Training People to Become Neurotics

 If the Church is so miserably unable to suppress nature's sex drive in the clergy in spite of vows, monastery walls, "spiritual reading," annual retreats and the distinctive robes that make the priest particularly conspicuous, then it might be expected that its control of the laity would be even less successful.  This is borne out in fact.

Sexually speaking, the Catholic laity seems to fall into three categories.  The first consists of those who make their own adjustment to the Church's sex teachings.  Their urges may be weak in some instances.  Others are rich and can afford many children, or are sterile and birth control does not affect them, so that they remain apparently normal and sexually balanced.

The second group consists of the many who find the Church rules impossible to observe and disregard them, either by the practice of birth control as part of the marital life, or by sexual expression outside of the institution of marriage.

 The third group consists of those who take the Church laws very seriously.  They become introverts, develop a variety of neurotic disorders, and may land in a sanatorium or an insane asylum.

How many normal, happy, Church-going law-abiding Catholics there are in the country no one, including the hierarchy, knows.  I have shown in my previous book, American Culture and Catholic Schools , that the overall number of the faithful claimed is grossly exaggerated -probably by as much as 20,000,000.' The American Ecclesiastical Review admits to 15,000,000 "fallen away" Catholics in the United States alone.

The Catholic who attends Mass every Sunday and confesses frequently can usually be presumed to be observing the Churches moral code, especially concerning sex.  That is why this group is composed in greater part by youngsters who have not yet faced the serious problem of sex and the older folks whose days of greatest sexual vigor are passed.  The older people are no longer irritated by the harshness of the Church codes.  They see only the sweetness of the Church, its offer to them of gilt-edged, guaranteed salvation in the next world, so that they relax in the security of the beautiful ritual of the Mass, the social activities of beer parties and bazaars, and the excitement of bingo games, while they wait for heaven.

There is a percentage, too, of adjusted Catholics among the younger married group.  It comprises those to whom nature has made birth control unnecessary, and those whose financial and physical conditions are such that an uncontrolled succession of children is desirable.

It would be absurd to claim that non-Catholics do not indulge in violations of commonly accepted sexual standards.  Every statistical report and the experience of every rabbi and minister will show that they do.  But the Roman Catholic Church insists that it is better than any other religion, that it is the only divinely sponsored and established church, that it alone is holy and that its moral code governing sexual practice is stricter than any other.

This very strictness, however, is the cause of the moral collapse of many Catholics.

Before reaching puberty, the Catholic child has been saturated with the concept that sexual thoughts, words, looks and actions are mortal sins.  They are nasty and filthy.  But the driving force of human nature is more powerful than the counter-force of theology.  Inevitably, adolescence asserts itself.  Sex, suppressed and condemned, blossoms forth.  The startled Catholic youth finds that hell does not engulf him, the lightning bolts of God's wrath do not strike him.  The great barrier to sin has collapsed.

The confused concept of thought being sinful frequently causes a reaction that leads to forbidden actions.  In discussing the Catholic school system with a parochial school graduate, a nurse from Chicago , I asked her if she could remember the constant drilling about "bad thoughts" and the "nastiness" of such thoughts and actions.  "Yes," she answered, "when I was in high school they kept telling us that it was a mortal sin to think about fornication.  We girls used to tell each other that we could not help thinking about it-so we had already sinned-so we might as well go ahead and do it-and we did."

This reasoning may explain some of the findings of Dr. Kinsey and his colleagues as reported in Sexual Behavior in the Human Female.1 In spite of confession, catechism and the fulmination’s of priests and nuns, they indulge in all types of forbidden sexual activities as frequently and as freely as their non-Catholic sisters.

Kinsey's figures on adultery among Catholic women bear out my own observation that when the taboos are defied, the guards are down and all restraints are weakened.  His study shows that in the age group of twenty-one to twenty-five adultery is more than twice as common among Catholic women as it is among Protestants or Jews.3

When I was first making this study some years ago, I wrote to Dr. Kinsey about the above statements and told him what I had found in my surveys of prisons and insane asylums.  He replied that he would be anxious to collaborate with me in the study of the relationship between sexual behavior and religion.  Unfortunately he died before this could be done, and although his work is being continued by his colleagues, no such study has been undertaken.

One of the doctors on the staff of our hospital tells the story of his Jesuit fraternity's Christmas party.  Prostitutes, hired for the convenience and solace of the boys, were ensconced on the third floor of the building.  They robbed the inebriated boys so flagrantly that the officers of the fraternity took the money from the girls and allowed them only two dollars per head.

Activity of such character has undoubtedly occurred in hundreds of fraternity houses, and repetition here of the story may seem an unreasonable criticism of a Catholic school.  But the significant aspect of this incident is that the party was stopped so that all students could go to Christmas Mass.  After Mass the party, with all of the original trimmings, was resumed.

Even Catholics state that traveling salesmen are in general the least inhibited of their coreligionists.  I knew one who tried to be the inland counterpart for the proverbial sailor with a girl in every port.  The salesman had a wife and several children.  On one of his visits to our hospital I asked, `How’s your variegated romantic life?" 'Oh, you know me," he smiled, "I'm an Irish Catholic -my morals are very flexible."

just a few years ago the Catholic mayor of an Arizona city justified licensed prostitution because "the profit was used to buy new fire engines."

In my previous book, American Culture and Catholic Schools , I presented the answers to a questionnaire that I had sent to high school teachers in communities that    had Catholic grammar schools but not high schools.  The situation offered an excellent opportunity to compare the results of the constant hammering of the priests and nuns on the mortal sinfulness of sexual thoughts with the behavior of public school children, brought up in the more balanced atmosphere of Protestant and Jewish homes.

The question asked the teachers was.  "Are your problems of sexual offenders greater among the graduates of public or Catholic schools?"

The answers: Public schools: 9% Catholic parochial schools: 91%

This disparity between the parochial and public school children may seem unbelievable.  It is understandable, however, if one realizes the abnormality of the Church's emphasis on sex.

 Catholic sexual explosiveness can be even better understood by reading the answers to a questionnaire I sent to psychiatrists.  These were the questions:

   1. Do you have many Roman Catholic patients?

2.       Do you feel that the Catholic clergy dissuades its people from going to psychiatrists?

3.       Do you feel that the Roman Catholic indoctrination regarding sins of thought in matters of sex causes serious conflicts in its members?

 4.   Do you find that the Roman Catholic prohibition of birth control has good or bad mental consequences?

5.   Does the Catholic stand on divorce result in mental illness?

6.   (a) Do you find disturbances due to sex "guilt" to be proportionately prevalent in Catholic or non-Catholic patients?

(b)   By what approximate percentage?

7.   Among Catholic patients do you find conflicts due to sexual maladjustments to be more prevalent among Catholics who have attended parochial schools or those who have attended public schools?

 8.   Do you think that among Roman Catholics the reaction to or against a strict sexual code can or does result in proportionately greater juvenile delinquency in the fields of burglary, assault, etc.?

 9.   Have you ever had patients with the "Madonna" complex, i.e., whose indoctrination in the sanctity of Mary as the "Mother of God7 has rendered them impotent in relationship toward their own wives when they have once become mothers?

 10. Have you ever had Catholic male patients with the "Virgin Mary" complex, i.e., whose sexual experiences have been confined to "street walkers" and then when marrying a 'good Catholic girl" find themselves impotent because of their subconscious identification of that girl with the "Virgin Mary'?                                                     

 The questionnaire was sent to several psychiatrists in every large city in the country.  It was also sent to every member listed in the roster of the American Psychiatric Association, who had an Irish name, and to most of those with Italian names.  The purpose of this selection was to try to reach the Catholic psychiatrists so that they might object as strenuously as they wished.  Some did object, sending their protests not only to me but to the American Psychiatric Association.  They stated that I was prejudiced, unscientific and particularly that I was not a doctor and therefore incapable of studying a problem in psychiatry or psychology.

Apparently I was an uninitiate encroaching on the priesthood of medicine and attempting to poach in the very holy of holies of all medicine-psychiatry.  A Phoenix psychiatrist told me that the Association had sent a notice to A members not to answer my questionnaire.  But the warning went out too late.  I had already received enough answers to show the feelings of America 's doctors of the mind.

The large number of Catholic psychiatrists answering is evident from the fact that fifty per cent of the respondents said that the Catholic clergy do not dissuade their people from going to psychiatrists.  Others gave me pietistic lectures on the value of the rosary, the therapeutic cleansing power of the confessional, and pointed out my own need of both prayer and treatment for having left the priesthood.

