The Apostolic Visitors are Coming: Wounded Healers and Healing for the Wounded?

image The Pope has announced the team of apostolic visitors who will conduct an investigation into clerical sex abuse in Ireland. The Irish Times’ Patsy McGarry remarks that the Vatican has sent in ‘heavy hitters.’ McGarry says:

THERE HAS never been anything like it where the Catholic Church is concerned. It is fair to say that the decision of Pope Benedict to send in nine such “heavy hitters” to investigate the Irish church is a strong indication of the seriousness of his intent when it comes to addressing the clerical child sex abuse crisis in the church.

The Irish bishops and Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin have spoken positively about the visitation, expressing the desire that it can promote healing in the Irish Catholic Church.

But as McGarry points out, the composition of the group may inhibit its effectiveness: it includes no lay people, and it is composed entirely of people from the Irish Diaspora, mostly from North America.

The lack of laypeople seems to violate the spirit of Vatican II, undermining the idea that the church is all the people of Christ, not just those who are ordained. The Diasporan approach may not allow for a healthy detachment from the Irish case.

In his commentary on the visitation team, McGarry devotes a great deal of attention to the inclusion of Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, who in 1985 knowingly moved child abuser Fr Michael Hill to the chaplaincy at Gatwick airport.

McGarry says that this answers ‘yes’ to Irish Cardinal Sean Brady’s question, posed this year on St Patrick’s Day, of whether there was room in the church for ‘wounded healers’ to play their part in reconciliation.

But I am still uneasy about Brady’s definition of wounded healers: ‘those who have made mistakes in their past.’

It seems to me those in leadership who ‘made mistakes’ have done the wounding, rather than having been wounded themselves. Their authority may have been damaged when they were found out.

But this is surely different from being a ‘wounded healer’ in the way that Christ was a wounded healer?

I am more comfortable thinking of the victims and survivors of clerical abuse who have remained within the Catholic Church as the ‘wounded healers.’ It is their example, I think, that is more likely to bring healing to the wider church.

That doesn’t mean that there’s no place in the church for those who have ‘made mistakes’, especially those who are now trying to put things right. It remains to be how this visitation team can aid the process.

(Image of Cardinal Murphy O’Connor)

One thought on “The Apostolic Visitors are Coming: Wounded Healers and Healing for the Wounded?”

  1. I utterly agree with you. Brady’s definition of Wounded Healers – “those who have made mistakes in the past” – is in my view misguided and overly simplistic, and those in that category who have done nothing to heal themselves, to transcend their own wounds first, to be in touch with their own woundedness, will be in no position to heal others of their deep hurts.
    We are all wounded to some extent and that wounding evokes healing.
    I love Rachel Remen’s definition: “My wound evokes your healer. Your wound evokes my healer. My wound enables me to find you with your wound where you have the illusion of having become lost,” she says.
    The Wounded Healer implies the deepest compassion and empathy born out of our own hurt that conjures up a deep spiritual capacity to heal those others in their own need.

Leave a Reply