The Two Feasts of St Maria Goretti

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St Maria Goretti
St Maria Goretti

Today, 6 July, is the Feast of St Maria Goretti, an 11-year old Italian girl who, during a sexual assault that turned fatal, was concerned about the salvation of her assailant, and, a few days later, expressed her forgiveness of him on her deathbed.

It is also, for some, the Feast of the Intact Genitals of St Maria Goretti, who, according to some, would have become an unchaste girl who lost her purity if her assailant had sexually penetrated her instead of killing her because she fought him off. She, however, retained genital intactness, and, supposedly, by doing so she died pure of heart and soul, not, supposedly, a tart like other rape victims/survivors.

You can choose which of those feasts you celebrate. The former is a real feast. The latter is commonly celebrated.

Pope Pius XII allegedly asked the crowd at her canonisation: “Young people … are you determined to resist any attack on your chastity with the help of the grace of God?

This was misleading and inappropriate, if that is indeed true and in context, because St Maria’s chastity was never under attack. Her sexual purity was never under attack. Had she been unsuccessful in preventing herself from being raped, she would have lost neither of those things. She would have been no less a saint. (But she, like many such victims/survivors, may then have gone unnoticed.)

Only very indirectly can her actions be related to chastity (if at all). Chastity is only ever under attack by one’s own desires and one’s own actions, especially towards others. The same applies to (sexual) purity. Resist such attacks “with the help of the grace of God”, and if you fail, restore yourself “with the help of the grace of God”.

If you are sexually assaulted, fight or resist if you can or if you choose to; don’t if you can’t or if you do not choose to. Resisting may improve or, as in St Maria’s case, worsen the outcome. Either way, there will be tremendous physical and psychological trauma, and you should try to get as much help as possible afterwards. Never think your chastity was lost or harmed. Never think your purity was lost or harmed. Never think preserving your genital state is more important than preserving your life. Never think your response, whatever it was, or your choice not to respond, was in any way sinful. And never believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

It is never better to be dead than to be a survivor.

St Maria Goretti,
pray that we may forgive others the way you did,
and pray for those who suffer sexual assault and abuse.

Dark blue ribbon - Child abuse prevention
Dark blue ribbon – Child abuse prevention

H/t: Purity, Rape and the Feast Of Maria Goretti (again) … Steel Magnificat

Dawn Eden’s new book dispels misconceptions on saints, sex abuse … Catholic News Agency

According to St. Augustine’s City of God and St. Thomas Aquinas’s ‘Summa Theologiae‘ – and this remains official doctrine today – a virgin,” Eden explained, “who was raped is still a virgin in the eyes of the Church. He or she is not a ‘secondary virgin,’ but a true virgin.”
Dawn Eden’s new book dispels misconceptions on saints, sex abuse – Catholic News Agency

But since purity is a virtue of the soul, and has for its companion virtue, the fortitude which will rather endure all ills than consent to evil; and since no one, however magnanimous and pure, has always the disposal of his own body, but can control only the consent and refusal of his will, what sane man can suppose that, if his body be seized and forcibly made use of to satisfy the lust of another, he thereby loses his purity?
– St Augustine of Hippo, City of God, book 1, chapter 18

If a virgin is violated … [n]or does she forfeit virginity thereby; and be this said, whether she be violated for the faith, or for any other cause whatever.
– St Thomas Aquinas, Summa, supplement, question 96, article 5, reply to objection 4

Scripture quotations marked “NIV” taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, Copyright 1973 1978 1984 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM, Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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    • Georgina on July 11, 2021 at 6:26 am

    Hi, before reading this article, I did not know that this lovely saint has 2 feast days to celebrate her sacrifice. However, as educational as this article may be, I am also disgruntled by the fact that rape victims are labelled here as “tart”.

    As a cradle Catholic and a woman myself, I know that rape is never the fault of the victim, and thus should not be guilted into feeling like it was his/her fault. It would be great if this article could properly address victims with dignity (as they so rightly deserve).

    Please don’t misrepresent Catholics. Thanks.

    1. I think we’re in complete agreement here. Rape victims are not tarts. They deserve respect, and to be treated with dignity. That’s what my article is about. But only one of them is a real feast. The “other” feast is what misrepresents Catholics and this Saint.

        • Georgina Rajoo on July 13, 2021 at 6:57 am

        So if you agree, why didn’t you change the wording? It still isn’t right to call people such horrible names. If the feast isn’t real, why post about it?

        1. I’ve now changed the wording to make it clear I’m not calling anyone those names. The point of the post is to show that those who use this feast to promote the idea that rape and abuse victims have lost their purity are wrong.

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