Maria Goretti didn’t die for her virginity

Maria_Goretti

Or she wasn’t canonized just because she managed to remain a virgin, anyway.

Let’s back up. When you think about holiness, do you fall into bathwater thinking?

Bathwater thinking is when you forget the baby — the living, breathing, vulnerable persons in front of you — and instead, you wallow around in that warm, familiar bathwater of your indisputably worthy cause.

Think about St. Gianna Molla.  A good many people believe that this woman’s greatness came in her eager, joyful acceptance of death in order to save her baby.  Not so.  It is true that she was willing to accept the risk of death when she refused the therapeutic hysterectomy that would have killed her unborn child.  And she did end up giving her life so that her baby could live.  But the whole time, she prayed and hoped and longed to live. She wasn’t devoted to being pro-life: she was devoted to her baby.  And she wanted to live, so that she could be with her baby and her husband and the rest of her beloved children.  She was pro-life:  she hoped for life in abundance, including her own.

The same is true, in a somewhat different way, for St. Maria Goretti, whose feast is today.  Over and over, I’ve heard this saint praised as a holy girl who prized her viginity so highly that she was willing to die to defend it.  And she did die as a result of defending her viginity.  But when her would-be rapist attacked her, she pleaded with him to stop because he would be committing a mortal sin, and he would go to hell.  She didn’t say, “Please, please, spare my virginity!” She begged him to spare himself.  

This is what it looks like when someone is close to God:  because they love God, they want to spare the person in front of them.  They are in love with living human beings, not in love with virtue in the abstract.  They are focused not on the idea of morality, but on the person whose life and safety (whether physical or spiritual) are at stake.

In Maria Goretti’s case, she was focused on her rapist — and it was her love for him, and not her blindingly pure devotion to virginity, that converted him and brought him to repentance before he died.  That is how conversions happen.  That is how people are saved:  when other people show love for them.  It’s about other people.  It’s always about our love for God expressed as love for other people.  That’s why, before someone is declared a saint, they have to perform two miracles for people still on earth.  Even after death, it’s not about the cause or the system or the virtue in the abstract.  It’s always about our love for other people.

Ideas like holiness, chastity, humility, charity, diligence, or any other virtue that springs to mind when you think of a saint?  These are bathwater.  These are the things that surround and support the “baby” of love in action.  A bath without bathwater is no good; but a bath without someone to be bathed is even more pointless. God doesn’t want bathwater saints, ardently devoted to a cause or a principle or a movement or a virtue.  God wants us to love and care for each other.  Love for each other is how we order our lives.  Love for each other is how we serve God.

Love for each other is how we imitate Jesus. He didn’t die for the cause of salvation; He died for us, as billions of individual beloved children.

It’s not an either/or: we don’t have to choose between pursuing virtue and showing love. But virtue doesn’t exist in a vaccuum, and the pursuit of holiness doesn’t mean anything unless it’s manifest in love for each other. It’s always about our love for other people. Otherwise, what’s the point?

***

Image via Wikimedia Commons: By Giuseppe Brovelli-Soffredini[1]  (Original source of this reproduction is unknown) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This post was originally published in a different form in February of 2014.

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  • Evan

    Really great piece, but one catch:

    “and it was her love for him, and not her blindingly pure devotion to
    chastity, that converted him and brought him to repentance before she
    died.”

    I think you either mean “after she died,” or “before he died,” because Alessandro converted and repented while in prison after her death.

    • simchafisher

      oh, good catch! Thanks, will edit.

  • Sally Wilkins

    Thank you, Simcha. The other thing I think some people get wrong when they think she died to defend her chastity is the notion that a rape victim is guilty of some kind of sin.

    • mrc628

      Some people do get that wrong, but that is not what the Church is teaching through St. Maria Goretti. And it doesn’t make Simcha right.

  • http://sponsa-christi.blogspot.com/ JMC

    There’s no doubt that St. Maria Goretti’s story hasn’t always been presented in the most helpful way, but I don’t think we should let the pendulum swing so far in the other direction that we forget the value of her chastity. The Church does still see virginity is a virtue, and as such virginity is truly a way of loving God and our neighbor.

    St. Maria did die in defending her virginity, but she is virtuous because of her intention to resist her attacker, not because she actually succeeded. The Church teaches that virginity is primarily a moral and spiritual state, so St. Maria would have been considered a virgin even if she had been raped.

  • Jean Rioux

    Self-love is prior to love of others. If your claim (that one does not love virtue in the abstract, but concretely) includes love of self, then fine. Of course, it’s also a truism then, since virtue can only exist in persons (including oneself). It would be impossible to love it in the abstract anyway. I see nothing preventing St. Maria from having repulsed her attacker’s advances out of a love for her own virtue (we’re speaking of temptation, not physical virginity, which is not of the essence of the virtue)–not virtue in the abstract, but her own virtue. Explicit love for others is not a necessary condition for all acts of virtue, though its omission is sometimes a moral fault. Moreover, we are also called upon to act for love of other, non-human persons. There was a time when it was more common to avoid sin lest one offend one’s own guardian angel, for example. This was rightly done, yet our angels are blessed beings. And, of course, we ought to love God more than any of these. Surely we are not loving God in the hopes that He will be bettered thereby. We are primarily loving ourselves.

    • ARM

      “I see nothing preventing St. Maria from having repulsed her attacker’s
      advances out of a love for her own virtue (we’re speaking of temptation.” Yes, I’ve seen that argument before – in Augustine, I think – but it strikes me as a bit bizarre. Does anybody really think forcible rape by the lust-crazed teenage boy her parents had to share a house with out of poverty would be an “occasion of sin” for her? She’d suddenly start enjoying it, and be guilty of lust herself? Who even thinks like that, seriously?

      • Jean Rioux

        Like you, I’d like to think that the prospect of being raped would be an occasion of sin to no one (see my comments above), let alone someone like St. Maria. I do grant that it is possible, however, and I’m told it’s more common than I might think, to which the popularity of E.L. James’ book sadly attests.

        • Heather

          I don’t think you quite understand why those trash books are popular. People want the thrill of the illusion of make-believe danger, not the real thing. Even people who engage in weird “role play” do not want to ACTUALLY be raped, any more than someone who goes skydiving wants to ACTUALLY fall to their death.

          • Jean

            What? The temptations I’m speaking of are not temptations to being raped. Abhorring rape yet reading about fictitious rapes still can be an occasion for temptations to other things. Do you really think E.L. James’ book has provided no occasions for temptations to fornication, adultery, or perverse sexual practices?

          • Heather

            Well, of course the books are pornographic trash. But that’s entirely irrelevant to what we were actually talking about. We are talking about an ACTUAL attempted rape, and you’re talking about temptations associated with pornographic pretend fantasy fake-rape. Is it any wonder that people are confused by what hypothetical temptations you think St. Maria Goretti might have been trying to avoid?

            No one is twisting your words here, the “wrong” implications are pretty obvious. If you are not talking about sexual temptation associated with being raped, then don’t muddy the waters by talking about how St. Maria was trying to avoid personal sin of her own and go off on a tangent about pornographic rape fantasies.

          • Jean

            People would not be confused if they read carefully before responding angrily to what they thought I said. I’m not quite sure how ‘pretty obvious’ goes with ‘muddy the waters’ and ‘people are confused’. And no, it’s not irrelevant. It bears directly upon the psychology of human persons, including saints. The effects of real sexual violence go beyond physical injury to the person. Children who are sexually abused sometimes have a difficult time coming to feel in the right way, at the right time, and so on, with regard to sexual matters. They are entirely innocent of the circumstances bringing them to this point, yet they suffer its consequences. A soldier can suffer in an analogous way, yet he is only doing his duty. The hypothetical I raised was not to diminish St. Maria’s love for her attacker. As I have said many times, that is a matter if record. All I was saying is that self-love, the desire to be and to remain virtuous, is a sufficient reason for virtuous action. Even if her sole intention had been to protect herself, physically, psychologically, and spiritually, from the effects of this unjust attack (notice the ‘if’, which is counter-factual in this case), she would have been right to do so. Our sole motive need not be the good of another! That was, and still is, the main point I’m trying to make. So, to be as clear as I can be, I am not saying that St Maria was fighting off temptations to delight in her own rape. I am not saying she was doing anything other than love her attacker and act for his welfare. I am not saying anyone who does what she did does wrong. I am saying that one can resist being raped for reasons other than those St Maria chose, including a desire to be and remain chaste. Not because being raped is being unchaste! Again, not because being raped is an act of unchastity! Rather, being raped may change the sorts of thing which become occasions of sin for me. These are not sins, and I do not sin in having been burdened with them by another person. Yet they are real, and they are now part of the spiritual raw material out of which I must construct virtue.

          • Heather

            It is pretty obvious how someone could get the impression that you were trying to say that there was some kind of weird sexual temptation going on that Maria had to refuse, because you went on a tangent about people who are into rape fantasy porn. This digression is what muddied the waters and caused your actual point to be confused.

            I THINK I know what you are getting at now. You are saying that Maria could have been fighting off her attacker because she was afraid that a traumatic experience such as that could hurt her so deeply that she might be tempted to give up on her pursuit of virtue, and therefore being the victim of a violent attack counts as an occasion of sin. Is that what you are trying to get at?

            I think this is nonsense and very little to do with what an occasion of sin really is, but we can agree to disagree on that point. I also disagree that this was what was likely going through St. Maria’s mind, because she said something to the effect of “no, it is a sin, you will go to hell!” not “no, you will ruin me!”

            As I said higher up in the thread, of course she was afraid for her life and did not want to be raped not just for his sake but because she was a sane human being who did not want to be the victim of an awful crime. No one wants to be the victim of an awful crime. Her heroic virtue was not in succeeding in not being raped, which is the unfortunate implication that is so often drawn in her story, but in that her motivation was not only to not be sinned against but also in preventing HER ATTACKER from committing such a horrible act that would damage HIM terribly.

        • ARM

          The existence of pornography shows that a normal, 11-year-old girl might be “turned on” by being raped at knife-point so she should get herself killed to avoid it? Again, seriously?

