Did you ever wonder why so many of the major controversies in the Catholic Church revolve around sexuality? From the birth control debates of the 60's and 70's, to the pedophile scandals of the 90's and 2000's; not forgetting the ongoing controversy of celibacy and married priests, the role of women in the Church (including the ordination of women), the gay/lesbian wrenching, and the ironic homosexualization of the celibate priesthood. In the Unhealed Wound Eugene Kennedy, psychologist and married priest, applies to the Church the mythological tales of the Western Knight, who, seeking the Holy Grail, slays the Eastern Knight, who symbolized nature, But in his victory the Western Knight is wounded and the wound will not heal until someone asks, "What is it that ails you?" and the wound is acknowledged. In other words, the Church cannot be whole or fully holy until it recognizes its wound, its imperfection.
Kennedy further elaborates the tales saying that this is what John XXIII asked the suffering world in Vatican II. And more significantly, he says that the leaders of the institutional Church today must ask of themselves. They must admit that they and the Church are sexually wounded. Until they do this, the wound will not heal.
The author expresses great admiration for the saintly and gifted John Paul ll. But he also calls him a wounded healer, " the wounded Grail King who can find no place of comfort." (page 28) John Paul ll wanders the world, bearing a wound that rises from his own view that "Nature and Spirit are enemy camps arrayed against each other..." (p. 17) This way of viewing the human condition has worked for John Paul through his "athletic asceticism," but for the institutional Church and most Catholics it "(shatters) the unity of the human personality, setting flesh at odds with spirit, mind with body, and creation against Creator." (p. 21) This always follows from slaying Nature, that is, what is natural and healthy in us, in the pursuit of "what we might term, unnatural, inhuman, spiritual perfection." (p. 21-22)
The Second Vatican Council ashed the question of the Church, "What is it that ails you?" and gave some preliminary answers. But the institutional Church, particularly the Roman Curia and others in the hierarchy, did not want to hear the question. They did not want to reach out and reconnect with the troubled modern world and deal with the wound of human sexuality. In fact many in Rome redoubled their efforts to retain control and turn back the renewal begun by Vatican ll. The institutional Church is at war with and attempting to suppress the Church as mystery, the People of God struggling to be truly human and holy. So often the conflict is between celibate, male clerics and married and especially female laity. The issues are power and control. Look at them:
"Thus is preserved the terrible fiction that the Institution has never made a mistake; thus its false conscience is maintained, and against every wish of the hearts of loyal Catholics, an image of institution as whited sepulchre rises as icy as an Arctic dawn in the imagination." (pp. 172-3)
The book's concluding chapter is entitled, "What is it that ails you?" Kennedy sees hope for the Church. But for the institution to be healthy and holy, it must admit its wound, make room for Mystery, "not by judging the world and finding it needy but by listening the world and finding it needy." (p. 193) Kennedy refuses to dismiss the institutional Church. He sees it as the storehouse and preserver of the sacraments, the essential life source of Christianity. "Institutionless Christianity , that is, one in which small communities cut themselves free from an institution that has chosen self preservation over dynamic sacramentality, may be understandable but is not, in the long run, a practical vehicle for a Church as Mystery." (p. 195) He continues, "Therefore, the Church as Institution has within itself, perhaps forgotten or suppressed, the spiritual resources to examine and reform the divided model of creation and creatures." (p. 202) "It is this Church as Institution , still able to draw on its pastoral health for wholeness, that must first examine it own extensive, untended, and long-denied sexual wound. .. This official Church, so wounded in it illusory killing of Nature, longs for healing..."
This book, though perhaps too heavy with metaphor and symbol, removes the bandages from the Church's "unhealed wound." It is not a pretty sight, but until it is acknowledged, there will be no healing. It should be read by all thoughtful Catholics.