Monday, September 1, 2014

Story-with-letter of Sister Lucy Vertrusc (Lucj Vertrusc, Lucia Vertruse), Bosnian nun raped by Serbian forces, but determined to carry her child to term, originally an imaginative literary exercise merely

     According to the Italian journalist Antonio Troiano ("Suora bosniaca diventa madre? no, e' una bufala," Corriera della Sera, 3 April 1994, p. 11), the letter from "Sister Lucj Vertrusc" was actually a literary exercise composed by Monsignor Alfredo Contran (15 August 1925-20 October 2007), who had been attempting to think his way through the unfolding situation in the former Yuogoslavia from the perspective of a nun imaginatively.  Having won honorable mention in a provincial literary contest, it circulated at first in private, and then, to Fr. Contran's surprise, began to appear as fact without attribution to him in Catholic periodicals, including, eventually, Segno Sette (Catholic Action), and on 2 April 1994, L'Indipendente of Milan (which supplied further "details" on the birth of the baby boy).
     Here is the text of the interview by Troiano as it appears in Corriera della Sera online, onto which I was put by Fr. Fernando Pascual, L.C.  In a response to me dated 2 September 2014, Fr. Pascual says that the imaginative nature of the letter was also confirmed for him independently by the staff of the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire:

suora bosniaca diventa madre? no, e' una bufala

il racconto di monsignor Alfredo Contran sul dramma di suor Lucj Vetrusc, stuprata dai serbi e rimasta incinta, nato come semplice componimento letterario e per rilanciare il tema della guerra in Bosnia, preso per vero da stampa e religiosi. i retroscena del caso

------------------------- PUBBLICATO ------------------------------

Un racconto di violenze scritto da un prete e preso per vero da stampa e religiosi
TITOLO:  Suora bosniaca diventa madre? No, e' una bufala

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MILANO. Tutto era nato come un semplice componimento letterario. Una storia violenta. Il dramma di suor Lucj Vetrusc, stuprata dai serbi e rimasta incinta. Il testo era cosi' bello e commovente che aveva anche vinto un premio letterario. Poi, un po' per caso, quel racconto aveva cominciato a circolare in fotocopia, ma, soprattutto, per molti era diventato una storia vera. E come storia vera la vicenda di suora Lucj e' finita sulle pagine di una importante rivista (Segno Sette, testata dell' Azione cattolica) e, ieri, sulle colonne dell' Indipendente. Il quotidiano milanese ha addirittura dato un seguito alla storia: suor Lucj, scrive, "ha partorito un maschietto", e per lei "e' possibile un viaggio a Roma, in gran segreto, per incontrare in Vaticano Giovanni Paolo II". Ma come e' potuto succedere tutto questo? Come un racconto cosi' delicato venir preso per vero dalla stampa e dagli stessi ambienti religiosi senza alcuna verifica? Monsignor Alfredo Contran, l' autore della lettera di suor Lucj Vetrusc, ha raccontato i retroscena dell' incredibile caso giornalistico letterario. "Non avrei mai immaginato tanta notorieta' . Questa lettera . ha spiegato . l' ho scritta solo per lanciare un messaggio contro la guerra e invitare tutti al perdono". Stupito dal clamore sollevato dalla pubblicazione del racconto, il prelato, giornalista da piu' di 30 anni, ha anche ricordato che l' epistola gli fece vincere l' anno scorso una menzione speciale al concorso letterario Arqua' Petrarca (Padova). "Ho inventato il caso drammatico di una religiosa che sta per diventare madre dopo aver subito violenza dai soldati serbi . ha detto monsignor Contran .. Suor Lucj sceglie di diventare mamma per insegnare a tutti il rispetto della vita e il valore del perdono". Il sacerdote padovano, ex direttore de La difesa del Popolo, racconta che, dopo essersi aggiudicato il riconoscimento letterario, ha cominciato a vedere circolare negli ambienti religiosi copie del testo. "Alcuni amici . ha continuato . mi avevano chiesto delle fotocopie della lettera. Poi negli ultimi mesi ho cominciato a vederla pubblicata su riviste religiose. La lettera pero' e' sempre stata riprodotta senza il mio nome, senza che fosse specificata la finzione di base. Ho cercato di ricostruire quello che poteva essere accaduto veramente a questa novizia. L' ho voluto fare per rilanciare il tema della guerra in Bosnia. Ho cercato di interpretare i luoghi, lo stato d' animo e la psicologia di suor Lucj. Sono molte le persone che mi hanno ringraziato per aver scritto questa lettera. Persone che leggendola si sono commosse". A proposito della possibilita' di far assumere pillole anticoncezionali alle suore che prestano servizio in zone ad alto rischio, monsignor Contran si dichiara "assolutamente contrario. Non esiste nessuna eccezione per nessuno e in nessun caso . ha concluso .. Consideriamo troppo seria la vita per non rispettarla prima di tutto. Le suore sanno bene cosa rischiano quando si trovano in particolari situazioni di pericolo. Rischiano il martirio, la maternita' , la sofferenza, i sequestri, perfino il disonore".

