The Catholic Thing
Blessed be the Peacemaker Print E-mail
By Anthony Esolen   
Wednesday, 26 February 2014

When I was a small boy in grade school, we had no cartoons of naked men and women, boys and girls, strutting and slouching across the pages of “health” books. We had no sly suggestive come-ons into the world of porn and trivial sex. We were not encouraged to abuse ourselves, or given hints as to how many ways we could do it, or with whom. We did not know that our bodies were tools for mutual and meaningless seizing and consumption.

We were not, in other words, the objects of massive, publicly sponsored, selfish, soul-flattening child abuse.

That is but one conclusion I’ve drawn from the remarkable and profoundly wise book by Dawn Eden, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints. I don’t wish to give the impression that Dawn’s book is mainly condemnatory. It isn’t, not at all. She understands what it is to have your childhood torn from you, because of the selfishness or the heedlessness or the outright cruelty of adults. But she does not dwell upon old crimes. She does not tug at the scab to open it up and have it bleed afresh. She does not delight in exposing the evil.

Instead, she shows, in biographical meditations upon the lives of various saints, how people who have been hurt by those who should have loved them best can have peace, by hiding themselves in the wounds of the suffering Christ.

We have the story of Sister Josephine Bakhita, torn from her home and subjected to trauma so violent that she forgot her own name.

We have the story of little Margaret of Castello, whose parents denied that she was their own, because she was dwarfish and deformed, walling her up for many years in a small cell, and then abandoning her in a crypt among the sick and the dead.

We have the ten-year-old Laura Vicuna, whose own mother tried to persuade her to yield to the advances of their wicked landlord.

But we also have the story of Therese, the Little Flower, whose mother and father themselves may someday be canonized as saints; and whose way of spiritual childhood is a model for every Christian.

And we have, at the beginning of every chapter, a verse about the purity and goodness of childhood, from that sage and sane evangelist of a better day, Hans Christian Andersen.

The child, Eden says, is defenseless against the designs of adults. When they break upon the child’s innocence, let us say by ushering them into their own sex lives, parading naked before a child of the opposite sex who is old enough to notice, showing them smutty pictures, slyly inviting them to play the explorer, “teaching” them what they are not ready to know, they reduce children to things, to counters in a game.

         Dawn Eden

She suggests that we have lost the sense that even the pagans had, that the innocence of children needs to be fostered and protected. In this regard she quotes at length a stern letter written by Pope John Paul II, to parents, teachers, and media workers:  “It is precisely out of an intuition regarding the extreme delicacy of this phase of life that pagan wisdom enunciated the well known pedagogical guideline which directs that maxima debetur puero reverentiawe owe to the child the utmost reverence.

That is much more than respect or deference. The poet Juvenal, who wrote that line, meant what he said: reverence, akin to a holy fear, for in the presence of the boy or girl we approach a beauty and simplicity of heart that adults must cherish, not dismiss, scorn, corrupt, or obliterate.

It is startling to hear that utterance from the bitter old satirist, but not nearly as startling as to hear again these words of Jesus, whom the pope quotes: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Mt. 18:6)

That is why I believe Eden turns our attention, gently but persistently, to Andersen and his stories for children. They are not, after all, only for children; they are for all men and women who need to become again as little children, if they are to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Place two books side by side. Here is Andersen’s story, “The Snow Queen.”  The little girl Gerda has gone on a long pilgrimage up to the lands farthest north to save her friend, the boy Kay, from the Snow Queen. That woman is an educator, she is. She smiles when Kay, who has gotten an ice splinter stuck in his heart, that he can “do mental arithmetic, with fractions even; that he knew the number of square miles and the number of inhabitants in the country.” 

        Suffer the Little Children . . . by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1538)

Kay has learned to despise the simple and beautiful roses of his childhood. This one’s got a canker, that one’s crooked. Under the Snow Queen’s tutelage, his heart turns to one complete lump of ice. But Gerda’s warm tears melt it, and he too weeps when she begins to sing the song they had always sung together:

    Where roses blow in the flowery vale,
There we the child Jesus shall hail.

