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When Pope Paul VI presciently proclaimed that the smoke of Satan had entered the Church, little did most Catholics realize that the perfidious effect of embers smoldering for four decades would eventually explode with such an incendiary force. Once humanistic psychology and philosophy began to incrementally infiltrate our Catholic institutions of learning, Magisterial teaching essentially became sabotaged and ultimately replaced by ideologies in complete contradistinction to Church doctrine. The infiltration of secular humanism into Catholic education at all levels has become increasingly common since Vatican II because so many of the Second Vatican's teachings have been misconstrued, misinterpreted, and misrepresented by those who would like to deconstruct and reconstruct Church teaching. After decades of allowing this sinful syncretism to perpetuate, the deleterious and reprehensible effects are finally starting to become acknowledged, recognized, and addressed by the shepherds of the Catholic Church in America.
This integration of secularism with Catholicism is exemplified by the harmful influences exerted by two well-known psychologists, Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, who initially gained particular prominence within certain Catholic circles during the sixties. According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, self-actualization is of paramount importance for an individual's sense of fulfillment. Among certain sectors of the purportedly Catholic academia, this type of ideology has often assumed more significance, acceptance, and credibility than Christ's Sermon on the Mount. The teachings of Christ focus on self-denial as one of the primary means of reaching one's ultimate destiny, which is eternal salvation. Roger's nondirective therapy emphasizes self-empowerment by encouraging individuals to center exclusively on their own inner desires, which often means rebelling against any type of authority figure, frequently resulting in a genuine disobedience to all legitimate forms of authority. Of course, with respect to the Catholic Church, authority refers to papal primacy and Magisterial teaching.
It is interesting to note that both Maslow and Rogers repudiated their former teachings in the latter stages of their lives and distanced themselves from educational programs based on their theories and practices. Yet, these ideologies often continue to subtly pervade the classrooms of Catholic institutions at all educational levels, even including certain seminaries. William Coulson, a former associate of Carl Rogers, also now refers to himself as a repentant psychologist who has reformed his ways of thinking and continues to inform others about the dangers of secular humanist psychology. After initiating Rogerian nondirective therapy sessions with groups of nuns in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Order back in the late sixties, Coulson, a Catholic, witnessed the literal obliteration of the order within a year. Other orders of priests and nuns became infected with the same ideologies, and a mass exodus instantaneously ensued.
It is also interesting to observe the rebellious reactions of certain dissident bishops during the past decade as the Holy Father, John Paul II, asserts a very logical and reasonable principle in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, simply stating that authentic Catholic teaching should prevail in all Catholic colleges and universities. Meanwhile, thousands of young people are endangering the spiritual health of their souls by attending schools with Catholic names that promote anti-Catholic teachings. It is apparent that some so-called Catholic school administrators show more regard for political correctness than they do for truth in advertising laws.
It is therefore self-evident that the root of the problem concerning the immoral conduct among clergy members is not due to patriarchal oppression, celibacy, or rigid Church teaching, despite the mantra repeatedly spewed forth by the secular media. In fact, this scandalous behavior results from an acceptance of moral relativism and outright rejection of Catholic teaching within institutions that still outwardly claim to be Catholic. Learning to excuse and rationalize one's behavior in the interest of indulging one's own carnal desires requires that one also reject a healthy notion of guilt, shame, sin, and concupiscence. According to Michael Rose's new book, Goodbye! Good Men, this is exactly what has been happening in certain seminaries for the past few decades. Rose maintains that our vocations crisis has been artificially contrived by those who would like to change the very infrastructure of the Church by replacing it with some type of self-indulgent community that would primarily idolize itself.
With ample and substantive documentation, Rose chronicles how seminarians who are prayerful and loyal to the Magisterium have been considered “too rigid” in seminaries where heterodoxy prevails. Often, many of these potential candidates for the priesthood have been systematically subjected to psychological manipulation and sexual harassment, eventually being rejected as unworthy for consideration. Meanwhile, in far too many instances, those who have questioned or rejected the moral teaching of the Church have been retained and ultimately ordained as priests. Rose also strongly asserts that there are still some wonderful seminaries that provide a truly Catholic education to those who seek a holy life of service to God and others. Interestingly, the dioceses in which these seminaries are located traditionally have no shortage of vocations to the priesthood.
Now, we must remember that we are referring to far less than 1% of priests who have been involved in the scandalous conduct that has been recently reported. Nonetheless, we expect priests to be exceptional models of moral rectitude and even one occurrence of serious misconduct is unacceptable. We must truly pray for all priests and for all the victims of these horrific circumstances. Furthermore, we must pray for a restoration of authentic, orthodox teaching in our Catholic schools, parishes, seminaries, colleges, universities, and dioceses through our nation and world. Most importantly, we need to ask for God's mercy. Finally, we must remember that we have God's promise that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church. Since it is divinely ordained, it is the only institution in the world that has survived for two thousand years. During those two thousand years, it has coped with every type of heresy and apostasy imaginable; with the help of the Lord, it will survive this crisis, too, and eventually emerge as a more unified, Spirit-filled Church.
-- by Anne Marie McDonnell, Ph. D.
Copyright 2002 by Anne Marie McDonnell, Ph. D.