          • Jean

            Again, please don’t read into the comments. I see no one (including myself) saying that victims of rape, whether male or female, must die rather than be raped, as a temptation of some sort may ensue. These occasions are, after all, forced upon them. The point (or at least my point) is that one does no wrong in resisting the acts of such agressors, even if it is not their good one intends. After all, St. Maria’s resistence of her attacker’s actions, presumably to save his soul, were ineffective, since he raped her. Moreover, he had already raped her in his heart, which is itself a mortal sin. This is the aspect and attitude of a saint. However, there is nothing immoral about fighting off the aggressor for one’s own sake. Love of a rapist needn’t be the object of one’s actions, which is what the author of this blog maintains.

          • Igotfreshmilk

            Actually he did not rape her. He was very clear about that in the years afterward when he talked about what happened.

          • Jean

            My bad.

      • http://athenasantics.wordpress.com/ AthenaC

        “Does anybody really think forcible rape by the lust-crazed teenage boy her parents had to share a house with out of poverty would be an “occasion of sin” for her? She’d suddenly start enjoying it, and be guilty of lust herself? Who even thinks like that, seriously?”

        Well … I can tell you from experience that when you are forced to do things you don’t want to do and there’s (at least temporarily) no way out, your mind plays all sorts of tricks on you in a desperate attempt to keep you sane.

    • ARM

      Sorry – realized after posting I wasn’t done what I was saying: this is exactly the kind of reasoning that makes the whole Maria Goretti canonization and promotion a bit disturbing to any female who has reached the age of reason and considers herself a moral agent. (And I appreciate Simcha doing her best to make sense of it, but I’m not totally convinced that was what the Vatican had in mind at the time of the canonization – are you, Simcha?) What Jean Rioux is saying here is exactly what I got from the Maria Goretti story as a young girl: if anybody tries to rape you, better make sure you end up dead, or it might be the case that you were a participant in the sin at some level. I’d love to see a healthier cult of Maria Goretti form, but I’m doubtful of the likelihood.

      • Rosalinda Lozano

        THIS is exactly my point. I absolutely despise the Feminist movement and all that it has done to poison our society with victimhood and away from self sacrifice. SMH

      • Re Ja

        What I got from the story as a youngster was that it was better to die fighting than to give up your virginity willingly. Scared the pee out of me (fears of hell) as I could never see myself as someone who would fight to the death over anything except protecting my (future) children.

      • Jean

        That is not what Jean Rioux is saying. Not even close. I am not denying St. Maria’s response to her assailant’s wishes. That’s a matter of record. What I am saying is that a victim of such an assault may well be acting out of self-love and not love of another in repulsing the actions of an aggressor. I’m not saying victims of rape must die to prove to themselves (or to others) that they did not sin. I’m not saying that victims of rape sin at all. I’m only insisting that, even here, one may act out of self-love and not the love of another. The relevant virtue is chastity, which does not consist in avoiding rape, but primarily in avoiding temptations that arise in myriad ways from occasions both completely out of one’s control (like rape) and completely within one’s control. So, please do not misrepresent my view. I am not saying ‘if anybody tries to rape you, better make sure you end up dead, or it might be the case that you were a participant at some level.’ Read carefully first.

        • ARM

          But you do think being raped at knifepoint (as Maria Goretti was) might be an occasion of sin, correct? Because she might enjoy it? That’s what you said, I think.

          • Jean

            Yes, occasions of sin are often out of our control. Because she might enjoy it? No, I didn’t say that. Any person who would want to be raped will find temptations against chastity to be the least of his / her worries. Read what I did say again, or, better yet, here it is: “I see nothing preventing St. Maria from having repulsed her attacker’s advances out of a love for her own virtue (we’re speaking of temptation, not physical virginity, which is not of the essence of the virtue)–not virtue in the abstract, but her own virtue.” You’re saying, first, that that says I believe victims of rape should die rather than be raped. Do you really think that? I’d like a response, because nearly everything I have written here has been in response to these twistings of my words. I know there are people who blame the victim of rape. I am not one of them. I know there are people who say victims of rape necessarily delight in the act forced upon them. I don’t. How much clearer can I be? That is not what my words are saying, but I fear you jumped to the ‘easy’ conclusion of saying that. As I said in another response, to another person who needs to read more carefully, the temptations I’m talking about are not to taking delight in being raped (or, at the very least, that’s what I and others would want to think, though i’m told that some are perverse that way). What makes rape so evil is that its effects go far beyond the physical. It is no wonder to me that a saint would fight to avoid such temptations as may ensue. What they might be has much to do with who we are and how we react to such violence. A child soldier may commit no sin in being brainwashed into killing others. But it would be naive to conclude that therefore no spiritually-relevant effects have occurred. So, I have answered your question. I hope you’ll answer mine. Have I said that St. Maria was tempted to enjoy her rape? Have I said that victims of rape ought to die rather than endure whatever temptations may ensue? To be tempted is not to sin, but we may rightly avoid temptations, even those forced upon us, if we so choose.

          • ARM

            Sorry – I see you wanted a response. (I was in bed and then not online.) Can the response be another question? What “temptation” do you see befalling someone during a rape? I assumed you meant enjoying the intercourse – which seems to be what St. Augustine envisages in his account of a similar situation. My response was based on that understanding. If you don’t mean that, what temptation do you mean?

            By the way, I don’t disagree with you that a person has every right to resist being raped to the point of death – for their own sake – , but that seems to me quite simply self-defense. It’s not clear to me why it would be saintly, as such, unless being raped (or some lust the rape supposedly inspires) is somehow considered a sin.

          • http://www.northstarexplorers.org/ Peregrinator

            She wasn’t raped.

  • Jassuz8

    I assume (correct me if I am wrong?) that you are suggesting that some pro-life or pro-chastity people are too narrow in their focus? You say, “she pleaded with him to stop because he would be committing a mortal sin, and he would go to hell,” and that is a very valid point. In my experience as a sinner, and in observing what goes on with family/friends that would be considered sin, I can’t say that I have ever felt that it was my place to plead with them to stop because they are committing a mortal sin, and that I’m afraid they are going to hell. Honestly, I’m not sure I believe that that is true, since that is entirely God’s decision. We live in a world where that is not considered “love in action,” but instead it is considered to be judgmental. I can’t say that I have answers for anyone else…I really struggle myself…but I try to focus on the “why.” Why does God want us to follow the commandments – and it is because He loves us. Not only does he not want us to commit mortal sin and go to hell, he also doesn’t want us to suffer consequences such as STD’s, raising a child on your own or too young, to be pressured or possibly forced into aborting your child, to suffer after having had an abortion, and there are many more consequences. There is a lot of stuff in the bathwater that is very rarely discussed in the Church – not in my experience anyway. But, having an in depth conversation in an effort to teach the “why” and “why nots” of God’s commandments might serve as “love in action.” But there will be many who will suggest that that is insensitive or judgmental.

    • Blobee

      “We live in a world where that is not considered “love in action,” but instead it is considered to be judgmental.”

      The priest at Mass in our parish last Sunday gave a homily about the virtue of modesty. And he made the point that in these current times, everything is about comfort and being comfortable. He was speaking, of course, about people showing up to church in clothes more appropriate for a picnic or the beach.

      He said it’s so about comfort that you’re not allowed to say anything about bad behavior or inappropriate dress, even in church, lest you make someone “uncomfortable” and related a few incidents where he got blow-back because what he said about virtue and sin from the pulpit made someone “uncomfortable.”

      He went on to say that guilt and shame are God given gifts to remind us of Himself, to help us to repent and follow Him, and that it’s good that we would feel uncomfortable about doing something wrong, because we then have a chance to change it.

      I found his comments very insightful, and noted a sort of insidious evil that is in our society that to be polite nowadays we refrain from speaking to another about their mortal sin and the danger to their soul. It seems we as Christians are silenced even in our families from evangelizing and preaching the Gospel.

    • Sue Korlan

      Explain to the person calling you judgmental that there are 3 things necessary for something you do to separate you from God. It has to be seriously wrong, you have to know it’s seriously wrong, and you have to freely will to do it. Judgmentalism refers to the third part, not the first, which is a matter of fact.

  • Deimos

    “He died for each one of us”, I apologise for paraphrasing but I feel a lovely sense of happy. You explained it very well and struck a chord with me.
    I’ve been rather down lately but I found myself a little happier and closer to Him, Thanks Mrs Fisher.

  • Bill

    One further confirmation of your point: it is reported that when the priest came to her and asked her what Maria thought of the man who had done this, she responded, “I love him, and I want him to be in heaven with me.” It was her love for Alessandro that God used to bring her back to his prison cell, and his subsequent conversion.

    Another amazing grace: this past year (2014), Alessandro’s cause for canonization was opened.

    • Nadine

      Her mother Assunta Goretti needs to have her cause opened for canonization as well. I can not read Maria Goretti’s life without thinking of the tremendous hardships Assunta bore as mother and provider for the family. Her life was essentially ruined after Maria’s death- extreme poverty and the surviving children given to others to raise, I have heard.

  • Fritz

    Simcha, I don’t disagree that her love of the rapist brought about his own conversion. However, I believe that she is a saint because of her incredible fortitude in protecting her chastity. It was her love of God and love of self that led to her being raised to sainthood. Her love of the attacker was secondary.

    The Collect composed for her states,
    “O God, author of innocence and lover of chastity,
    who bestowed the grace of martyrdom
    on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth,
    grant, we pray, through her intercession,
    that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness,
    so we, too, may be firm
    in obeying your commandments.
    Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
    who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
    one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

    The Collect makes it clear that St. Maria died to protect her purity.

    In today’s Office of Readings Pope Pius XII’s Homily for St. Maria’s canonization makes it clear that he canonized her for her defense of her purity, not for her love for her attacker.

    Her love and desire for her attacker to not die in mortal sin was remarkable, incredible – but does not seem to be the reason she was canonized. And yes it is about love for people – both God and herself.

