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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition


Questions and Answers


About a year ago I sought guidance about masturbation and looking at pornography. I was told that it was not a mortal sin in my case because it was leading me towards love. What do you say about this? That response confused me. Anyway, I have still been troubled with these vices. I have prayed for God to make me stop, and yet I am unable to resist the temptations, and I still look at porn and masturbate. What am I missing? What is my motivation behind this desire, and why won’t I stop?


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Outline of the Answer
• Demons and Wolves
• The Theological Issues
• The Psychological Issues
• The Actual Failure
• Just Get Over It
• The Urge to Masturbate
• Sin Feels Good
• Sexual Addiction?
• The Healing Process
• The Spiritual Battle
• Deliverance
• Developing Trust In God
• A Dream
• Beyond Lack and Limitation

Have you heard it said, “With friends like him (or her) I don’t need enemies”? Well, with guidance like the kind you encountered, you don’t need demons to seek the ruin of your soul. Christ told Peter to “feed my sheep” (John 21: 15–19), and men and women who give guidance like this have been feeding His sheep all right—they’ve been feeding His sheep to the wolves!

The Theological Issues

The advice you were given is wrong theologically (a) because Christ Himself told us that lust—even lust in the heart—is a mortal sin [1] (Matthew 5:28), (b) because the Tradition of the Catholic Church has preserved Christ’s teaching through the ages, and (c) because the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2351–2354) continues to endorse that teaching.

The Psychological Issues

The advice you were given is wrong psychologically because it doesn’t recognize that sexuality (when stripped of its procreative function) has nothing to do with love.

Sexual Fantasies

Sexual fantasies, whether thoughts or feelings, often arise as images of satisfaction when, because of other circumstances, we are feeling deprived, ineffectual, weary, unrecognized, or alone. The experience of genital arousal points to a yearning for an intoxicating existential merger with an “other” to hide the unwanted reality of your own brokenness; you “devour” the other so that you can experience the ecstasy of transcending the “unknown” or of “seeing” or “feeling seen” (common male fantasies) or of “being filled” (a common female fantasy).

Same-sex attraction (SSA) fantasies can reverse these roles: a man can desire to be filled with the strength of a father (who in reality was weak, or absent, or cruel); a woman can desire to see, or be seen, by a mother (who in reality was cruel or neglectful or smothering).

The combinations can be almost infinite, but they all point to a certain lack of unconditional childhood recognition, guidance, or acceptance that resonates with a current lack—that is, a deprivation—of recognition, guidance, acceptance, resources, or time.

Consequently, from these experiences a false belief can develop: “I am deficient.”

The psychological point here is that filling up a lack has nothing to do with love.

Sexual fantasies can also derive from memories of past sexual activity—voluntary or inflicted abusively—that now carry feelings of guilt or regret or even anger. In this context, men can have fantasies of raping, and women (and some men) can have fantasies of being raped, all as an unconscious attempt to usurp God’s mercy and inflict punishment on themselves with the same merciless severity with which punishment was inflicted on them in childhood by their parents.

Consequently, from these experiences a false belief can develop: “I am bad.”

The psychological point here is that guilt, regret, and anger have nothing to do with love.


Pornography derives from the urge to defile an “other” by using the other as an object of consumption to devour for your own pleasure. On the surface, it may seem that pornography is simply about erotic pleasure. But when the human body is made into a biological toy, it is stripped of all human dignity, and this defilement is a psychological act of aggression. The hostility may be unconscious or it may be openly violent, but, either way, it has its basis in resentment.

To whom, then, is the resentment directed? Well, as in all things psychological, the resentment goes back to the parents. Deep down, under all the apparent excitement, and despite the attraction to what is seen, lurks the dark urge to hurt and insult—to “get back at”—what is behind the scenes: a mother who devoured, rejected, or abandoned, rather than nurtured, or a father who failed to teach, guide, and protect.

So face the shocking and sad truth: in your childhood you were made into an object that was manipulated, scorned, or ignored, and now you seek the perverse satisfaction of making others into objects so you can “feed” on them for your pleasure.

Consequently, from these experiences several false beliefs can develop: “I don’t matter,” “No one cares about me,” “I’m entitled to my own pleasure,” and, most perverse of all, “I don’t care about anyone else.”

