Tuesday, August 26, 2008

How Much is Enough for S.N.A.P.?

In the winter of 1986 I suffered what is technically called an M.I. (myocardial infarction) or heart attack. For several months I underwent the slow, discouraging and sometimes painful routine called cardiac rehab. On one of the hottest and most humid days of that July, I was scheduled for one of my periodic stress tests in a clinic on Manhattan’s fashionable East side. It was so fashionable one of the Directors decided to close the facility because of the uncomfortable weather conditions. Alas for me, some one “forgot” to call me about the cancellation. I showed up, on time, after a wearying trek across town, sweaty, heart pounding and exhausted only to find posted on the front door a sign that was, to me, horrific. ‘Clinic closed today.”

The following day, with a huge sense of justified ire, I called the clinic on the telephone and chewed out the charge nurse. I ranted. I raved. I fumed. She listened to me somewhat impatiently, then replied with a jaded, bored tone: “What do you want me to do?” I was temporarily stumped for a reply. In my visceral self I knew that the error or misjudgment or irresponsibility was now historical. There was no way the past injustice to me could be replayed for correction. I had to accept the historical fact that I had been mistreated. I had been treated poorly. While it could not be honestly excused, my remonstrations and criticisms were useless. There was nothing I (or anyone else) could do to eliminate my inconvenience. I had to swallow hard, make another appointment and go on from there. It became apparent to me that my anger and fury were hurting no one but me. The methodology ultimately worked. In time, I found peace and forgiveness which benefited me.

To equate such an experience and its resolution with the sexual molestation of a teenager by a cleric who is probably homosexual, is, of course, absurd and sheer nonsense. Yet there are several common factors shared in both experiences which might be analyzed with some profit. One: in both instances, a person has a painful and negative experience. Two: there is difficulty healing from that painful experience. Again this is not equation but analogy. It is the principle and dynamic which presently are of primary interest to the writer. Healing is necessary in any event for all human beings who have been hurt on any level. The magnitude of the pain of molestation here is obviously different from a broken medical appointment---astronomically so but the dynamic for healing might be similar. It is patently clear that there can be no equality between the two “pains.” However, the intention of this paper is to analyze the principle of forgiveness and its consequence of inner peace.

Let us examine some background. Church records show that for over sixty years, certain Americans, mostly male and adolescent, have been shamefully misused by selfish, ego-centered, (usually homosexual) clerics[1] who exploit their own exalted status to sear and ravage young people. Recently, the New Oxford Review published an article describing the shameful and disgusting behavior of these unfaithful clerics. The article was indeed helpful for those trying to understand this clerical phenomenon. In the Catholic lay and clerical groups there were clearly feelings of shame and disbelief and anger. There were justified protests and demands that this type of behavior must be stopped. However there was a “tone” to the article which bothered me—as much as I agree with the expositions and outrage stemming from a disgrace which wounds all Catholics. This tone could in the long run actually hurt those wounded ones who are seeking the priceless gift of peace of mind—to say nothing of maintaining their Faith. The article, I thought, too facilely discounted what has been done to help the healing process and by so doing contributed to the pain of the victims.

To discount the strenuous efforts of the Church is to do a disservice to those who try to recover from a terrifying and perplexing experience. Their Faith should not be torn from them as well which is what a skewed focus could bring. It is important, for healing, to recognize and strengthen the efforts made to “clean it all up.” It is also important to recognize that the sinful behavior of those clerics was blatantly and totally at variance with their own Church’s teaching. In effect one must not throw out Christ’s Church but only the erring and unfaithful clerics. During his recent visit to the United Sates Pope Benedict XVI adverted to this terror at least five times, apologized for it, saw several of the victims personally and admonished Catholic leaders to “do the right thing.” Seminaries must be tightened up. Admission procedures must be strict. Bishops must be fatherly but insistent that priests be priestly. There are to be no “cover-ups.” There must be complete cooperation with criminal justice systems in this matter. Recruiters must be determined to reject practicing homosexuals[2] or those who are “gay-friendly” (which means accepting homosexual mores and looking the other way when there are Caution lights in abundance.)

