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Lecture series disappoints

| Sunday, January 30, 2005

As a Catholic and a pro-life feminist, I was pleased to see that two Notre Dame students, Christina Dehan and Anamaria Scaperlanda-Ruiz, had organized a series of on-campus talks entitled “The Maria Goretti Project: Empowering Women to End Violence.” As we all know, violence against women is an issue of great concern, especially for college-age women, who are most often the victims of sexual assault, and for pregnant women, as homicide was the number one cause of death for pregnant women in the U.S. last year.

When I attended the series, however, I was disappointed to find that violence against women was only minimally discussed. On the other hand, the importance of stay-at-home mothering was given top billing two nights in a row. I wondered, as I sat in the audience, if there wasn’t some ulterior motive behind the series, something not on the posters, something about the new feminism of Pope John Paul II. The vocation of motherhood is a fine and worthy topic for college women to discuss, most of us will be mothers, still, I felt a bit deceived as the series was advertised as being about violence against women, when in fact its scope was much more broad.

Finally I think the choice of St. Maria Goretti was an unfortunate one. Maria Goretti was an eleven year-old when she was stabbed to death by her would-be rapist for refusing to submit her virginity to him. She reportedly shouted, “No it’s a sin! I will not do it!” Canonized in 1950 for preserving her purity at the cost of her life and for forgiving the perpetrator, Maria is the patroness of women, purity and victims of rape. Maria’s struggle, however harrowing, seems to suggest that a woman’s holiness consists entirely in the extent to which she resists the sometimes violent advances of men. This, I think, is the kind of outdated thinking that has left so many women who have been sexually assaulted blaming themselves, and believing that they are responsible for their “sin.”

Anna Nussbaum


Farley Hall

Jan. 29