What is Spiritual Abuse?

Patheos blog

Sept. 7, 2019

By Mary Pezzulo

It’s now September. the time of year when I’ll start re-sharing my posts on the Satanic Panic and Halloween. And in the news we have the story of Father Reehill, the eccentric priest who banned Harry Potter because he thought the spells were real– and, of course, the news is now coming out that this is not the first time Father Reehill has acted irrationally. Concerned parents have met with the diocese about him on three separate occasions because he is allegedly emotionally abusive of students, and has driven several of them to need psychotherapy. This is in addition to the stunning corruption we’re seeing coming out of the Diocese of Buffalo, which I want to write about separately later, and in the Church in general.

It’s time to talk again about spiritual abuse.

I often talk about spiritual abuse on this blog. But it occurs to me that I’ve never taken an entire post just to describe the phenomenon, why it’s so damaging, and why it needs to be identified and condemned quickly and loudly whenever it occurs.

Some people, including some of my regular readers, think of all religious practice as inherently abusive. They often have good reason to think this way, based on what they’ve seen and experienced in practicing religion themselves and what they’ve witnessed happen to others. I respect those people, but I do disagree with their conclusion that all religion is abusive. I find my relationship with Christ to be a positive and healthy thing, even though my relationships with fellow Catholics have at times been abusive disasters and I do suffer from trauma because of that. I believe that non-toxic organized religion exists. That’s why spiritual abuse is so personally offensive to me. We can do better, and we must.

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