    • RAnn

      That attitude is one problem I’ve always had with Maria G. If he had asked her to be with him; if he was a wooing boyfriend and she said no, there is virtue in that. If she was offered the option of death or sex, I can see the virtue in choosing death (though honestly, I can’t see the sin in choosing sex since sin requires the free choice to do something). But to say she is more virtuous because she chose to fight off a rapist as opposed to choosing to fight off say a guy who got his jollies cutting off her fingers? A rape victim is just that, a victim; the act of intercourse that occurs is not a sin for her or even an imperfection. It is an attack. It is like saying the Chrisitans in the area who fought with the lions were more virtuous than those who accepted their fate–and accusing those who didn’t fight of commiting suicide.

      • Cassandra

        The issue is consent. Consenting even under threat of death is setting one’s own life before God which is a form of idolatry.
        To argue otherwise makes every martyr a fool for choosing death rather than consenting to whichever form of temptation they were present with, be it a pinch of incense to an idol or act against purity.

        • Heather

          For pity’s sake. BEING RAPED IS NOT AN ACT AGAINST PURITY. St. Maria Goretti was not “tempted” to engage in unchastity by his attempted rape. She is not a hero of chastity because she died to protect her own purity, she is a hero of chastity because she died attempting to salvage HIS. Her heroic virtue was in her concern for his soul over all things, not her own ability to avoid an attack that would have been a sin AGAINST her not BY her.

          • Jassuz8

            Why is that even part of the discussion? Everyone would agree that St. Maria Goretti did protect her purity. That was why she told him no. And she did not wish to be raped, and she was concerned for his soul. The only people here who are suggesting that “being raped is an act against purity” are those of you who say that that’s not true. You’re right, it’s not true and no one has said that. That is a meaning that you are inferring…but no one said that. What is wrong with protecting virtue? Nothing, nothing at all.

          • Heather

            Did you read the comment I was replying to? It specifically talks about a “temptation” to an “act against purity.” I’m not making things up out of whole cloth here, I’m responding to a specific claim. Even if she had frozen in terror and thus been easily overpowered instead of killed would not have meant she was engaging in an act against purity.

          • Jassuz8

            The act against purity was the demand made by her rapist. When any woman says no…that is legit…no explanation necessary. The sin was on the part of the rapist and no one here has said otherwise. I cannot understand why you and others seem to suggest that her holiness has nothing to do with her desire to remain a virgin. I guess – due to the hyped response along those lines – I simply cannot agree with Simcha Fisher’s explanation that that is not why she was a saint. It is a big part of the reason that she was canonized. She died for her faith…for her faith she desired to remain chaste…AND she was concerned for the soul of the rapist.

          • Cassandra

            >”BEING RAPED IS NOT AN ACT AGAINST PURITY.”

            Duh. See above.

            There is however a temptation to cooperate to save one’s life or well-being.

            >”She is not a hero of chastity because she died to protect her own purity”
            The Church says differently. See Tim’s post below from Pius XII at her canonization.

            If ISIS captured you and said “if you don’t renounce Christ, we will behead you”, would it be a sin to renounce Christ to save your life? Consider that. Then consider whether it is a sin to cooperate in other sins to save one’s life.

          • Jassuz8

            I can’t agree with your points Cassandra. Cooperating to save one’s life is not temptation. You have a right to make choices to save your life and to say or do what you need to under duress. There’s a lot of gray in that area. And maybe that is what is upsetting everyone here. St. Maria Goretti was right to say no to her rapist, but none of us would have held it against her had she cooperated – and certainly God would have understood. Women are raped too often and they should not be made to feel that they are guilty of sin in that act. Even in saying no, they have no choice. In regard to renouncing Christ – martyrs make the ultimate sacrifice and they are saints, as we all understand. But, remember that Peter denied knowing Jesus (as he predicted), and he forgave him (ultimately becoming a martyr in the end). We don’t know when we might be tempted similarly and we can only hope that we will find the grace to resist. I’m confident that Jesus understands us as well as he did Peter.

          • Cassandra

            You’ve provided a jumble, and all but contradicted yourself.

            >”You have a right to make choices to save your life and to say or do what you need to under duress.”

            Would you provide any authoritative reference from Catholic moral theology to back your assertion up?

            “But, remember that Peter denied knowing Jesus (as he predicted), and he forgave him (ultimately becoming a martyr in the end).”

            You are acknowledging that Peter sinned. Your example contradicts your assertion above that “you have a right to …say or do what you need to under duress.” If Peter had a “right” to deny Christ under duress, it wouldn’t have been a sin needing forgiveness.

            >”We don’t know when we might be tempted similarly and we can only hope that we will find the grace to resist.”

            It’s not “finding the grace”; it’s being given the grace–AND the all important aspect of cooperating with that grace.
            1 Cor 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

          • Jassuz8

            1. CCC 1735 Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.

            2. Yes, denying Christ is a sin and it was forgiven. People sin all the time…and thankfully Jesus gave us the sacrament of Reconciliation. It would have been perfectly understandable if St. Maria Goretti felt that she had no choice but to submit – it is a testament of her holiness and her trust in the Lord that she did not submit. So her desire to remain a virgin is very much part of the reason that she was canonized. However, I will not call submission to rape – as an effort to save a life that God created – a sin. If that is what it is, then I’ll let the Church define that in much plainer terms.

            3. Regardless of how I do or do not phrase my sentence it is the saving grace of Christ that we are talking about. Most of us struggle with daily, continual sin even though we should trust in Him entirely. It is a simple truth of human weakness that we often fail. The only human aside from Christ himself who achieved a sinless life was Mary.

          • Jassuz8

            And – just a thought – you frequently use the expression “duh” in response to points made. It’s not very charitable…does that matter when we are having discussion of what is or is not sin?

          • Cassandra

            Twice in the same context is not exactly “frequent”. Heather was being silly in confusing rape with consent. Sometimes bluntness is necessary to break through the emotions.

          • Jassuz8

            Your expectation of human perfection is in error. Okay, my language is sloppy…I honestly have an average education (associates degree, community college), and so it’s true…I’m not the brightest in the bunch. Your condemnation of women who might have submitted to rape in order to save their life is outrageous. And the irony is that I agree that her canonization absolutely has to do with her desire to remain pure, to remain a virgin, as well as her genuine concern for the soul of her rapist (and there is so much more to her story). You seem to be more concerned about my sloppy language…and I don’t how that makes any sense. Yes, God gave us our lives, but we absolutely have a right to choose to live if that is possible. Protecting life is always valuable. However, that is an individual choice and the Church leaves it to individual conscience. It is entirely up to God to decide whether submission in the case of rape is a sin or not. The CCC #1735 states that those who are raped under duress – the threat of death – will be diminished or even nullified. That’s enough for me.

          • Jassuz8

            You seem to have a catechism of your own Cassandra…might want to think about that.

          • Cassandra

            Your quote from CCC 1735 allows for excusing the culpability for an action. It does not establish a “right” to do it under the conditions listed. You previously asserted a “right….to say or do what you need to under duress.”

            Try again.

          • Jassuz8

            You’re splitting hairs Cassandra but, regardless…do we have a God given right to life?

          • Cassandra

            I’m not splitting hairs; you’re using sloppy language.

            We have the gift of life from God. Considering the way you’ve been throwing language around, I should point out that we do not have an absolute, unqualified “right to life”. It can be forfeited depending on our actions, and the failure to understand that is what gets so-called “pro-lifers” into so much trouble when the death penalty is discussed.

          • Martha Arenas

            I have another example of Cassandra’s point. You stated “Cooperating to save one’s life is not temptation.” Yet, Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio is considered a martyr whom on the way to execution, soldiers struck savagely with sharp machetes. With every blow, the young boy cried out, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (long live Christ the King) bleeding heavily. His torturers
            had also cut off the soles of his feet and forced him to walk on salt.
            The boy screamed with pain but would not give in, the stones where he had walked soaked
            in his blood. His executioners said to him: “If you shout, ‘Death to Christ the
            King, long live the federal goverment’, we will spare your life.” He only answered: “Long live Christ
            the King! Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe!”

            The commander ordered
            the soldiers to bayonet Jose. They pierced his body. But with every
            stab he only shouted louder and louder: “Viva Cristo Rey!” The
            commander was so enraged that he pulled out his pistol and on February
            10, 1928 killed Blessed Jose on the spot.

            Blessed Jose would not be considered for canonization if he had cooperated to save his own life.

          • Jassuz8

            Yes, he is a martyr. But those who submit are not culpable.

          • mcs28

            Being raped, or ‘cooperating’ (which isn’t even the right word because if someone has a gun to your head are you really cooperating?) with a rapist to save one’s life, is a far cry from renouncing Christ. The two are not the same at all, imo. Sure, God calls us to purity. But it’s not at all the same. Not to mention there is forgiveness for those who renounce Christ – but that’s another topic.

        • Jassuz8

          My father is a WWII veteran. Anyone active in the military understands that there is potential for capture and torture. In the past, it was always the desire to resist giving away military secrets, even when tortured. Those policies have changed over time, because human beings are just that – they are human and subject to human weakness. God asks us to show mercy to them. And, they have a God-given right to choose their life when the option is presented. The Church does not shame such choices and She would not have shamed St. Maria Goretti either. Dear Lord, I wish we had a priest here (Father Barron?) who could enlighten this conversation.

          • Cassandra

            I pretty sure this will be lost on you, but here’s goes hoping against hope. I’m replying to your several posts together.

            I don’t expect human perfection. We can do nothing without the grace of God. I did not “condemn” any women under the duress of rape. You’re inserting your words.

            Theology requires precision. Sloppy language leads to sloppy theology. If you want a good of example of the damage of sloppy language, just look back over the pontificate of Francis and how much anguish he’s caused faithful, devout Catholics with his off the cuff remarks and interviews.

            It’s important to distinguish between an excuse for behavior (and culpability) and a “right” to do something. You use a military example; I’ll give you two back. You go to your WWII veteran father and assert that a soldier has a “God-given right to choose their life” and desert his buddies in a fire-fight because he’s under the “duress” of losing his life in battle. Assert to him that a soldier has a “God-given right to choose their life” and refuse an order to attack because he’s under the “duress” of losing his life from the bullets whizzing by him. If your father saw heavy combat in WWII, my guess is he’ll give you a response that will set you back on your heels. Please report back with his reaction.

            Another example is “invincible ignorance”. Invincible ignorance may excuse someone from subjective guilt for committing an objective sin, but it is neither virtuous nor good in itself. It does not save in itself.