Troiano Antonio

Pagina 11

(3 aprile 1994) - Corriere della Sera

And here it is as it has appeared in the United States.  From the website Roman Catholic Vocations, post dated 5 August 2008, the one on which the Catholic News Agency relies:

Below is a powerful letter written by Sister Lucy Vertrusc, a young nun, to her mother superior. It is a difficult story about God's will, vocations and abandonment to Divine Providence. Certainly it is not to say that God caused what happened to Sister Lucy, but indeed it was allowed to happen. Sister Vertusc became pregnant after she was raped in 1995, along with two other sisters, during the war in the former Yugoslavia. The content of the letter was originally publis[h]ed in an Italian newspaper at the request of her mother superior. I find it particularly poignant after watching the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight". A film filled with horrible acts of violence, which ultimately asked the question - what do good people do, when unspeakable evil is forced upon them? What is our answer to the senseless violence of our world? Sister Vertusc knows the truly heroic answer...

"I am Lucy, one of the young nuns raped by the Serbian soldiers. I am writing to you, Mother, after what happened to my sisters Tatiana, Sandria, and me.

Allow me not to go into the details of the act. There are some experiences in life so atrocious that you cannot tell them to anyone but God, in whose service I had consecrated my life nearly a year ago.

My drama is not so much the humiliation that I suffered as a woman, not the incurable offense committed against my vocation as a religious, but the difficulty of having to incorporate into my faith an event that certainly forms part of the mysterious will of Him whom I have always considered my Divine Spouse.

Only a few days before, I had read "Dialogues of Carmelites" and spontaneously I asked our Lord to grant me the grace of joining the ranks of those who died a martyr of Him. God took me at my word, but in such a horrid way! Now I find myself lost in the anguish of internal darkness. He has destroyed the plans of my life, which I considered definitive and uplifting for me, and He has set me all of a sudden in this design of His that I feel incapable of grasping.

When I was a teenager, I wrote in my Diary: Nothing is mine, I belong to no one, and no one belongs to me. Someone, instead grabbed me one night, a night I wish never to remember, tore me off from myself, and tried to make me his own . . .

It was already daytime when I awoke and my first thought was the agony of Christ in the Garden. Inside of me a terrible battle unleashed. I asked myself why God had permitted me to be rent, destroyed precisely in what had been the meaning of my life, but also I asked to what new vocation He was calling me.

I strained to get up, and helped by Sister Josefina, I managed to straighten myself out. Then the sound of the bell of the Augustinian convent, which was right next to ours, reached my ears. It was time for nine o'clock matins.

I made the sign of the cross and began reciting in my head the liturgical hymn. At this hour upon Golgotha's heights,/ Christ, the true Pascal Lamb,/ paid the price of our salvation.

What is my suffering, Mother, and the offense I received compared to the suffering and the offense of the One for whom I had a thousand times sworn to give my life. I spoke these words slowly, very slowly: May your will be done, above all now that 1 have no where to go and that I can only be sure of one thing: You are with me.

Mother, I am writing not in search of consolation, but so that you can help me give thanks to God for having associated me with the thousands of my fellow compatriots whose honor has been violated, and who are compelled to accept a maternity not wanted. My humiliation is added to theirs, and since I have nothing else to offer in expiation for the sin committed by those unnamed violators and for the reconciliation of the two embittered peoples, I accept this dishonor that I suffered and I entrust it to the mercy of God.