However, is sometimes sad to see the results of the very strict Regulations presently in force. Even a single allegation can result in an innocent priest’s removal, “temporarily” but immediately, while an investigation is carried on. There were several instances of false charges wherein the priest was removed and later re-instated but with enormous difficulty since the rumors floated—“where there is smoke…….” The priest’s life was substantially destroyed. Dioceses made terrible mistakes trying to “buy off” accusers, giving out large sums of money hoping (foolishly) that maybe they will go away and the scandal will never come to light. Anyone dealing in law enforcement would smell the nasty aroma of Blackmail.

The NOR article blithely discounts the statistical fact that fewer and fewer charges are being made. Such a statistic is dismissed as “…simply because they are not reported.” It would be interesting to learn how the author of the article would disprove this negative. Speculation is not highly regarded in sociological or psychological research.

In fact, there has been enormous correction by the Church. In the cases of the unfortunate victims of molestation, there has been super extensive effort to help them heal. It is common knowledge that Dioceses in this country have gone almost bankrupt in giving great sums of money to victims. This has often resulted in major cutbacks in pastoral services for some people in desperate need. It is reasonable for Bill Donahue, of the Catholic League, to raise the legitimate Caveat about the possibility that some charges might be untrue. There are known lawyers who publicly state that there is much to be made off the Church in these terrible cases—even if the charge is false. We had had the scam-like behavior of those who falsely charged Cardinal Bernardin and Cardinal Egan of improper behavior while lesser known clerics have suffered the same indignity without the support of the larger public.. Unfortunately, there are some people who do make allegations, without substance, in the hope of the “quick buck.” There are people in society who plan the “deep pocket” possibility without shame.

I, myself, spent five years, as part of a committee to assess priestly misbehavior in a large Catholic archdiocese. Most of the cases presented to us were real cases of revolting sexual violence done by clerics and religious (occasionally female). In all legitimate cases, the victims were treated with gentleness and understanding. Counseling fees were paid. Academic tuitions were paid. Automobiles were purchased for them. All efforts were made to help them heal even if their experience was from long ago. Even to 20 or 30 years prior[3]. Many authentic victims do seem to get some kind of healing reaction by making their misuse known even if kept secret for years. Many were given large sums of money --lending credence to Donahue’s point of perceived “deep church pockets”. There were actual cases presented to us which were not credible but were spurious/ frivolous, relatively few, but nonetheless presented to the Board as if factual. If there is some cynicism in investigators, it probably stems from the knowledge that there are occasional fakers.

Some victims, in response to the question whether or not they want money, reply vaguely that all they want is that this doesn’t happen to others or that the cleric or religious get some help or how can you measure money with my pain, or the cost of living is high and the like. But, at the same time, goaded by their lawyers, they sometimes ask for enormous sums of money, millions, allegedly “for expenses.” One does begin to question, like Donohue, the authenticity of some cases.

However more relevantly, while the Church is doing everything possible to help the victimized, there are still shrill voices demanding more and more and more. How much is enough? I have counseled one legitimate victim (without fee of course) who was utterly insatiable regardless of large financial compensation and the emotional assistance and support given to him. Interestingly, he had a whole series of emotional disturbances which existed side by side with his true victimization. He was vulnerable. Predators have an uncanny sense of such vulnerability and vigorously prey upon the unsuspecting victim. The results can be disastrous, depending on the ego strength of the victim. Yet it is a factor rarely considered by those who denounce the Church so vehemently.

