MY PEACE I GIVE YOU
Healing Sexual Wounds With the Help of the Saints
By Dawn Eden
Ave Maria Press, 2012
256 pages, $16.95
To order: avemariapress.com
(800) 282-1865, ext. 1
How do you describe Dawn Eden? Former rock-music writer, chastity expert, theologian, blogger? Or simply a great Jewish-Catholic convert woman writer? Well, I will focus on the last.
Readers are aware of the painful cases of sexual abuse of children and adolescents by homosexual and pedophile priests and religious in the United States and in many countries in Europe as well. It appears that at last the worst is behind us, and the Church is taking proper measures to assure that candidates for the priesthood and religious life are carefully selected for their capacity to live the virtue of chastity. This is not simply a Catholic problem, but a societal one. In fact, the incidence of child sex abuse is higher proportionally for public-school teachers and Protestant ministers than it is for Catholic priests.
All this makes the need for Eden’s new book, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds With the Help of the Saints, urgent because, as its subtitle suggests, it is about healing sexual wounds.
Eden herself is a victim of sexual abuse and suffers Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. "I am taking a more general perspective, based on my own personal experience as a part of a large population whose needs are not currently being met," Eden writes. "By far, the largest category of childhood sex-abuse perpetrators are family members, who are responsible for about one-third to one-half of cases. After that (in descending order) come family friends, neighbors, acquaintances and strangers. Given how many American adults report having been sexually abused as children — about one in four in women and one in six in men — such painful memories afflict at least one person in every pew in every parish."
Eden’s book has an introduction by Mother Mary Agnes Donovan, superior general of the Sisters of Life in New York, an order founded by the great pro-life bishop Cardinal John O’Connor. Much of the book is autobiographical, as she intersperses anecdotes about her own experience of abuse in both childhood and adulthood and her later struggles, which have continued even after her conversion to Catholicism and her largely successful treatment for PTSD.
Much of the rest of the book relates short biographies of well-known Catholics, including saints, who in one way or another suffered sexual abuse or attempts at abuse. Among saints examined are St. Bernard, St. Thomas Aquinas, Blessed Margaret of Castello and St. Maria Goretti (the martyr of holy purity). Eden also includes the story of the great Catholic social worker and activist Dorothy Day, who had an abortion before her conversion.
At the end of the book, Eden provides a useful "Reader’s Guide" for group discussion on the topic, plus bibliography and resources for further reading and investigation.
Given this fine work, the Catholic world expects much more from Eden than what this book only hints at.
Father C.J. McCloskey III is a research fellow
at the Faith and Reason Institute