Catholic Theology


A Deeper Reality Revealed Through Catholicism

by Brent Withers


StPeterChristmas2018While almost everything written about psychopaths (with the exception of the writings by Kevin Dutton and James Fallon) informs us that we are evil, this gem goes even further, subjecting our condition to deep theological analysis. As the title promises, this theological analysis is that of Catholicism. Unlike Calvinism, Catholicism teaches that “God does not predestine anyone to the eternal loss of their soul.” Everyone has the possibility of salvation, even the psychopath. However, “[t]he real, and only cure for the psychopath is a repentant heart.” But I’m under the impression that everyone has to have a repentent heart to get into heaven. “For all have sinned. All have come short of the glory of God.” That’s a Biblical quote popular with Protestants and probably also Catholics. That’s why the last sacrament offered by the Catholic church is Extreme Unction, performed at the Catholic’s deathbed.

scansThe article begins with a pretty correct description of psychopathy as agreed by modern scientists. Brain scans show differences in our brains that distinguish us from the “normal.” This brings Mr. Withers to his first problem. “However, by emphasizing the biological basis for psychopathy, you implicitly negate the capacity of the human will to exercise free choice.” Like the good Catholic that he is, Withers insists on free will. I agree with him about this. The links below with my thoughts on free will and moral responsibility explain how I got to that conclusion. But I differ radically from Withers on some of the deeper implications. My position is that psychopathy gives me greater freedom to choose my actions. Without a pesky conscience to tell me what I should and shouldn’t do, I am, in Nietzsche’s words, “beyond good and evil.” I have, in the words of Camus, “the sublime indifference of the universe.” Furthermore, it is in my self-interest to be considered responsible for my deeds. A responsible criminal has civil rights. A person who cannot be found responsible is treated like a mental patient (or is one) and doesn’t even have the right to be treated like an adult.

inhumanpsychopathAccording to Withers, the very state of being a psychopath is a choice, and a sinful one, at that. “What sets the psychopath aside is that their behavior is contrary to our human nature. The perverted will, which seeks inordinate evil, makes a series of deliberate choices that leads to the distorted world view of the psychopath, where people become objects, and where their interior life becomes completely disfigured. I hope to show the reader that, ultimately, what makes a psychopath is both—the rejection of actual grace and the love of evil.” It would seem the psychopath has our own kind of “original sin.” Kind of what the Bible says about the “unpardonable sin,” the “rejection of the holy spirit.”

noregretsWithers’ statement separates him from most scientific thinking on the subject with is a kind of biological determinism. Most believe that psychopaths are born, not made. We don’t really have the choice to be psychopaths. As psychopaths, sure, we can choose our actions as freely as anyone else. But we don’t get to choose whether or not to be psychopaths. Now, a difficulty of science is the dogma that children cannot be called psychopaths. The brain is still developing and, only when we have reached adulthood, can we truly be diagnosed as psychopaths. If that’s true, we do develop into psychopaths in the course of our lives which would allow for a decision to be made as Withers believes. On the other hand, so many psychopaths acted like psychopaths from earliest childhood that some psychologists want to reject that dogma. Still, on Withers’ side is the belief that the brain is as much the creation of our thoughts and attitudes as our thoughts and attitudes are the creation of our brains. It would be a good idea to give brain scans to children, especially those called callous unemotional, to see if their brains are psychopathic already.

bornnotmadeEven psychologists who speak of the person’s thoughts, etc., affecting the brain still speak like determinists. Either it is nature or nurture that makes us psychopathic. Kevin Dutton speaks of epigenetics. Both nature and nurture play a role. They are interactive. Even he doesn’t mention free will. Everything in science has to have a cause which is not free will. I believe my will is free. It’s an every day experience that I make choices. In that way, I am like God. My will is a causeless cause. When the Bible says God created us in his image, isn’t free will what is really meant?