A group of Catholic psychologists testified at a professional seminar that if the person is relatively well put together (emotionally), a single pinch on his bottom will be sloughed off. The “prey” sees the perpetrator as a “nut.” But if he is already wounded by previous environmental experience (with which Church had nothing to do), he will be harmed. It is my opinion that, in most of the cases I have seen, the victim is already set up to be hurt. And, as is stated, the predator, cleric or not, will sense by a kind of instinct that he can “have his way” through some perceived emotional Achilles’ heel. Such perspective does not justify sin but it does broaden the picture.

What more does S.N.A.P. want? What more can the Church do? Is it the victimized ones which is their concern? Or is it something more? Is it really a case of a desire to share power using this unhappy era to be the stepping stone to a control position? Is it revenge they seek? Was it not written in the Word of God “Vengeance is mine……says the Lord”? Do they want money? What do the agitators want? I suggest if it is really the good of the victims we seek, we should laud the work of the Church to thwart such evil possibilities in the Church---by anyone----. We should support efforts to choke off all opportunities for predators in Christ’s own Church and get on with the basic business of the universal search for holiness and eternal salvation.

[1] Practically all major scientific studies report a significantly higher percentage of homosexual predators over non-homosexual ones. John Jay Report, USA Today, Rockville Centre diocese, among others, report a dominance of homosexual to non-homosexual up to 80-90%.
[2] One of the Paulist recruiters of the past was ordered by the then Superior General” “Keep the bu----ers out.” It looks like a prophetic view in the light of the unhappy history of molestation.
[3] It is most regrettable that some cleric did indeed commit one evil act, years before, in his career, truly repented, made atonement and performed marvelously well for 20/30 years but whose unhappy past behavior surfaces in the present. How much damage does this do to devout Catholics and how destroyed is this priest in his old age? One wonders about the psychological status of the accuser. This occurred in New York City recently and has caused nothing but pain for all.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What Does the Eucharist Mean to You?

In the year of Our Lord, 1928, on a bright Saturday morning in May I made my First Holy Communion. At the eight o’clock Mass in the great Paulist Mother Church, St. Paul the Apostle, I knelt at the altar railing and received Him. As the priest placed the Sacred Host on my tongue he said:

“Corpus Domini Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam”
(May the Body of Jesus Christ protect your soul into life eternal…)

Even though I did not know a word of Latin, I was acutely aware that something very important was happening to me. Even though I was trying scrupulously to obey Sister’s stern command “Don’t let your teeth touch the Host”, I just knew that I was experiencing something very significant. Dr. Robert Coles, the eminent child psychiatrist from Harvard, has done extensive work indicating that young children can have profound awareness of “reality”, uncontaminated by the immersion into the “practicalities” of adult life. Even though children commonly indulge in fantasies and even white lies to support the fantasies, they are capable of amazing insights into what really “is.” At the age of 7, I was in touch with the Reality that my Saviour Jesus Christ was extremely close to me at that moment. It was only in retrospective adult life with God’s help (and the help of my avocation as a psychologist), that I was able to put words onto the “feeling.”

Euphoria with a touch of ecstasy

By some kind of blessed dynamic I have had the same basic experience for over 80 years--- with the expected and predictable emotional variations and vacillations---soaring, at times and dry as dust at others. But always with the same childlike trust in and attachment to the Eucharist. Such an attachment has taken me through painful periods of failure, loneliness and confusion. Not only I, but multitudes of believing Catholics over the centuries have experienced the same dynamic. One contemporary of mine comes instantly to mind—Cardinal JJ O’Connor who beautifully described the role of the Eucharist in what he called the greatest temptation of his life: a trial of faith. In Okinawa where he was a young Naval Chaplain, he spent many hours alone in the Quonset type chapel—wrestling with the Lord before the Eucharist (called the Blessed Sacrament by Catholics). Only the flickering Sanctuary candle punctuated the intense darkness. But in time the young officer arose stronger and clearer to become ultimately the Premier Prelate in the American Catholic church.

