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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

Your site has a feeling of being quite JUDGMENTAL. I know you quote a great deal from the Catechism, but I believe that today we ARE a bit more open as our world has changed? I am an Anorexic. I have been for almost thirteen years. I have sought treatment successfully and un-successfully for years. . . . I also have been in a discernment process to enter religious life for six years. . . . I understand what we as Catholics teach. I actually lean toward the conservative side, wish for the Latin rite to come back and believe firmly in the habit for all religious. However, I have gay friends, non-catholic friends and friends whom practice all that we perhaps do not believe in. That is not to say I practice them. I suppose my concern is . . . that we are not coming from a place of judgment. Will one be judged if they do not abide and follow ALL that you require?

Outline of the Answer
• The “Stain”
• Resistance to Authority
• The Call Back to Faith
• The Call Away from the World and Self

hrough my clinical work, I have looked deep into the hearts and souls of many persons, not just lay persons but also those in religious life and those contemplating entering religious life. And I have consistently seen there a certain “ugliness”—a stain, so to speak—resulting from childhood emotional wounds.

The “Stain”

Sometimes a child is stained by blatant family dysfunction, such as alcoholism, adultery, divorce, physical abuse, emotional abuse, or sexual abuse. These children often grow up with a bitter inner attitude of social defiance, even to the point of criminal activity.

Yet, more often than not, the child suffers only from the wounds of more “normal” families who, in one way or another, are simply hypocritical. That is, it’s rare in today’s world to find any families who teach children to love God with all their hearts and minds and strength and who don’t indoctrinate their children right after baptism with all the impiety of the anti-Christian world around them. Because most parents do not live out in their actions whatever religious faith they profess with their lips, normal family life is more often than not characterized by self-indulgence, resentment, manipulation, hidden alliances, and a general lack of honest communication.

This lack of communication can take either of two courses. Authority in some families can be all a fraud, just an excuse for manipulation or intimidation. This leaves children feeling exasperated and angry.


The eating disorder of Anorexia Nervosa which has afflicted you is an expression of unconscious hatred for your father. You know that arbitrary authority is all a fraud. You therefore are angry with your father—and, by extension, you are angry with all authority, even legitimate authority, including the Church and even God—and you express that anger by trying to control your own body.


On the other hand, if parents give children too much freedom, the children will grow up without any sense of compassionate discipline and guidance. Most kids are smart enough to realize that when parents give them too much freedom it really means that the parents don’t care—or don’t know any better themselves. So the children can end up with such profound emptiness and guilt about the meaningless pursuit of self-gratification that they challenge everything out of pure frustration. And where does that lead? To bitter identity confusion, fear, anger, and depression.

In either case, then, whether through arbitrary authority or through a lack of guidance, a meaningful basis for rules and regulations is never communicated.

As a result, many children tend to emerge from their families with an unconscious resistance to authority.

Resistance to Authority

When children aren’t taught the “language” of honest emotional encounter within their families, children tend to seek out “natural” ways—that is, physical, bodily ways—to derive attention and satisfaction from the world, such as through food, drugs, or sexuality. And so we have a world filled with addictions, eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, and obesity), and perversions (immodesty, pornography, prostitution, piercings and tattoos, and, in general, lifestyles defiant of chastity).

This unconscious resistance to authority more often than not leads to defiant behavior that focuses on immediate physical satisfaction and a need to “be in control” to ward off feelings of vulnerability and helplessness. This unconscious attitude not only disrupts social harmony, but it can also cause spiritual problems in regard to one’s religious faith. 


“We don’t care what you want—or what’s legal or moral. We want what we want, and we will get it, one way or another.” That’s the rallying cry of the disgruntled, stemming from the motto of Satanism: Do what thou wilt.

Feminists make themselves “priests.” Activists clamor for homosexual “marriages.” Enthusiasts flock around unapproved “apparitions.” Liberals condone illegal immigration.[1] And on and on it goes in this world growing cold in faith.


It’s a very sad thing. Family emotional wounds can leave children believing that God is cruel, that God is unfair, that God plays games with us, and that they have no other recourse than to take matters into their own hands to get what they think is right. But God is not unfair. God is just: “You are righteous LORD, and just are your edicts” (Psalm 119:137). It’s families who have lost their grounding in faith that are cruel and unfair and have turned interpersonal relationships into game playing.

I have often seen how persons struggling with inner emotional confusion try to hide this confusion by putting on a religious habit or by taking up excessive religious devotions. They use an outward show of religious practices as a sort of psychological defense to make themselves seem holy and to appear as if they were being obedient. And therein they miss the point about real holiness. Genuine Christianity requires a deep, humble commitment of the heart; it’s not like some sort of computer software application that you conveniently run on your existing—and confused—operating system. True Christianity is an entirely new “operating system” that completely replaces the old one. 


Some individuals from dysfunctional families are often drawn to religious life—or quasi-religious life (i.e., secular religious orders)—because they think that obedience is easy. But, really, obedience for them is not an act of love, it’s an act of spite, a mere psychological defense against their unconscious anger. “All right. So you’re going to treat me miserably? Well, I’ll show you! I’ll take everything you can dish out and I’ll take it without a murmur. So there!” But, oh! Just wait. Slowly the frustration builds, and then the anger erupts! It all goes to prove the point that you can’t carry your cross if you are carrying resentment.[2] In fact, the most common impediment to spiritual progress is this: the grudge that chains you to the past.


Sooner or later, then, a person with a confused emotional life will go astray simply because his unconscious resistance to authority prevents him from clinging to the rock of true Faith.