The psychological point here is that revenge has nothing to do with love. 


Autistic self-stimulation (i.e., masturbation) does not lead you towards love because it’s a defilement of love. Masturbation makes your own body into an object that you use for your own pleasure, but real love does not seek anything for itself. Real love is not a feeling; instead, it is an act of will;[2] it’s a self-sacrifice for the sake of the salvation of other souls. Masturbation, in opposition to real love, seeks everything for itself; it’s really just a subtle form of anger for not having received your parents’ love—especially your father’s love.

As a child, you felt lonely and neglected, and you had to take matters into your own hands to teach and protect yourself. You essentially had to raise yourself as a child without your parents’ guidance. So now, as an adult, when you feel ineffectual, anxious, lonely, and neglected, and are not working at a fulfilling vocation, what do you do? You take matters into your own hands and raise yourself—literally. But, in the process, all you really do is f*** your hands in contempt for your not being able to use them for any work that is meaningfully fulfilling for you.

Consequently, from these experiences a false belief can develop: “I have to do everything myself.”

The psychological point here is that the defilement of love has nothing to do with love.

The Actual Failure

Finally, the advice you were given is wrong in actuality because the advice has done nothing to help you. You still have the same problem as before and you are now more confused and discouraged than before.

You need some clarity about prayer, and until now you have not been taught how to pray. Your prayer hasn’t been “working” because you have not been praying properly. You have been asking God to make you do something, but you haven’t been focusing on nurturing the desire for a chaste and pure heart; consequently, even as you think you are praying to stop masturbating, in your heart you continue to desire lust.

To stop masturbating—and to get free of the pornographic fantasies that lie behind the masturbation—it is important to pray for a chaste and pure heart. But to do that you first have to let go of your desire to have success just handed to you. Right now you are angry at how the abuse you experienced as a child has kept you stuck in failure, and so, in fear, anger, and desperation, you demand compensation from the world and from God for what was not given to you as a child.

But—and this is a big “but”—if you stop wanting everything handed to you and start making a constant and heartfelt effort to do the hard work of your healing, you can ward off temptations to lust with a desire greater than lust—that is, with a desire for the love for God.

So let’s get to the truth of the matter and find out why you masturbate and what you can do to stop. Rather than stumble over the bad advice you have been given before, learn to pray for a chaste and pure heart, so that love for God will be your greatest desire and will ward off temptations to futile desires.

Just Get Over It

You might be saying to yourself, “I wish I could just get over it.” Yet, no matter how much you try, you can’t get over it. Why? Well, in regard to lust and masturbation—and for that matter, to sin in general—we can’t just “get over it” because we have to go down “underneath it”—that is, deep inside ourselves—to see the dark desire to sin that lurks in the depths of our unconscious.

In Canto I of Book I (Hell) of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Dante finds himself lost in a dark woods (symbolizing the spiritual blindness of a heart hardened by sin). He tries to escape by climbing up a beautiful mountain, but he is driven back to the woods by three animals, a leopard (symbolizing lust), a lion (symbolizing violence) and a wolf (symbolizing malice). Back in the woods he meets the shade of Virgil, an ancient Roman poet, who proposes to guide Dante down through Hell to get to Purgatory and ultimately Paradise. 


The Mountain, which on the mystical level is the image of the Soul’s Ascent to God, is thus on the moral level the image of Repentance, by which the sinner returns to God. It can be ascended directly from the “right road” but not from the Dark Wood because there the soul’s cherished sins have become, as it were, externalized, and appear to it like demons or “beasts” with a will and power of their own, blocking all progress. Once lost in the Dark Wood, a man can escape only by so descending into himself that he sees his sin, not as an external obstacle, but as the will to chaos and death within him (Hell). Only when he has “died to sin” can he repent and purge it. Mount Purgatory and the Mountain of Canto I are, therefore, really one and the same mountain as seen on the far side, and on this side, of the “death unto sin.”


—Dorothy Sayers [3]

So let’s proceed down into your unconscious to get to the truth of the matter and find out why you masturbate; then it will be possible to understand what you can do to “die to sin” and purge yourself of the dark chaos of lust that afflicts you.

The Urge to Masturbate

The urge to masturbate begins because you have been feeling helpless, anxious, ineffectual, deprived, or burdened in some way. In this state of mind, you crave some comfort to relieve your emotional pain. Well, the four greatest natural emotional pain relievers are alcohol, drugs, food, and genital stimulation. They are potent natural pleasures of the flesh.

All Christians have been called to grow in spirit and love beyond the natural pleasures of the flesh. Even though masturbation has nothing to do with spirit and love, the desire for pleasures of the flesh, rather than a desire for spirit and love, grows in you for two reasons.

First, unconscious anger at your parents—especially your father —for not protecting you and guiding you with real love leaves you angry and feeling frustrated, and your natural impulse (that is, according to fallen human nature) is to deaden that frustration with an emotional pain reliever.

Second, because real love has been missing in your life, you feel ashamed and incompetent—like you’re trash. Moreover, you blame yourself for being trash; that is, you blame yourself for not being able to make your parents love you, and you blame yourself for not being able to do real work at a meaningful vocation. All that blame becomes unconscious anger at yourself. Your natural urge, therefore, is to turn to the pleasures of the flesh for relief, even though you know intellectually that those pleasures defile love, that they are merely transitory and therefore futile, and that they harm not only your body and your soul but also the persons and the world around you, including your marriage (if you are married) and your children (if you have children).

Feelings of anxiety, helplessness and deprivation will vary in detail from person to person and from situation to situation, but the point is that you don’t turn to God with all your mind, all your heart, all your strength, and all your soul in the midst of your emotional pain because you were not taught how to do it. So, like a child—all alone, with no one to explain things, and trying desperately to figure out things on his or her own—you give in to the urge to take matters into your own hands to relieve yourself of your own despair. But, in all reality, that relief is just a short-lived illusion.


At the moment of orgasm, you will desire its ecstasy with all your mind, all your heart, all your strength, and all your soul. You will be desiring the orgasm with the same desire you wanted your parents to have for you, at the moment you were conceived and in every moment thereafter. But their love was flawed—or missing altogether. So, as a substitute for their acceptance, you will seek the acceptance of others. Yet they, too, will fail you. Angry and deprived, you will turn your back on God and, with all your mind, all your heart, all your strength, and all your soul, you will seek—not God—but . . . the orgasm, as you try to keep alive the illusion that you are wanted by the world.


In reality, then, masturbation is a non-achievement that invokes the illusion of achievement. As much as you keep trying to do it, it’s impossible to use your own body to heal your emotional despair. Try as much as you want, but you will find yourself condemned to failure like Sisyphus, in Greek mythology, who struggled to push a heavy stone uphill, only to have it roll back down again, over and over.

Sin Feels Good

How is it that we can continue to commit sin even when we know that it leads to nothing but failure and doom? Well, the truth is, sin feels good. Yes, in the moment, sin feels good—and, in the moment, most persons do not think about holiness; they think only about the pleasure of the moment.

Lust gives us raw physical pleasure. It can be intense and intoxicating. But lust is not a sin because someone in authority, for some arrogant and mysterious reason, says so. Nor is lust a sin because it feels good. Lust is sin because it leads you away from the goal of holiness and into the empty pleasures of merely feeling good in the moment. Lust is sin because it misses the point of life.

God is the point of life, and He gave us genitals so that we could bring new life into the world. Note that we aren’t creators; God is the Creator and we are procreators—that is, we stand in the place of the Creator. Our genitals therefore serve the purpose of procreation. They serve love by bringing children into the world who will learn to love Love—God Himself—to become love themselves.

Lust, however, is not love. Despite its intensity of feeling, it is not love. It defiles love. It is the hatred of love because it defiles procreation. It makes pleasure its own end, and so it ends in failure.

Still, it feels good—and that points to the ultimate spiritual battle. Despite the throbbing intensity of lust’s attraction, we have to struggle against the pleasure of sin and constantly remind ourselves that, despite all the allure, lust is the hatred of love.

Sexual Addiction?

Individuals who don’t understand the reality of the spiritual battle with the evil of lust use the term sexual addiction as a politically correct way to make it seem that our sexual behaviors are medical matters for scientific control rather than matters of personal responsibility.

Actually, it is more clinically correct to say that pornography and masturbation are habits, rather than addictions, and that they are acquired through continual exposure and practice. Consequently, the truth is that your recurring urges to consume pornography and to masturbate derive from exposure to the false belief that sexual pleasure is just a form of sporting pleasure necessary for your happiness, and that the practice of its consumption, rather than being a personal moral choice, is a medical necessity for your emotional well-being.

Note also that the current politically correct “scientific” term for masturbation is self-stim, a term calculated to imply that self-stimulation is just an innocent comfortiing behavior, rather than a morally disordered practice.

Thus you have been duped by diabolical powers into believing that hatred for the sanctity of your procreative physiology has the power to relieve your emotional emptiness.

You have been duped especially by the entertainment industry, an industry that has been working subversively through movies and television to glamorize lust and divest the human sexual function of its holy dignity, all in a diabolical plot to destroy Christian moral and family values.

For example, it may seem on the surface that “the woman” (who stands at the center of all erotic imagery) has been idealized and revered, but the underlying motive of this idealization has been to defile feminine virtue, stripping the female body of its holy dignity and reducing it, often with violent overtones, to a naked, soulless sex object. Moreover, even though it may seem on the surface that socially progressive values such as feminism have “liberated” women from “patriarchal oppression,” the truth is that women are increasingly enslaving themselves to the evil of lust.

The end result is that our secular culture worships lust as its goddess, and all Christians are surrounded with pernicious temptations to abandon their baptismal promises—solemn promises to reject the works of Satan. Then, with those once holy promises hanging from them in useless shreds, they become easily seduced into assuming free permission to partake of the harlot’s Satanic allure.

Yes, you have been duped by the very diabolical works that, in your baptismal promises, you claimed to reject. You have been duped by the diabolical anti-Christian “progressive” liberal agenda of the entertainment industry into believing that sin doesn’t even exist and that behaviors condemned by Christ are normal and acceptable and that sexual pleasure is necessary for your “happiness.”

As a result, instead of taking personal responsibility to detach yourself from social illusions, you willingly consume them, over and over.

You have been duped into believing that you can use your own body to heal your emotional despair, and so sin enslaves you even as you are told that sin does not exist.

It’s not politically correct to admit it, but it’s not really an addiction that troubles you: it’s diabolical anti-Christian cultural brainwashing.

How to Stop Masturbating: Recognition, The Bridge, and Prayer


To be healed of your slavery to repetitive sin, first learn to recognize your feelings of helplessness and deprivation as soon as they occur. As you begin this learning process, there might be a long delay between your falling into a temptation and your discovering its triggers, but with practice you can shorten the delay; eventually, you will be able to recognize your particular triggers almost immediately. In any case, sooner or later, notice how they manifest in your particular circumstances.

Maybe they are a matter of your being overwhelmed with obligations, without proper guidance and assistance, so that you feel lonely, weary, and burdened.

Maybe they are a matter of your being obstructed and hindered by others, so that you feel insulted and neglected.

Maybe they are a matter of your own inner confusion and lack of confidence, so that you feel frustrated and stuck.

The Psychological Bridge

Then follow the psychological bridge to the past; that is, consciously explain to yourself how your current feelings of helplessness and deprivation connect to similar feelings from your childhood. Think back to the actual childhood events that precipitated the feelings and describe them in detail.


Then gather up all this scrutiny and bring it in prayer before Christ. Pray to Him for guidance and courage to overcome the past. Pray from your heart, as you would speak to another person. Pour out your feelings and doubts and frustrations in sincere honesty.

But be careful here. The mistake would be to believe that your sins make you unworthy for God to hear your prayers; the truth is that it is in these very moments of your weakness and vulnerability that Christ has the most compassion for you and the most eagerness to help you.

Pray that the desire for holy love will grow in you and overshadow every other desire.

Ask for the strength and courage to persevere through your painful feelings into confident trust in divine protection despite what others do.

Admit your wretchedness and ask for the grace to love, and to pray for, everyone—even your enemies—despite the mistreatment you received from your parents as a child and continue to receive, even now, from others.

The Spiritual Battle

Below are some psychological concepts that can assist you in the battle with your impulses to sin.

