Abuse, Trauma, and the Body of Christ

Absent an honest and truthful admission of our brokenness, and the telling of the whole story, we can never find freedom and healing—let alone restore the Church’s bella figura.

(Photo: koldunova_anna/us.fotolia.com)

Most scholars agree that it was the Vietnam War that spurred serious study of trauma and its after effects. This led, in 1980, to the American Psychiatric Association introducing formal diagnostic criteria for what it called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Today PTSD has received greater recognition in part because of America’s ongoing wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

More recently, scholars and clinicians have realized three additional key insights. First, things other than war can traumatize people very badly, overwhelming their capacity for processing and comprehension (key hallmarks of trauma). Among the worst are the crimes of rape and sexual abuse.

Second, studies of both communist and Nazi victims has made clear that post-traumatic effects are frequently experienced in identifiable ways at least to the third generation, affecting even those not yet born at the time of the original disaster. For Jews and Christians familiar with our scriptures, this should come as no surprise, for we know that the sins (and their consequences) of fathers and forefathers are often visited upon their successors many generations later (cf., inter alia, Lev 26:40; Lam 5:7; Ez 18:20).

Third, as Juan-David Nasio has argued in his short but powerful new book Psychoanalysis and Repetition: Why Do We Keep Making the Same Mistakes? (State University of New York Press, 2020), not all trauma comes in big packages like the gulag or Holocaust. Some experience a “series of regular micro traumas. Indeed a psychical trauma does not necessarily present itself as a sudden and violent breach [effraction]. Rather, it can occur progressively and subtly over the course of a sufficiently long duration.” Moreover, these micro-traumas can often build up in those (like therapists, clergy, and family members) who have close contact with victims of major trauma, leading clinicians to speak of “vicarious traumatization”.

Over the Christmas break I put together a lecture for a congress of Russian Catholics (whose 2017 congress I discussed on CWR) to be held this spring focused on the theme of living in the aftermath of the Soviet Union and its gulags. This allowed me to read from a burgeoning body of new literature, including Hillary Scarsella’s essay in Trauma and Lived Religion: Transcending the Ordinary, eds., R.R. Ganzevoort and S. Sremac (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019); and Serene Jones, Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2019). While both women are writing from a Protestant perspective, much of what they say is directly relevant to Catholics still being traumatized by the ongoing sex abuse crisis.

In particular, the reappearance this week in the headlines of Theodore McCarrick, as well as the fact that the dioceses of Buffalo and West Virginia remain toxic disaster areas, means that the Body of Christ is facing open, suppurating wounds in those places—and many others. And “wound” is the very translation of the New Testament word τραῦμα, as the Catholic theologian Marcus Pound has noted in his important book Theology, Psychoanalysis, and Trauma: “trauma implies a break, deriving from the Greek τραῦμα, to wound: ‘He went up to him and bandaged his wounds’ (Luke 10:34).”

The Church remains hugely wounded by this crisis, and it affects all of us, starting with those direct victims of abuse, whose wounds are profound but still too little known, much less healed. Without in any way detracting from their suffering, we can say that in some ways all of us who remain in, and are not indifferent to the welfare of, the Church, are affected. In Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, Charles Ryder puts it this way about his friend Sebastian’s descent into alcoholism, which equally describes the feeling many of us have with each new headline about abuse in the Church: “a blow, expected, repeated, falling upon a bruise, with no smart or shock of surprise, only a dull and sickening pain and the doubt whether another like it could be borne.”

The sins of abuse traumatize us all in the Body of Christ, albeit to different degrees and in different ways. What can we do about this? Two landmark books—Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery, and Besel van der Kolk’s, The Body Keeps the Score—note that victims in search of healing usually need three things at least. The first and most basic is to ensure they are safe from being retraumatized. The second is to begin a narrative—to tell a story—of what they endured and how it has harmed them. The third is to find ways of physically processing the story. (One Catholic therapist I recently spoke to said that when dealing with traumatized patients she assigns homework after every session, requiring that the person engage for at least 20 minutes in some form of vigorous activity—swimming, kneading bread, playing sports, martial arts, or something else, for the body does indeed keep the score, and the pain stirred up therapeutically must be processed and released physically.)