            As for Father Barron, he has made very problematic remarks concerning the doctrine on hell (ala Balthasar and “Dare we hope we all are saved?”), and probably would take issue with Maria on her assertion to Alessandro, “You will go to hell.”

            We’ll start with that and see whether we make any progress.

          • Jassuz8

            Every human being has a right to choose to live, when that option is available to them. I find it interesting that instead of using the torture scenario – which is actual duress – you instead paint the picture differently (desertion)…seems like you’re dodging the answer. My father was trained by the Jesuits and they taught him how to sort through the questions that lead to moral decisions. They were very thorough in particular when it came to circumstances where your life is threatened. They taught that you not only had a right to preserve your life – whenever possible – but you also had a moral responsibility to do so. However, on the battlefield, you are defending the lives of others as well as hopefully your own. Yes, my father saw combat and thankfully he lived. He would not appreciate your attitude one bit.

            What on earth does “right to life” mean to you?

            2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:

            If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.

            2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

            “The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.”

          • Cassandra

            I’m not dodging the answer; you still don’t show any sign of understanding the issue.

            I didn’t take up the military torture issue, because giving up military information under torture is not in dispute.
            Although throwing “Jesuits” out there doesn’t impress me as it depends *which* Jesuit is teaching.

            What’s at issue is that you made a bold, over-reaching statement and won’t qualify it, although you’re starting to hedge whether you realize it or not.

            You said: “You have a right to make choices to save your life and to say or do what you need to under duress.”

            You’ve said again: “Every human being has a right to choose to live, when that option is available to them.”

            Neither of these statements is qualified, and you’re
            resisting any qualification of them.

            You’re also resisting acknowledging that there is a
            difference between situations (including knowledge) that mitigate actions from subjection sin, and those actions being virtuous. It is possible to be not guilty of sin, without the act being virtuous.

            These things matter in a world where we aren’t getting
            clear, complete teaching from our bishops, priests, and most certainly not from bloggers and commenters. There are confused, poorly catechized people reading and hearing these things who don’t have the formation to interpret unqualified statements properly, and yet are
            going to form judgments and acts on the basis of confused teaching. Souls are at stake.

            Your (good) response to JoAnna just moments ago about why you have problems with Simcha’s article, is a good example. Problematic writing causes problems.

            Our right to life is not absolute. Your own quote from #2264 underscores that. It teaches the permissiveness of killing in self-defense (under the proper circumstances). What about the “right to life” of the
            attacker? He forfeits it. Same with the murderer which is the basis for the morality of the death penalty [which is not being taught clearly and *completely* by our bishops].

            >“However, on the battlefield, you are defending the lives of others as well as hopefully your own.”

            You’re hedging on this. Desertion is not a sinless option, even if it’s going to save your life.

            >”They taught that you not only had a right to preserve
            your life – whenever possible – but you also had a moral responsibility to do so.”

            St. Thomas More is an example here. He couldn’t say Yes to the Act of Parliament, but in struggling over his duty to preserve his life when possible, he wouldn’t say No, either, leaving the question in doubt, until he was found guilty on false testimony. But he didn’t say Yes under duress to save his life.

            >”You have a right to make choices to save your life
            and to say or do what you need to under duress.”

            So, as ISIS is actually demanding of Christians under threat of beheading, is it a mortal sin to deny Christ to save your life? Is it just a venial sin? Is it no sin? (highly
            unlikely). Either way, it is NOT virtuous to do so.

            If ISIS told you, “Kill this (innocent) person, or we will kill you”, is it OK to do that since it’s an option to save your life? You’ve refused to qualify that there are some actions that would not be sinless even under duress.

          • Jassuz8

            I’m not sure, but I think your head just exploded. Desertion cannot be compared to being raped under duress, or tortured (also under duress). Throwing “desertion” in the discussion was a red herring on your part? If you are sincere in your desire to teach the faith then you need to dial it down about 20 notches and be kind. The Jesuits who taught my father did so in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s – he enlisted in 1943. The catechism clearly qualified that every individual has a right to life: “Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.” I’m satisfied with that even if you’re not. But yes, you could still be murdered. Just as St. Maria Goretti could have raped even though she said no…she still had a God given right not to be raped (physical integrity)…she had a right to say no, and to expect that that be honored. If she had wanted to live, it would have been perfectly acceptable for her to submit. It is silly for you to carry on to this extent to demand that I be wrong…over what? “You have a right to make choices to save your life and to say or do what you need to under duress.” You demand that I admit that that is wrong? Or that I admit that I’m wrong? Is this helping the Church? Rape victims? Is it helping you? It’s not.

        • lizzysimplymagic

          How the hell can an 11 year old CHILD consent to rape? RAPE!?! What “temptation” do you think existed there? Seriously, what are you thinking?

    • Cassandra

      Simcha makes an error in trying to present Maria’s concern over her purity *for the love of God” is somehow in opposition to her concern for the soul of Alessandro.

      Secondly, she errors in thinking that a saint needs a human person to love rather than God Himself being more than sufficient. Consider from the Act of Love: “…You are all-good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself *for the love of You.*” We love our neighbor not as an end in themselves, but rather out of love for God. So much for the bathwater analogy.

      Maria is also extolled for forgiving her attacker on her deathbed and desiring his salvation.

      Why Simcha is so threatened by a girl willing to die rather than consent to a mortal sin, one can only wonder.

      • Heather

        What mortal sin would she have been consenting to, pray tell?

        Her own purity was never in question. For one thing, she was 11 years old. A remarkably pious 11 year old. It’s pretty easy to maintain one’s own chastity when one doesn’t yet have a zillion hormones swirling around confusing the issue. She had repeatedly refused his advances and tried to avoid him. There was clearly no temptation to sin on her own part.

        So what is the sin that she would have been consenting to? Failing to fight to the death against a violent attacker much bigger and stronger than she was? There was no consent, and if she had frozen in terror (as many victims do) rather than fight there would still have been no consent and no sin. If she had tried to fight but been immediately overpowered and assaulted without being stabbed to death, there would still have been no consent and no sin.

        She tied trying to prevent someone else from committing a sin. Not from trying to avoid committing one herself.

        Of course she was concerned for her own physical safety and her own physical virginity, not because losing them would mean that she had actually committed a sin against God but because like any sane human being she did not want to be the victim of a violent sexual attack. Also, again like any sane human being, she would not have wanted to have been seen as “damaged goods” or accused of “leading him on” or any of the other ways that victims of rape or other abuse tend to be shamed in our stupid society.

        • http://www.northstarexplorers.org/ Peregrinator

          “because like any sane human being she did not want to be the victim of a violent sexual attack. Also, again like any sane human being, she would not have wanted to have been seen as “damaged goods” or accused of “leading him on” or any of the other ways that victims of rape or other abuse tend to be shamed in our stupid society.”

          Surely you’re not saying that she was canonized because she was a “sane human being”?

          • Heather

            Of course not. She did not want to be raped because she was a sane human being and no sane human being wants to be raped. But “not wanting to be raped” is not why she was canonized. She was canonized because she displayed heroic virtue over and above merely trying not to be raped.

        • Cassandra

          The sin I referred to would be choosing to consent (at least in part) by cooperating and/or participating. She chose not to cooperate which is what infuriated Alessandro.

          Rape, by definition, is against one’s consent. Ergo, of course, it involves no sin on the part of the victim. Duh.

          Obviously as well, being under duress would mitigate subjective sin in any cooperation given.

          >”She tied trying to prevent someone else from committing a sin. Not from trying to avoid committing one herself.”

          Simcha has very much confused the event by trying to make the case Maria was focused only on Alessandro. It’s a false assertion to conclude that concern for herself and Alessandro were somehow an either/or rather than a both/and. patheos is a terrible place to get your Catholicism. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. It would do them well to have a retreat focused on the millstone passage and how that applies to error in posts.

          I don’t know what issues you have in bringing up “damaged goods”, but leave them out of the discussion at hand. I don’t understand why people, such as yourself, focus on “physical virginity” as if that were the issue. The issue is consent, virtue, and sin. She didn’t give consent or cooperate. Alessandro stabbed her over that. A key part of her canonization was the heroic virtue she exhibiting in forgiving Alessandro and desiring his salvation.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            Do you think that consent under duress (e.g., if someone is threatening to kill you unless you consent) is really authentic consent? I don’t believe the Church teaches that consent under duress equals full, authentic consent of the will. That’s why she specifically teaches that (for example) marriages contracted under duress are not valid, even if both parties say “I do” (while the father of the bride is standing behind the groom holding a shotgun).

          • Cassandra

            Note my passage in my comment you are responding to:

            “Obviously as well, being under duress would mitigate subjective sin in any cooperation given.”

            Which of course is stated in the CCC 1735 quote that jassuz8 posted below. However, that does not make consent under duress virtuous or good, it just mitigates culpability.

            What’s being overlooked by Simcha (and others) is that this was not a random, one-time attack in a dark alley. Alessandro had been trying to seduce Maria for some time. The attack with the pick came only after that last refusal. Maria had been virtuously refusing the invitations before the final attack. An unvirtuous girl might very well have succumbed to the prior invitations–as so many of our men and women today do.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            Yes, she was virtuous, but it wasn’t her defense of her virtue that merited her canonization. It takes more than simply following Church teaching to warrant official canonization.

          • Cassandra

            Oh great wise oracle, do pray tell us, why *was* she canonized? Surely, you’ve read her Bull of Canonization and Beatification to see what the Church declares are her reasons, and are not offering your own lowly opinion.

            I’ve had enough of the rubbish from those that can’t fathom dying for purity.

            Here’s St. Pope JPII on her centenary quoting Pius XII:

            “In the homily for her canonization, Pope Pius XII of venerable memory
            pointed to Maria Goretti as “the sweet little martyr of purity” (cf. Discorsi e Radiomessaggi, XII [1950-1951], 121), because she did not break God’s commandment in spite of being threatened by death. ”
            http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/speeches/2002/july/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20020708_santa-maria-goretti.html

            So for those criticizing me for pointing out there being a temptation at play, take it up with JPII–you know, St. JPII “the Great”.

