Predatory Priests, Silenced Victims: The Sexual Abuse Crisis and the Catholic Church

By Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea; Virginia Goldner | Go to book overview

9
Sexual Abuse, Spiritual Formation,
and Psychoanalysis

Tom Lewis

Sexual abuse, once an event in fearful silence, is now seen as a civil wrong or crime. Participants are stereotyped as perpetrators, victims, or enablers, the simplifications of an adversarial legal system. I suggest a more complex view. As an altar boy, I was abused in church by the senior acolyte who was training me. The abuse taught me to lie and lose trust in adults and myself. For survival, I learned to invent provisional selves without knowing these would become confusions of identity, sexuality, and purpose, lifelong sources of anxiety and depression. Through a recovery of my spiritual life and a psychoanalysis that together amounted to a metanoia, “a change of heart,” I was able to reconcile with myself and my history, and with my elderly father, whom I saw as having failed to protect me years before.

Memory is the most complex element of one’s inner life. Behavior, which we generally think of as complex, is relatively consistent over

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