Do not be surprised, Mother, when I ask you to share with me my "thank you" that can seem absurd.

In these last months I have been crying a sea of tears for my two brothers who were assassinated by the same aggressors who go around terrorizing our towns, and I was thinking that it was not possible for me to suffer anything worse, so far from my imagination had been what was about to take place.

Every day hundreds of hungering creatures used to knock at the doors of our convent, shivering from the cold, with despair in their eyes. Some weeks ago, a young boy about eighteen years old said to me: How lucky you are to have chosen a refuge where no evil can reach you. The boy carried in his hands a rosary of praises for the Prophet. Then he added: You will never know what it means to be dishonored.

I pondered his words at length and convinced myself that there had been a hidden element to the sufferings of my people that had escaped me as I was almost ashamed to be so excluded. Now I am one of them, one of the many unknown women of my people, whose bodies have been devastated and hearts seared. The Lord had admitted me into his mystery of shame. What is more, for me, a religious, He has accorded me the privilege of being acquainted with evil in the depths of its diabolical force.

I know that from now on the words of encouragement and consolation that I can offer from my poor heart will be all the more credible, because my story is their story, and my resignation, sustained in faith, at least a reference, if not example for their moral and emotional responses.

All it takes is a sign, a little voice, a fraternal gesture to set in motion the hopes of so many undiscovered creatures.

God has chosen me-may He forgive my presumption-to guide the most humble of my people towards the dawn of redemption and freedom. They can no longer doubt the sincerity of my words, because I come, as they do, from the outskirts of revilement and profanation.

I remember the time when I used to attend the university at Rome in order to get my masters in Literature, an ancient Slavic woman, the professor of Literature, used to recite to me these verses from the poet Alexej Mislovic: You must not die/because you have been chosen/ to be a part of the day.

That night, in which I was terrorized by the Serbs for hours and hours, I repeated to myself these verses, which I felt as balm for my soul, nearly mad with despair.

And now, with everything having passed and looking back, I get the impression of having been made to swallow a terrible pill.

Everything has passed, Mother, but everything begins. In your telephone call, after your words of encouragement, for which I am grateful with all my life, you posed me a very direct question: What will you do with the life that has been forced into your womb? I heard your voice tremble as you asked me the question, a question I felt needed no immediate response; not because I had not yet considered the road I would have to follow, but so as not to disturb the plans you would eventually have to unveil before me. I had already decided. I will be a mother. The child will be mine and no one else's. I know that I could entrust him to other people, but he-though I neither asked for him nor expected him-he has a right to my love as his mother. A plant should never be torn from its roots. The grain of wheat fallen in the furrow has to grow there, where the mysterious, though iniquitous sower threw it.

I will fulfill my religious vocation in another way. I will ask nothing of my congregation, which has already given me everything. I am very grateful for the fraternal solidarity of the Sisters, who in these times have treated me with the utmost delicacy and kindness, especially for never having asked any uncareful questions.

I will go with my child. I do not know where, but God, who broke all of a sudden my greatest joy, will indicate the path I must tread in order to do His will.

I will be poor again, I will return to the old aprons and the wooden shoes that the women in the country use for working, and I will accompany my mother into the forest to collect the resin from the slits in the trees.

Someone has to begin to break the chain of hatred that has always destroyed our countries. And so, I will teach my child only one thing: love. This child, born of violence, will be a witness along with me that the only greatness that gives honor to a human being is forgiveness.

Through the Kingdom of Christ for the Glory of God."

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Divine revelation doesn't diminish us; it blows the lid off of every anthropology we have ever arrived at, or been capable of "living up to," on our own

"we don't know what we are."  But "God knows us in ways we cannot know ourselves, and ... values us in ways we cannot value ourselves or one another...."

     Marilynne Robinson, "The human spirit and the good society," in When I was a child I read books (New York:  Picador; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), 162-163.