Now open the second textbook, from Planned Parenthood. There is a cartoon of a naked girl bending over backwards with a mirror, inserting her finger into her anus. There is a cartoon of a boy with his pants unzipped, handling himself and looking stupid and vacant. Those are the less offensive cartoons.

Stuff like this is peddled at just about every school in the country. Worse is to be found in every drug store and grocery store. Unimaginably worse stuff is a click away.

Such are we. And we know no peace.

Anthony Esolen is a lecturer, translator, and writer. His latest books are Reflections on the Christian Life: How Our Story Is God’s Story and Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. He teaches at Providence College. 
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (17)Add Comment
written by Manfred, February 26, 2014
It is well known that when a nation wishes to stabilize or reduce its population, it encourages pornography. When a nation wishes to expand its population, it outlaws pornography. See Putin encouraging religious belief and practice in formerly atheistic Russia, and condemning sodomy, while the U.S. is encouraging pornography and sterile same sex "marriages" in what is now atheistic democracy. The people are stirring. California is actually considering dividing itself into six states! Americans are arming themselves. The very idea that this Planned Parenthood "cartoon book" (which I have seen, the American Life League will forward one to subscibers) can be given to children clearly demonstrates, to me at least, that the overriding purpose of the Demcratic Party is human engineering, a.k.a.,pest control.
written by Mack Hall, February 26, 2014
Any chance of a stern letter to the people who never vote in their local school board elections and so by their passivity give permission to enormities?
written by Lynn, February 26, 2014
I remember being totally mortified in 5th grade by the so-called "health" classes and their pictures. I made it through college before anyone actually gave me useful information about my body and how it works. Absent the knowledge that it even existed I never looked.

My daughter is in 4th grade in Maryland. I asked at the start of the year what sort of information is handed out in their "health" class. They assured me it wasn't anything inappropriate, that it discussed some ways in which touching could be inappropriate, but that it was discrete. At the time they didn't give me details, nor the material even though I asked. Last month my daughter reported to my mother, NOT to me, exactly what they taught. It was woefully explicit. Pictures, diagrams of EXAMPLES. WHAT!?

I am so grieved that they lied point-blank to my face.

Catholic school next year.
written by DeGaulle, February 26, 2014
Chilling-Anderson's snow imagery is apt. To my mind, this poison in schools and other public places is worse than what is on the internet because it represents a normalisation of what I can only describe as paedophilia by stealth. Ms Eden's book sounds wonderful, the complete antithesis.
written by Deacon Ed Peitler, February 26, 2014
I am babysitting my 7 and 9 year old grandchildren who have a delayed school opening because of snow here in Virginia. In order to make good use of the time, I turned on the computer and we all watched the youtube videos of The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Wild Swans by HC Anderson. They held their attention for well over an hour as children are wont to do when their imaginations are captivated by matters that speak to their hearts as God made them.

Planned Parenthood vice only entertains for the momentary pleasure. I am convinced, on the other hand, that my grandchildren will recall at some future point in their lives how their grandfather spent time with them engaging their imagination and teaching them about time-honored truths that spoke to their souls.
written by Jack,CT, February 26, 2014
Mr Esolen,
Tragically True and wonderful quote from
Juvenal. last week the Holy father welcomed more
cardinals and I could not help but to notice not
a single one from America.I wandered if he was in-
directly sending a message?

Someone said, "children are the last picture of
innocence" and I kept thinking of this
as a read your article.

So many "Holy" men have fallen and simply hidden behind
there roman collar,causing the most vulnerable to have
to "hide in the wounds of jesus'.