Feel the Sorrow

When erotic fantasies or urges to look at pornography disturb you, it will be necessary to train yourself to seek only in Christ—not in the body of another person, and not in your own body—the true recognition and comfort that is lacking everywhere else.

Temptations can be so enticing, however, as to scatter your prayers; therefore, praying for the temptation to “go away” will not likely help you. Moreover, when confronted with temptations, many persons make the psychological mistake of telling themselves that they can’t have something or that they shouldn’t do something. Trying to force yourself away from a desire only increases its intensity!

The one thing that can help you the most is to focus on the sorrow of love being defiled. 

Consequently, it will be important to look beyond the illusion of satisfaction that the desire projects in front of you; instead of seeing the illusion, pay attention to what you are really experiencing when you look at someone with lust.

Instead of seeing a body that arouses your lust, feel the sorrow of a person being defiled by immodesty. Feel the sorrow for a soul that has been so deceived and overwhelmed by sin that it hates itself and hates God.[4]

Instead of seeing your own pleasure, feel the sorrow of being a predator who “feeds upon” the erotic pleasure of another person.

Instead of seeing the “hope” that another person can fill your emotional emptiness, feel the sorrow of knowing the truth that your own mother and father did not comfort and guide you as a child when, in the face of impending responsibility, you felt vulnerable and insecure.

Instead of seeing the “comfort” of self-stimulation, feel the sorrow of all the time and effort wasted in masturbatory non-achievement that has done nothing but leave you with more and more emptiness, devoid of any real love.

With your heart, “see” the illusions for what they really are, and then vow that you will revere and protect God’s love.

Beware the Immodesty of Other Persons

Many impulses to sin originate in the immodesty of other persons. When others wear clothing that does not cover their bodies with chaste dignity but instead draws attention to the intimate contours of their body parts, you will be attacked in two ways.

First of all, your curiosity to see “behind the veil” will become incited. 

The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, in The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, tells the story of a competition between two ancient painters, image Zeuxis and Parrhasios.[5] Zeuxis receives acclaim for painting grapes so life-like that even the birds who try to peck at them are fooled. In his pride, Zeuxis then goes to look at the work of Parrhasios. But Zeuxis sees only a veil, and so he asks to see the painting that Parrhasios has hidden behind the veil. Well, Parrhasios’ painting was the veil. It was so well done that it fooled even the master of deceptive painting himself. Hence Lacan points out that if you want to deceive someone, present him with a “veil,” something that incites him to ask what is behind it.

Then, with your curiosity incited, you will feel frustrated that you cannot see behind the veil, and to ward off the conscious awareness of your dreaded helplessness you will experience a surge of fantasies that offer imaginary relief to your frustration.

At this point STOP!

Remind yourself that those who love God respect the sanctity of their reproductive functioning and do not play with their bodies like toys. Tell yourself that you can love God like this, too.

Remind yourself that lust is just an unholy illusion that can never heal the emotional pain that provokes it.

Remind yourself that lust causes real spiritual harm to others—and to you. 

When you feel the urge to look at or touch or kiss someone erotically, tell yourself, “It’s futile. There is no point in thinking this way because it is not in accord with procreative sexuality.” [6]

Remind yourself that those who dress immodestly are themselves blinded by sin and trapped in it. Rather than make them into objects of your lust, feel sorrow for them and pray for their enlightenment.

So yes, eroticism is attractive. It’s very attractive, but the pleasure is empty, it’s futile, and it leads to doom.


So what does futile mean? It means that even though something may be pleasurable it does not go far enough; that is, it does not lead you to God.


Beware the Desire for Satiety

Practice the virtue of satiety prevention. Temptations to sin are all based in the desire to have your emotional emptiness filled—now! If your life has been structured around the comfort of immediate gratification and always feeling satiated, then, when temptations arise, there will be no voice of virtue to contain them. But if you can teach yourself to accept a lifestyle not based on constant satiety, you will have more confidence and strength to assist you in tolerating the fury of an unfulfilled temptation.

Is the radio in your car and the television in your home always on, just filling up the silence? Stop! Turn them off. Learn to appreciate contemplative silence.

Do you always carry your mobile device with you, looking for messages, sending messages, listening to songs? Stop! Turn it on only to send or receive meaningful information. Learn to focus your mind and heart on constant prayer.

Do you watch action movies or play video games? Stop! These things incite your desire for strife, competition and violence, and so they feed anger.

Do you smoke tobacco? Do you drink alcohol intemperately? Stop! These things incite your desire to harm your body, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and so they feed anger.

Do you eat until you feel stuffed? Do you snack throughout the day? Do you constantly drink coffee or cola? Stop! Learn to fast from the excess of the world so as to appreciate a spiritual hunger for holiness.


In dysfunctional families, parents will commonly manipulate a child with bribery; that is, in order to keep a child quiet, they will give the child material things that the child has not earned through personal effort. The psychological result of this bribery is that the child will not learn the discipline necessary to set goals and work to achieve them. As an adult, such a person will encounter opposition to productive work, to household cleaning, to using restraint with such things as food, alcohol, and caffeine, and to avoiding harmful things such as tobacco and drugs. The childlike urges will demand, “I want what I want and I want it now!” It will yell, “No! Don’t tell me to wash the dishes!” Or, “I want chocolate cake! Don’t tell me I can’t have it!” Or, “I need pornography and masturbation! They’re my friends! You can’t deny them to me!”

Now, the problem here is that if you give in to the demands of these childlike urges, you will be inflicting onto yourself the same damage that your parents inflicted on you: the failure to teach self-discipline. Thus it will be important for you, as a gift of love, to teach the child part of you two aspects of self-discipline. First, that some things (such as overeating, tobacco, drugs, and masturbation) for physical, psychological, and spiritual health must be avoided. Second, that care of the self and the environment are necessary for physical, psychological and spiritual health and can be accomplished with goal setting and reward; that is, “If we can clean the house and finish the business project, then we can [do something fun].”

Beware the Urge to Punish Yourself

When you try to resist temptations by sheer force of will, and then fail, you can fall into the trap of punishing yourself for your mistakes—and this only leads to further failure. Instead, turn to God in sorrow and tears and ask that He teach you to learn from your mistakes. His mercy is more gentle and compassionate than any punishment you can inflict on yourself. Ask Him for the courage to face your emotional pain directly, and ask Him for the grace to see your struggles with your psychological conflicts as opportunities to grow in wisdom and holiness.

Reinterpret Your Memories

It is not possible to erase from your mind memories of past sexual experiences and pornography. Even if they are suppressed with food, alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, these old images and feelings will still intrude into your mind with haunting regularity, and they will arouse erotic feelings. This can occur at any time during the day; it can occur during prayer; it can occur at night during those moments when you wake up and try to fall asleep again, and it can occur especially when you are in a dreamlike state in the early morning just before you become fully awake. But, if you understand this fact, then you do not have to punish yourself for being “bad” that such things occur. Instead, realize that you are experiencing a natural process, a process that can be overcome gracefully. So, instead of falling into temptations of lust and dwelling on these fantasies, tell yourself, “In the past, I did these things for mere pleasure, but now I see it all for the evil [7] it really is. It’s attractive, but the pleasure is empty, and it leads to doom.”

Beware the Anger Behind the Lust

Many people get taken by surprise by this fact, so be careful to understand that the more you overcome your urges to masturbate, the more prone you will be to feelings of irritation over past injuries—and that the feeling of irritation can easily escalate into the sin of anger.

Why does this happen?

Well, remember what I said above about anger being the underlying psychological motive for masturbation. When you stop masturbating, that anger will still be present under the surface of everything. It will he necessary to deal with it in a healthy manner, or you will find it “leaking out” everywhere around you.

Learn how to manage anger in a healthy way with 
Anger and Forgiveness (Fourth Edition) 

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Therefore, keep up a constant scrutiny of your emotions so that you can recognize your emotional injuries and then work to resolve them in a timely and spiritually healthy manner. Maintain a sense of peace within your heart through the practice of constant prayer.


Use the following formula and repeat it often as the temptations arise.


In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I renounce the desire to use my own body or the body of another for my pleasure or satisfaction.
   I renounce the negative beliefs [specify] and the unhealthy behaviors [specify] to which I am prone and the hold they have over me.
   I renounce the spirit of [sensuality / eroticism / lust / pornography / hatred / anger / revenge / violence / etc.] and the hold it has over me. And I ask our Lord Jesus to send it to the foot of the Cross. [Repeat for each spirit.]
   I affirm that my only hope and comfort is in God Himself. All else is futile.


Developing Trust in God

When a father is emotionally distant from his children and, in effect, has little meaning in their lives other than that of a “sperm donor,” the children will be deprived of fatherly guidance and protection. Consequently, they will fail to develop a confident sense of identity in the world, and whenever they encounter emotional distress in facing the difficulties of life, they will experience wearisome ineffable doubt and anxiety about the future. In those desperate circumstances they will be afflicted with a terrifying emptiness and a craving for some compensating comfort, and they will be drawn, like a moth to a flame, to tangible bodily pleasures such as food, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and—inevitably— the most immediately accessible pleasure of all: genital stimulation.

Thus if your father failed you as a guide and protector, you, too, will find yourself, over and over again, flirting with the various “flames” of pleasure. Therefore you, too, will find yourself compelled to repeat, over and over, the rituals of pornographic stimulation and masturbation. And it’s all because your father, in his wretched failure, failed to teach you to seek the deepest and fullest protection of God Himself. So there you are, constantly exchanging the eternal God Who made Heaven and earth for fleeting genital frenzy.

To repair this damage, it will be necessary to teach yourself now to turn to God for protection and help whenever you experience emotional distress. Note carefully, though, that this teaching must be done when you are “strong”— that is, when you are not being assaulted with temptations.

Practice, then, turning to God for protection and help when you are not in distress so that when you do encounter distress you will have the skills necessary to seek out and accept divine protection.

Frequently, if not every day, pray the Litany of Chastity as a necessary reminder to keep the dynamic meaning of chastity on your mind and in your heart.

Every day, contemplate the presence of God in your life by praying the Jesus Prayer. The prayer is simple: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. Pray this prayer as much as possible spontaneously throughout the day, just as the Eastern Fathers taught. Furthermore, at least once a day pray contemplatively by sitting by yourself in silence, and, using your Rosary beads (or a knotted prayer rope), pray the Jesus Prayer slowly, over and over, for at least 15 minutes. As you pray, contemplate the presence of God; feel the confidence that comes from His protection. Practice keeping your attention focused on the words of the prayer and avoid thinking any other thoughts; when distracting thoughts arise, say to yourself, “I don’t need to think about this now” and immediately return to the prayer.

Every morning and every evening pray the Prayer for Deliverance from the Tyranny of Evil. Pray alone, not with anyone else, so that you can appreciate the personal protection the prayer brings to you as an individual.

Every day, pray the Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as I have adapted it. Do this to maintain a constant sorrowful awareness of how your sins are not just repeated behaviors that you keep falling into but are really an indication of a deep fundamental lack of trust in and respect for Christ’s wondrous charity for mankind. Pray this prayer alone so that you can meditate slowly and sadly on the profound meaning of your personal contribution to all the doleful violations of Christ’s divine honor.

A Dream

A man in treatment for depression, and for many years caught up in sexual “addictions,” had a dream.


As he was walking through vast, empty fields, suddenly a great wall loomed up before him; it had the appearance of shimmering, crystalline light.
    He approached a door. On the ground was a metal bucket filled with tiny transparent crystals, like sand, but stained and discolored, and with a stench worse than rotting fish. He knocked on the door.
    A voice from the other side answered. “You may not enter. Go away.”
    After a pause, it continued. “The price of entry is tears of love, cried out in prayer. Look down at the bucket by your feet. That is what your life has amounted to; that is all you have to offer: a bucket of rotten orgasms.”
    And he woke up.


What is Woman?
Beyond Lack and Limitation: The Mystical Experience

Jacques Lacan, in his writing (see the book Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the école freudienne and the chapters “God and the Jouissance of The Woman” and “A Love Letter”) speaks of the psychoanalytic concept of “lack.” Although he uses some complicated mathematical imagery and abstruse psychoanalytic language to describe the matter, this concept of “lack” could be summed up theologically by saying that we cope psychologically with our human brokenness—that is, our separation from God—by using illusions to create for ourselves experiences of comfort in the midst of our misery. The illusions are varied, such as food, drugs, romance fantasies, sexual activity, sports, militarism, and politics, and the comfort can take the form of pleasure, pain relief, social acceptance, and personal valuation.

Lacan points out that one “side” of life is characterized by the use of this dynamic of illusions/comfort as an unconscious compensation for our brokenness. Moreover, Lacan demonstrates that there is another “side” of life that isn’t trapped in lack but that experiences something very real, albeit “unknown.” Lacan speaks of this experience as something that many women have encountered; it’s an ecstasy they experience without knowing what it is, and so Lacan refers to it as something “beyond sex” and thus as something mystical. Furthermore, Lacan states that even though most men are trapped on the “lack” side of life, some of them also encounter the mystical experience.

Note carefully that Lacan spoke as a psychoanalyst who was concerned with issues of neuroticism and sexuality, and so he didn’t elaborate on his ideas as theological concepts. Nevertheless, to speak theologically, it can be said that the side of life not trapped in lack is the place of mystical religious experience, and that it is characterized not by futile efforts of compensation for what is lacking but by a real experience of a fulfillment of a yearning for God.

Hence we can define mystical ecstasy as a prescient experience of a complete union with God.

Because the mystical experience is beyond sex, both men and women can be mystics; nevertheless, more women than men tend to have mystical experiences. This can be explained by the fact that anyone who preoccupies himself or herself with illusions of compensation is obstructing the mystical experience. In the past this was true of most men, and it is still true of most men today. And, in the past, many women were not drawn to these illusions. But today, sadly, because of feminist efforts in regard to “women’s liberation,” more and more women are being “liberated” into sin and are crossing over into the use of illusions typically used by men.

Nevertheless, women who value the supernatural—rather than shake it off as a burden—can have a special role in their spiritual influence on men. In the book of Genesis we are told that the desires of man’s heart are evil from his youth (see Genesis 8:21). In other words, both men and women are prone to all illusions as a fact of (fallen) life, just as much today, in the modern world, as in the past. Women, however, can be the glory of man (see 1 Corinthians 11:7). “Woman is the glory of man” means that when women seek the mystic way of life—that is, a way of life governed not by an attempt to compensate for lack and limitation but by a profound embrace of the fullness of God’s love—they renounce illusions for the sake of an experience that is beyond sex, and so they take up a God-given spiritual authority to relate to men with a real love that puts men in their proper spiritual place of loving God rather than loving illusions.

Thus when both women and men seek the supernatural side of life they participate in an equality that trite illusions can never attain.



I ASKED the LORD, “O LORD, why is it that we are so troubled with genital arousal and erotic desires? Why does our sexuality have to be this difficult?”


     He replied, “No one enters My Kingdom who has not resolutely chosen the Spirit over the Flesh. Let your genitals be a constant reminder of this, in every moment, with every breath you take.”


arrow The Litany of Chastity 


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1. Transient erotic images that arise spontaneously in your mind, however, are not necessarily mortal sins unless you dwell upon them for pleasure. All fleeting fantasies are intellectual products, not acts of will; that is, they are products of unconscious defensive psychology. Through careful scrutiny (as I describe here) you can use the occurrence of such fantasies to help you understand your current emotional difficulties.

2. True love, as Aristotle explained (Rhet. ii, 4) and as Saint Thomas Aquinas reiterated, is “to wish the good of someone.” See Summa Theologica, I-II, 26, 4.

3. From her commentary on Canto I of Cantica I: Hell (L’Inferno) in Dante’s The Divine Comedy, trans. Dorothy Sayers (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1949).

4. Not all of those who hate God have consciously given themselves over to evil; instead, some have become morally corrupted; that is, they have succumbed to an illusion that denies the reality of sin and evil, and so they deceive themselves in believing that their self-serving behavior is not an offense to God.

5. Jacques Lacan, “The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis.” Edited by Jacques-Alain Miller, translated by Alan Sheridan. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1981). See p. 103 and pp. 111-112.

6. The fundamental meaning of sexuality is in its procreative function. This does not mean that every sexual act must produce a child; rather, it means that no sexual act has a legitimate purpose as something done for fun or entertainment or to soothe feelings of loneliness. To cast away the fundamental meaning of sexuality (through acts such as masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, artificial birth control, etc.) is to fall into sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses it this way: “. . . every action which . . . proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil ” (CCC 2370).

7. See Note 6.



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