     "What would a secular paraphrase of this [(the opening)] sentence [(of the Declaration of Independence)] look like?  In what non-religious terms is human equality self-evident? . . . What would be the nonreligious equivalent for the assertion that individual rights are sacrosanct in every case?  Every civilization, including this one, has always been able to reason its way to ignoring or denying the most minimal claims to justice in any form that deserves the name.  The temptation is always present and powerful because the rationalizations are always ready to hand."
     Robinson makes the point that Jefferson appeals to "self-eviden[ce]" while slipping "the language and assumptions" of Judeo-Christian revelation in by the back door, and that "if he could have articulated the idea as or more effectively in other terms, he would have done it" (162).
     "gratia non tollit naturam, sed perficit" (Thomas Aquinas, Super Sent., lib. 2 d. 9 q. 1 a. 8 arg. 3).  (For what very little it is worth, I haven't yet been able to turn up a single occurrence of the exact phrase "gratia non tollit" in the Calvini Opera Database.)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Prenter in 1958

     "The moment liturgy is no longer the corporal form of dogma it has lost its proper significance and objectivity.  The sole criterion to which it remains accountable is the subjective one, the arbitrariness of the individual.  The religious service is elaborated according to the principle, 'This suits me the best!' ('me' being the pastor), or 'This is the kind [of worship] the people love best these days.'"

Because I've translated this fairly loosely, I give the French:

     "Quand la liturgie n'est plus la forme corporelle du dogme, elle a perdu à la fois son sens propre et son caractère d'objectivité.  Le seul critère auquel elle demeure soumise est le critère subjectif, l'arbitraire individuel.  Le service religieux s'élabore d'après le principe: «C'est ainsi que cela me convient le mieux!» (moi, c'est-à-dire le pasteur), ou:  «C'est la forme que les gens aiment le mieux de nos jours.»"

     Regin Prenter, "Liturgie et dogme," Revue d'histoire et de philosophie religieuses 38, no. 2 (1958):  125 (115-128).
     In the paragraphs that follow, Prenter is especially concerned with 3) aesthetic dilettantism, 4) the archaeological folly, and 5) historical exactitude at any price, in addition to the 1) subjectivism (or arbitrariness) and 2) sentimentality of preference, whether individualistic or fully corporate (for nos. 3-5 are but specific forms of nos. 1-2).
     So, annoyed by (say) the Danish obsession with "«lithurgie»" ("with [a] 'th'"), he wasn't really addressing even the 60s yet, except in principle, that of the inseparability of liturgy from dogma and dogma from liturgy, according to which nos. 3-5 are no less subjective and arbitrary than the most inane forms of worship-band music in the present.
     And then, beyond that point, it gets even more involved, such that one gets almost an entire "dogmatics in outline".

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Fathers of the English Dominican Province . . .

. . .  were really only Laurence Shapcote, 1864-1947, working "on the Rand and in Natal" (Thomistica, citing Fergus Kerr, "Comment:  The Shapcote translation," New Blackfriars 92, no. 1041 (September 2011):  519-520; but this is common knowledge (and therefore easily discoverable via Google Books, for example)).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"We do not believe in dogma, but in the living God. More precisely, . . . we believe from within dogma or through/by means of dogma."

"Nous ne croyons pas au dogme, mais au Dieu vivant.  Plus exactement, . . . nous croyons dans le dogme ou par le dogme."

     Regin Prenter, "Liturgie et dogme," Revue d'histoire et de philosophie religieuses 38, no. 2 (1958):  125 (115-128).

Monday, August 25, 2014

"Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace."

"Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified; Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen."

  • 1882:  Rev. Dr. William Reed Huntington, Materia ritualis.
  • 1892:  occasional prayer under "For patience under suffering," proposed revision of the American Book of common prayer (rejected).
  • 1928:  collect for the Monday before Easter, American Book of common prayer.
  • 1979:  collect for the Monday before Easter; station collect, Palm Sunday; collect for Fridays, Morning prayer, American Book of common prayer.

Bibliography:  Shepherd (1950), 138; & Hatchett (1980), 125.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

"the loss of Moses was the defeat of Jesus, insofar as it was the hope of Jesus to bless and relieve the poor."

     Marilynne Robinson, "The fate of ideas:  Moses," in When I was a child I read books (New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), 109 (95-124).