This experience is well known to Catholics across the board. G. K. Chesterton, the towering English genius, Claire Boothe Luce, the American intellectual, Jacques Maritain, the French philosopher and scores of high level Catholics, all have responded the same way. It is core to the Catholic experience. Fr John Catoir, the respected host of the Christophers, when asked why he is a Catholic, responded in a mille second: “because of the Eucharist….” He, the famous TV host, the lawyer and theologian, knows full well that other Christian groups do offer a form of “Communion service.” But he also knows none, save the various “Orthodox” churches, holds the same belief as Catholics. When the Catholic “receives” the Eucharist he really believes that he is receiving into his own soul Jesus Christ, i.e. God. While receiving the Host under the “appearance” of bread and wine, the Catholic believes that he actually receives the Lord Himself. This is neither symbol nor memorial nor transient reminder as is more common in Protestant churches. Hence, the Catholic usage of the term “Real” relative to the Eucharist. The Lord is really there deep within my soul! Hence, on entering any Catholic chapel or church where the Eucharist is reserved in the Tabernacle, Catholics genu-flect ( bend the knee to the floor) or make some sign of obeisance and adoration to the Lord before them.

From my days in Africa, I recall the Protestant minister acquaintance saying that if he believed what we believe, he would crawl on his hands and knees to the tabernacle to adore his Lord. He, like anyone, could read the biblical basis for Catholic belief in Luke 22, Matt 26, Mark 14, John 6 and 1Cor 11 but he could not accept the “hard” saying in John 6. Some people can. Some can’t. Of course all believers of any group believe that God is transcendentally present every where. In the scripture, prayer groups, charity behaviors the Lord resides. Everywhere. However, the Eucharist is unique in a super special manner. This is a personal and unique mode of Presence. Some years ago, the then American president attempted to defend his sexual exploits by saying that it all depended on what is means. When is “is” is? The late night standup comics had a field day with semantics. But we Catholics explicitly state that Jesus is there in Person. This astounding statement is symbolized in the Sanctuary lamp which burns 24/7 signifying His quiet and awesome Presence.

But one doesn’t need an IQ of 140 to see and practice this Catholic “thing.” In my own family, working class and fairly low on the socio-economic scale, it was rare to find anyone with a high school education but devotion to the Eucharist was pervasive and matter of fact. It is a truism that some people are educated well beyond their intelligence but it is also reasonably obvious that the reverse can be true. An uncle (called J.J.) never finished elementary school (for economic reasons) and was literary-wise, profoundly limited. But he “understood” the Eucharist, at least viscerally. In his last days, seriously ill in the hospital, he pleaded: “I gotta have Holy Communion…” Devoid of a college degree and association with intellectuals, he, nevertheless, had an almost pragmatic grasp of what the Eucharist means ---particularly when we suffer the various “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” He “knew” what the Eucharist means. A friend of mine, in the investment business and an honors graduate of a prestigious Catholic University, told me that in his highly stressed life there are only two instances when he experiences “ecstasy.” One, having sex with his wife and, two, when he receives the Eucharist. How that statement would please Pope John Paul II.

In my years as a Police Chaplain, (NYPD-retired Detectives division) I met many striking examples of men with limited classical education who were endowed with clear and practical vision into the vital matters of living. One of my detective friends who had strayed from the Faith for years, was attending the funeral Mass of a colleague slain “on the job.” He insists, without qualification, that as he entered the Church he “heard” a voice saying to him: “I have missed you.” Shortly, thereafter, he went to Confession and has been attending Mass daily ever since (a two year period). I wonder whether or not the voice in his head was his own soul saying to the Lord in Eucharist, “I, the detective, have missed You, the Lord.” Still, meta-verbal speech is not uncommon. I recall the famous incident when Francis of Assisi heard the Lord speak to him with the command “Re-build My House.” The Lord may really have spoken to this cop but who knows! We can only assess the truth by its fruits. The Lord speaks in many ways under many guises.

