motherless), suggests that catholic teaching is contradicts the real medical practice and risks involved.  Should a mother to be sacrifice herself?  It is usually taught that this is never the case.  Yet Molla was "called" to this.  Was she a martyr or merely misguided?  Or did her death prove that catholic teaching is not based on best medical practice, but on a cruel, anti-feminine social ideology that degrades women to beneath the level of the rest of humanity?  As one person suggests, if the church genuinely means its policy of treating pregnant women equally, then Molla was a sacrificial heretic, and no saint.  However, her sainting indeed suggests that the church is quite happy to sacrifice adult members on the altar of ideology, especially if they happen to be women.  Molla's choice was suicide, a Catholic sin, yet she is considered to be a saint as a result.  Her 5 children were left motherless - had she committed suicide for any other reason she would have been considered a villain.
Perhaps instead the church should be considering the great american heroine, Dorothy Day, whose pacifism and duty to the poor of New York truly esclipses Molla's much smaller sacrifice.  Of course, as a young woman, Day had an illegal abortion and fought for women's right, although she regreted these later in life.  Now we couldn't possibly forgive this woman of her misgivings, despite her gallant work and inspiration, could we?

Perhaps I should finish with the words of Dorothy Day herself, "When they call you a saint," she said, "it means basically that you are not to be taken seriously."


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