does every law in every jurisdiction define rape in terms that if its
not consentual, then its rape. But yet, if I dont stand up for
myself, then how is the other person to know that its not consentual
on my part? Its no different if someone were to offer me a glass of
lemonade and internally, I really wanted water, but I didnt
say a dang thing and I still got lemonade. More importantly, what is the
Penitential Rite all about when Catholics proclaim: that I have sinned
through my own fault . . . in what I have done, and in what I have failed
to do. By being passive (not saying No, or not defending
your own self) in a sexual assault incident, sodomy, or rapewhatever
you call itisnt that failing to do something on your own stupidity,
before the eyes of God, as well as to yourself?
ou ask a question with many complicated
facets to it, so lets sort out some of them to make the whole issue
of the Penitential Rite is a good place to begin. Notice, though, that whereas
the traditional Confiteor says, I have sinned exceedingly in thought,
word, and deed, the modern version says, I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed
to do. Oddly enough, this is one of those rare cases where the modernized
version of a traditional text is actually more psychologically
Both versions of the Confiteor
address the issue of sin through thought,
word, and deed. But the modern version reminds us of the concept
of sinning through what we fail to do.
Now, the fact that we commonly
sin in things we think yet shouldnt think, in things we
say yet shouldnt say, and in things we do yet shouldnt
do requires no explanation. These things are all too painfully obvious in
life. But the idea that we sin in what we fail to do does need some explanation.
In fact, it has two parts.
Perform Certain Behaviors
First, (and here is where modern
psychology comes in) we can sin by failing to perform certain behaviors.
We can fail to attend Mass on every Sunday and on every
holy day of obligation. We can fail to keep a day
of abstinence and fasting. We can fail to help someone
in need. These are all fairly clear examples, and yet we often fail to consider
them and many other things like them. Thus we sin more and more.
Second, we can sin by failing
to say something when by speaking up we might prevent a sin from occurring.
This idea actually derives from the prophet Ezekiel.
You, son of man,
I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything,
you shall warn them for me. If I tell the wicked man that he shall surely
die, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked man from his way, he
(the wicked man) shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible
for his death. But if you warn the wicked man, trying to turn him from his
way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but
you shall save yourself.
But notice (and here we start
to get to the gist of your question) that Ezekiel is obligated to tell the
wicked man what God says is wrong. In modern psychology, this is the
equivalent of saying that we have to know right from wrong according to divine
revelation before we can speak up. We commit a sin by not speaking up to
others about what God has said is wrongbut, as much as we might chide
ourselves for not speaking up about our own personal likes or dislikes, our
failures in these personal matters do not amount to sin.
OK. Now that thats clear,
lets examine the issue of a victims personal culpability in the
trauma of rape.
Moral responsibility varies by
degrees, according to a persons cognitive capability for moral
First, consider the matter of
child abuse, in which a young child is molested by an adult. Regardless of
what sin may be involved (e.g., rape,
fornication), a child who is not old
enough to understand right from wrong cannot be held culpable for any wrongdoing.
So there is nothing the child can do or fail to do in regard
to his or her moral involvement with the abuse.
Next, consider an older child
who does have some sense of moral responsibility. This child could warn the
offending adult about committing a sin; but, if the child has been repeatedly
abused through the years, the intimidation of the abuse may make it
psychologically impossible for the child to say anything when she finally
realizes what is happening morally. As for doing anything, well, intimidation
can also prevent the child from seeking help (e.g., If you say anything
about this to anyone, I will kill your dog!).
Therefore, an older child, who
possesses the capacity to do and say something, may, because of traumatic
intimidation, not be capable of doing or saying anything about
To heal those
old wounds of abuse, though, as an adult you must look back with sorrownot
guilton all of your failures to speak up as a child. Acknowledge the
pain, and the sadness, and the fearand the
angerof not having the protection and guidance
your parents should have provided for you. Realize
that, if they had provided proper guidance, you would have learned how to
defend yourself appropriately. Then do all it takes, now, to learn to speak
with honesty and integrity in the present.
Now consider an adult about to
be raped. She (or he) should know very well what sin is involved (e.g.,
fornication). So she can speak up and
warn the offender. But if the offender pulls out a gun and says, Shut
up or I will kill you! the victim should shut up. She cant defend
herself, and she cant stop the offender. But if she knows in her heart
that a sin is being committed, she is not culpable for its commission, even
if she cannot do anything or say anything more.
