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RE: Loretta Young
Question from Dinah on 1/18/2013:

I'm sorry that I can't post this in the Pro-Life Issues forum right now, but I hope you can help.

Recent Q&A in that forum on the legendary movie actress Loretta Young present differing views of her. The first inquirer says she "gave her time & money to support countless charities including the fight against abortion" and "[f]or her beliefs she was often ridiculed." The second inquirer responds with a harsh judgment of Miss Young, stating that:

Loretta Young had a child out of wedlock, with Clark Gable. She put the child in an orphanage and then adopted her and pretended to her dying day that she was not the girl's biological mother. According to the daughter all her friends knew that Clark Gable and Loretta Young were her biological parents. Of course Loretta spent the rest of her life pretending to be a holier than thou Catholic. Why would you want to honor such a despicable person?

Which view is correct?

Answer by Catholic Answers on 1/18/2013:


Both views are "correct" insofar as they give accurate information, but the second inquirer has left out important information about Miss Young's life that would cast a far different light on her actions had the second inquirer investigated further before determining that Miss Young was "a despicable person."

In Loretta Young's authorized biography Forever Young, which Miss Young commissioned herself, Joan Wester Anderson explains that when Loretta was a young woman in Hollywood, she was involved in sexual relationships outside of marriage. One, with Clark Gable, did result in a pregnancy. Had the pregnancy become known, she would have lost her career (while Mr. Gable likely would have been unscathed). But rather than abort the child (which she could have done, albeit illegally) or give her up for adoption to someone else, Loretta chose to give the impression that she had adopted the child. It is true that she was very ashamed of the circumstances of the child's conception, and she did treat her daughter in a way that is hard to understand today (she reportedly once told her daughter that her daughter was "a walking mortal sin"); but Loretta Young was the product of a different time doing the best she could under difficult circumstances.

Joan Wester Anderson also notes that, later in Loretta's career, Loretta was pressured by a producer to abort another child when that pregnancy would have interfered with a project to which she was committed. Loretta staunchly refused and had the baby, despite being threatened with loss of employment. A few years later, the producer was abashed when he met Loretta and her family, and realized that the youngest child was the one he had tried to convince Loretta to abort.

Loretta Young was far from a "perfect" person; she had faults like anyone else. But she did her best to act honorably, and she tried hard to be a good Catholic. She also came from a family that tried hard to live out their faith. Her younger sister was married for over 60 years to actor Ricardo Montalban, the two of them remaining faithful to their marriage until death.

The bottom line is that it is manifestly unjust for anyone to label another person "despicable" when not all of the facts have been gathered and made known. Those who would do so should remember Jesus' words: "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get" (Matt. 7:1-2).

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers


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