I have a great devotion to St Therese and have for years
perhaps Saints like her can help remind us of the true
meaning of suffering.
written by debby, February 26, 2014
Please Lynn, Watch out for Catholic School just as diligently.
In our diocese, the SO CALLED "family life" (aka sex ed) is pretty explicit, mixed boys and girls and far, far, far TOO young. I received just as much resistance in the Catholic school (he was only in Kindergarten and this topic even came up) as in the public school (1st-5th) when I asked for the text material ahead of time. When my son was given a notice in the 5th grade that the following week, "these topics by State mandate will be taught(NJ): .....blah, blah,....#15 "The appropriate and inappropriate use of masturbation"...." and on the list went, I called the school nurse and let her know Joe would miss that week of school. She was shocked. I discussed with her that for Catholics, there is no such thing as "appropriate masturbation", it is called Mortal Sin. She was shocked AGAIN. In all her years, no parent had Ever objected to the material. We had a wonderful conversation about the "beautiful privilege and joy my husband and I have of teaching our children the Dignity of being created by Love for true love, self-less love...." Theology of the Body was introduced to her and I gave her some materials. The following year our Lord worked out my job so that I could take him out and home school him.
By the way, in speaking with the school nurse, the Holy Spirit gave great grace! I asked her how she "appropriately" explained how to masturbate without calling any person to mind, saying, "Isn't it impossible to be sexually stimulated without a stimulus? Is it possible to masturbate while maintaining your dignity, standing in the truth even in your imagination, and maintain the full person-hood dignity of the other person you are imagining? Or are you USING that person, even if ONLY in your imagination? IF you are USING that person, when you see him or her again, will you be looking at them with eyes that regard them as a whole person or as an object? Are you married?" "Yes." "Well, did you ever even feel USED by your husband, even if that was not his intent, sexually? How did that make YOU feel toward him? What do you want for yourself and your children? To be objectified or loved?"
She was warm and embracing the next few times I saw her. Do not be afraid to speak the truth IN LOVE for others.
written by anonoymous , February 26, 2014
I will be buying this book. I know too many people to offer it to and am grateful for the resource.
I have worked through this very abuse many years ago with a Protestant counselor, as 25 years ago I could not find a Catholic one who understood sexual abuse. I was 4 when it began. My father was whole childhood washed in fear and insecurity and pain....HOWEVER! my life was spared and the Good Shepherd came to my rescue!
For anyone who has been abused, there is great hope and healing and love and forgiveness (both for the perpetrator and any who did not protect you/believe you). Today I am grateful that our Lord and Lady have walked me through the ugliness and rejection. This may sound strange, but I AM grateful, and pray for the soul of my dead father; he died not repenting to me, but hopefully to God. No rancor toward any in my heart. I know how low and sick and sinful anyone (including me, of course!) can be. I KNOW JESUS goes lower, underneath that pain, deeper than the sin to redeem. And our Lady lifted her Son's dead body up, receiving Him from the Cross; Grace At Work when it looked like only death. God-Man Dead does not stop Grace! And only her Motherly arms are strong enough to embrace all that sin dishes out and transform it to a prayer of abandonment to the Will of God to Save Sinners. She will Lift Up Her Son's Saving Body in the soul who calls upon her! God's love goes deeper than any pit sin forges. He Can and Wills to Heal, Deliver, Make All Things NEW. He is HOPE. He is LIFE. He is LOVE.
Thank you, Jesus for Your Tender Mercies!
written by DeGaulle, February 26, 2014
anonoymous, thank you, your post is powerful and profound, an example to us all. God bless you.
written by schm0e, February 26, 2014
It's a start. Dawn is a courageous person.

With regard to the Church, it's past time for Catholics to quit defending the indefensible.

Dawn seems to be making a move in the right direction.
written by schm0e, February 26, 2014
Are they still so in denial? Point to the immorality of business, media and government if you wish, but a generation that has been raped by its priests cannot be expected to do much better than that.

As the Church goes, so goes the culture.