            There’s more from JPII, Pius XII and quotes available on the internet from actual documents for those who actually want to research FACTS instead of blathering ignorant opinions.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            Try reading Simcha’s article, perhaps?

          • Cassandra

            A third rate blogger over Popes? You make an odd choice in authority.

            Read Simcha’s title: “Maria Goretti didn’t die for her virginity”

            Read the popes: “the sweet little martyr of purity”
            Decree of Beatification: “She was a Roman country maid who did not hesitate to
            struggle and to suffer, to shed her life’s blood and to die with
            heroic courage in order to keep herself pure and to preserve the
            lily-white flowers of her virginity.”

            Yep. You’ve chosen quite the source.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            False dichotomy. Your interpretation of the Popes vs. Simcha’s, not the popes vs. Simcha.
            Simcha’s makes more sense. Especially given your vituperation.

          • Cassandra

            Don’t be so intellectually lazy. Go read the source documents yourself instead of being spoon fed by a writer who contradicts herself.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            Right back at ya.

          • Cassandra

            You’re being puerile and embarrassing yourself publicly.

          • Jassuz8

            Cassandra – take good long look in the mirror.

          • Jassuz8

            Are you a troll?

          • Jassuz8

            To be honest, I am absolutely sickened by the tone Cassandra has taken here. However, Simcha Fisher stirred the pot by suggesting that “St. Maria Goretti didn’t die for her virginity.” Some good may come from the discussion here but, no, I wouldn’t look to Simcha before the wisdom of the Magisterium.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            I don’t see how Simcha is opposing the Magesterium in any way.

          • Jassuz8

            It’s not so much that she’s opposing the Magisterium, it’s that she’s not the Magisterium. Cassandra is right to refer to the Church in explaining the basis for canonization. Simcha likely was trying to say that there was much more to consider than St. Maria Goretti’s desire to remain a virgin, but this article is really nothing more than a conversation or an opinion. Virginity gets a really bad rap today and honestly I think we need to look to the Church to find the reasons She cherishes the virtue of chastity. This article kind of detracts from that.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            If you think that Sincha is saying that virginity is a bad thing, you really need to reread her article.

          • Jassuz8

            I did read her article and I did not say that.

            I said virginity gets a really bad rap today, which it does. With this article (especially the title) Simcha is singling out and separating one piece of St. Maria Goretti’s virtue – her virginity – and in doing that the article “detracts from” the Church’s reasons for cherishing the virtue of chastity. That is what I said. That may not be her intent…but there really is no reason to separate it at all. Maria’s virginity mattered to her as part of her pure faith, as it likely does to many women (and men). We don’t need to explain that out of the lives of the saints. We have plenty of saints who were not virgins. There is room in the Church and in Heaven for both.

            If all of this was written in an effort to show sensitivity to women who are victims of rape (and that seems to be a concern expressed by Rebecca Hamilton) then I do understand the need for that. But it is an insult to St. Maria Goretti who was a victim herself. There are other ways of comforting victims of rape than in diminishing the virtue of chastity as a path to sainthood.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            But simply remaining chaste isn’t heroic virtue in and of itself. That’s Simcha’s point. The Church doesn’t canonize every single person who lived a chaste life simple due to the fact that they lived a chaste life. She canonizes people who show heroic virtue, which St. Maria did when she pled for her attacker to save himself, because she cared more about his soul than her own life.

          • Jassuz8

            And why is it necessary to point that out as part of St. Maria Goretti’s story? Why not explain from Simcha’s own personal perspective, or from the perspective of other individuals? There simply is no reason to emphasize that point in Maria’s story – because remaining chaste is what Maria died to protect. That belongs to Maria, and there’s no question that that is part of her cause for canonization.

            And, I’m sorry, but I have a concern about what you say: “But simply remaining chaste isn’t heroic virtue in and of itself.” Who is to say it is not? Using the word “simply” suggests that remaining chaste is somehow insignificant when nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus gave us plenty of guidance in this – examples to follow (Mary, Joseph, those in religious life, and many others) and stories to humble us (St. Mary Magdalene, and St. Augustine), and so many more. The early Church fathers praised chastity as a virtue and we should not detract from that anymore than we should the other virtues.

            I personally did not remain chaste and I know that I am forgiven. I also struggle with teaching my own children the virtue of chastity, but we do not ignore it or diminish the importance of striving to remain chaste. Modern day Catholics (myself included) have really failed on this subject…which is why St. Pope John Paul II gave us the Theology of the Body. We need the virtue of chastity taught anew, and with much love and compassion. Rape victims need this as well – because their dignity is that important.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            The Church expects Catholics to follow Church teaching. That’s the baseline – the minimum expected of us. Then there are those who go, essentially, above and beyond the call of duty – the saints. We’re expected to remain chaste as a baseline expectation. We’re not expected to try and save the soul of a man who is trying to kill us at the cost of our own life, regardless of his motivations for doing so.

          • Jassuz8

            Well said, and I don’t disagree with that. But that can be said without adding “Maria Goretti didn’t die for her virginity.” Thank you for being so kind, by the way. :)

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            Well, regardless of how it was said, it’s still true. And likewise, thank you for being kind and charitable!

          • Jassuz8

            This man was a sexual predator, he was not trying to seduce her. Proof of that was in the threats he posed. She was a victim long before he ultimately killed her. She was clearly virtuous. The young men and women of today – by and large – have consensual relations with each other. I’m not saying I think that’s good – it’s not – but they are not sexual predators. There is a significant difference between the threat of rape, and granting consent to a desired sexual encounter outside of marriage. You cannot compare one circumstance to the other.

          • https://disqus.com/by/avclub-d6dcb896498918d2f006564303fe0c14/ James Kabala

            Even in our era, I think there are very few eleven-year-olds who have a desire for sexual activity.

      • Emily

        Oh goodness- it would be a mortal sin on the CHILD’S soul for her to be raped? This is why the way Maria’s story is told is offensive to some people. It makes it sound like choosing rather to die than to be rapes is somehow virtuous.

  • ReH

    One of the antiphons from the proper of Martyrs is “Love for life did not deter them from death.” This has always seemed to us to be a wonderful object for meditation on their lives, and this helps me understand how these two saints fit into this.

    I think Jean is missing the point. While there’s obviously nothing wrong in the self-love that wants to keep yourself from being raped, there’e nothing heroically virtuous about it either–it’s a pretty universal human impulse. Wanting to prevent it for the sake of *their* soul, on the other hand, is much rarer. I also don’t see any threat to her virtue via temptation, unless you count the temptation to hatred. This doesn’t make any sense.

    And to Fritztheman, this may be a result of my own lack of understanding of the Church’s teaching about physical virginity, but I am made really uncomfortable by saying that she died “to protect her purity.” It implies that the rape of a child renders that child somehow impure. Can you imagine what a young girl, a victim of molestation as a child, would think of herself when hearing this lesson about a saint? “She died rather than become what I am…how disgusting I must be.” That’s why I found Simcha’s explanation here to be so helpful.

    • Cassandra

      It has to do with consent; not whether one is raped against one’s consent.

      As Jesus said (paraphrasing from memory), “it is not want goes into a man that defiles him, it is what comes out of him.”

      Maria died as a result of refusing to consent, that refusal which was necessary for protecting her purity of soul. I was taught that Augustine wrote a beautiful letter to a group of nuns that had been raped and addressed this topic, that while their physical virginity had been taken, they maintained their spiritual state in not consenting.

      • http://www.kiva.org/ mike scott

        being curious about what St. Augustine had to say, a Google search brought this reference up :-).
        From another blog:
        Re: Is being the victim of rape a sin? No
        “And yes, it’s a very ancient Christian teaching (and one very countercultural in Greece and Rome at the time) that raped virgins still count as virgins, and that rape doesn’t destroy the victim’s chastity. St. Augustine had to lay it down very strictly after the Fall of Rome, because many consecrated virgins, widows, and normal Christian ladies were raped during the confusion; and some of them were being told afterward to follow the old pagan Roman custom and kill themselves. He absolutely hit the roof about that one. It’s in the first chapter of his book The City of God.”

      • lizzysimplymagic

        So your saying an 11 year old child held at knifepoint could actually consent to rape and be considered “impure” and a sinner because of it? Your saying consent is even an option in this scenario?

        • Cassandra

          I’m getting tired of people freaking out over my mention of consent as if consent to sex is not an option IN ADDITION TO actions/inaction only under duress which is a different moral category.

          Let’s reverse the question to make this clearer. Maria is extolled for heroic virtue–including Fortitude, and charity in forgiving Alessandro. If she has no capacity for consent AT ALL, she can’t act virtuously since being compelled to commit a good act does not gain merit. If duress removes all capacity for consent, can she consent to and cooperate with the grace of God to resist? I don’t think you can have it both ways: no possibility of consent to the act, but possibility of consent to grace.

          For those freaking out about my mention of consent, I will present Augustine’s treatment of this case, in which he makes the point that virtue resides in the will and so cannot be taken by violation of the body, which is why women (including virgins) who are raped maintain their virtue and therefore also sanctity of their body. NOTE THAT AUGUSTINE INCLUDES CONSENT [while the will remains firm and unshaken] in the treatment.

          http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120101.htm
          City of God, Book I, chapter 16 (see also ch 18)

          Chapter 16.— Of the Violation of the Consecrated and Other Christian Virgins, to Which They Were Subjected in Captivity and to Which Their Own Will Gave No Consent; And Whether This Contaminated Their Souls.

          But they fancy they bring a conclusive charge against Christianity, when they aggravate the horror of captivity by adding that not only wives and unmarried maidens, but even consecrated virgins, were violated. But truly, with respect to this, it is not Christian faith, nor piety, nor even the virtue of chastity, which is hemmed into any difficulty; the only difficulty is so to treat the subject as to satisfy at once modesty and reason.
          And in discussing it we shall not be so careful to reply to our accusers as to comfort our friends. Let this, therefore, in the first place, be laid down as an unassailable position, that the virtue which makes the life good has its throne in the soul, and thence rules the members of the body, which becomes holy in virtue of the holiness of the will; and that while the will remains firm and unshaken, nothing that another person does with the body, or upon the body, is any fault of the person who suffers it, so long as he cannot escape it without sin. But as not only pain may be inflicted, but lust gratified on the body of another, whenever anything of this latter kind takes place, shame invades even a thoroughly pure spirit from which modesty has not departed—shame, lest that act which could not be suffered without some sensual pleasure, should be believed to have been committed also with some assent of the will.
          [Note clearly that the shame Augustine is talking about is the fear of disgrace of being falsely accused of some consent, not shame of a deed actually done.]

