Systemic_Practice_in_a_Complex_System._Child_Sexual_Abuse_and_the_Catholic_Church.doc

It is not easy to acknowledge or accept ones own

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It is not easy to acknowledge or accept one’s own potential for inflicting pain on another person, most especially a child, or to contemplate for a moment that I could be like “him.” We all like to think that we would do the right thing. The psychological threat of identification with the “otherness” of people who abuse children, or with bishops who are said to have covered up their abuses, which is always challenging, is even more difficult when one is in the midst of a problem of truly global proportions, and involving seemingly privileged men who have broken the most sacred of sacred trusts. Discourses of guilt, shame, blame, sorrow, rage, and disqualification are omnipresent in such a 7
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constellation, and I encountered all in my professional journey with this work. Many people are directly and personally affected by child sexual abuse, primarily the immediate victims, but we also know that the effects extend way beyond the immediate and identifiable victims—to their families, the perpetrators’ families, their colleagues and friends, the perpetrators themselves, church leaders, and those who work with them. However, the social-psychological processes necessary to live through such extreme emotions and the life trajectories and stories that underpin them are not usually part of the public conversation. Almost no public debate focuses on the psychological process involved in living through such public/personal trauma for the victims, public humiliation and vilification for the perpetrators, and the pain of their families and those who love them. Little public debate focuses on how difficult it must be for aged and sometimes unwell bishops to be the focus of intense public anger on a daily basis. The debate is usually limited to typical themes such as deviance, pathology, and betrayal by perpetrators, trauma and damage to victims and their families, and “cover-up” and betrayal by the church leaders. Understandable as this might be at one level, it also leaves a psychosocial void. The shock that we experience as a result of the revelations of sexual violence against minors has no useful place to go either. No appropriate language is easily available that allows for compassionate witness; all healing language seems to be eclipsed by the language of blame. This is 8
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the general context in which I set out work in this area and to find a place to stand in which I could do so. I wanted to embrace all stories and silence no one. However, if sides had to be taken I knew where I stood. I had found that place many years ago in working with other victims and perpetrators of trauma and violence, as I walked and talked and sat in witness. I take a stand on the side of all human beings who are trying to find a way through life in the best and only way possible, while taking a radical stand against cruelty, violence, injustice, and institutional and personal hypocrisy in all its many manifestations.
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