Get a clue, people.
written by anonoymous, February 26, 2014
@ schm0e-
A generation? Raped by priests?
Your exaggeration insults every single person who has ever been violated by a priest, a brother, any kind of religious man or woman. Truth is often vile enough, there is harm in exaggerations.
If you read my post, my real life experience was in my own family, by my own father, repeated for years. I would never advocate the elimination of fathers or suggest that fathers do more harm than good just because my history was what it was. All people have a free will to do good or harm. Collar or no collar. And each one of us is responsible for our own choices as well as the way we respond to great trials that are not "our fault". It may take a lifetime; God is patient and does not leave us orphans.
In fact,
God entered into our pain in the Incarnation, Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. He could have chosen a more sterile and distant path of saving us. But He got dirty and bloody and never avoided the stench that sin brought. He came to dwell with us. And the culture will only be saved through His grace at work in us, His Church. We can chose to be wounded wounders or wounded healers. Please do not add to the wounds of others by hyperbolic drama.
If you have personally suffered, I pray you open your heart & mind with your strength (it will take all you have)to the Only One Who can heal you. You will find Him if you seek Him.
written by Carlos Caso-Rosendi, February 26, 2014
I translated "My Peace I Give You" into Spanish in 2013. That allowed me to read the book in depth. I translated a lot of Catholic articles and books before. Every time I do it I feel I am expanding my education in the faith. With this book I had a different experience because some of the chapters deal with experiences I had growing up with abusive parents in a country offering very little legal protection to minors at the time of my upbringing. I worked through the book often in tears but it was a liberating experience to know that many saints had to travel the same path and yet they succeeded in bearing their cross all the way to the gates of Heaven. I do believe this book will do a lot of good but the greatest good will be to open many hearts to this realization: that there is nothing that the love of God cannot overcome.

While translating that book I returned to my home country to see if I could somehow repair some of the damage done to my siblings. It was not a good idea, the abusive pattern of the past took new forms (violence, lawsuits, etc.) fed by the corrupted legal system that has lost all shame and does not even maintain a veneer of propriety.

God made me go through the whole thing again but this time I was able to sense Him near, to see Him guiding me through all the ugliness, corrupt counselors, despicable characters, and worse. One can see the power of God triumphant over the most difficult circumstances.

I think that is what happened to Dawn, and to the saints whose cases she examines in the book. Thanks to this book I was able to face the music and -with God's assistance- I will be able heal the wounds of the past and return home soon, leaving all that ugliness revealed, exposed, exorcised forever. God works in mysterious ways indeed.

Read the book to understand because today all of us have to be aware of the suffering, pain, and destruction abusers unleash on innocent victims. Remember the words of Jesus: "I was sick and you visited me ...." Understanding abuse is a way to visit the souls suffering it.
written by debby, February 27, 2014
@Carlos and all who have scars,
i will pray in thanksgiving for your continued healing and deliverance from the injustices and cruelty you suffered. and for each family member who is yet to know this freedom and love. i know He can use it all for the good.
thank you for sharing your life with us at this site.
one day, all tears will be Pure Joy.
one day, we will be all He made us to be.
written by schm0e, February 27, 2014
The anonymous rebuke is a perfect example of how some Catholics insult every victim of the indefensible abuse of trust that was institutionally embedded in the Church, and why healing for the victim (at large) and repentance for the perpetrator (collectively) are hindered.

Frankly, it's a disgusting, thoughtless, ignorant and uncharitable position.
written by Lynn, February 27, 2014
Anonymous rebuke? And that is some how at odds with your anonymous assertions which are not supported by any evidence whatsoever?

A generation raped by priests?

written by Carlos Caso-Rosendi, February 28, 2014
@Debbie: thank you for your prayers and encouragement.

@others: abuse can take many forms but in a family --and the Church IS a family-- it starts when those who are in charge of caring for others abandon the normal exercise of their duties. That soon gives way to abuse. Once the angel of loving service is gone, the demons of self service move in. Abuse is the result of the "professionalizing" of Christian duties: holy matrimony & holy orders which are VERY SIMILAR. Holiness in a priest is the shield that keeps the flock safe. When that disappears to be replaced by mere routine (let us not even mention wicked desires) the flock is exposed. IN THAT SENSE the carelessness, the empty message, the contamination of the faith that followed Vatican II (although it was present in a lesser degree before that) is a form of rape. a form of criminal negligence that will eventually bring a severe chastisement. I think we are experiencing that chastisement. Remember that cleaning always begins in the House of God.

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