Gianna Beretta Molla
|Saint Gianna Beretta Molla|
October 4, 1922|
|Died||April 28, 1962
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Beatified||April 24, 1994 by Pope John Paul II|
|Canonized||May 16, 2004 by Pope John Paul II|
|Patronage||mothers, physicians, preborn children|
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla (October 4, 1922 – April 28, 1962) was an Italian pediatrician, wife and mother who is best known for refusing both an abortion and a hysterectomy when she was pregnant with her fourth child, despite knowing that continuing with the pregnancy could result in her death. She was canonized as a saint of the Catholic Church in 2004.
Gianna Francesca Beretta was born in Magenta in Italy. She was the tenth of thirteen children in her family, only nine of whom survived to adulthood. When she was three, her family moved to Bergamo, and she grew up in the Lombardy region of Italy.
In 1942, Gianna began her study of medicine in Milan. Outside of her schooling, she was active in Azione Cattolica. She received a medical diploma in 1949, and opened an office in Mesero, near her hometown of Magenta, where she specialized in pediatrics.
Gianna hoped to join her brother, a missionary priest in Brazil, where she intended to offer her medical expertise in gynecology to poor women. However, her chronic ill health made this impractical, and she continued her practice in Italy.
Engagement and marriage
In December 1954, Gianna met Pietro Molla, an engineer who worked in her office, ten years older than she. They were officially engaged the following April, and they married in September 1955.
They welcomed Pierluigi, in 1956, Mariolina, in 1957, and Laura in 1959.
In 1961, Gianna was pregnant once again. During the second month, Gianna developed a fibroma on her uterus. After examination, the doctors gave her three choices: an abortion, a complete hysterectomy, or removal of only the fibroma. The Catholic Church forbids all direct abortion even when the woman's life is in danger, but Catholic teaching would have allowed her to undergo a hysterectomy, which would have resulted in her unborn child's death as an unintended consequence.
- "Abortion – that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus – is never permitted...Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child." – The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, issued by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (5th edition, 2009), Directives 45 and 47
Gianna opted for the removal of the fibroma, wanting to preserve her child's life.
After the operation, complications continued throughout her pregnancy. Gianna was quite clear about her wishes, expressing to her family, "This time it will be a difficult delivery, and they may have to save one or the other -- I want them to save my baby."
On April 21, 1962, Good Friday of that year, Gianna went to the hospital, where her fourth child, Gianna Emanuela, was successfully delivered via Caesarean section. However, Gianna continued to have severe pain, and died of septic peritonitis 7 days after the birth.
Gianna was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994, and canonized on May 16, 2004. Gianna's husband Pietro, and their child Laura, were present at the canonization ceremony, the first time in the history of the Church that a husband witnessed his wife's canonization.
The miracle recognized by the Catholic Church to canonize Gianna Molla involved a mother, Elizabeth Comparini, who was 16 weeks pregnant in 2003 and sustained a tear in her placenta that drained her womb of all amniotic fluid. Because a normal term of pregnancy is 40 weeks, Comparini was told by her doctors the baby's chance of survival was "nil." Comparini said she prayed to Gianna Molla asking for her intercession, and was able to deliver a healthy baby despite the lack of amniotic fluid.
In his homily at her canonization Mass, Pope John Paul II called Gianna "a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love."
Maria Zita (Mariolina) Molla died in 1964 at the age of six, from a rare complication of measles.
Pietro Molla, died at 97 in 2010 nearly 50 years after Saint Gianna died.
St. Gianna is the inspiration behind the Gianna Center in New York City. It is the first pro-life, Catholic healthcare center for women in New York. The Gianna Center provides primary care with specialized gynecologic care.
St. Gianna is a patron saint for mothers, physicians, and unborn children.
A litany to St. Gianna Molla has also been written, and may be found here.
- "If you must choose between me and the baby, no hesitation; choose – and I demand it – the baby. Save her!"
- "Also in suffering, let us say: Thanks be to God."
- "If one were to consider how much Jesus has suffered, one would not commit the smallest sin."
- "Everyone works in the service of man. We doctors work directly on man himself... The great mystery of man is Jesus: 'He who visits a sick person, helps me,' Jesus said... Just as the priest can touch Jesus, so do we touch Jesus in the bodies of our patients... We have opportunities to do good that the priest doesn't have. Our mission is not finished when medicines are no longer of use. We must bring the soul to God; our word has some authority... Catholic doctors are so necessary!"
- "The doctor should not meddle. The right of the child is equal to the right of the mother’s life. The doctor can’t decide; it is a sin to kill in the womb."
- "When one does one's own duty, one must not be concerned, because God's help will not be lacking."
- "Our body is a cenacle, a monstrance: through its crystal the world should see God."
- "The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day."
- "God's Providence is in all things, it's always present."
- "One cannot love without suffering or suffer without loving."
- Molla, Gianna Beretta, Love Letters to My Husband, Guerriero, Elio, ed., Pauline Books, 2002.
- Gianna Beretta Molla (1922–1962), Vatican web site
- Canonization of Six New Saints;Homily of John Paul II, Sixth Sunday of Easter, 16 May 2004
- The National Gianna Center for Women’s Health and Fertility
- St Gianna Physician's Guild
- Saint Gianna website
- Saint Gianna Shrine website
- St. Gianna Beretta Molla
- Gianna Beretta Molla at Find a Grave
- Life of St Gianna