A most illustrative example comes from the remote parish of Ars in France where the sainted cure, John Vianny was parish priest. Vianny questioned a retired, old farmer who spent hours in the church each day. He asked “What do you say to Him?”, a question which implicitly states deep belief in the Eucharistic Presence. The retiree, knowledgeable in raising crops but untrained in theology, said “I look at Him and He looks at me.” This is the deepest form of prayer. It is mystical. It is without words but profoundly unitive with God. While most of us cannot reach the sublime level of this holy man, most of us can find deep peace and calmness in just “being there.”

This Presence, even if misunderstood, has been utilized by Hollywood and modern literature. I recall the powerful sequence in ‘The Informer” when Gippo, (played so marvelously by Victor McLaglen) staggers to the Catholic Church, to drop before the Eucharist to die, his body riddled with bullets and his soul pleading for forgiveness from the Lord . Who can forget the dialogue, in Beckett, between the Archbishop of Canterbury (played by the incomparable Richard Burton) and the Lord present in the Eucharist? Or the final and moving scene in “The Fugitive” in which the priest (played by Henry Fonda) goes to the Church to die in the Eucharistic Presence? Or the touching scene in AJ Cronin’s “Keys of the Kingdom” wherein Fr. Andrew Chisholm, the young missionary (played by Gregory Peck).arrives in China, alone and desolate? He says Mass, alone, believing that the Whole Court in Heaven is with him---but especially that Jesus is Present right there! The Eucharist is right there with him! He is consoled and encouraged. How I can relate to that! How many times in my tour of Africa, I felt so far from home and family and all those things so valuable to me. But it was the Mass and the Presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle that sustained me. All the fancy high level talk couldn’t reach me. But the Eucharist could and did.

We find a huge belief in the Eucharist in Graham Greene’s works—“Heart of the Matter”—“The Power and the Glory. The blockbuster hit by Evelyn Waugh, “Brideshead Revisited” was lavished in Television, movie and novel. A central theme was, of course, Catholicism with all it mystery and awe and confict.. The Eucharist is so important to this wealthy family that a chapel is in the house itself with Jesus residing in the tabernacle! After each meal they process to thank Him for His gifts to them. All levels can find this Gift. The normal and healthy. The neurotic and self seeking. The wounded. The very poor and the very rich. The perplexed and the confident. The lonely and angry. But those who find it, find the ability to be grateful. The very term Eucharist derives from a Greek word meaning “Thanks.” When I visit my Greek dentist, we have fun when I say what sounds like “Ef-cara-sto” to thank him and he replies what sounds like “cala calor” which means you are welcome—all based on the traditional ancient Faith in the Eucharist!

Whence this prize? This Eucharist? Is it family matrix? Social structure? How come I, the priest with an Irish mother and a Russian Jewish father have this gift? Why do not my Jewish cousins (who are smarter and probably better people than I), have it? Why is this? I say Gift because I think the capacity to believe is part of God’ grace. But a gift can be lost or mistreated. It must be nourished and guarded and loved. I know that even if the classic Eucharistic understanding eludes me and even though I am highly educated with a high I.Q. and it eludes me intellectually, still, it suits me and helps me. For this I am filled with gratitude and like the poor old farmer in France, I just want to look at Him and have Him look at me. After 80 years with the Eucharist, I have reached this plateau of love and gratitude. But what does the Eucharist mean to you?

Could It Be The Water That Makes Californian Craziness? Or What?

Some years ago Truman Capote simultaneously delighted and upset his fans by asserting that “for every year you live in California, you lose one point off your I.Q.” Some excoriated him while others applauded for articulating what was in their own minds. It does seem that in spite of its beautiful weather and its relaxed rampant lifestyles, the Golden State produces more zany types of flower children, bizarre religious fanatics and off-beat dropouts than any other area.One can recall the somewhat extremist behaviors of the Big Sur era with its encounter groups and Tim O’Leary’s enthusiastic fantasies on LSD as the answer to all of life’s problems. I remember the bizarre teachings of Matthew Fox and the New Age theology of a popular Californian nun (like some Modern religious) who saw Jesus as just like us—purely human. Nothing more. Yet, whether or not Truman speaks tongue in cheek or seriously, it is fairly clear that any position, opinion or stance for anyone is strongly influenced by one’s own personal experience.

