On May 23, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger went on a one-man killing spree in Santa Barbara, California, shooting or stabbing six people and injuring 13 more before crashing his car and reportedly putting a gun to his own head.
Rodger’s motives, as outlined in his online “Retribution” video and a lengthy written manifesto, centered on “payback” for years of being ignored by “beautiful girls” who “have never been attracted to me.”
“All of those popular people who live hedonistic lives of pleasure, I will destroy, because they never accepted me as one of them,” he said. “I will kill them all and make them suffer, just as they have made me suffer. It is only fair.”
As Catholics, we’re called by our faith to move beyond victimization to something more — to be the hands
and feet of Christ in the world.
As the dust began to clear from Rodger’s horrific rampage, women (and men) took to social media, using the hash tag #YesAllWomen to stand in solidarity with those women who all too often find themselves the victims of sexual harassment or violence. The initiative caught fire, and the result was an outpouring of more than 1 million #YesAllWomen tweets.
These 140-character messages ran the gamut from shocking to exasperating to depressing and focused a national spotlight on what it means to be a woman and a “victim” in today’s society. As a Church, though, we know the conversation doesn’t stop there. As Catholics, we’re called by our faith to move beyond victimization to something more: to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world.
In this week’s issue we have two examples of incredibly strong women, both victims, who used their faith to turn their lives’ negative experiences into positive actions. Marie Collins was the childhood victim of clergy sexual abuse in Ireland in the 1960s. Though, as a result, she struggled with her faith, she never left the Church; rather, she used her experience to find her voice — to speak out against sexual abuse and to increase child protection in her local Archdiocese of Dublin.
Now, nearly 50 years later, Collins is a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and a major player in the Church’s international sex abuse fight. As such, she’ll use her influence to champion for much-needed increased accountability and transparency within the Church on this critical issue.
Then there’s Lizzie Velasquez (featured on Page 14), a 25-year-old woman who suffers from a rare syndrome that doesn’t allow her to gain weight. As a result, she was the victim of online bullying — an experience that could have thrown her into despair. Instead, she got stronger. Relying on the faith passed down to her by her parents, she became a motivational speaker, authored three books and is in the process of filming a documentary to help prevent Internet bullying.
On their respective journeys, Collins and Velasquez had every excuse to give up and every excuse to be silent. They could have given into bitterness or hatred, or could have used their lives to further the cycle of abuse. But they didn’t. Instead, these two remarkable women drew strength from their victimizations. They transcended their pain and transformed it to work for the good of others. There is no greater gift, Christ said, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.
As Pope Francis calls us to a deeper understanding of the role of women in the Church, these women shine as examples. And most of all, they remind the rest of us of what we are all called to do and who we are called to be: those who live not in darkness, but in the light of faith.
Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor