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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

The church is strict about respect for life at any stage. What about the way Bishops excused priests for ruining the life of just one child through sexual abuse? How is that showing respect for life? Isn’t that a contradiction and cop out by the Church?

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea (Matthew 18:6).

We need no more than these words of Christ to address the problem of child abuse at the hands of priests—or by anyone else, for that matter.

Now, if the bishops of the United States had seriously considered these words when priests were shown to have been guilty (not merely accused) of sexual abuse, the Church wouldn’t be in such a mess. But, instead of trusting fully in God’s justice and turning to Christ’s direction to do what is right regardless of how “foolish” it might seem, some bishops in the past tried to solve the problem—especially that of homosexuality—with their own efforts; that is, they called in the devil to hide the problem. And now that the devil has played his tricks and had his laugh, the Church has to suffer for it.

Considering all this, then, just as there is a difference between social satisfaction and real justice, there is also a difference between psychological therapy and spiritual healing.

The psychological work of overcoming a trauma involves several different elements. It is necessary to go over the facts of what happened until you can accept them without hiding from them. It is necessary to learn to recognize your emotional reactions to all those facts. It is necessary to learn how your emotional experiences in the present are unconsciously tied to experiences of the past, especially those of the trauma. And it is necessary to keep working at all this until it diffuses across all the various parts of your personality.

One key psychological experience in all this is the feeling of frustration that what happened to you isn’t fair, and that other persons are escaping blame for your suffering. This is a valid feeling, for, indeed, all feelings are valid.

But spiritual healing requires you to take a step beyond finger pointing, blame, and revenge. It requires you to go beyond what is natural, or common, in the world of ordinary human behavior. It requires you to accept the commands of Christ to love others and pray for their repentance no matter what they do to you. For the whole point of spiritual healing is to purge your heart of ordinary human behavior—or sin—and to live within Christ himself, fully trusting in divine mercy.

So even though you may feel frustrated that what others do is not fair, as you bring that feeling into full consciousness it will be necessary to realize that in Christ everything will be accounted for. No sin will escape divine justice. Your task is to get out of the way by not dwelling in hatred and not insisting on taking revenge into your own hands. Remember the old saying that when you point your finger at someone, three fingers point back to you; to seek revenge at your own hands will bring you into judgment right along with the one you accuse.

Furthermore, those who begrudge the mercy that God offers to anyone in exchange for repentance will, like Jonah, have a hard lesson to learn about the true nature of God’s love. 

Therefore, once you have done the psychological work of seeing the world for what it is,[1] and seeing yourself for what you are, you can then cast off the way of the flesh and put on the way of the spirit:[2]

As your hearts have been disposed to stray from God
   turn now ten times the more to seek Him;
For He who has brought disaster upon you
   will, in saving you, bring you back enduring joy.

—Baruch 4:28–29


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1. Or, as Christ told His disciples, “Be as shrewd as serpents . . . ” (Matthew 10:16).

2. Or, as Christ told His disciples, “. . . and simple as doves” (Matthew 10:16).


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Where Catholic therapy (Catholic psychotherapy) is explained according to Catholic psychology in the tradition of the Catholic mystics.