          • lizzysimplymagic

            I’m not asking you what Augustine has to say about it. I asked if it was possible for an 11 year old to consent to sex while held at knifepoint by a stalker. Apparently, you believe it is possible… possible for a victim of violent sexual assault to be blameworthy if she doesn’t fight her (stronger, armed) attacker and tries to save her own life. I’m “freaking out” because your concept of consent in this case is just plain awful. Sorry that is tiring for you, but it’s no picnic for me either.

            I strongly recommend you read some testimonies of child rape victims before you make any more statements about “virtue”. You keep talking in legalisms as if that is what is important here, not actual, lived experience.

          • Cassandra

            You’re just reacting emotionally and inserting your words into mine. Grow up.

            No one, including me, has cast any blame on rape victims. Rape is by definition against consent. No one has even asserted any particular degree of physical resistance is necessary.

            This is my last response to you. Go emote to someone else.

          • lizzysimplymagic

            I made a plea for compassion. Do with it what you will.

  • Re Ja

    I’ve always found the story about Gianna Molla rather misleading. Yes, she refused a hysterectomy but she also chose to undergo an extremely risky surgery (successfully) on her uterus while pregnant, to remove a benign fibroid tumor (not cancer as so many think), knowing it could cause her to lose the baby AND it was a risk she chose to take over the risk of doing nothing which was also an option. It was a cesarean surgery that ultimately led to complications after delivery that took her life. Some of the cultic stories lead one to think there was a heroic decision to proceed with a pregnancy knowing it would cost her her life. In reality she was a woman faced with a hard choice. Have a hysterectomy and lose her pregnancy and her ability to ever have another child. Do nothing and leave it in God’s hands, as the risk to her or the baby was uncertain. Undergo a risky surgery that could take the life of her child as well as her own and leave her husband and children alone. She chose the option that seemed most reasonable to her as doctor. Perhaps that was heroic virtue, I don’t know..

  • Bear Fact

    Maria Goretti didn’t die.

    • Jeff Reedy

      pretty sure she died.

      • Bear Fact

        Aren’t you thinking of Gianna Molla?

        • Heather

          No, Maria Goretti died. She was stabbed by her would-be rapist several times and forgave him before she expired from her wounds.

          • Bear Fact

            If she died, she died for Filipinos
            >
            >
            Too many Italian saints? By Dr. Jeff Mirus
            https://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/the-city-gates.cfm?id=819
            “Wikipedia has pages covering 255 Italian saints. The next closest are the Spanish, at 154. The Germans have 146, the French 138, and the Greeks 108. Then the numbers drop under 100 and, very rapidly, under 25.”

            >

            >
            Italy is a ‘dying country’ says minister as birth rate plummets – http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/13/italy-is-a-dying-country-says-minister-as-birth-rate-plummets
            “Fewer babies were born in Italy in 2014 than in any other year since the modern Italian state was formed in 1861, new data show, highlighting the demographic challenge faced by the country’s chronically sluggish economy.”

          • Heather

            Wait, what?

          • http://www.kiva.org/ mike scott

            Thanks for nothing Bear Fact. There is always one troll that thinks he is “funny”.

  • Matt Kososki

    I never got St. Maria Goretti until I read this blog. Thanks!

  • lindenman

    I admit, I’ve always found Maria Goretti’s story baffling to say the least. But I can see think of two reasons the Pope’s decision to canonize her was progressive.

    First, she was a layperson. Lay saints weren’t all that common before JPII’s day. Her elevation to the altars anticipated Lumen Gentium and the universal call to holiness by more than a decade.

    Second, she was miserably poor. Attempting to be charitable, a Flanery O’Connor character might have called her and her family “good country people.” (The same person would have dismissed the Serenellis as trash). In that sense, even crediting her with concern for her virginity was egalitarian. In those days, conventional wisdom held that peasants had no sense of delicacy, that they rutted like brute beasts, that their religion was pure superstition, etc. etc.

    It’s often been suggested that PXII was trying to blunt the impact of American hedonism, imported to Italy courtesy of the US Army during the Second World War. I can think of something else that must have crossed HH’s mind. At that time, communist influence was very strong in Italy. It can’t have escaped Pius’ notice that the Goretti family represented the very people on whose behalf the communists claimed to act. Canonizing Maria could also have been his way of saying, “Put own those hammers and sickles, gang, and come back to the Cross.”

    • Monica

      I’m pretty sure the Pope canonized her because she’s in Heaven, actually. That’s how it works.

  • John Mallon

    Amen. Love is the core of everything in Christianity. It is the basis of all morality. As in 1 Cor. 13.

  • Rosalinda Lozano

    It wasn’t a “devotion” to chastity. It was a deep love for God and her unwillingness to offend Him in any way. She ALSO loved this young man by forgiving him before her death. I think this is a very dangerous theory. Dangerous because we are in a society where chastity is no longer a virtue and she was a role model for this very important virtue necessary for a moral society and important for young people.

    • Sarah McCabe

      By saying that you are suggesting that being raped is offensive to God, which is ridiculous.

      • Jassuz8

        No, she’s not. She’s saying that it’s good to have a role model for the virtue that Maria Goretti tried to protect. I’ve met Catholic women who are offended at the suggestion that Mary was a perpetual Virgin. They prefer a less perfect Mary to have as a role model. It’s okay to have role model Saints who are virgins. It’s also okay to have role model Saints who were not. I’ve never heard any Catholic (until today) suggest that being raped is offensive to God, and you (Sarah) are the one suggesting that. And, you are putting words in Rosalina’s mouth…because she said no such thing.

  • grateful1

    These points about both saints needed to be made. And in light of these points, the heroic virtue of each saint is even more apparent. Thanks, Simcha.

  • Tim

    “She chose death when there was no other way to defend her virginal purity.” Pope St. John Paul II on the 100th anniversary of the virgin martyr’s birth.

  • MG

    It matters a lot what actually happened. Did he say, “Let me rape you, or I’ll kill you,” and she said, “I’d rather you kill me”? That would give the impression that being raped is sinful, which seems confused. Or did he say, “Let’s have sex,” and she said no, and then he got angry and killed her? If the latter, then she was trying to avoid sexual sin (perhaps indeed for his sake as much as for her own), but there’s no reason, in this version of the story, to think there’s any worrisome implication that she was trying to avoid the pseudo-sin of being raped.

    So, like, which is it? What actually happened? It matters.

    • lizzysimplymagic

      What actually happened? She was 11. He had a knife and already heard the word “no” many times without impact. If anyone sees the potential for HER to sin in this situation, get thee to a therapist. Consent was not an option.

  • anna lisa

    Allowing yourself to get raped could very well be the better, more saintly course of action if you know that you will die otherwise. I’ve heard something about “dry” saints –blood being the “wet” way to gain your martyr’s garland.

    Maybe getting the martyrdom over with on one afternoon is the easier way out.

    The dry martyrs have to live with the memories of abuse every. single. day. We won’t know what that burden was like until God reveals everything. Maybe the dry one eventually died homeless, like a spent gladiator, in a ditch, and nobody noticed.

    (We’re probably just practicing for the real awards).

    None of this diminishes the goodness and glory of a girl who did her best under the circumstances in which she died heroically.

    The devil always manages to squeeze out a creepy conclusion about what it all means on either side of the spectrum. We Catholics like to complain though, so we give him all kinds of room to do it.

    • Nadine

      please read Maria Goretti’s life. A good place to start would be on the Catholic Culture website. :)

      • anna lisa

        I have read her life. Did I say something wrong?

        “None of this diminishes the goodness and glory of a girl who did her best under the circumstances in which she died heroically.”

        I was complaining about left wingers and right wingers who want to distort what the Church actually teaches.

        Will the girl who died at the hands of a would-be rapist, shine brighter than the girl (recently canonized) who was a sex slave?

        I dunno. They both forgave their abusers with astounding charity.

  • http://grace-filled.net jen

    Thank you for this. I had just read something on Maria Goretti’s feastday that involved a diatribe on how young people should work to keep their virginity. Gag me.

    • Jeff Reedy

      I think encouraging people to keep their virginity is very important.

      • http://grace-filled.net jen

        I think it’s important too but some people make doing so into an idol and that is the thing to which I object. I think Maria’s example to young people today is more than that.

  • Jeff Reedy

    this is a great article! the precise difference between true holiness and self righteous judgmentalism…. you nailed it.

    • stacie

      Yes!!!

  • antigon

    Not sure how relevant this is to Mrs. Fisher’s fine piece, tho perhaps somewhat to various discussions above.
    *
    To wit, the rape of Lucretia in Rome just over 500 years before Christ.
    *
    Livy & virtually all historians, while differing on minor details, agree on the historical reality of the essentials, & thus their overwhelming historical impact since, following two centuries of monarchy since Romulus, they directly provoked the establishment of republican Rome.
    *
    She was a virtuous wife. The King’s son privately hated her for it, used his friendship for her (absent) husband to gain entry to her house, & then said he would kill her & a slave & claim he’d caught them in flagrante, unless she submitted to him.
    *
    She did. When he left she immediately sent word to her father & husband, to whom she told what had happened when they arrived, asking them to swear her rapist would be punished, which they did.
    *
    Whereupon she stabbed & killed herself, which one supposes ended any speculation about complicity.
    *
    Whereupon, outraged, the Romans rose up, ended monarchy, & established a complex republic that would lead to…many things.

    • Cassandra

      You might want to see Augustine’s treatment of Lucretia in Chapter 19. Book 1 of the City of God. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120101.htm

      • antigon

        Merci. And of course logically precise as well as proper teaching that sought (& succeeded for a decent season) to replace pagan with Christian presuppositions.
        *
        Even so – as it were like the alphabet created by the wicked Phoenicians for imperfectly noble reasons sans which nonetheless there would have been no Hebrew Scriptures – t’is fair to propose good was over time extracted from Lucretia’s unhappy response to her violation.

