Added: July 7, 2007 – Last updated: May 7, 2016


Author: Sara R. Adland

Title: Maria Goretti

Subtitle: An Icon of Virginity, An Icon of Silence, An Opportunity for Change

Thesis: Senior Thesis, Haverford College

Year: 2006

Pages: 69pp.

OCLC Number: 69659910 – Find a Library: WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century | American History: U.S. History; European History: Italian History | Cases: Offenders / Alessandro Serenelli; Cases: Victims / Maria Goretti; Representations: Hagiography; Types: Attempted Rape, Child Sexual Abuse; Victims: Girls


Link: Triceratops: TriCollege Libraries Institutional Repository (Restricted Access)


Abstract: »For the past five decades the Roman Catholic Church has portrayed St. Maria Goretti as an icon of virginity, a modern virgin martyr. The Church has used her story to extol the values of chastity and purity and has presented her to the world as a model Catholic girl. Maria Goretti died from a brutal sexual assault. Yet this crime is almost never named as such in the representations of the Saint and her life. The lack of attention paid to this brutal act of sexual violence by the Church and by her hagiographers makes Maria not only an icon of virginity, but also an icon of the Church’s silence in the face of rape and sexual assault. However, two contemporary female writers have used different representations of Maria’s story to address sexual violence and break the silence the Church has developed on rape and sexual assault showing that there are alternatives to traditional representation and suggesting a potential for change within the Church.« (Source: Triceratops)


  Introduction (p. 4)
    A Sketch of Maria Goretti’s Life (p. 6)
    Rape Culture (p. 6)
    Silence (p. 9)
    The Nature of Sainthood (p. 11)
    Martyrdom (p. 13)
    Virginity in the Catholic Church and Sexuality in the United States (p. 15)
  Catholic Devotional Literature of the 1950s (p. 18)
      Maria Cecilia Buehrle’s Devotional Work on Maria Goretti (p. 20)
    Family values (p. 22)
      The Role of Parents and Marriage (p. 23)
      Domestic Skills (p. 26)
      The Contrast of Alessandro (p. 28)
    Model for Youth (p. 30)
      Maturity (p. 31)
      Poverty and Illiteracy (p. 32)
      Corruption and Immorality (p. 34)
    Grace and Redemption (p. 36)
      Baptism: Freedom from Original Sin (p. 37)
      First Communion: Understanding Church Doctrine (p. 37)
      Purity of the Body (p. 40)
      Pain, Suffering and Endurance (p. 42)
      Forgiveness and Redemption (p. 44)
  Modern Perspectives (p. 48)
    Norris’ Reinterpretation (p. 49)
      The Church’s Representation of the Virgin Martyrs (p. 50)
      Sexuality and Virginity Today (p. 51)
      Norris’ Representation of Maria (p. 53)
      Violence and Martyrdom (p. 55)
    Stenzel’s Reinterpretation (p. 57)
      A Call for Women’s Ordination (p. 58)
      Giving Maria an Imagined Voice (p. 59)
  Conclusion (p. 62)
  Bibliography (p. 66)

Wikipedia: History of the Americas: History of the United States | History of Europe: History of Italy | Christian hagiography: Hagiography | Rape in Italy: Maria Goretti, Alessandro Serenelli | Types of rape: Child sexual abuse