You can see that the model for this t-shirt is a girl probably about the age of Maria Goretti at the time of her stabbing. What I was trying to draw attention to is the slogan (bottom left of the design), "Purity's worth dying for." Believe me when I say that I hope and pray that my daughter (and future children) will always live chaste lives. But do I want my daughter walking around with a shirt that proclaims: "Purity's worth dying for"? Let me boldly say "NO" to that.
It concerns me that an 11 year old girl who protested getting raped and instead was murdered should be held up to young girls today as a model of purity. What 11 year old girl does want to be raped? Even sexually promiscuous adult women don't want to be raped. That desire in and of itself does not make for purity. Nor does the desire to be killed rather than raped make for purity.
I don't really doubt that Maria Goretti possessed purity. The accounts of her life - which detail a difficult childhood involving poverty, the death of her father, and fieldwork with no chance for education - indicate that her life was one informed by charity. Contrasting with Elizabeth of Portugal, whose poverty was of a voluntary sort, Maria Goretti demonstrates the sanctity possible for one born into poverty. Like Elizabeth of Portugal, Maria Goretti's life was rooted in prayer. With a consistency of all Christian virtue informed by charity, Goretti undoubtedly was pure.
In a country with a multibillion dollar pornography industry, scantily clad women on billboards, Victoria's Secret window displays at every mall, movie stars and singers who model sexual promiscuity, and mainstream television where women are treated as sex objects, girls certainly do need to be taught the value of purity and chastity. We need to think seriously about the best ways to form our daughters to value chastity while not overvaluing purity. "Purity's worth dying for" seems to be a dangerous overvaluing, and applying it to Maria Goretti on account of her being killed rather than raped seems to suggest that had she been raped, she would have been made "impure."
It makes sense that Maria Goretti would be the patron of the youth. Her death at age 11 and subsequent canonization indicate that even children can be saints; it indicates that children are called to holiness. It ought to inspire parents to pay attention to the spiritual formation of their children. John Paul II's message on the centenary of Maria Goretti's death explains this. But like Pope Pius XII that canonized her, John Paul II also emphasizes Goretti's purity.
Though I said I don't doubt Goretti's purity, I do object to her as the best model of purity for girls and young women. A tried and true purity could be found in many female saints - both those who were mothers and those who were celibate religious. These women of an older age are more likely to have endured sexual temptation and to have subordinated this temptation, directing it by the guidance of Christian love and a desire to do God's will. Their lives of sexual wholeness (whether celibate or conjugal) were lives of spiritual wholeness.
The many female saints seem to indicate that purity's not just worth dying for. As a part of a complete Christian life, it's worth living for.