The Church is doing little of this right now. Yes, certain protocols have been put in place after 2002, making many parishes safer places—but not all. (The week before Christmas the pastor of a parish here in Ft. Wayne was removed for allegations of abuse.) But those protocols are no comfort at all to those who were victimized. For them it is an open question of whether they will ever again feel safe in any church. Since my book Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power came out, I have had numerous, extensive, and utterly harrowing conversations with victims across this country, and none of them—none—feels safe in the Church today. Even slipping into an unknown parish for a quiet daily Mass is overwhelming for some, causing them to flee from the sacraments.

Has the Church made room for victims to tell their stories, and has the Church shown openness to hearing those stories, in all their horror and pain, for as long as it takes? Sadly, the answer is a “No”. Victims have told me privately that most people (including most priests they have tried talking to) do not want to hear their stories, or hear only the slightest part in the briefest possible way before either lawyering up and ending the conversation or piously pressing them to “move on” or “offer it up” or “pray and forgive more”.

These counsels are not just pious clichés but are in fact clinically dangerous and destructive. In Trauma and Grace, Jones recounts working pastorally with a new Christian who had to stop coming to church because trauma she had suffered was awakened every time she went to liturgy. Perhaps worse, Scarsella tells of a victim who tried to return to church after being sexually abused but found that the liturgy’s focus on the crucified Christ, and especially His silence in the face of His accusers, was thrown in her face by some who told her she should silently offer up her suffering like Christ did because speaking out would put the focus on her, not Him, and prevent reconciliation with those who had harmed her.

Such counsel is a perverted pseudo-asceticism that will drive people farther from God, not bring them closer, as healthy asceticism seeks to do. Saying such things to people is entirely counter-productive, bringing the real risk of setback and further alienating them from the loving God whose only Son was brutally traumatized by being arrested, tortured, and crucified.

The New Testament is, in fact, a major scene of trauma though most of us have not thought of it in these terms. Consider the encounters between Jesus and “doubting” Thomas, and between Jesus and the disciples en route to Emmaus: both involve people who cannot really see and have a hard time trusting reality. Rather than sanctimoniously chiding them for a “lack of faith,” we must understand them as acutely traumatized people, who only days before had watched their closest friend suffer unimaginable violence and pain, thereby exposing themselves to vicarious traumatization.

One feature of trauma (in both direct and indirect victims) is dissociation, a break in our capacity to see and understand. Victims experience dissociation, of having in effect a divided or split mind, and this is, in the first instance, a good thing insofar as it is an immediate survival mechanism. (Splitting can become a problem when it becomes our habitual way of dealing with the world, cutting us off from other emotions and isolating us from each other and God. Then it can play a part in the paralysis I spoke of here.)

Is the Church today one large scene of dissociation? Are we able really to see what has happened in our midst, and to talk openly about it? Or are most of us still engaged in splitting—of priests, bishops, and now popes into the good and bad ones? Many of us still do this because the alternative seems too horrifying to contemplate: that the whole Body of Christ, the suffering servant, is damaged and “wounded (ἐτραυματίσθ) because of our sins” (Isa 53:5).

But absent a confession of this demonstrable reality, absent an honest and truthful admission of our brokenness, and the telling of the whole story, we can never find freedom and healing—let alone restore the Church’s bella figura.

Old confessors’ manuals and catechisms used to sternly instruct Catholics approaching Confession to recount everything they could think of “in number and kind.” The late Pope John Paul II did something like that, at a special liturgy (“Day of Pardon”) in St. Peter’s at the start of Lent in 2000, with seven categories of very specific sins, including against women, other Christians, and the Jewish people. But nowhere on that list was any mention of sexual abuse.

Imagine if, at the start of Lent this year, Pope Francis were to travel to his cathedral in the Lateran, and ask all bishops to go to their cathedrals, and both he and they invited (and if necessary paid the travel expenses of) victims of sexual abuse to come to a special liturgy where some of their stories could be told. Imagine, moreover, if he instituted this as a new penitential practice to be kept on the first Sunday of Lent for the next decade at least. As A.L van Omenn has argued in Trauma and Lived Religion, “Liturgy can provide a safe space for people to remember and narrate traumatic experiences” in part because, as we know, liturgy is circular and repetitive, as traumatic stress disorders are.

