"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, January 10, 2020

Trauma, Abuse, and the Church

At Catholic World Report you can read my latest thoughts about several new books I had a chance to read over the Christmas break, some of which I will discuss in more detail on here in the coming days.

I would especially recommend to you Judith Herman's landmark 1992 book Trauma and Recovery. Unlike a lot of other books in the social and medical sciences, this one is wonderfully cogent, clearly written, and blessedly free of a lot of horrid jargon. It brings together a wide body of literature in a compelling way that never loses its focus on understanding and helping people.

For some engagement of trauma theologically, I have already drawn attention to Marcus Pound, but will do so again, especially for his focus on the liturgy as itself a therapeutic not just individually or as an adjunct to clinical therapy, but collectively for us all. Others who have recently written theologically on trauma tend to be Protestant, but Pound writes explicitly as a Catholic grounded in Thomist thought.

Gabriele Schwab, whom I didn't mention, deserves to be read as well. Her book Haunting Legacies: Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma is especially valuable for Eastern Christians still marked by and grappling with the legacy of Soviet brutality, violence, and trauma--as well as earlier traumas like the Armenian Genocide, or more recent ones like the Russian war against Ukraine.

About this book we are told this by the publisher (Columbia University Press, 2010):
From mass murder to genocide, slavery to colonial suppression, acts of atrocity have lives that extend far beyond the horrific moment. They engender trauma that echoes for generations, in the experiences of those on both sides of the act. Gabriele Schwab reads these legacies in a number of narratives, primarily through the writing of postwar Germans and the descendents of Holocaust survivors. She connects their work to earlier histories of slavery and colonialism and to more recent events, such as South African Apartheid, the practice of torture after 9/11, and the "disappearances" that occurred during South American dictatorships.
Schwab's texts include memoirs, such as Ruth Kluger's Still Alive and Marguerite Duras's La Douleur; second-generation accounts by the children of Holocaust survivors, such as Georges Perec's W, Art Spiegelman's Maus, and Philippe Grimbert's Secret; and second-generation recollections by Germans, such as W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz, Sabine Reichel's What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?, and Ursula Duba's Tales from a Child of the Enemy. She also incorporates her own reminiscences of growing up in postwar Germany, mapping interlaced memories and histories as they interact in psychic life and cultural memory. Schwab concludes with a bracing look at issues of responsibility, reparation, and forgiveness across the victim/perpetrator divide.

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