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Psychology and American Catholicism after Vatican II: Currents, Cross-Currents and Confluences C. Kevin Gillespie, S.J.* A merican Catholic culture has gone through significant transitions in the decades since the Second Vatican Council. The changes have often been described and analyzed ecclesiologically, sociologically and even politically .1 It can be difficult and indeed somewhat presumptuous, however, to describe the changes within and among the various psychological forces within the American Catholic world. Still, some transformations and putative patterns can be observed by examination of some of the individuals, institutions and issues involved between the culture of psychology and the culture of American Catholicism. The Catholic Church in the United States, with its 205 dioceses and 236 higher educational institutions, is not an institutional monolith.2 It seems better to speak of its possessing an interlocking system of shared symbols and structures. These, in turn, form a matrix of meanings for American Catholics, with a fair amount of differences. Consequently, just as one would hesitate to suggest that American Catholics speak with one voice, either sociologically or politically, one would be wise to refrain from stating that there exists a distinct American Catholic psychological voice. Some individuals , institutions and issues, nevertheless, reveal a psychological matrix of meanings . This essay, therefore, seeks to provide an overview of American Catholicism’s psychological matrix since the Second Vatican Council. Historical Overview of Relations Prior to the Council Since psychology’s professional inception at the end of the nineteenth century, Roman Catholicism and professional psychology have had a complex and at times con117 *Special thanks are owed to Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., who assisted in the editing of this essay. 1. Peter Steinfels, A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003). 2. flicted history. As the “new psychology” of experimentalism emerged from Western Europe and then traveled to the United States in the 1890s it tended to separate itself from both philosophy and theology, especially from the Catholic synthesis that had, since the time of Thomas Aquinas, united these and other fields of knowledge. The “new psychology ” was followed shortly by the psychoanalytical psychology of Sigmund Freud at the turn of the century. Due to Freud’s atheism and philosophical determinism, there developed a great deal of animosity between psychology and religion, especially between psychoanalysis and Roman Catholicism. In response to these developments, as Gillespie3 (2001) and Kugelman4 (2005) have shown, early Catholic psychologists such as Edward Pace (1861-1938) and Thomas Verner Moore (1877-1969) at The Catholic University of America attempted to develop a Neo-Scholastic psychology that would be both a clinical and empirical psychology that still had room for the soul. As the twentieth century progressed there emerged a growing number of Catholic mental health clinicians such as Sr. Annette Walters (1911-1978), Dr. Francis Braceland (1900-1985) and Dr. Leo Bartemeier (1895-1982) who became recognized leaders in the fields of psychology, psychiatry and psychoanalysis, respectively. As they and other Catholic mental health clinicians became influential the hostility between psychology and Catholicism gradually abated. Besides The Catholic University of America, institutions such as St. Louis University, Fordham University and Loyola University of Chicago developed reputable psychology programs approved by the American Psychological Association. These, in turn, produced clinicians, educators and experimentalists for psychology’s emerging fields who had trained in Catholic settings. The founding of the American Catholic Psychological Association (ACPA) in 1947 led by Rev. William Bier, S.J. (1911-1980) served as an important instrument to “bring psychology to Catholics and Catholicism to psychology.”5 The latter objective became especially realized by the St. John’s Summer Institute. Held at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, from 1954 to 1973, the Institute brought together leading psychologists, psychiatrists and even psychoanalysts to teach hundreds of clergy and religious alike the principles and findings of the clinical world. Pope Pius XII addressed the participants of the 1953 International Congress of Psychotherapy: Be assured that the Church follows your research and your medical practice with her warm interest and her best wishes. You labor in a terrain that is very difficult. But...


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