Better dead than raped -- Catholic church criticized for message

A Soviet soldier tried to rape and then shot 16-year-old Slovak Anna Kolesárová in 1944. And now she has been beatified for "defending her purity". Is she really a good role model for youth and those who have been through sexual assault?

Ria Gehrerová
Ria Gehrerová Denník N, Slovakia
Source: Denník N
Better dead than raped -- Catholic church criticized for message - NewsMavens
Anna Kolesárová, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

The beatification of Anna Kolesárová was a major event for the Catholic Church in Slovakia. She is depicted as a "martyr of purity" and meant to be a patron saint for rape victims and young people who want to keep their virginity until marriage.

However, the church is being criticized for its handling of the commemoration, much of which implied that being murdered is preferable to being raped.

On her grave, it is written "better death than sin", which has also been used by the church when promoting Kolesárová's story.

Many were confused by the phrase -- would Kolesárová have sinned if the soldier had raped her? A spokesperson of the Slovak church said no.

So why use this phrasing? Other questions were then raised, for example how the Church views victims of sexual violence, and whether or not they are indirectly blaming them by celebrating a virgin who chose death over rape.

Details from the story:

  • Anna Kolesárová is the first layperson who was beatified in Slovakia.
  • She lived in a Slovak village near Ukrainian border called Vysoká nad Uhom.
  • The celebration of her beatification was attended by 30,000 of people. It took place at the football stadium in Košice.
  • At the end of the war, Anna was hiding in the cellar with her family. One day, a Soviet soldier came to their house. Anna's father sent her out to give him something to eat. He then tried to rape her, and shot her when she resisted.

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