But liturgy’s cycles of repetition are not destructive of our peace the way PTSD is. Indeed, liturgy is the very source and summit of our peace, and not just as an adjunct to individual therapy. As Marcus Pound has argued, the Eucharist “can be developed into a form of collective analysis…and a theological therapeutic” for all who are traumatized, for it commemorates the world’s greatest trauma—the Crucifixion—while also mediating to us in sure and certain hope the healing power of the Resurrection.


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About Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille 82 Articles
Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille is associate professor and chairman of the Department of Theology-Philosophy, University of Saint Francis (Fort Wayne, IN) and author of Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy (University of Notre Dame, 2011).

23 Comments

  1. Thank you for this article. The words “offer it up” or disbelief of clergy brought chills. Keep up your good work. God bless you.

  2. Your article was most information, reflective and a great springboard for me as both a victim of clergy abuse and presently as myself a priest of 50+ years in ministry. May God bless you in your vocation.

    • Dear Fr. A. W. (whether you are a real Catholic Priest or not), if you actually suffered clerical abuse and then became a Priest, that’s significant, admirable and merit worthy unless, of course, you are just posing as such victim, as I have encountered in many other forums. Many activists pose as victims, Priests and the like to push the Clergy and Laity into accepting such devious “good healing” ideas as the ones stated on this article, which mix the good with the deceptive to make the deceptive much more appealing and “sacredly appropriate” (like the red, delicious, poisonous apple offered to Sleeping Beauty).

      I respectfully remind you that well disguised misdirections in articles like this one, proposed by the Corrupt Side of Self-Absorbed Psychology (quoting “authoritative” books and sources that are already in alignment with them- the mutual admiration and praise society) are totally responsible for the dehumanizing, corrupting Sexual Revolution and the glorification of homosexuality and the mainstreaming of despicable groups like N.A.M.B.L.A. (North American Man Boy Lover Association) that should not even exist.

      It was the Corrupt Side of Psychology, the one that inspired Church hired and payed psychologists to hold back many Bishops (as reported on the New Oxford Review) on appropriately punishing and limiting pedophile Priests, proclaiming that they could be healed by Psychology, which heals NOTHING as psychology is only a neutral TOOL which can be used for good or evil. Only Jesus heals such sins: “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such WERE some of YOU. But you were WASHED [sin is the ultimate filth], but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord JESUS and by the Spirit of our God”, (capitals and brackets mine) (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

      The Corrupt Side of Psychology is trying to totally replace Jesus, and is the “innocent” actor behind justifying, glorifying and mainstreaming radical sexual perversions/homosexuality, radical liberalism, political correctness (Satan’s language), clerical child abuse (Pope Francis is doing much of nothing about it), etc. Without corrupt psychology’s devious justifications and their DEEP distortions of truthful thinking into emotional thinking, all these things would all collapse. At the very least, you should have learned THAT in your 50+ years of ministry. Like a fellow teacher told me: “Some people really work and grow for 30 years and some only work for one year and repeat it 30 times”. Grow in JESUS the Ultimate and Only True Healer!! God bless you!

  3. Bravo! To Dr DeVille for this article and the extensive research behind it. And to CWR for publishing same. As a survivor of childhood rape and a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran who now walks with fellow PTSD survivors full time, my only hope is that Dr. DeVille’s work receives the attention it deserves: for the good of the Church and for society in general.

  4. All great comments and revelations but those with the endowed minds should
    show us the way out and the light along the way.
    Edward ODonovan

  5. This a gigantic-watershed article on a topic poised to unleash an immense amount of clarity and healing in the world, and not just the Church. In an astonishing way it also opens new and startling insights and understanding into scripture. Massive mercy from the Holy Spirit…

  6. “Imagine if, at the start of Lent this year, Pope Francis were to travel to his cathedral in the Lateran, and ask all bishops to go to their cathedrals, and both he and they invited (and if necessary paid the travel expenses of) victims of sexual abuse to come to a special liturgy where some of their stories could be told.”

    The Mass is not, and should not be, a forum for people to “tell their stories.”

    “Imagine, moreover, if he instituted this as a new penitential practice to be kept on the first Sunday of Lent for the next decade at least.”

