The Truth about St. Maria Goretti

Apparently, between the Confederate Battle Flag, the two SCOTUS decisions, the Oregon bakers, etc., there weren’t enough controversies circulating before #CommunistCrosswithChristGate happened, so certain prominent Catholic #blogpologists (I just came up with that one) decided to celebrate the feast of St. Maria Goretti by debating whether she should be upheld as an example of “purity.”

You see, to feminists, this is offensive because she was a victim of an attempted “rape.” In his canonization decree, Ven. Pius XII said she was a martyr of purity, for protecting herself from “rape.”

To feminists, this is an example of “shaming” rape victims–a practice common in pagan cultures but which the Church has always condemned. Indeed, St. Augustine’s reflections on the decline of Rome in _City of God_ begin by addressing how being a rape victim is not a sin on the part of the woman, and he condemns the Roman practice of telling rape victims they need to commit suicide. Somehow, because he’s “St. Augustine,” if you cite this passage to certain feminists, they’ll still say it’s sexist and evil and condoning rape, or whatever, but a Muslim or some other Western figure would be applauded for saying the same thing.

Anyway, along comes Maria Goretti–a saint whose story is very similar to Sts. Agnes, Cecelia, Agatha, and so many other virgin-martyrs. To feminists, to praise a virgin martyr as a model of purity is offensive, since in part they consider “purity” itself to be an offensive concept, moral or physical.

To a Catholic, who understands that body and spirit are integrated, spiritual and physical purity can go hand in hand. That’s not to say that “rape victims are guilty” or “deserve it,” but just that we are far more understanding of the complexities of human psychology than we’re given credit for: a simple example being the psychological shame a rape victim feels which leads many, cultural norms or not, to fall into despair and contemplate suicide.

The two female “blogpologists” who’ve reignited this discussion this time have a bit of a history of taking stands on certain issues that seem to try to avoid offending NOW, or to favor a feminist perspective over a traditionally (small “t”) Catholic one.

Thus, they say we should emphasize that Maria forgave her attacker but not that she protected her “purity.”

However, the problem with that argument is it misunderstands several things.

1) The definition of “rape.” The word “rape” comes from the latin word for “catch,” and is a “catch-all” term for not just sexual assault as we would understand it, but kidnapping (the “rape of the Sabine women”), seduction, etc. The term could even be used of men being “taken”–it’s the same Latin term from which we get the ever-popular Protestant doctrine of “rapture,” since that is a direct translation of the infinitive form of the verb from which we also get “rape.”

2) In the particulars of St. Maria’s case, it’s not like her neighbor/landlord Alessandro randomly accosted her with a knife and ordered her to remove her clothes or forcibly removed them himself. He propositioned her on several occasions to consentually fornicate with him, and she refused him, repeatedly, even knowing that he had the power to destroy her family’s livelihood (her mother was a widow). That is why she was protecting her purity. Only the last time did he pull out a knife, threaten her with it and stab her. Had he physically “raped” her in the contemporary sense, she would still have been a martyr for purity.

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