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The Unhealed Wound: The Church and Human Sexuality Paperback – March 11, 2002

3.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Catholic Church has not yet learned to speak gracefully and truthfully about sexuality, according to Eugene Kennedy's The Unhealed Wound. Kennedy's book blends history, psychology, theology, and journalistic storytelling in a sophisticated and humane analysis of where and how Catholic teaching about human sexuality has gone wrong. Teaching that flesh and spirit are locked in a battle with each other, the Catholic Church has treated human sexuality as a bane of human existence, not a gift from God. The Unhealed Wound argues that Catholicism will have a hard time righting its teachings because so much of its power as an institution depends on keeping its members in "a frightened and dependent state" regarding their own sexual impulses: "This emphasis on power diminishes [Catholicism's] true authority to help ordinary men and women put away childish things and grow up even by small steps.... the way, imperfect but tolerant of failings, we become human." --Michael Joseph Gross

Review

"How often can one speak of a book on Catholicism as brave, bold, searching, passionate, compassionate, and, not least, well-written?" -Norman Mailer

"With a masterful blend of poetic and decisive articulation, Kennedy fearlessly and insightfully exposes the many symptoms of the sexual wound." -Chicago Tribune

"Persuasively arguing that all aspects of our God-endowed human nature should be celebrated, Kennedy urges the institutional church to move beyond bureaucratic stasis to reestablish a healthy pastoral dialogue regarding all aspects of human sexuality." -Booklist

"I know of no recent book on the Church that deserves a wider readership than Eugene Kennedy's The Unhealed Wound. It celebrates the reality of the Church as Mystery, but also exposes and examines the pain caused to so many by the Church as bureaucracy or institution." -Rev. Richard P. McBrien, author of Lives of the Popes

"The Unhealed Wound will be a source of healing and liberation." -National Catholic Reporter

"This valuable and needed book shows that doctrine has psychological roots and consequences, and that what is often considered as merely an ecclesiastical fear of sex can become, in fact, an attack on love, which is at the heart of the Christian religion." -Garry Wills, author of Papal Sin
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (March 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031228358X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312283582
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #892,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Kennedy, of course, is faulted by fundamentalists (both Catholic and non-Catholic), for saying up is up and down is down. But their criticism is foolish, and when examined, really unchristian. In this book Kennedy says what is so obvious it should be written in neon: the institutional church (not the real church, the people) has a hang up on sex. It cannot heal this sexual wound because it will not admit it exists. Amen. He is right, absolutely. My only objection is with his writing style. Run-on sentences are the norm. Parenthetical thoughts abound. But read through them. The message is worth the effort.
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Format: Paperback
I am a parish priest and I have taught in seminaries .
This book is so needed. It's brave and solid as it addresses the RC theological poverty in the area of sexuality. Kennedy goes for the jugular - ie power and control motivation at the heart of the church's official position , dysfuction and immaturity in the clerical world. John
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Format: Paperback
The Unhealed Wound is not just about human sexuality and the church. It gets deep into the sexism of the church. It is a much-needed book! Kennedy shows that the Catholic Church has historically practiced extreme sexism and continues to do so. This church desires to exercise total institutional control of women. It accomplishes this through a number of tactics. He quotes researcher A. W. Richard Sipe that this control is expressed "in the restriction or subjugation of the inferior group at the pleasure or for the use of the group in power..." He points out that this denomination prefers to ordain openly professed homosexuals as priests than to ordain a woman, primarily because the priest is supposed to be representative of Jesus and female differ so much physiologically from Jesus.
The author begins the book by examining the way the public opinion of priests has changed over the past century. They were once regarded as clean and pure. They were highly respected. They exercised great power and control over people, even nonbelievers. But in the last century, they have fallen from this high standing within society. Today, they are most often disregarded. Often, they are met with disdain. The Catholic Church has lost the primary source of its power.
Kennedy has utilized his investigative journalism skills to dig up lots of dirt on the church. Things such as the church changing death certificates of priests that have died with AIDS to cover their sexual problems. He exposes numerous cover-ups and immoral activity by the church.
This is a must read! Every church official, regardless of denomination, should be required to study it. Every woman should own a copy and read it aloud to the men in her life: father, husband, boyfriend, boss, and so forth.
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Format: Paperback
With the American Catholic Church rocking from its biggest (and, unfortunately, still growing) sex scandal ever, Eugene Kennedy's book is a timely and welcome reflection.
The basic thesis defended by Kennedy is that sexual transgressions committed by priests are, for the most part, not because the individual transgressors are wicked men, but because their sexuality has been warped by repressive power structures within the Church. Claiming that the insistence on clerical celibacy is both unnatural and unscriptural, Kennedy argues that the Church insists upon it primarily as a way of exerting power. This is an institutional mechanism, part of the way in which the curial structure maintains itself, and not the premeditated plan of a secretive group of men in red.
Kennedy's analysis is well worth taking seriously, although I suspect he overstates his case at times. The contemporary Church, for example, seems much more open and sensitive to sexuality than did the pre-Vatican II Church. Today's 50-something priests whose sexual development was traumatized and arrested as adolescent seminarians aren't representative of younger clergy. Moreover, it's not clear that the elimination of clerical celibacy is the needed restorative to the problem of sexual abuse. It could be the case that the malaise is spiritual rather than psycho-sexual.
Still, Kennedy's book is a good and much needed read. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Shipped quickly & nice book. Thank you.
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As a Roman Catholic in the Archdiocese of Boston, epicenter of the recent priest molestation scandals, I am well aware that my Church has more than its share of problems. I am at least as critical of its faults as the next person, but this was a book, purporting to pinpoint the Church's fundamental fault, that I just could not bring myself to like.

In "The Unhealed Wound," Eugene Kennedy has written a tiresomely repetitive book in which he lays all the faults of the Catholic Church on its "unhealed wound" concerning human sexuality. Kennedy discerns this wound in the Percival legend (he of the genital wound that would not heal) through the tragic story of Heloise and Abelard and into our day of pedophilic priests. The Church, as Kennedy sees it, pits Flesh against Spirit, forcing human beings to split themselves so that their heaven-tending souls may subdue their sin-prone flesh.

It's not a bad premise, except that it doesn't fully align with the Church's positive teachings about sexuality and embodiment. The Church has taught from the beginning (as in the Resurrection of Christ) that we are not souls trapped in disposable bodies, but are unified beings - embodied spirits. If the anthropology of a body-soul split has more than its share of representatives, its because the Church fails to counter this mistaken view, not because the Church embraces it.

Kennedy makes much of the existence of celibacy being a sign and symptom of the unhealed wound. But celibacy does not have to be read as life-denying, as legions of priests and saints throughout the ages can testify. The most fruitful celibate life is not accomplished by denying sexuality, but by using its power and drive for purposes other than "mere" genitality.
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