    That’s not a “penitential practice.” Penance for whom? Specific people commit sins, and specific people need to repent of them. If you’re talking about some sort of “the Church as a whole must apologize” – balderdash.

    “Or are most of us still engaged in splitting—of priests, bishops, and now popes into the good and bad ones?”

    There *are* good and bad priests, bishops, and popes, as well as good and bad everyone else. To lump everything together is to diminish the responsibility of those who committed abuse and those who covered it up, and I fail to see how that could comfort anybody.

    “Many of us still do this because the alternative seems too horrifying to contemplate: that the whole Body of Christ, the suffering servant, is damaged and “wounded (ἐτραυματίσθ) because of our sins” (Isa 53:5).”

    Yes, the whole Body of Christ is damaged and wounded because of our sins. But not all of our sins are abuse or covering it up, and that is what this particular gaping wound is.

    “As Marcus Pound has argued, the Eucharist “can be developed into a form of collective analysis”

    I do not want the Eucharist to be “developed” into “collective anallysis.” That’s not what it is or what Our Lord intended it to be.

    “Has the Church made room for victims to tell their stories, and has the Church shown openness to hearing those stories, in all their horror and pain, for as long as it takes?”

    Tell their stories to whom? Entire congregations? Including children who do not need to be hearing “all their horror and pain?”

    “Sadly, the answer is a “No”. Victims have told me privately that most people (including most priests they have tried talking to) do not want to hear their stories, or hear only the slightest part in the briefest possible way before either lawyering up and ending the conversation or piously pressing them to “move on” or “offer it up” or “pray and forgive more”.”

    You’ve just shoved an awful lot into one sentence.

    “most people (including most priests they have tried talking to) do not want to hear their stories,”

    Who are these people? Random strangers? Friends? Family? Professional counselors? In what context? You mention priests. Again, in what context?

    “or hear only the slightest part in the briefest possible way before either lawyering up and ending the conversation”

    Who would “lawyer up?” Only someone who is being accused of something, presumably. I am unable to come up with a scenario in which a victim went for help to someone or to talk to a friend only to have that person “lawyer up.”

    “or piously pressing them to “move on” or “offer it up” or “pray and forgive more”.”

    Who? People in general? If a victim talked to a friend or a family member who was overwhelmed by the story and has no idea what to say, perhaps in well-meaning awkwardness the person might recommend that the victim try to put it behind him – to “move on.” Or might recommend offering up his suffering. Take into consideration that someone whose nerves are raw and bleeding might misinterpret what a well-meaning person meant. Or are we still talking only about priests?

    “These counsels are not just pious clichés but are in fact clinically dangerous and destructive.”

    And most people are supposed to know about clinical stuff how, exactly?

    I’m sorry, but this article seems to me to be a mess, so generalized that it is absurd.

    • Leslie, yours is an excelent, excelent analysis! It shows so clearly and demonstrates that this article tries to wear a “saintly”, “pontifical”, “authoritative” false robe of legitimacy on total assumptions, fabrications and accusations with no real evidence to back it up, only a “Kabuki Theater of Victims, Their Psychology Heroes And the Always Insensitive Cruel Church” with a few Bible verses thrown in for good measure. As always for the last 70 years, the very perpetrators of today’s moral/social/spiritual demise through the Sexual Revolution, etc. come back recycled as the new-and-improved “compassionate heroes” on one side and also as the ruthless jury and judges on the other side.

      It’s a double pincer of vicious, relentless accusations on one side and on the other side a very soft, “reasonable”, “holy” deception and misdirection, like herding cattle into the Gates of Hell. Someone once told me, being a True Catholic is about being smarter than our own deceiving sinful egos and that of others with “halos” of “authority”. Jesus said it better: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be SHREWD as serpents and simple as doves”, (Matthew 10:16). Jesus was not, is not and never will be a false pacifist looking for the next “heroic” sentimentalist high and neither should we be. True and deep compassion always leads to humility, repentance, healing, selflessness, sacrifice and obedience to Christ and the True Church for us and for others, for victims and for their abusers, while deceptive sentimentalism NEVER ever does. Hell starts here and is paved with “authoritative”, deceptive, sentimentalist stones.