      • https://disqus.com/by/avclub-d6dcb896498918d2f006564303fe0c14/ James Kabala

        Livy himself actually assessed the situation in a very similar way.

  • Tim

    Yes she did. Homily for the canonization of St. Maria Goretti by Pius XII: “With splendid courage she surrendered herself to God and his grace and so gave her life to protect her virginity.”

    • Mbukukanyau

      Thank you. This article is totally trying to take down saints.

      • Tim

        I don’t think it is a takedown, Simcha’s mistake is presenting the case as if St. Maria Goretti were solely focused on her attacker and her concern for him. As the popes said and the transcript of Goretti’s own interview on the subject show preserving her virginity was definitely a major thing for her as was not consenting to sin. Simcha’s mistake is construing one part of things for the whole. Why did she do that? We can’t tell unless she explains it some more. This article sounds more like a rough draft than anything else.

        • Cassandra

          Rough draft? It’s pretty much a copy and paste from her February 2014 article.
          But it’s “rough” in that she obviously isn’t researching the documents, or worse, ignoring them to make a badly formed point.

          She focusing on virtue as only having meaning in service to others, rather than virtue as first love for God–which then moves us to love our neighbor for the sake of God (cf Act of Love).

          But with the sloppy writing, her intentions are not clear.

  • Theresa Gregory Nava

    Um yeah. Interesting. trying to be pithy are we for attention? You see virtue IS loving beyond yourself–so much that you love the other person–or really God. They go together

  • onewaytoheaven

    From what I understand, he had approached her before, he had mentally attacked and pressured and threatened her in the past and she continually resisted him at those times also. She knew and had time to consider all of it. I don’t doubt in the months previous that she was earnestly praying for Alessandro as well as herself and that Christ was strengthening her before Alessandro physically attacked her. Yes we Love others and have great concern for their souls but we are to Love ourselves also and have great concern for our own souls as well. Alessandro could have overpowered her against her will without killing her, she would be no less a Saint. It is that she resisted the violence of evil perpetrated against her, even unto death, and that he had been a traitor against his own self, against his own soul. And to resist evil, to resist evil… to take up our cross and follow Christ, even unto death.

    • Nadine

      Yes! I really don’t think enough people have read her life. It reminds me of Maximilian Kolbe- the point of death seems to be the focus because it was so heroic. However, Maria Goretti was saintly from a very early age. Her pathetic death bed plea, “He said he would kill me if I told and he killed me anyway..” As you said she had time to consider all of it. The terrible position her family was in made it all the more excruciating. St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!

  • Frances Rouse

    I was in grade school, Catholic, when Maria was canonized. The 50’s was an era of women marrying and raising lots of children. Maria was held up as a role model to hang on to our virginity. Your analysis makes a great deal of sense. Thank you.

  • tj.nelson

    When in doubt regarding these questions read the documentary evidence contained in the canonization process. Failing that, I think we can trust in the prayer of the Church – the Collect which informs the faithful, as well as the homilies and statements made by Pius XII and John Paul II make it clear that St. Maria is a martyr for chastity. Heroic virtue affects all the virtues, all martyrs demonstrate heroic charity – in Maria’s case it is particularly evident in her concern for Alessandro’s salvation, which included her forgiveness of him for the attack.

    Privately we can speculate on any motivation we like – however, the Church is always clear in the official canonization as to why a saint is canonized. Private opinion doesn’t change what the Church actually teaches.

  • http://www.SacredArtSeries.com/ Will Bloomfield

    Perhaps it’s not the author’s intention, but the article seems to present the love of virtue as in conflict with the love of others. But there is no conflict.

    The first and greatest commandment is to love God; love of neighbor follows from this as we are called to see God in them and to treat them as we would treat Christ. When we love virtue–whether purity or fortitude or justice or another–and when we hate sin, we are loving God and loving our neighbor. So yes, Maria Goretti’s actions were out of love of Allesandro: this love is not in conflict with her love of virtue; they are the same love.

  • JackQuirk

    Excellent!

  • kurlgrl1985

    It is a bitter heart that would try to take the crown from a Virgin Martyr. This article and subsequent comments makes me feel sick to my stomach. What has the Church come to?

    • Heather

      Who is trying to take the crown from a Virgin Martyr? The objection to how St Maria Goretti’s cult is often presented is the notion that she was canonized because she managed to die before her attacker was able to succeed in raping her. Usually in words to the effect of “die rather than lose her chastity.” Which leads to the horrific implication that she would indeed have lost her chastity if he had succeeded in overpowering her against her will before killing her, and that his action carried out against her will would have been a sin on her part, and that anyone who does NOT fight to the death against a rapist is somehow “accepting” and therefore complicit in the attack and committing a mortal sin themselves.

      Reducing her real heroic virtue to a mere “better to die than to have sex, even if it is forced on you against your will” platitude is an insult to her and sends entirely the wrong message to anyone who has actually been the victim of a sexual crime.

      • kurlgrl1985

        I’ve read lots of comments here to the same effect. What distresses me is that Catholics cannot see virginity as a special blessing. They refuse to accept that being a virgin elevates someone to a higher honor than themself. It feels like the author is bitter that her calling as a mother is NOT as high a calling as that of a virgin, so she tries to downplay and even ridicule the notion that we should honor a saint for being a virgin. However that truth is plainly laid out by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians, and consecrated virginity is the ultimate sacrificial offering of self. I am married and have 4 children, so I am not motivated by self promotion when I say that virginity is a higher calling than marriage.
        The other reality that it seems the angry mob here is missing is that there was a sequence of events that did in fact involve St. Maria’s refusal. The man was a well know family friend, and the encounter only got ugly when she flatly refused his sexual advances. First she told him, “No I cannot do that, it would be a sin.” Then he pulled out a knife and that is when she called on him to think of his immortal soul. She valued her virtue AND her attacker’s soul, but her virginity was something she was willing to die for it.
        Extruding complicated pseudo feminist arguments against the value of virginity creates a false dichotomy. Valuing St. Maria’s virginity and extolling it, does not in any way victimize anyone who is tragically raped. If anything, to me it highlights the severity of that attrocious crime.

        • Heather

          The point is that virgin martyrs don’t cease being virgin martyrs if they are raped before being killed. That’s an understanding that goes back at least as far as St Augustine. Virginity can only truly be lost if it is given away, not stolen.

          It’s not that we don’t see the value in guarding virginity. We just don’t subscribe to the “rape victims are damaged goods” theory.

          • kurlgrl1985

            What I’m saying is that no one ever said that. Ever. Honoring a virgin does not dishonor a non-virgin. It’s a false dichotomy that only succeeds in taking glory from God, because He IS highly honored by virgin souls.

          • Heather

            St. Maria Goretti’s status as a virgin martyr did not depend on whether or not her attacker had succeeded in raping her. She would have gone down as a virgin soul regardless. Do you agree with this or not? If so, then what’s the problem with opposing stories that make it seem like her celebrated virtue was entirely based in the fact that her attacker did not succeed in raping her? If not, then you are at odds with long standing Church tradition.

          • kurlgrl1985

            Honestly, I think you and the author are arguing two completely different points. The author’s point was to say that Maria “didn’t die for her virginity” but rather for her charity towards her attacker.. Her point is logically flawed (she didn’t love Allessandro so much that she fell down dead, she literally died defending her virginity. Literally.)
            Your point seems to center around rape victims and the physical state of virginity. Choosing to save yourself for Christ and abstaining from impurity before marriage have always been highly extolled by tradition. Of course if Maria had been raped before, during, or after her death, she would still be a virgin martyr. She died defending her purity when she could have saved herself by giving in. Her status as a martyr hinges on that fact.
            The author flatly denies that virginity has anything to do with her sainthood, and I take serious issue with that. Like I said before, it’s completely illogical and also stinks of bitterness and a desire to downplay the idea that virgins have a special place in heaven, which has always been Church teaching.

          • Heather

            So, you missed this part?

            “Over and over, I’ve heard this saint praised as a holy girl who prized her viginity so highly that she was willing to die to defend it. And she did die as a result of defending her viginity. But when her would-be rapist attacked her, she pleaded with him to stop because he would be committing a mortal sin, and he would go to hell. She didn’t say, “Please, please, spare my virginity!” She begged him to spare himself.” She doesn’t at all deny that she died defending her virginity. But “dying defending your virginity” and “dying FOR your virginity” aren’t quite the same thing.

            The very first line after the title is “Or she wasn’t canonized just because she managed to remain a virgin, anyway,” which is the point of what both she and I are saying and in contrast to how some of the hagiographical stories seem to imply.

          • kurlgrl1985

            I’m not sure if she is just misinformed about the story or only including certain details to support her theory. Either way, the story isn’t accurate. Alessandro did make advances that she refused because she valued her purity and she died because she refused. Similar to the Roman martyrs who were asked to burn incense to idols and their refusal was the direct cause of their death. Her refusal of his advances was the direct cause of her martyrdom, which is why it is said she died to defend her virginity the way the Romans died to defend their faith. The whole point of the article is that virginity isn’t a thing worth dying for, and therefore isn’t her reason for sainthood, and she’s wrong about that. The Church has made it clear since her canonization and every mention of her thereafter, that her virginity is the crux of her martyrdom. So either Mrs. Fischer hasn’t read those parts of the Liturgy and the writings of those popes or she disagrees with them.

          • Heather

            Yes, her refusal of him is why she was murdered. But saying that she refused him because she was concerned for her purity is saying that there was any possibility of temptation to impurity on her part. This is not a story of two teenagers in love, one of whom tried to tempt the other to unchastity the other of whom resisted and was then attacked and killed for it. This is the story of a child who was stalked and murdered by a creepy guy several years older than her.

            Sure, the liturgy praises her purity. It does that for all the virgin martyrs. Sure, the canonization sermon says she died for her virginity. It also says that it was a sudden attack out of nowhere by a stranger. (Which it wasn’t.) Just because a declaration of canonization is infallible doesn’t mean everything said in regards to it is.

