Maria Goretti and the Easy Way Out

Maria Goretti and the Easy Way Out

It is deeply troubling that this must be said, but Bishop Walker Nickless of Sioux City has made it so: being raped instead of murdered is not taking “the easy way out.”

“Maria Goretti protected her purity. That’s a foreign idea to us today. Her attacker said he’d kill her, and she still said no. She didn’t take the easy way out…”

Bishop Walter Nickless
Bishop Walter Nickless

This was said by Bishop Nickless during a confirmation mass homily on Mother’s Day 2019 and I am not surprised to be writing about Maria Goretti yet again.

“She didn’t take the easy way out.”

What a horrific message to send to survivors from a representative of Christ in a temple of God on Mother’s Day after yet another sexual abuse scandal rocking our church.

Purity culture stole Maria Goretti for their own agenda, twisting her life and her story to push virginity over all else. Maria Goretti is not a saint because she chose death over rape: she is a saint because even as she was being stabbed to death, she thought only of Alessandro’s mortal soul. She told him over and over not to do it, because it was a sin for him and she did not want him to go to hell. A young girl facing down rape and death had no consideration for herself, only for her attacker. That is a Christ-like level of mercy and love that most of can only hope to imitate. That is what makes Maria Goretti holy.  

Image by The Saints Project

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that rape is always an intrinsically evil act (CCC 2356). If Maria was raped, she would still be a saint. Her purity, her virginity, could not be taken away, nor can it be taken from anyone else. It is something that can only be given with full consent of the will.

I repeat: one’s purity and virginity can only be given, it cannot be taken.

Maria Goretti did not protect her purity or her virginity, she fought for Alessandro’s soul. She was a young girl capable of extraordinary love and forgiveness, and being raped would not diminish any of that.

Being raped does not diminish any of us. It may be a burden many of us carry, but it is not our sin. It is not our fault. It does not tarnish our souls, but the souls of the ones who hurt us and the ones who enabled us to be hurt.

I exhort Bishop Nickless to seek forgiveness for his deeply hurtful words. Being raped instead of murdered is not the “easy way.” Being a dead virgin is not more worthy than being a living rape survivor. This is not the message to send to the newly confirmed, to mothers, to the Catholic survivors within the diocese for whom Bishop Nickless is responsible.

Maria Goretti, pray for us and pray for Bishop Walter Nickless.


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