    • Uh, you obviously do not understand that the entire Mass is a re-telling of “our story.” The word Eucharist translates as “The Great Thanksgiving.” Thankful for what? It is impossible to be truly thankful without recounting God’s grace and glory written in the lives of those He created and loves.

      The Mass is not some staid discrete event, but is rather a retelling of the story of God coming to humanity. And, literally and figuratively, loving the hell out of us.

      • The Mass is most emphatically not a “retelling of ‘our story.'”

        As the Baltimore Catechism tells us, “The Mass is the sacrifice of the New Law in which Christ, through the ministry of the priest, offers Himself to God in an unbloody manner under the appearances of bread and wine.”

        Or the traditional prayer of offering at the beginnning of the Mass:

        “Eternal Father, I unite myself with the intentions and affections of our Lady of Sorrows on Calvary, and I offer Thee the sacrifice which Thy beloved Son Jesus made of Himself on the Cross, and now renews on this holy altar:

        “1. To adore Thee and give Thee the honor which is due to Thee, confessing Thy supreme dominion over all things and the absolute dependence of everything upon Thee, Who art our one and last end.

        “2. To thank Thee for innumerable benefits received.

        “3. To appease Thy justice, irritated against us by so many sins, and to make satisfaction for them.

        “4. To implore grace and mercy for myself, for [mention the person or persons], for all afflicted and sorrowing, for poor sinners, for all the world, and for the holy souls in Purgatory.”

        Your idea reminds me of all those “hymns” that tell God how wonderful we are and how lucky He is to have us.

        The focus of the Mass is God, not us, not “our story.”

  7. There is a big blessing and a big danger inherent in this article. I have personally benefited from psychology in different forms and so have members of my family. When psychology, psychiatry or any other behavioral disciplines are not centered on themselves as “saviors” of humankind and show due humility and respect to the one and only Savior Jesus Christ, these can be very useful disciplines and good tools for healing, as far as they don’t become gods unto themselves. Clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson has gained great popularity (and animosity) and as a balanced, mature and humble professional as he definitely is, he has blessed so many without being strictly Christian/Catholic. Then there’s the other side… where self-absorbed, self-divinized behavioral professionals intentionally defame, steal and destroy the faith of any Christian that shows up at their offices, man, woman or child. I’ve heard from so many young people (most of them non-Christian), personally and through the Internet, speak as to how bizarre, pathetic and useless their school counselors and consulted private psychologists can be.

    Psychology can be deranged when it abandons any respect for the Judeo-Christian God and decide to occupy the “vacant throne” left after the devastation of the intentionally manufactured Sexual, Political and Dehumanizing Revolutions. The present scandals in the Catholic Church can and have been for some a blood-in-the-water feeding frenzy and self-glorifying never-waste-a-crisis opportunity. I do like the idea in the article of a Liturgy of sharing and healing as an opportunity not only for sex-abuse victims but for EVERYBODY. A huge and long-lasting focus exclusively on sex-abuse victims just makes their situation permanent and not healed, holding the whole Church hostage to them and whatever they think the Church should do or even believe. WE all must respect, care for and help ALL victims but not use them or their therapists as leaders, counselors and theologians. A big and long-lasting focus on sex-abuse victims instead of on the Saving and Redeeming Work of Christ for ALL of us, both victims and perpetrators of sin us ALL, makes their and our TRUE healing impossible and sets the stage to make the trauma permanent and more damaging, assuming it as a permanent identity. We are ALL sinners in need of Salvation and Redemption in Christ, even all the victims of abuse and all their therapists, lawyers and advocates (1 John 1:8).

    Denying this would be just like the eternal recycling of the horrible, heinous abuse suffered by Black slaves, with never ending retelling of the stories and digging for new ones, never allowing the wound to close, and now the despicable asking for reparations for Black descendants that never suffered one iota of any of that, profiting on their ancestors’ blood. The Catholic Church has suffered more trauma than any other human institution EVER, with not only the testimony of horribly suffering numerous martyrs but all those who continue to suffer today under the slander of “Christianity as the source of all suffering”, of Christ as Satan, and Satan as Christ. The Church has recovered, flourished and thrived out of 2,000 years of bottomless trauma without psychology ever being present for the very most of that time, but it has healed through Christ, who was and is and always will be there. Remember that psychology, when honest and humble, is just another good tool, but Jesus is Our Lord and Our God and all TRUE healing, through one way or another, always, always, always comes from HIM!!