The number of Catholics makes the answers even more significant.  Eighty-six per cent answered the third question in the affirmative.  They believe that the Catholic teaching on sexual thought does cause serious conflicts in its members.  Ninety-one per cent stated that the prohibition on birth control has bad mental consequences.

Many doctors objected to the wording of the fifth question (whether the Catholic stand on divorce "resulted" in mental illness); but sixty-nine per cent agreed that it  “aggravated" mental ills.

Seventy-five per cent of the psychiatrists responding found that disturbances due to "sex guilt" were more prevalent in Catholic patients-some said by fifty per cent, some by seventy per cent, some by ninety per cent, and even by two hundred per cent.

Sexual maladjustment’s are more prevalent among Catholics who have attended parochial schools, according to ninety-four per cent of the doctors.

In answer to the eighth question, sixty-two per cent believe that Catholic emphasis on sex does result in greater juvenile delinquency in the fields of burglary and assault.

Few of the psychiatrists had had experience with the "Virgin Mary" and "Madonna" complex.  Several of those who had observed it explained it as a disturbance in the patient's mother-not the "Mother of God."

From Sacramento , California :  

I do find that parochial schools accentuate and bring to the fore the sexual problem more than they should.... There is no question that there is a greater proportion of delinquency among young Catholic boys but I cannot assign a reason to it specifically....

In the overall picture, I can agree with the propositions

which seem to underlie your questions, but I am particularly

in agreement with your statement that Catholicism emphasizes the sinfulness of sex.  I think that the authoritarian positon of this emphasis is chiefly at fault.  The black and white nature of sexual rules causes trouble among people whose personalities are not set, i.e., emotional individuals.

 A psychiatrist in Trenton , New Jersey , writes that without any doubt, Roman Catholic indoctrination regarding sins of thought in matters of sex causes serious conflicts in its members," and adds, "I have been in this work for forty-two years."

 From a lady psychiatrist in Chicago .

 My main objection to Catholicism as a religion is that its stand against birth control interferes with the broadest program of preventative mental health-the discouragement of pregnancy in the feeble-minded, the psychotic and the socially irresponsible.

 From a research professor of Brisbane , Australia :

 I am somewhat puzzled as to why you have omitted the commonest cause of conflict production in relation to Roman Catholicism.  I refer to the Catholic attitude toward mixed marriages.  There is no doubt that the insistence on the children of mixed marriages becoming Catholic and the pressure put on the non-Catholic partner to change religion are productive of much emotional conflict with serious repercussions.

 From Oakland , California , a very interesting reply:  

In answer to question 10 regarding the Virgin Mary complex, I have had men patients unintentionally marry frigid women in their quest for one like the Virgin Mary-much to their disappointment.

From Vinita , Oklahoma :

 The matter of divorce seems to be the main matter of concern.  I have Catholic patients who have continuous platonic affairs though they are separated from their marital mates, but cannot seek a divorce because of their religious teachings.

 And from a woman doctor in Los Angeles :

 I could fill a book as long as your biography about pitiful Catholic deathbed scenes, and the endless woe of women with multiple children, poor jobs, no money-dreading the ever-threatening pregnancy, yet daring not accept my fine modern Christian contraceptives.

 From New York State :

 I was brought up as a Roman Catholic.  I received my medical education in southern Europe .  It is commonly known among Catholic European doctors that very, very many 'good" Catholics, because of the Church's prohibition of birth control, indulge in abnormal or perverted forms of sexual relationship so that they will not have children.  I can also remember one particular night while I was an intern in a Sisters' hospital in Italy .  As the night house doctor, I was checking the hospital when I met the lone nun on duty on the second floor.  She was wearing rouge and lipstick and her finger sparkled with several rings she borrowed from patients.  We discussed the conditions of her patients and I started down a darkened corridor.  She followed, grabbed me by the arm and asked me to kiss her.  She was a pretty nun, and I a sex-hungry healthy male.  We went into the operating suite and Nature took its usual course.

 From Dallas , Texas :

 It seems to me that it is not so much a question of whether one is Roman Catholic or not, but rather it depends on whether the Roman Church is rigid and moralistic in that particular part of the country or that particular social group, because it does vary tremendously.

in our area the Roman Church is not the rigid, puritanical, moralistic church that it is in a Polish community or certain inbred Irish communities.  Here it is the Church of Christ that represents this kind of religion, and the incidence of mental illness among its followers is certainly greater than the population as a whole.

