Monday, September 1, 2014

Letter by 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

     According to the Italian journalist Antonio Troiano ("Suora bosniaca diventa madre? no, e' una bufala," Corriere 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 1 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.  In a second communication dated 2 September 2014, he notes the problem with the date of 1995 given for the "rape" in the English version way below, and refers to a second Italian source for the testimony of Monsignor Contran.


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

     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 così bello e commovente che aveva anche vinto un premio letterario. Poi, un pò 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 è 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 «è possibile un viaggio a Roma, in gran segreto, per incontrare in Vaticano Giovanni Paolo II».
     Ma come è potuto succedere tutto questo? Come un racconto così 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 notorietà. 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 più di 30 anni, ha anche ricordato che l'epistola gli fece vincere l'anno scorso una menzione speciale al concorso letterario Arquà 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 però è 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 possibilità 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 maternità, la sofferenza, i sequestri, perfino il disonore».

An[tonio] T[roiana]

Pagina 11

(3 aprile 1994) - Corriere della Sera

     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."

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