One day a man named Alessandro Serenelli came into the house where the eleven-year old Maria was working, held a knife to her throat and attempted to rape her. Maria refused his advances, and Serenelli said he would kill her if she didn't comply.
As the story goes, Maria repeatedly told her attacker that he was going to commit a mortal sin and that what he was doing was wrong. Angry that Maria thwarted his advances, Serenelli stabbed her multiple times. She died the following day at a local hospital, after expressing forgiveness for Serenelli and stating that she wished to see him in heaven.
Serenelli was imprisoned for his crimes and sought forgiveness with the Church for his sins 3 years later. He also told Maria's family about a dream he had in which Maria brought him lilies, but the lilies burned to ashes when placed in his hands. Serenelli was later present at Maria's canonization ceremony in 1950 and referred to the girl as "my little saint."
The creepiness of her attacker's claims and veneration of Saint Maria aside, this story demonstrates an element within the Catholic Church that adores female virginity above female life. Maria is now a patron saint for rape victims and remembered as a "virgin martyr" and a "martyr for chastity." As John Paul II explained:
St Maria Goretti is an example for the new generations who are threatened by a non-commital[sic] attitude that finds it difficult to understand the importance of the values which admit of no compromise.
The issue which Maria Goretti refused to compromise on, and the issue with which she is associated with in the Catholic Church, is sacrificing her life to keep her virginity intact. The Church is essentially saying that it was better for Maria to hold unflinchingly to her virginity than to continue to live tainted by rape. She is not primarily heralded for forgiving her attacker. That would be far less disturbing, but as John Paul II's words show (And you can find similar statements elsewhere), she is remembered for not compromising her values of sexual purity. What message does this send to rape victims, who are encouraged to see her as an example and pray to her as their patron saint--better dead than raped?
This is abhorant! It is hard enough for rape victims to turn in those who have violated them. How much harder is this when your church is sending the not-so-subtle message of Saint Maria Goretti that they should have let their attacker kill them instead?
Maria Goretti gets a Disturbing Saint title for showing the life negating force of Christianity and the weird fascination with female virginity in the Catholic Church.
*Photo found on Wikipedia