  8. This proposal doesn’t sound like a healthy or wholesome Christian response to me.

    I strongly concur with Leslie.

    And I am somewhat surprised, having agreed with DeVle about the infantalizing pathologies in the Church, that Mr. Deville is now suggesting turning The Mass into “collective therapy,” which would do nothing other than did the infantalizing hole deeper.

    I am NOT wounded by the sex abuse crisis. Victims of abuse are indeed wounded, but I am not.

    I am rather, as a father with 4 children, quite angry at numerous Bishops (well represented by the repulsive Bishop Carlson, who can be seen on video in a deposition denying any knowledge that sex with minors was a crime), and the Pontiff Francis, who is an unjust, abusive, contemptuous and officious character, and friend of the sociopathic abusers McCarrick and Zanchetta, as well as sex abuse cover artists like his friend the late Cardinal Danneels (who stood against the Vangelhuwe family and refused them justice against their own uncle, Bishop Roger Vangelhuwe, who raped his own little nephew).

    I am NOT wounded by these crimes…I am outraged by them. And I am outraged that the vast majority of Bishops and the current Pontiff are trying to muddle through with silence, as practiced by the Pontiff Francis.

    Church members, like the Pontiff Francis and Bishops and Chancery staffs etc who refuse to acknowledge crimes and who refuse to share information behave with utter contempt for justice and truth.

    “Collective liturgical therapy” will just be making the Church into a superficial, infantalizing psychological cult.

    What is missing in JUSTICE, and real healing comes only when JUSTICE is served.

    Note that the Pontiff Francis has done nothing to call McCarrick to justice. The Pontiff Francis avoided a canonical trial, and chose a secret, summary personal administrive action in McCarrick’s case – to keep the lid on everything. The Pontiff Francis did this because he has contempt for the truth, and for people seeking the truth, and justice. If Francis really cared about justice, he might have shown that by publicly calling on McCarrick to publicly apologize to James Grein and several other victims, on pain of excommunication. But no, that did not happen. And McCarrick continues his sociopathic lying, publicly denying his crimes and playing the victim, while his old friend the Pontiff Francis sits silently by, spending his time instead confecting insults and agitation with his psychologically disturbed pal “Reverend” Anthony Spadaro.

    No thank you Adam Deville, I am NOT wounded.

    I am angry at gross and callous INJUSTICE toward the true, direct victims of abuse, at the hands of the subversive subculture of the abusuve, clericalist cabal of the sex revolution, who hate the 6th Commandment, and prefer to worship Pachamama.

  9. Great article, in my opinion. Arguing over Pope Francis offering a healing mass seems to me to be very tangential. The main point of the article seems to be that the Church does offer means of help and healing after trauma. It is important to bring that back to awareness, as we all experience our personal levels of disurbance with the ongoing scandals. Dr. De Ville’s words describing the liturgy as “circular and repetitive ” are particularly interesting. Though considered dated by some, a time honored method of Catholic prayer is the rosary. What is more “circular and repetitive ” than the rosary? Its repetitive nature has often been used as a criticism, but could it actually be a great strength? My spotty recall of Besel van der Kolk says that trauma has long term effects on three areas or functions of the brain. They involve speech, vision and arousal. The “old fashioned ” rosary is a meditation that addresses each of these very areas. The words are repetitive, circular and predictable. St. John Paul II recommended using icons or other visual means of focus when praying the rosary. The very repetitive cadence is intended to be calming and reflective. Once again, our “pre-modern” fore bearers may have given us an effective tool for coping with the trials we face in our lives.

  10. This is a very helpful article! Dr. Deville, can you please explain further the distinction between “a perverted pseudo-asceticism that will drive people farther from God” and “a healthy asceticism”? I understand the first a little bit from the example in your article, but how should people who have suffered trauma understand and live “a healthy asceticism” regarding their abuse and/or trauma? Thank you!

  11. Once again, too many miss the focus of the article and use it simply to trot out their own grievances and canards.

    The entire Mass is a re-telling of “our story.” The word Eucharist translates as “The Great Thanksgiving.” Thankful for what? It is impossible to be truly thankful without recounting God’s grace and glory written in the lives of those He created and loves.

