Vivian Ogu, a Nigerian girl abducted in 2009, sought to imitate St. Maria Goretti’s example and might be declared a martyr.
According to VaticanNews, on November 15, 2009, Vivian Ogu spoke about the topic of virginity at her parish, St. Paul’s Catholic Church, on Sunday morning.”
It was that very evening that she was “forcefully abducted alongside her elder sister by three armed men who robbed her parents of their valuables.”
The men went on to attempt to rape Vivian and her sister. Vivian fought against her attackers and urged her sister’s fight as well, until the sister was able to escape. Her would-be rapists eventually shot Vivian, and her body was found the next day.
Vivian was a faithful and devout Catholic from a young age. She was involved in a prayer group and actively taught other children the faith.
Ever since her death, her heroic example has been an inspiration throughout Nigeria and the “Vivian Ogu Movement” was started in 2014 in her memory.
On account of her remarkable courage and lasting impact, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria considered her case and launched her cause for canonization on September 14, 2023.
While her death could eventually be declared a type of “martyrdom,” the bishops also want to uphold her extraordinary faith at such a young age.
Martyr for virtue
To be declared a martyr, someone must either die for the faith directly, or die in defense of a Christian virtue. In the case of Vivian and other “martyrs of purity,” the faith isn’t being attacked directly. These martyrs’ deaths are a reflection of their lives. Living virtuously developed in them the “habit of excellence” that Aristotle described. Though young, they had an abhorrence of sin so deeply developed that when confronted with impurity, even though the sin was not theirs, they fled from it.
The virtue of chastity does not require that a person choose death over rape. The Church does not value virginity over life. If these young women had been unable to get away from the attackers, or if they had submitted in fear for their lives, the sin would have belonged only to the rapist, and would not have touched their own chastity. But neither are they morally required to submit to a rapist.
In the moment of trauma, the martyrs of purity do not have time to philosophize regarding the greater good, of life or chastity. They respond as they can, moved by grace.