Did St. Gianna Beretta Molla violate Jewish law?

It appears to me that if St. Gianna Beretta Molla had been a Jew, she would have violated Jewish law. She sacrificed her life for the life of her unborn child, which Jewish law forbids. Jewish law states that the life of the mother must take priority over the fetus.

Pope John Paul II elevated Gianna to sainthood; therefore she sets a standard to be emulated. But a Jew in the same circumstance would have violated Jewish law. Can you clear up this conundrum?

One thing to remember is that there is no one interpretation of Jewish law binding on all Jews everywhere. The religious condition in modern Judaism is a bit like it is in Protestantism: There is no authoritative magisterium able to bind consciences on matters of faith and morals. So, while there are indeed rabbinical authorities within Judaism who have ruled that a mother’s life takes precedence over an unborn child’s, an individual Jewish woman who wished to take the course St. Gianna Beretta Molla chose would not commit an immoral action by violating the principles of her religion.

Secondly, St. Gianna was not required in conscience to take the path she chose. One of the options that she had was to allow physicians to remove her uterus, which contained both a tumor and her child. She would have been on firm moral ground to do so because the intent was not to commit an abortion but to remove the diseased uterus, allowing but not willing for the child inside to die. St. Gianna’s free choice to sacrifice her life for her child’s, when she was under no moral obligation to do so, is a demonstration of the heroic virtue that led to her canonization as a saint.

**Recommended reading:

St. Gianna Molla: Wife, Mother, and Doctor** by Pietro Molla and Elio Gueriero

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