In the midst of all our preparations for our Christmas celebrations, something serious appeared on the horizon. A former Evangelical, Valerie Tarico, wrote an article on Salon called “Why rape is so intrinsic to religion.” With a title like that, the week before Christmas: one can only surmise that she intended to provoke.
I feel called to respond to this article, as a Roman Catholic woman intellectual. I know that I have many non-Catholic
readers among my Ruth Institute friends, but I have to speak as a Catholic for two reasons. First of all, that is what I am. Secondly, non-Catholic Christianity is not a well-defined thing. One can readily point to non-Catholic Christians who believe all sorts of things. There is no non-Catholic Christian “definitive” or “traditional” interpretation of anything. Say what you like. Believe what you like. But Catholicism has at least this virtue: one can figure out what it actually says and does not say.
Dr. Tarico cites numerous examples of rape stories in a variety of religious traditions: Zeus, Jupiter, Zoroaster and so on. Tucked away within those stories is the story of the virginal conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary. I’m reminded of the old Sesame Street song: “One of these is not like the others.”
As a matter of Catholic doctrine and Catholic tradition, Mary freely gave her consent. The Angel Gabriel stood there and waited for her answer. Nearly a thousand years ago, St. Bernard of Clairvaux captured the beautiful image of all creation, including Adam and Eve and all their descendants, waiting breathlessly for the Virgin’s answer. Read more…