          • Cassandra

            “But saying that she refused him because she was concerned for her purity
            is saying that there was any possibility of temptation to impurity on
            her part.”

            Of course there is the temptation to place life over virtue. It’s the refusal to place life over virtue and fidelity to God that makes martyrs heroic and a true witness to the hierarchy of goods. God first. Period. Full stop.
            Not God first unless I’m going to die over it.

          • Julie

            But she wasn’t placing her virtue above her life. She was placing HIS virtue above her life. At no point was her virtue in question. She didn’t say to her attacker “I will go to hell.” She said, “YOU will go to hell.” If he had raped her after he’d stabbed her, and she died forgiving him and praying for his conversion, she would still be a martyr. How is this confusing?

          • asuffusionofyellow

            You know, I agree. The article appears to be written in a spirit of “debunking.” Of course, her virginity was a gift, but she valued the gift with her will, not merely making a virtue of necessity, and offered it up to God. Virginity/chastity/purity is a gift we not only don’t value in our sexually revolutionized culture but actively attempt to devalue.

  • http://romangovernor.org/ kentgeordie

    This article makes the excellent point that the main victim of any sin is its perpetrator. Whatever act of violence I may inflict on somebody else, more harm is done to me than to my ‘victim’.

  • Mbukukanyau

    Thought provoking article.
    However, to say that these saints did not love virtue is nonsense.

  • Grace

    Simcha, stick to musing, or waxing poetic…leave the theology of Sainthood to others.

  • stacie

    I’m not Catholic, so I can’t argue the finer points of what makes or does not make one a saint. But…

    “Love for each other is how we imitate Jesus. He didn’t die for the cause of salvation; He died for us, as billions of individual beloved children.”

    I. Love. This. What a simple and yet spectacular truth!!!

  • Jassuz8

    There is nothing wrong with choosing to remain a virgin…even when faced with the threat of death.

  • AquinasMan

    It seems like the Church has taken up a new marketing hook:

    “Everything you’ve learned up until now is wrong.”

  • BillXR3

    Well put, Simcha. The Greatest Commandment. Thanks.

  • Vonda Zimmerman

    She preferred death to rape. Death by knife–not an easy one. I would say she valued her purity pretty highly because it was a gift from God and she was unwillingly to give it up. Hard for people to understand nowadays–

  • diane

    Maria was a young girl who cared about doing what Jesus would have wanted her to do. This included purity of body and heart. While in intense pain she forgave her attacker less than 24 hours after he stabbed her 14 times. These are qualities worth striving to attain; qualities found less and less in our culture today; and qualities that make her a saint in my eyes. The exact details are really less important than the message.

  • BillXR3

    Thanks, Simcha. The Greatest Commandment. God’s Will.

  • kag1982

    I am sorry but this is trying to paper over an ugly truth in the Catholic Church.. the Church cared more about little Maria Goretti’s purity than it did her life. Maria Goretti was definitely not canonized for her forgiveness but for her purity. Pius XII mentioned as much in his homily at her canonization. It was all about her purity; she was a symbol used to condemn Italian girls who were sleeping with the American GIs. Maria Goretti was an example of the “throwaway culture” that Pope Francis talks about. She was discarded during her life and she was used by Mussolini and the Church in her death to for their own purposes. (It is interesting how the Church is willing to “throwaway” women if it fits the Church’s moral or political purposes.)

    There are other rape victims who have been equally abused by the Church: Albertina Berkenbrock, Pierina Morosini, Antonia Messina, and Karolina Kozka. These were all beatified by the Catholic Church during my life time. Albertina Berkenbrock was beatified as a martyr of purity in 2007. Based on this it is obvious that the Catholic Church doesn’t care about live rape victims. It is better and holier for women whether being gang raped by ISIS fighters or being date raped by an drunk date violently struggle against the the rapists to her death rather than survive. Maria Goretti, Albertina Berkenbrock, Pierina Morosini, Antonia Messina, and Karolina Kozka weren’t important as individuals with futures.. the Church only cared that they “protected” their virginity to the death.

  • Lynn Loring

    This reminds me of “Othello”. When I read this in a literary class the following discussion surprised me. I was the only one who was struck by Othello’s narcissistic love of his virtue. Through this, MUCH suffering came to all, even tragic deaths! I love this piece….thank you for writing it

  • http://athenasantics.wordpress.com/ AthenaC

    I very much appreciate this analysis, because I did notice growing up that my “Lives of the Saints” books were filled to the rafters with saints who were either virgins, mutilated themselves so they wouldn’t be forced to marry (and consequently have sex), ran away and hid so they wouldn’t be forced to marry (and consequently have sex), and employed various other heroic strategies simply to avoid marriage (and consequently, sex). For any saints who were motivated by avoiding sex, that fact was an integral and central part of their story and their sainthood. For any saints who were married, any mention of their spouses or children seemed to be carefully airbrushed out of the story, so any evidence that marriage (and consequently, sex) might possibly be a normal part of life was seemingly absent.

    I was left with the impression that sex was never, under any circumstances, an acceptable thing for people to do. Ever. I actually believed this for a few years.

    And people wonder why Catholics have weird hangups about sex!

  • Nadine

    I’m sorry, I don’t understand the point of this article. I usually enjoy Simcha- perhaps my synapses aren’t firing this morning. Now HERE is a splendid and clear article about Maria Goretti. https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=1099

  • Nadine

    “Heroic love of God comes with prayer and long training in self-denial and surrender to God’s will. This is the one step on the way to sanctity that it is easy to miss. Whatever the circumstances of our lives, we see only that our plans are thwarted, disadvantages are our lot, and we suffer a number of afflictions not of our own choosing. Strangely enough, if we would accept and use them we would grow in the precise heroism that is needed by us if we would be saints.”-Mary Reed Newland on Maria Goretti

    ‘Nuf said :)

  • Rebecca Bonnie Arganbright

    I don’t understand why some people here are taking such personal offense. From what I have read, Simcha is simply bringing up another perspective of Maria’s sanctity. There are so many things to consider when reading Maria’s story: her heroic purity, and heroic love of God, virtue and neighbor. She had all of these things; it wasn’t one or the other. Many victims would find it very difficult to choose death over losing their life and the fact that Maria was able to do this shows that she went from ordinary to extraordinary. Not only that, but she was able to forgive him after not just attacking her, but months of harassing her, humiliating her, and threatening her. (See her biography.) This wasn’t just a one day thing, and it went on for months and months and she was unable to tell her mother about it because of Alessandro’s threats. A very heavy burden for a child to carry! Maria is a saint because of all these things; the fact that the story centers around her martyrdom is only to highlight the height of her extraordinary holiness. Otherwise, would people have even noticed how holy she had become? Probably not.

    • kurlgrl1985

      Ironically, there is a link at the top of the page to Simcha’s previous article, titled, In Defense of Deploring Poor Taste.
      Here is the first line of the piece,
      “What ever happened to avoiding things simply because they were in poor taste? Not because they’re crimes, not because they’re immoral, but just because they leave a bad taste in the mouth. Even if you could build a logical defense of them, they make us cringe and avert our eyes. Do people even consider whether something is tasteless or not? Does it matter?”
      I wish the author had taken her own advice in this instance. Although I enjoy her blog from time to time, this piece left a bad taste in my mouth and her “I’m more insightful than the pope who canonized this saint” attitude changes my opinion of her, unfortunately.

      • https://disqus.com/by/avclub-d6dcb896498918d2f006564303fe0c14/ James Kabala

        I really don’t understand your comment at all. Sorry.

        • kurlgrl1985

          Rebecca asked why people are offended. I replied that the subject matter of the article was (in my opinion) tasteless.
          Not to mention I think she’s wrong.
          But besides that, even if she was correct it would be a tasteless way to approach the matter, and it left people offended.

          • https://disqus.com/by/avclub-d6dcb896498918d2f006564303fe0c14/ James Kabala

            I understood the literal meaning of your words; I just can’t figure out how the article (even if wrong) could be considered in bad taste. But there is no point in prolonging this Internet fight back and forth indefinitely, so I guess we just have to agree to disagree.

          • kurlgrl1985

            Mmmmm ok. I wasn’t arguing, just answering, because I assumed that I had poorly worded my comment. Maybe, “I don’t *agree* with your comment at all” would have been more to the point.

  • jenmikeolson

    Simcha, as usual, you’ve nailed it dead on. There is no doubt in my mind that you are plugged into the Holy Spirit, as I have come to this same understanding as you independently. Where I live, a local protestant church owns a billboard, and on it they keep permanently posted, “Love God. Love People.” It’s two sided, black & white, reversed color one side to the other. It pretty much sums it all up. The commandments. The order of which we love, God first leads to love of neighbor. Black and white, as truth is not ambiguous. I see it every morning and evening back and forth to work. I’m convinced this is foundation from which the Gospel springs. And I think those who get this are the ones who will save our church and the world.

  • Robin Warchol

    I think St. Maria Goretti and her death always seems to be misunderstood or misrepresented. I thought one of the things that made her a saint is that as she was dying, she stated that she wanted Alesandro to end up in heaven with her. She forgave him while she bled to death. Even though she protested being attacked, Alesandro still could have raped her, she was only 11 years old. He could have easily over powered her anyway. I think what enraged him to stap her repeatedly was that she didn’t want to do it. Again, if she was able to get proper medical treatment which was unavailable in their isolated area, I think she could have lived.

  • Soph Kitty

    If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. ~ Corinthians 13:3

  • Elizabeth

    I would like to hear a priest or theologian talk about this matter. It seems a little fuzzy to me, while it used to be quite clear. I was always given (and was quite satisfied) the explanation of her avoiding grave sin, accepting death because of that…which is very heroic, and forgiving and praying for her attacker afterward, which is also very heroic. I don’t think it is necessary to minimize chastity, especially nowadays.

  • Susan Mary

    When questioned by the chaplain who brought her Holy Viaticum before she died, Maria stated that she FORGAVE ALESSANDRO AND HOPED HE WOULD JOIN HER IN HEAVEN ONE DAY. This sincere forgiveness on the part of an 11 year old must also have played a part in her canonization.

    • Robin Warchol

      that was my point and how I view this Saint


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