In the practical
sense, most victims of crime today are not thinking of the welfare of the
soul of the offender. And thats the simple result of living in a world
governed by secular humanism according to the principles of aggression, hatred,
and vengeance. But Christ calls us out of this worlds culture of insanity
to live lives of peace, love, and
forgiveness, always praying for
mercy for others, no matter what they do to us.
Thats how Christ lived, and thats how he died.
In the above case, then, the
victims only culpability would be in failing to say something. Remember,
the point of speaking up is to give a warning, regardless of whether or not
the warning is heeded.
An awesome example of this
can be found in the life and death of Saint Maria Goretti, who, at the age
of twelve, died during an attempted rape. She warned her attacker that he
was attempting to commit a sin, and she was stabbed to death as she defended
her virginity, preferring to die rather than be raped.
Nor was her death
wasted. She wasnt just a victim of a crime; she willingly
died because of the love of God that filled her heart. Consequently, because
of this holy love that was the basis for the chastity she defended with her
life, she died a martyr and became recognized as a saint.
because she forgave her attacker and prayed for
him as she lay dying, he ultimately repented and convertedallegedly
through a vision he had of the Saint while he was in prison. He even testified
at her canonization proceedings.
This all goes
to show us that Christian life is about trust in
God and seeking holiness, not success in the material world.
Finally, consider the case of
a woman who dresses seductively, goes to a party, gets drunk, and is raped.
What is her culpability? Well, she acted immodestly and got drunk, so
thats an act of doing. And, because she was intoxicated, she
failed in warning her offender about the sins he was
Nevertheless, her sins of
doing or failing to do cannot be considered an excuse for the
offender taking advantage of her incapacited state of mind. His actions are
his responsibility. Without her consent, he, and
he alone, committed the sin of
Note well, then, that the man
committed rape because he acted without the womans consent.
The woman did not have to say, No! Her simple lack of
consenteven if she is so incapacitated that she couldnt speak
anywaydecides the matter. In fact, thats why rape is a sin.
Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity
to which every person has a right (Catechism of the Catholic
Church, 2355). In other words, the right to not be violated is given
by God; it doesnt depend on anything you do or fail to do.
Of course, the average rapist
may not understandor care aboutyour God-given right to not be
violated. Thats why your speaking up to warn him would be considered
a charitable act of compassion for his soul. And if he refuses to
listen, then you have done all you can do and have not failed in anything.
From there on, the matter is in Gods hands. So
entrust the pain to God, and
pray for the offender that he might repent his
sins and turn back to God.
Remember that the whole spiritual
mission of our lives is the salvation of souls. Your first responsibility
is to your own salvation, and after
that you must do all you can for the salvation of other souls. Pray constantly
for their repentance, no matter what they have done or have failed to
Blessed are the
merciful, for they will be shown
But if you do
forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your
For the judgment
is merciless to one who has not shown
For reference, here below is the text of the Confiteor used in the New Order
of the Mass. Below it is the traditional Confiteor, in both English and
(Novus Ordo Penitential Rite, Option A)
I confess to almighty
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done
and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault,
through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.
I CONFESS to almighty
to blessed Mary ever Virgin,
to blessed Michael the Archangel,
to blessed John the Baptist,
to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul,
to all the saints,
and to you, brethern,
and to thee, Father,
that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed:
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault.
Therefore, I beseech blessed Mary ever Virgin,
blessed Michael the Archangel,
blessed John the Baptist,
the holy Apostles Peter and Paul,
all the saints,
and you, brethern,
and thee, Father,
to pray to the Lord our God for me.
beátæ Maríæ semper Vírgini,
beáto Michaéli Archángelo,
beáto Ioánni Baptístæ,
sanctis Apóstolis Petro et Paulo,
et vobis, fratres: [said by the
et tibi, pater: [said by the
quia peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo et ópere:
mea culpa, mea culpa,
mea máxima culpa.
Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem,
beátum Michaélem Archángelum,
beátum Ioánnem Baptístam,
sanctos Apóstolos Petrum et Paulum,
et vos fratres, [said by the
et te, pater, [said by the
oráre pro me ad Dóminum Deum nostrum.