‘I was in need of love’ – clerical abuser
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‘I was in need of love’ – clerical abuser

Realistic and practical measures are necessary, but our good intentions risk forgetting that killing trust is the deepest wound that causes all other wounds to fester and multiply.

Realistic and practical measures are necessary, but our good intentions risk forgetting that killing trust is the deepest wound that causes all other wounds to fester and multiply.

Abuse is abuse. Period. It is a fact – a horrible, destructive, irreversible fact in the life of many, too many! Abuse wounds so many of us, indeed all of us – a deep, unmeasurable wound that rips apart the human psyche and pierces the spirit. The deeper the wound, the fiercer is our reactions, both on a personal and a collective level.

Let me stop on some common reactions: shameful secrecy, angry judgement and prevention.

Shame, guilt and hence, secrecy, is the first reaction. The victim is wrecked by these reactions and often carries the festering woundedness for years in dark silence. The perpetrator does the same thing, but, often, too often, under the guise of denial.

Society, petrified by the woundedness of abuse, has tried to survive on this denial. And let’s not escape our collective responsibility by scapegoating this or that institution, epoch or authority structure. The shame, guilt and denial belong to us all, because both the victim and the perpetrator is always ‘one of us’.

Society tries to survive this horror through a legitimate, angry judgement. We draw up laws, we judge and condemn by them. We punish those judged guilty according to well-established and hopefully just norms. This is fit and proper… but only to a certain extent.

Judging and condemning others offers a very subtle illusion that society (each one of us) has dealt with the pain and the woundedness. A punishment measured in days and years behind bars gives the false impression that the pain has been banished from our lives.

The truth is that the woundedness remains fully and painfully there, right in the heart of the victim and of the perpetrator. True justice goes way beyond punishment or revenge.

Prevention is, of course, ab­solutely necessary to avoid the wounding in the first place. But it’s not enough to go for the easy kind of prevention – declare the whole population guilty and demand they prove their innocence before they get near the children; teach children how not to trust; declare trust unworthy of trust and make suspicion the basis of prevention.

While the horrors of abuse keep surfacing, it is high time we look for deeper sources of healing

All this might sound like a caricature to the naïve. Realistic and practical measures are indeed necessary, but our good intentions risk forgetting that killing trust is the deepest wound that causes all other wounds to fester and multiply.

Are we condemned to live in a vicious circle or is there some way of making the circle virtuous, leading us to inner healing and true life?

One priest abuser said when asked why he did what he did: “I was in need of love, and I used them to fulfill my need.” This is the deepest woundedness of us all, victims and perpetrators, accused and accusers, judged and judges. We who have never committed the same sin, let us throw the first stone.

Unless we acknowledge this deepest poverty in our common human condition we cannot even start to address the problem of abuse. Unless we see our need for love as a source of life and not just as a painful vulnerability we will never find our true dignity as human beings. We will never stop wounding one another in our futile fight for survival. This is the good news of the Gospel we are all so thirsty for.

While the horrors of abuse keep surfacing among us, it is high time we look for deeper sources of healing that go beyond shameful secrecy, angry condemnations or futile prevention. Our abused master and Lord is the humblest but surest healer.

I would like to invite one and all to a series of seminars being held this week dealing with healing from abuse. They are led by two Catholic psychotherapists with long years of healing work with victims and abuse perpetrators, mostly clerical abusers, in the US.

For details visit the website below or e-mail: pchetcuti@gmail.com.

http://knisja.org/shatteredsoul

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