There is no God where I am

atheismI will state here and now that I don’t believe in “god.” Sure, there is the problem of where everything came from. But calling this unknown “god,” begs the question. By naming the unknown “god,” we are conning ourselves that we know more about the unknown than we do. When religious folks challenge me by saying, “If God doesn’t exist, who created us?” I reply, “Who created god? Where did god come from?” The real question here is that of infinity. Our finite minds can’t really grasp infinity. Yet infinity is real. Any time we try to think of a finite universe, our minds automatically picture a border. Where there is a border, there logically has to be something beyond it. And, then, what is beyond that? Infinity confounds our brains and makes us realize how limited our understanding really is. No wonder man created god.

hellI did try Catholicism on for size. I have a Catholic baptism and I practiced the religion for maybe a year. I let it go during an acid trip when the whole absurdity of it became inescapable. I walked away from Catholicism with no regrets and no backwards glances. I find all religion absurd for many reasons. The absence of evidence for it is a really good reason to reject it. Another really good reason is the contradiction between the two propositions:

God is Love. God loves us.

If we don’t worship God, He will send us to Hell where we will be tortured for all eternity.

I don’t think I need to belabor the point any further. The truth of this is obvious.

What is Evil?

evilreganSomething that is omnipresent in Withers’ article is the mention of “evil.” I have always been fascinated by the idea of evil. I admit it. You can chalk one for your team, Mr. Withers. But have you, Dear Reader, ever tried to define evil. Catholics like Withers believe that God is the good and all that willfully departs from God is evil. But I reject all revealed “truth” as I reject belief in god. So I have been hard-put to define evil. Once I belonged to a forum for Setians (members of the Temple of Set, i.e. Satanists) and non-Setians. I asked members of the forum to define “evil.” The answer that I found most satisfactory came from one of the nons. He defined evil as anything that so contradicted our sense of what was or should be in the universe that it outraged our sensibilities. That makes “evil” a completely subjective concept. I think that’s right. So each of us knows what is “evil” to hirself. Withers believes in God and the Devil. God is the Good and loves us. The luciferDevil is the enemy of all that is good and natural. We psychopaths made a decision to side with the Devil and, therefore, became psychopaths. Our sin caused spiritual wounds that are highly repulsive. “The human soul is spiritual and, therefore, invisible. The question remains: How does the ugliness of an invisible and spiritual soul explain how the brainwhich is physical and visible when scanned—show abnormality in structure and function? …. It is a possibility, that if we live a life which is entrenched in mortal or deadly sin, this will flow into the physical bodily domain. This is because of the profound unity that exists between the body and soul.”

alinskyWe psychopaths surely look a bad lot when examined in terms of Catholic theology. We don’t have empathy for other people. We treat them as objects. Catholics believe in love. One can almost forget about the Holy Inquisition during which people were burned at the stake. One can almost forget the way the Church covered up pedophile attacks on altar boys. I wonder what the souls of those who did those things looks like. The Church has improved since the Inquisition but Catholics are still burning witches, it seems.

I want to give Saul Alinsky, famed radical, hated by the conservative establishment, the last word for his irreverence and sense of humor. His dedication to Lucifer in his Rules for Radicals:

Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins-or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom-Lucifer.

No. He was not a psychopath. He was far too social for that. He sought to unite the have-nots to gain collective power.



“Disordered Characters”

'I'm quite full of myself. I don't want you to tinker with that.'Psychiatry and Psychology are considered to be among the healing arts and, as such, the patients, those who are the professional concern of practitioners of those two fields, are supposed to be the objects of their caring. But they don’t always feel an inclination to care for everyone. Case in Point: Many of these professionals have long had a problem understanding how to deal with the folks they call psychopaths. Too often, we are seen as the bad guys and don’t always seem to fit the mold of psychiatric patients. Hervey Cleckley was one of the first to define us in a way 'I let my conscience be my guide, and it turned out to be a sociopath.'that modern man understands with his book The Mask of Sanity. He was nonplussed by the way his psychopathic patients seemed … well … normal. He made a checklist of  psychopathic traits which Robert Hare followed with an updated checklist that is used today. Both Cleckley and Hare found us rather baffling. Cleckley was confounded by people who came under his care as patients in whom he could find “no nervous or mental illness” but whose behavior was problematic enough for him to label psychopathic. Hare studied psychopaths in Canadian prisons and found himself victim of con jobs by these very people.

