The Catholic Battle With Psychiatry

Pope Francis acknowledged years ago he underwent what was probably psychoanalysis. Recently it has appeared in the news as if he kept this a secret which he did not. Critics, especially Catholic ones, are on his case implying he is not fit for his job.

All this goes back to the history of Catholic antipathy toward Sigmund Freud. We know the Catholic Church started institutions which come under the heading of research universities. No doubt all of their psychology departments teach Freud as a legitimate history of the field. Why, then, does the institutional church treat him as the enemy?

The path from past to present on Freud is murky but for one fact, Freud disliked religion and the church. He wrote about his dislike of them. The Catholic Church responded by demonizing the entire field of psychiatry.

It is popular among believers to point out the hospitals and other helpful institutions churches have started. It is unpopular to point to the harm done.

It is not only the Catholic branch of Christianity that has done this. Lots of the right wing Protestant branch is on board, too. Several years ago I watched a former singer and personality from Pat Robertson’s 700 Club talk of her struggle with depression. She lauded the psychiatric care she had received. She has never returned to the program. My guess is her thinking on psychiatry is unwanted.

My hope is the Catholic Church can find less harmful forms of demonism in the future.

6 Responses

  1. entech

    Freud and Religion
    “The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life”
    Civilization and its Discontents 1930

    Given this as an opening line it is not to be expected that Catholic in particular and religion in general would have much in the way of fond feelings for him.

    In his numerous works on religion, written over a span of nearly forty years, Freud produced a number of different but in many ways interconnected theories.
    Religion is a ‘universal obsessional ritual’ designed to avert imaginary misfortunes and control the unconscious impulses which lead us to feel we are causing them. The rituals attempt to control the outside world and our egoistic and aggressive wishes as well.

    1. Jinx II

      Freud is a fascinating man. He is the father of Modern Psychology and he gave us numerous insights into the moral and mental stages of growth and development. He and his daughter Anna are pillars in the field.

      One must remember that he is the guy who started it all and like none of the other schools of Psych (Behaviorism, Functionalism, Gestalt, Cognitive Behaviorism, Humanistic) he was breaking new ground. None of the schools have all the answers but taken together and used appropriately for each individual client is quite effective.

      For example, Psychoanalysis is quite effective but it takes a long time and money to work effectively. It is most effective on higher functioning people. In contrast, Behavioralism/Learning Theory is good to use on kids, Developmentally Disabled and to train your dog/horse (lol, really true. For highly intelligent kids (one of my sons) this theory can backfire……nothing like having your 7 year old tell you “I know what you are trying to do and it won’t work.”

      Cognitive behavioral is quite effective on numerous people with the exception of those with severe cognitive difficulties.

      Freud started all this and without him, the discipline of Psychology would not be at the level it is at today. With neurobiological advances due to technology, DNA and cell physiology and function, the knowledge base has become much more science based and will continue to do so. We have come a long way since the 1960’s and 70’s.

  2. Juan Ruiz

    “We know the Catholic Church started institutions which come under the heading of research universities. No doubt all of their psychology departments teach Freud as a legitimate history of the field. Why, then, does the institutional church treat him as the enemy?”

    The Church has minimal control over the universities. The most recent example was years ago when it prohibited Fr. Curran from teaching Moral Theology at Catholic University because of his vocal opposition to Humnanae vitae.

    1. entech

      Trust Rob to get it all arse about face, yet again. Think about the market place a little bit, consider supply and demand. Quite obviously atheists have little need for therapists. Consider the ideas of Freud from my comment above.

      Religion is a mass delusion or paranoid wish-fulfilment. Freud had already analysed the ‘private religions’ of Daniel Schreber (Psychoanalytic Notes on an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia, 1911) and Christopher Haizman (‘A Seventeenth Century Demonological Neurosis’, 1923) and such delusions are typical of schizophrenia in general. In turning away from reality and putting a wishful reality in its place the person makes use of magical thinking as described in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901). In some ways this brings religion closer to science. Freud had often said that paranoid delusions are like philosophical systems or scientific theories – they are all trying to make sense of the world, and our place in it.

      Quite clearly there is a difficulty finding analysts for atheists while Christian Therapist abound it reflects the needs; atheists need little in the way of therapy, theists need huge amounts of help to help themselves maintain this belief system of theirs.

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