A couple of years ago I joined the Catholic Psychotherapy Association (CPA). Its goal is to link Catholic teaching on family and the human person to psychotherapy. I totally agree with that goal because far too often psychotherapy and Catholic anthropology communicate far too seldom. That’s a tragedy because it leaves believers and non-believers confused about and alienated from one another.
Theology has much to teach the applied sciences about the purposes of creation and our place in that creation. That’s important because many who come to therapy are, in fact, anxious (afraid) about the world we live in, or depressed (sad) at the pointlessness of life, or disillusioned about the lack of meaning in life and relationships. Our faith is wonderful at offering us something to believe in, calming our anxieties by trusting in God, filling us with hope for the future and objects we can be passionate about, that is, loving God, loving others, and even loving ourselves.
In turn, the social sciences have much to offer the Church. The Church has well developed and intellectually satisfying things to teach us about being human, but the social science have great tools. We fail people if we don’t use the best tools available. Especially promising is what some members of CPA are pointing out in research papers. An especially interesting issue is that much of the Church’s ethics and moral theology are built on what’s called “natural law,” that is, unchanging moral principles. However, when used as only a logical argument is made in favor of natural law not everyone is convinced. However, natural law is in many ways a compilation of observed experience about human behavior. The human sciences measure human behavior and for those who look, those measurements over and over support many of the moral theology positions of the Church.
Making those connections often puts the Catholic therapist in conflict with the culture of the day. It seems to me that the popular press over and over defines the ideals of the family based on the latest sociological survey data. However, as pope Benedict 16th put it, thinking about the family “…is a task that cannot be undertaken by the social sciences alone, insofar as the contribution of disciplines such as metaphysics and theology is needed if man’s transcendent dignity is to be properly understood” (Charity in Truth, #53).
So, suppose we were to start not only with human behavioral and sociological data on the family but rather start with a theological view of the family. What might we then propose about the family? That will be the ongoing focus of these articles. I hope you will find them helpful in living your family life and supportive of your faith.
Deacon Ray Biersbach