Some recent personal experiences of my own almost replicate Truman’s assertion. In the last three months I have been consulted by several human transplants from California, specifically, from the “Progressive” Berkley(?)/San Francisco area. Three are women who, not knowing each other, have been referred to me by some local clergy (who generally are uncomfortable and untrained in dealing with a-typical personalities). They are largely unhappy with what they call the “Conservative” Catholic church in this area and are predictably vocal in their support of woman priests, gay marriage, more lay control, more “flexible” rules of spirituality—especially for sexual behavior-- and of course tepid support for the Pope whom they consider a Teutonic near Neanderthal.

With hyperbolic predictability any experienced clinician could see “shambles” written big and clear in their stories. All three were personally out of sync in their marriages. One was particularly “interesting.” Her father wouldn’t speak to her. Nor would her mother or brother. She so irritated her husband that he came after her with a Knife leading her to get a court order of “protection” from her own husband. This was one of those “…the fault, my dear Brutus, is not in the stars but in ourselves…” She found it exceedingly difficult to own any responsibility for her unhappiness or to admit that all relationships are a two-way street. In desperation, such personalities resort to “magical” solutions which will (in their minds) hopefully give them instant Paradise.

They all say they come for “spiritual” resolution of their life difficulties (in this case read Magical) and would be incensed at any suggestion of personal or marital therapy[1]. In fact, they consulted their Californian priests not for solution of problems but to vent [2]and apparently with the hope of unending catharsis (without fee, of course). They used the unsuspecting priests as “sounding boards” not as guides to a life with God. It was the old story. The presenting problem seems spiritual but the latent and real problem is psychological. Unconsciously the innocent clerics are “enablers” who think that they are pastoral and “with it.”

All three were loaded with repressed anger which was displaced to some target other than themselves---preferably one which does not retaliate but accepts anything—like a non-judgmental Church which is committed to compassion and long suffering patience. It might be group or area thinking but it is more probably caused by negative human [3]interaction. In effect, it is not the water or weather or California or a “Conservative” Church which is the “bad guy”. Beyond the elusive and difficult to demonstrate gene theory, it is most probably how we think and feel about ourselves (and life itself) that determines much of human happiness. It is really a toxic human environment, both interior and exterior which is the enemy. One’s interiority is certainly a factor in human happiness but so is one’s exteriority; the places, the people, the things--- as so carefully described in 12 step recovery programs.

For the priceless peace of soul (which these three women are really seeking) it is necessary to clarify and answer honestly (to themselves) the great questions of human self discovery. What do I really want out of life? (A surprising number of people do not know). How much am I prepared to pay and sacrifice for its attainment? What are my fantasies? What do I think about? Whom do I hang out with? The recently deceased Fr. Paul Keenan of the New York Archdiocese used to preach “you get like what you pay attention to…”[4] Narcissistic fantasies, unhealthy reading, depressing comrades, sarcastic conversation, immodest behavior, porno all affect the human being who, trance-like might engage in the old rationalization process that it is only a little peek or look at the salacious or anything experienced spiritual directors call the near occasions of sin. There are extensive data about the misunderstanding of “the slippery slope.” One little step and you are gone—right down the mountain!