    There are moments throughout the Mass where the faithful are explicitly challenged to bring what they have before the Altar of the Lord (that includes hurts and trespasses).

    While virtually never done as the Liturgy intends, the entire Sign of Peace rite is meant for Christians to reconcile themselves with their sister/brother. We start Communion with “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” That is categorically about “us” and God’s ability and willingness to bring healing and reconciliation to fallen man.

    The Mass is not some staid discrete event, but is rather a retelling of the story of God coming to humanity. And, literally and figuratively, loving the hell out of us.

    • Mr. Busby:

      The Mass is not telling”our story.”

      I am fairly certain that we actually agree that only story to be told at Mass is the story of Jesus and his saving act.

      I am fairly certain that we all agree that the Mass is the pronouncement of the Gospel and the re-presentation of the sacrifice on Calvary.

      I am fairly certain that when we stop and think about what we are saying, anything other than that is extraneous, and belongs outside of worship.

  12. Dr. DeVille aspires more to Marcus Pound and psychoanalysis than to God and theology. Quoting Pound (Pound’s’traumatization of the Eucharist’ seems to be DeVille’s paradigm), DeVille utterly misses Christ’s theology of the Eucharist. The broken body of Christ is given to God the Father in reparation so that the entire Trinity may be given to believers. We hold within us a beatific glimpse–supernatural bliss. Pound offers dross. Here is a bit of his Hogwash: ” MP: Undertaking the Eucharist should be traumatic, not least because as a participant one is called to identify with both the victim’s death and its perpetrators; but also because it invites us to enjoy in that very suffering, precisely through recognising that in the final analysis suffering is of itself meaningless.” – https://theotherjournal.com/2008/01/22/lacanian-psychoanalysis-and-the-traumatic-intervention-of-the-eucharist-an-interview-with-marcus-pound/

  13. I think the author is on to something that is important regarding understanding PTSD of all sexual abuse survivors, not just of those who abused by Catholic priests. The questions I have is 1) how would confession be a place of healing for those who were abused by clerics in the confessional – McCarrick’s victim being one? 2) how would the Eucharist be a source of healing for those who were altar boys who were abused? Both of these essential healing sacraments would trigger PTSD for the victims. Is this not part of the abuse? Namely, that much of the abuse took place in a sacramental settings, and took the support of the Church and sacraments away from the victims? The same as can be said of abuse that took place in the seminaries. Isn’t that also an abuse of the sacrament of Holy Orders? Isn’t the fact that sacraments were a place of abuse involve not just the direct victims, but becomes an offense against the entire church? How is the congregation healed? I would like to know other than a divine act of God to heal, does the author have a response to these questions? But the author and some of the comments seem correct to link the abuse to the abuse of the entire body of Christ.

  14. “Some experience a ‘series of regular micro traumas. Indeed a psychical trauma does not necessarily present itself as a sudden and violent breach [effraction]. Rather, it can occur progressively and subtly over the course of a sufficiently long duration.’ Moreover, these micro-traumas can often build up in those (like therapists, clergy, and family members) who have close contact with victims of major trauma, leading clinicians to speak of ‘vicarious traumatization’.”

    I don’t know that I buy this. I have just come across professional evidence that psychological “injury” depends on the act and the context.

    “In a subsequent conference presentation based on the 2012 study, Ogloff (2013) reported that 75% of children who had been victims of CSA reported no adverse effect, despite a long follow up period. His results are startling as, it is understood this was the first study to suggest that a majority of children who were victims of sexual abuse did not go on to demonstrate adverse symptoms in response to that abuse.”

    “SENTENCING OF CHILD SEXUAL ASSAULT OFFENDERS”

    https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/ladocs/submissions/40182/Submission%20No%205%20-%20Australian%20Psychological%20Society.pdf

    It would stand to reason that a “vicarious traumatization” should be of even less impact than a real one, and even reputedly serious real trauma’s aren’t necessarily that traumatizing.

    Anyway, on a self-identified Catholic website, one shouldn’t necessarily shun the cross. Suffering plays a big part in the path to sanctity. Of course, this doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t fight against injustice (without committing sin).

    I would suggest reading the book “One Nation Under Therapy.”

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