Page 2, 1st September 1950

1st September 1950
Page 2
Page 2, 1st September 1950 — RELIGION AND' PSYCHOLOGY

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Locations: Kingston, Dublin


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Relevant sermon

Sue-Anyone who is in agreement with the letter on " Religion and Psychology" written by G. Francoise Price, would do well to study the sermon preached by the Rev. Eamonn O'Doberty, D.Phil., at the Psychiatric Congress held in

Dublin in April of this year. (It appears in full in the Catholic Medical Quarterly for April.) Here is a summary of this senuon, which was preached at the High Mass in the presence of the Papal Nuncio.

I. The mind, with which psychology is concerned, and the soul which is the concern of religion, are so closely related that the Church has always taken care that her priests arc trained in the best psychology of their time. At the present time many psychologists are taking an equal care to acquire a knowledge of religion. This is largely due to the fact that the old attitude of considering man to be a creature of pure reason has gone, the modern psychologist has begun to study the deeper layers of the mind and this has led to a greater appreciation of man's inadequacy and finiteness, and has underlined

the fact of moral obligation. The great modern psychologists would be the last to deny these truths, and the conception that psychology has destroyed religion has-been produced

by " psychologically minded journalists and popularisers of psychiatry."

2. Among the great modern psychologists are numbered Dr. Bartemeier, the president of the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, and Dr. Rcpond, the president of the World Federation for Mental Health. Moreover the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry in the U.S.A. whose members are among the leading psychiatrists of their country, recently declared : "We believe that there is no conflict between psychiatry and religion." The fact has been that a minority of materialists have established themselves as the spokesmen of the science and for this reason Catholics, who have so much to contribute, have stood aloof.

3. Both religion and psychology are concerned to improve human beings hut in different though cornplementary ways. "True religion leads man to his supernatural wellbeing, psychiatry is concerned with his natural well-being." The psychiatrist must never try to achieve his result in a manner that would conflict with the religious belief of his patient, but there is nothing wrong in such techniques as " analysis, hypnosis, shock treatment, leucotomy, and so on."

4. The priest has to restore spiritual health, and it is not his function to cure mental ills, though he may do so incidentally. A clarification of certain facts is needed if we are to avoid confusion. On the one hand are unhappiness, discontent, sin, and true guilt, which are not mental ills, but are due to the weakness of human nature. On the other side are the illnesses of the emotions such as a neurotic guilt which are not directly the function of the priest.

5. Yet the psychiatrist, in dealing with the sick patient is trying to make him into a certain kind of person. It is important that he should have a correct conception of human existence. Psychology alone cannot provide the answer to the meaning of life and needs illumination from above. " To this extent, psychology and religion in the Christocentric view of things, have both the same goal but each in its own way," Much that is considered as new in psychology has been well known down the centuries in a different terminology to philosophers and priests. Many new facts have been discovered, but they exist in a chaotic mass waiting to be synthesised through philosophy and

theology. If we are not to disparage modern psychology nor are we to exaggerate the extent of its discoveries.

Regarding the testimony of Gretta Palmer, I would remark that it looks as if she had been trying to use psychology as a self-sufficient guide to life which it is obviously in capable of being. Added to that, she had evidently come under the influence of the materialist minority mentioned by Dr, O'Doherty. Furthermore, it seems likely that she was spiritually at sea rather than mentally sick. Finally, I have just been reading Mgr. Sheen's book. and it certainly does not take Miss Palmer's line. One quotation must suffice: " Our particular concern here is not with either psychiatry or the psycho-analytic method. both of which are valid in their spheres."


18 Crescent Road, Kingston-onThames.

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