Patrick Goujon winner of the 2022 Interior Freedom Prize for “Prayer not to abuse”

Thirty years of anti-inflammatories, we stop. Will you allow me to take care of you? I’ll refer you to our pain center. Patrick Goujon, plagued by chronic back pain since childhood, was saved by these words. The new therapy offered to him and the let me take care of you pronounced by his rheumatologist led him to a gradual awareness.

A buried trauma

Patrick Goujon was sexually abused by a priest when he was a child. A memory buried deep within himself, for decades. During the aggression, the too violent emotion is intercepted, he writes. When it hits, it is immediately subtracted, without it having had time to be felt. It is the work of some power of the psyche which acts as a screen. But the victim is not left with it. This is her trap: what protects her at the time brings out what will put her to the trouble, for twenty, thirty, forty years. The victim will not be able to suspect its origin: it was concealed so that the child could grow up.

Liberating testimony

This revelation, years after the fact, is liberating, but devastatingly powerful. Patrick Goujon shares, in a chiseled story, where each word is weighed with a trebuchet, his stupor, his doubts, rage and shame, his guilt (I was appalled that I had not been able to speak for so many years​), the collapse and rebirth induced by the resurgence of this trauma. The need to know, too. And to bring out the truth.

Supported by the bishop of Verdun, whom he alerts to the facts, he discovers that his attacker has been raging for years, claiming more than 400 victims. That his actions were known to the Church, which took him away from the children, but without taking legal action for lack of complaints. That the justice of men, who listens to him, instructs the case, has its limits, limited by prescription.

Patrick Goujon puts everything on the table. Until the question of faith, re-examined by this great upheaval. And yet you are a priest today. How is it possible ?​, is surprised the police inspector who collects his complaint. A nagging question – how could I have chosen to become a priest myself? – ​to which this Jesuit, professor of the history of spirituality at the Sèvres-Faculty Jesuit center in Paris, provides a luminous answer: Please do not abuse. Therapy for him, essential testimony for all of us. Must read.

Please do not abusePatrick C. Goujon, Le Seuil, 89 pages, €12.

Patrick Goujon will be the guest of the show The day of the Lord this Sunday, September 11, at 10:30 a.m., on France 2.

The Inner Freedom Prize was created by the program Le Jour du Seigneur in 2018. This fifth edition was organized in partnership with RCF, La Procure, France 2 and West France. The 2022 jury was chaired by Charles Wright, winner of the 2021 Inner Freedom Prize for The Way of the Estives (Flammarion).

For this new edition, six other works were in the selection, reviewed this summer by Le Jour du Seigneur and RCF: To be in her place, by Claire Marin (The Observatory); If you want life, by David-Marc d’Hamonville (Albin Michel); Live as a mortal, by Christian de Cacqueray (Salvator); Adapt, by Clara Dupont-Monod (Stock); Shepherd my lambs, by Alexandre Siniakov (Desclée de Brouwer); There’s no horse on the road to Damascus, by Florence Delay (Threshold).

Patrick Goujon winner of the 2022 Interior Freedom Prize for “Prayer not to abuse”