Catholics believe that God’s grace operates on human nature. We believe that one confronts and manages human obstacles first. The persistent idea that religion can have a thunder bolt solution—as if there were some kind of Merlinian[5] formula---is probably infantile thinking. The truth is that growth and maturity are slow and incremental requiring the free cooperation of the human being. It is interesting to note that the Catholic Church has condemned not only Pelagianism which believes that man can handle his problems alone with human solutions but also Quietism which believes that God will do it all with little or no human input.[6]

Bill Cosby, the noted philosopher/comic/social observer recently opined that it does matter with whom we associate. This was occasioned by the allegation of a prominent politician that he was not influenced by the offensive public remarks made by his Pastor. For 20 years he listened to the degrading presentations of his spiritual leader insisting that even though he remains a close friend with this man whom he deeply admires, the repulsive value system will have no effect whatever on his own way of thinking. Cosby ridicules this allegation as unreal. I must agree. You get like what you pay attention to!!

A famous baseball player with great family problems has some kind of need to “womanize.” One of his teammates refused to associate with him in social situations because the “Romeo” most probably would exhibit his embarrassing sexual tendency. The second man knows that one is easily affected by his comrades. He values his own integrity and understands how we affect each other. It does matter with whom we associate.

Coming from a slightly Puritanical home where I never heard my father utter one “street” word was not enough to offset my twenty one years as a Police chaplain. I was appalled to find myself effortlessly using the language of the streets. I had picked up that verbal behavior from the people (good --even if rough-- guys) I “hung around with.” I recall my sincere intentions to fight the iniquitous social policy of apartheid on my arrival in South Africa and my intense fright on discovering that I hardly thought or mentioned my Christian responsibility after some time there. The white South Africans took such evil as part of “practical” living. With out realizing it, I, the Missionary with Christ’s message was accepting the unChristian values and views of those I “hung around with.” This is the power---plus or minus--- which is attached to human association. Even the great Apostle Paul endorses this point in his First letter to the Corinthians, 5,9. “I wrote to you …..not to associate with immoral people…not to associate with the immoral, greedy, drunkard or robber… not even to eat with such a person….”

In my own pastoral work today, I am quick to point out this obvious (but apparently misunderstood reality) to those under my spiritual care. If a person with Same Sex Attraction really wishes to gain reasonable chastity, he must avoid those people who are either active in or tolerant of same sex behavior.
The Gay Bar might lure him with promises of “just enjoying the music.” But the psychic climate is dangerous for him. He, as a human being, is susceptible to the confidently spoken homosexual mores so rampant in Gay society. You get like what you pay attention to. You are influenced by those you “hang out with”. Going to gay bath houses for the alleged purpose of “health reasons” is not only lying to oneself but, at the very least, exceedingly toxic to one’s spiritual health. Looking at porno of any kind can be destructive and addictive which only re-enforces the SSA disorder.

In Catholic circles, this is all summed up in what is called the “Near occasions of sin.” It still is people, places and things. One finds human unhappiness or nuttiness not only in California and North Carolina but in Ireland, Hong Kong and Sicily---wherever there are people. Granting the possibility of organic damage, it is mostly attributable, I believe, to poor psychic environment. It comes down regardless of environmental negatives, under God, to refining the point of what I want in life! What do I want? If my goal is clear, I will, with God’s help, do what is necessary for that attainment and vigorously avoid what endangers what I want.

The mantra is: “You get like what you pay attention to.”

[1] Apparently, seeking out a therapist is somehow degrading but looking up a priest (who happens to be a licensed shrink) is considered acceptable since the resolution in their minds is “spiritual.” Is psychotherapy some kind of symbol of failure in life?
[2] Venting for its own sake is useless and unhealthy. As a part of the therapeutic process it has credence.
[3] The biological influence of hormones and genes obviously has some significance but dominantly it is the psychic human factor which is interesting to my hypothesis.
[4] I am familiar with the grammar purists who go ballistic when a writer ends a sentence with a preposition. But I am more impressed with Winston Churchill’s derisive dismissal of their rigid insistence on grammatical clumsiness when he said: “This is something up with I will not put.”
[5] Merlin was the fabled magician of King Arthur’s Round table gang.
[6] The spiritual axiom is: work as if everything depended on you but pray because every thing depends on God.