Much of the discussion about psychopaths is centered on advocacy not of the psychopaths but of our “victims.” That must create some cognitive dissonance for professionals who seem more concerned for people around us than of us, whom they have defined as the sickies. That dissonance is enhanced by the fact that most psychopaths don’t see ourselves as sick or having a problem. Yet, in a world where medicine has replaced morality, they can’t call us evil. Or can they?

Some psychologists/psychiatrists do exactly that. M. Scott Peck, M.D. wrote a book bethsuccess1called People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil. Martha Stout wrote The Sociopath Next Door, a book that makes no pretentions of concern for the sociopath but only our “victims.” A child named Beth Thomas has been much documented on the internet as a “child of rage.” This girl wanted to kill her entire family and tried to do it. A psychologist called Connell Watkins took over Beth’s life and applied a technique called Reparenting. Watkins had already killed a patient with an even more radical technique called Rebirthing (see Tough Love Success). Beth was treated with Reparenting and pronounced cured. The picture of the adult Beth raises a red flag for me. The woman’s face looks anxious, not healthy.

George K. Simon Jr., Ph.D. has his own take on psychopathy and what he calls character disorders. His book, Character Disturbance, hardly mentions the word psychopathy at all but describes people with a “character disorder” in a way that makes it clear that’s what he’s talking about. The use of the term, character disorder, raises a red flag as a departure from personality disorder. By calling it character disorder, Simon is injecting a moral judgement that has long been considered anathema for psychologists. He is quite upfront in saying that the old method of psychoanalysis doesn’t apply to people with character disorders. Psychoanalysis is suitable for people suffering from neurosis, a condition more prevalent in Freud’s time. Neurosis and character disorders are on opposite sides of a spectrum, he says. The only alternative to neurosis and character spectrumdisorder is something called “self-actualization altruism.” Those who are “self-actualized” are very rare, perhaps don’t even exist. So most people are either neurotic or “character disturbed” to varying degrees. He even admits to having some character flaws of his own.

cbtSimon calls his method of treating people with character disorders cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT). Neurotics are treated by helping them gain insights. “Disordered character” as he calls us, already know why we behave as we do and, instead of insight, need confrontation of our conscious efforts to manipulate. If neurotics are suffering from an over-abundance of conscience, we have an under-abundance of same. Psychopaths, of course, have no conscience at all. Simon advises therapists not to concern themselves with out feelings. It is our behavior that has to be curbed. And our thinking needs to be corrected.  He admits, “almost every therapist I know has at least a mild aversion to behavior therapy. Most seem to regard it as ‘cold’ and mechanical.” Surely, most psychopaths have no desire to change. It’s a wonder he has patients who aren’t compelled to be there by court order. But many “character disorders” are mild, falling short of psychopathy. Remember, it’s on a spectrum. I guess confrontation works on them. Simon sees them as not having developed character, something they can do with his therapy.

the-good-psychopaths-guide-to-success-paperback.pngThere is another approach to treating psychopaths, especially those in prison. It doesn’t attempt to dismantle the psychopathy. It is a pragmatic realization that more pro-social behavior can bring about better rewards. We are very reward-driven, after all. Why not use that. Society bases a lot of its structure on reward and punishment to get people to support it.

Since everyone who isn’t “self-actualized” is somewhere on the spectrum of neurosis-character disorder, we are all either pathetic or bad. Short of becoming self-actualized, we must always be moving up and down the spectrum, picking our poison. Even the therapist is on the spectrum. Hmmm…………………..