As to the third question on your questionnaire, certainly the overemphasis of sex as sin almost to the exclusion of more important ones is a perversion of the Catholic faith which Roman Catholics are perhaps more likely to fall into than Presbyterians or Episcopalians.  However, some of the fundamentalist religions or pietistic ones in our area act as though sex is the only sin, thus instilling more serious conflicts than even the Romanists can do.

 An ex-Catholic psychiatrist wrote from Iowa :

 My experience in answer to question 8 (the reaction to the sex guilt indoctrination" resulting in more burglary and assault) is that the Catholic parochial schools definitely produce what might be called a "pool hall culture." We were taught in Jesuit schools that sex was wrong, sinful and nasty.  We were told never to touch the filthy body of a woman.  We were trained not to think of love and sex together.  Love was taught to be a virtue pertaining to God, the saints and one's parents.  Sex was merely a nasty pleasure.  We must be tough and masculine.  Roughing it up in sports, especially against a non-Catholic team, was the sign of a man.

I can remember, too, another thing from grammar school days with the nuns.  I was big for my age.  The sister used to keep me and another oversized boy after school to help her arrange the books, beat the erasers and empty the wastebaskets.  Nothing wrong ever occurred, but sister seemed awfully slow about cleaning the classroom and chasing us home so she could go back to the convent.  From the hindsight of a psychiatrist, her delay is quite understandable.

 A Catholic medical specialist in Phoenix , not a psychiatrist, heard of my questionnaire.  He came to my office and volunteered Ms opinion.  The parochial school (he had been through it) accentuated sexual conflicts. it kept sex in the minds of children and promoted masturbation among adolescents.  It made moral sneaks of them and wrenched their souls with the conflict of guilt.  His only justification of Catholicism was that he claimed that all religions have the same beliefs, the same concepts of sex and therefore the same conflicts.  I-le stated that some Protestant denominations caused more conflicts by their additional condemnation of card playing, drinking and dancing.

The following case of mental strain caused by the Catholic Churches rigidity on sex bears out the feelings of the psychiatrists.  B. was a beautiful sensitive girl who took very seriously the teachings of the nuns and priests.  She had attended only parochial schools.  Men were filthy, and all sexual contact with them must be avoided.  For years she heard that she must not consent to thoughts, words or actions on any aspect of sex.  She became an actress, and developed severe problems of separation of sexuality and love.

 It's true that I could not enjoy "poontang" unless I were literally overpowered-(like the gag: I'm not doing anything wrong: he's doing it to me .... ). But the really choice part is that this same wonderful response I would then experience (after finally losing the struggle) was reserved for pre-marital, pre-engagement dealings!

The sex experience was superb with 'Tarzan" until a year later when I knew I had fallen in love with him and that we would one day be married.  Immediately the magic charm was dispelled.  Once I admitted being serious, once I knew he would be my husband, nothing could move me, though my lover was still the same 'Tarzan."

We went steady for one year before getting married, with no improvement.  During the first four years of our marriage, the situation gradually became worse until it was unbearable.

After a couple of months with my psychiatrist, my fear of repeated failure was replaced with a calm sureness of ultimate success.  Eight months under Ms wing (three visits a week), and I was sufficiently improved to be on my own though not completely cured.  That day did not occur until one year later. (I had set a very high goal for myself).

Sex had been represented to me as something so ugly and sinful (solely by the Church-my parents never discussed it with me at all) that my unconscious would not permit me to enjoy it.  I succeeded only so long as I fought valiantly.  Very few men would have bad the stamina to keep trying was such a tigress! When I gave myself willingly I had to be punished!

Also, sex being so 'vulgar" (unconsciously) of course it could play no part with a man fine enough to be my husband.  Marriage was too 'dignified" for such low behavior.

The first small successes we bad during the process of my gradual cure were only when completely plastered.  Then my poor, long-suffering husband would wait in vain the entire next day for me to mention it.  Imagine his dismay, as he coyly congratulated me, when I didn't know what he was talking aboutl The memory of it had been totally blacked out! (I've been loaded many times since, but I can always remember the events of the night before.)

Another of our infrequent but happy previews of the future occurred at a motel in Laguna in front of a fireplace after an evening of martinis, wine and brandy while I pretended we were on an illegal secret love-tryst.  The moment we returned home, I was the 'respectable" wife again.

The obvious evidence shows that my Catholic rearing permitted me to indulge in very rewarding sex experiences before marriage but not after even though with the same man.