.- In her new book, author Dawn Eden helps bring healing to victims of childhood sexual abuse while clearing up common misconceptions surrounding the sainthood of the chastity martyrs.
“It's our duty as members of the faithful to really seek out truth about what the Church teaches and to correct inaccuracies when they arise on this,” Eden told CNA April 12.
Although she found peace within the Catholic Church after her conversion from Judaism, Eden faced “despair” when she first learned about St. Maria Goretti, a 19th century Italian girl who was stabbed to death while fighting off an attempted sexual assault.
Initially, Eden – who suffered childhood sexual abuse herself – thought that the young girl was a saint simply because she died and was successful in preventing sexual assault from occurring.
“For an abuse victim, that's terribly painful because when the story is presented that way it can give the impression that if you have actually been abused then it means God didn't love you enough to let you be a saint.”
But Eden says she eventually found great solace when she realized that the Church “has always taught that virginity resides in the will to remain a virgin.”
“According to St. Augustine's City of God and St. Thomas Aquinas's 'Summa Theologiae' – and this remains official doctrine today – a virgin,” Eden explained, “who was raped is still a virgin in the eyes of the Church. He or she is not a 'secondary virgin,' but a true virgin.”
In the case of St. Maria Goretti, Eden clarifies in her book, “My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints (Ave Maria Press/$16.95),” that Goretti's sainthood comes not from the fact that she “wasn't violated,” but “because she lived a holy life and was always making of herself, body and soul, a gift to God.”
“Because of her recognition that her body was a temple of the Holy Spirit,” Eden said, “she resisted her attacker. But her sanctity came from her will to resist."
After the success of her 2006 book “The Thrill of the Chaste,” which recounts her conversion to Catholicism and a chaste lifestyle, Eden said she encountered many people who struggled with living chastely due to wounds of childhood sexual abuse.
“Many people who have been abused carry around a lot of misplaced guilt that instills a sense of hopelessness in them.”
In order to bring healing to a greater number of people, Eden realized that she needed to share about her abuse and recovery to show Catholics “how their own faith provides the means for healing.”
In revisiting her trauma as a victim of sexual abuse, Eden realized that God never “positively wills evil,” but does allow it to occur “because he knows that it can bring a greater good.”
When it comes to sexual abuse, she said, that “greater good” is that “our own wounds bring us into greater conformity with the wounded Christ.”
Rather than distancing us from Christ, our wounds, “whether they're wounds of abuse or whether they're wounds of sins that we committed when we were at a point of moral responsibility,” bring us into “greater conformity” to Christ.
“I want people to understand, first of all, that they're not responsible for what was done to them at a time when they were young and vulnerable.”
Eden will speak at the book's launch event on April 23 at the Catholic Information Center in Washington D.C. An exclusive excerpt of “My Peace I Give You,” can be found on CNA by clicking here.