The Call Back to Faith

Now, when anyone goes astray from true Christian doctrine, it’s not “judgmental” to tell him so.


When someone says, “Go to hell,” that is judgment.
But to tell someone that he is living in sin and is in grave danger of ending up in hell is a warning. As for what will actually happen to this poor soul . . . well, only God can make that judgment.


Calling someone back to the true Faith, therefore, is called preaching the Gospel. When Saint Dominic rescued southern France from the Albigensian heretics in the thirteenth century, for example, he didn’t preach that the heretics were “bad,” he just preached the truth about real Christianity. He preached the Gospel. It’s a truth that’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. It doesn’t judge you for who you are, it tells you what Christ told us all to do, regardless of who you are—or think you are.

Sadly, many of those today who choose to live contrary to the Gospel try to avoid social criticism for their sins through a political advocacy that preys upon a general public fear of being “judgmental.” It was a strategy used in regard to gaining secular acceptance for divorce and for abortion, and now it’s being used in regard to any sexual activity that defies chastity. Yet it’s all heresy because it condones sin. It even advocates for sin. And it persecutes those who speak the truth about sin.

To speak of heresy, however, is not judgmental; it’s simply a statement of fact. The word heretic comes from the Greek word hairetikos, which means “able to choose.” Thus a heretic is someone who, to make religion more convenient, less demanding, and more “relevant” to the ways of a pagan world, chooses some aspects of the Faith and rejects other aspects of it, much like the disciples at Capernaum who murmured, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (John 6:60). Speaking bluntly about heresy, then, is an act of charity, for it reminds others of the very sins that will condemn them to hell if they aren’t repented.


When a pastor has been afraid to assert what is right, has he not turned his back and fled by remaining silent? Whereas if he intervenes on behalf of the flock, he sets up a wall against the enemy in front of the house of Israel. Therefore, the Lord again says to his unfaithful people: Your prophets saw false and foolish visions and did not point out your wickedness, that you might repent of your sins. The name of the prophet is sometimes given in the sacred writings to teachers who both declare the present to be fleeting and reveal what is to come. The word of God accuses them of seeing false visions because they are afraid to reproach men for their faults and thereby lull the evildoer with an empty promise of safety. Because they fear reproach, they keep silent and fail to point out the sinner’s wrongdoing.


— From the Pastoral Guide
by Saint Gregory the Great, pope,
Office of Readings, Sunday,
Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

So to preach the Gospel is to speak the truth. In this regard, we should remember the words of Ezekiel:


You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me. If I tell the wicked man that he shall surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked man from his way, he (the wicked man) shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked man, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself.


— Ezekiel 33:7-9

The Call Away from the World and Self

If you read the Bible carefully, and if you study the mystics, you will learn that the only way to turn from the way of sin is to turn away from the world. The spiritual counsels on this website aren’t my “requirements,” they are simply the purest psychological way to overcome one’s childhood resistance to the sanctification offered through total surrender to the will of God. After all, children who have been intimidated or betrayed by their parents aren’t very eager to surrender to God. So they have to learn to enter a different reality than the lies and game-playing they knew in their families—they need to enter a divine reality of good will and humility.

Consider, for example, what Saint Cyprian said about this sanctification:


The Apostle Paul instructs us in these words concerning the sanctification which God’s loving kindness Saint Cyprian confers on us: Neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the Kingdom of God. And such indeed you were. But you have been washed, you have been sanctified, you have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. We were sanctified, he says, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. Hence we make our prayer that this sanctification may remain in us. But further, our Lord who is also our judge warns those who have been cured and brought back to life by Him to sin no more lest something worse happen to them. Thus we offer constant prayers and beg night and day that this sanctification and new life which is ours by God’s favor may be preserved by his protection.


—From a treatise on the Lord’s Prayer
by Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr
Office of Readings, Tuesday,
Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

Thus, in total surrender to God, through Christ, we can be cured of our old psychological defenses, if only we turn away from them. But, as our Lord Himself told us, those who want to be “cured and brought back to life” must sin no more.

Now, we all have lapses, and Christ promised mercy for those who repent them. The point here is not about occasional lapses, it’s about a total change of attitude—a detachment from our old psychological defenses and our unconscious yearning to be disobedient—and, in sorrow and disgust for our sins, learning to trust only in God in humility with a chaste and pure heart.

But what will happen to those who refuse to turn from sin and in obstinate disobedience persist in filling their eyes with the lusts of the world? Well, only God knows. I can’t judge them, I can only repeat what Christ Himself said: “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into fiery Gehenna” (Matthew 18:9). Christ should know. He, after all, will judge us. He told us that Himself (Matthew 25:31-46).

So, to accept Christ’s unfathomable mercy before it’s too late, recognize the emotional wounds that have led you into disobedience, take steps to heal those wounds, and then let the dead bury the dead.


Who wrote this web page?


1. And why is illegal immigration so evil? It is evil theologically because every illegal immigrant commits mortal sin by breaking two of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not lie,” and “Thou shalt not steal.” It is evil socially because it breaks up families in the country of origin; it exploits the illegal immigrants themselves in terms of wages and benefits; it deprives legitimate citizens of jobs; it increases the tax burden on taxpayers; and it brews a support system of criminal activity. And, let us not forget, it is evil civilly because it is illegal. Remember, Saint Paul told us to be obedient to authority, because “whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves” (Romans 13:2).

2. Feelings of resentment are human and normal; you can’t get through a day without feeling resentment about something. You fall into sin, though, when you use the psychological defense of denial to hide your feelings of resentment from yourself. Denying your resentment only pushes it into the unconscious, and clinging to unconscious resentment is what carrying resentment means.


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