Dawn Eden, a popular Catholic author known for her work on chastity in the modern world, is set to release a new book on the central role of the saints in healing wounds from childhood sexual abuse.
“I was struck by the sheer number of saints who experienced childhood sexual abuse – there were many more than I had imagined – and how relevant their stories were to people living in the present day,” Eden told CNA in a June 2 interview.
Her book, “My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints,” is currently slated for a Spring 2012 release by Ave Maria Press.
Eden, the author of the 2006 bestseller of “The Thrill of the Chaste,” said the inspiration for her new book came from her discussions on chastity with thousands of young people.
“It became apparent to me that a major reason people resist the Church's teachings on chastity and the culture of life is because they have suffered childhood sexual abuse, or have witnessed sexual inappropriateness,” Eden said.
She said that victims of this kind of abuse often believe that they are impure or have been defiled by what happened to them.
As a result of this, Christ's beatitude promise in the Gospels to the pure of heart “strikes them not as a blessing within reach, but, rather, as an unfair condemnation of them for something they are powerless to change.”
“I want to help these victims find healing in Christ through the lives and witnesses of saints who experienced wounds like theirs,” she said.
Eden explained that in the course of her research, she discovered that the saints' lives relate to the issue of childhood sexual abuse in two ways.
“First, many of them were sexually abused or were subject to other forms of abuse as children,” she said. “Children feel this invasion much more keenly than do adults, because of their natural dependence.”
Eden cited examples of saints who were sexually victimized as children, such as young Roman martyrs and St. Maria Goretti – a 20th century girl who was fatally stabbed while resisting sexual assault.
“In the United States of the 21st century, children may not know what it is like to be at the mercy of a pagan emperor, but many know what it is like to be at the mercy of their mother’s violent, alcoholic live-in lover, as was Blessed Laura Vicuña,” Eden noted.
“They are not thrown to the lions, but many are thrown into a sexually invasive home environment, as was St. Thomas Aquinas,” she added.
“They may not know the breaking wheel, but many have their young hearts broken, like Blessed Margaret of Castello, whose parents abandoned her because she was blind and physically deformed.”
Eden said that the other way in which the saints' lives relate to the issue is through the way they lived out the Church's teaching on redemptive suffering.
“God does not merely heal our wounds; if we unite our hearts to Him through His Son, whose own wounds are now glorified, He heals us through our wounds,” she said.
Eden also addressed the issue of sexual abuse within the Church, saying that as a faith community, we “have all heard about the very real and often devastating experiences of those who, as children, were abused by clergy or by members of religious orders.”
“It is very important that the truth about what has happened be brought into the open.”
“However,” she added, “there is a much larger population whose pain is not being discussed, and should be.”
Eden said that the overwhelming majority of child sex abuse instances are committed not by clergy, but by family members – about one-third to one-half of cases – or other acquaintances of the abused.
She noted that according to a 2010 government study, nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 14 men in America report having been abused as children.
“Such painful memories afflict at least one person on every pew in every parish,” Eden said.
“I want to let these members of the Mystical Body of Christ know that they are not alone, they are not forgotten, and they have more friends in heaven than they realize,” she underscored.
On a deeper level, Eden said she wants to highlight the truth that understanding the fatherhood of God is essential before one can comprehend the idea of marriage.
We “have to understand ourselves as children of God before we can understand ourselves as the Bride of Christ,” she said.
“In the rush to teach the faithful about the connection between spousal love and the love of the Trinity, I believe we have unwittingly left behind many people who cannot comprehend spousality because they lack a foundational understanding of God's fatherly love,” Eden said.
“These are the people I hope to help bring back to the fold.”