• ashleydrivard

Father Brian Reedy: Sexual abuse inside the Catholic Church, Ep 3 Transcribed

This transcript was exported on Jan 08, 2021 - listen to the podcast here


Father Brian Reedy:

It was, we were emerging from a time of very high sexual repression. So right before the sexual revolution, we were a very puritanical culture. And you just didn't talk about issues of sexuality, even we used repression to deal with it.


Ashley Rivard:

Hey guys, I'm Ashley Dawn Revard. And you are now into the Dawn, a provocative podcast that looks at all things taboo, such as suicide, grief, sex, addictions and more. Each week I talk with experts who successfully investigate their areas of interest. And if you like what you hear, please remember to subscribe.


Ashley Rivard:

Today I'm talking with Father Brian Reedy. He's a priest in the Jesuit community and a Chaplain in the U S Navy. We discuss the sexual abuse inside the Catholic church and what is being done to correct that, while exploring guilt and shame and how it relates to religion, as well as diving into his role as a chaplain in the US Navy and how they are working on healing, the epidemic of vets committing suicide. So I just want to dive right in. What was the moment in your life when you knew you wanted to become a priest?


Father Brian Reedy:

Well, it's a good question. It's a really complicated question. I didn't grow up Catholic. So to be a priest wasn't until much later in the story. But it's when I was 10 that I really realized I wanted to do something for God, something in my relationship to God. And then essentially I was at summer camp, I had an experience where I felt like God was calling me to give my life to him in some way. I was 10 so I didn't know what that meant, but I had this strong, persistent feeling and I hid from it for several days, trying to just block it out of my mind, but it would always come back. And then finally, I just in my head said yes, to whatever that was. And I felt a very strong sense of peace and satisfaction with the idea. So I was flooded with peace and joy about this.


Father Brian Reedy:

When you become a Jesuit, you don't become a priest because a Jesuit is a member of a religious order and you could be a priest or not. And then after 12 years, you then are ordained a priest. So the 12 year process is for ordination. So for most of my Jesuit life, I was not a priest, I was not ordained. It's only in 2012 that I was ordained, so it's only for the past seven years that I've been a priest.


Ashley Rivard:

When you're a Jesuit, do you have to take that oath of celibacy as well?


Father Brian Reedy:

Yeah. So to begin the process, you take a vow of poverty testing obedience. So poverty, we don't own anything individually. So I don't own anything.


Ashley Rivard:

You don't own a car?


Father Brian Reedy:

We have cars. So I don't own anything, we own things, so it's communal property. The society of Jesus we pay all of our... I work here at LMU as a professor of ethics and I work in the philosophy department. And then I'm also at a Navy Chaplain as we'll talk about later. But those that pay gets paid in my community, not to me. And then from...


Ashley Rivard:

So you don't even get your own paycheck?


Father Brian Reedy:

No. It's a common pot. We're essentially religious communitarians. So yeah, we share all of our resources [crosstalk 00:03:19].


Ashley Rivard:

How does that feel?


Father Brian Reedy:

It's amazing.


Ashley Rivard:

That feels empowering?


Father Brian Reedy:

All the vows have a very freeing dimension and a limitation and a restriction and you sometimes feel either I don't own anything, but I also don't have any bills.


Ashley Rivard:

Right.


Father Brian Reedy:

So it's nice.


Ashley Rivard:

Yeah. But you feel taken care of?


Father Brian Reedy:

We own things and we have bills. At first, it's very much being taken care of because while you're in formation, the society is meeting your needs. But then as you, as you mature through it, then you become one of the leaders. It's more a family, we're just like a really big family. There's 32 Jesuits here in the community and we share everything together. We have a fleet of cars and when you need one, you sign one out. We do also have an Uber account. So if you need to get around by Uber, we can. But again, that goes to the community and their pay all goes to the community. So the poverty dimension is non ownership, individual ownership, and that we try to live as simply as possible so that with our surplus money, we can do something with it, give it away, give it to charity or in most of our institutions, we give it back to the institution.


Father Brian Reedy:

Historically speaking here at LMU, the Jesuit community is one of the biggest benefactors because we would give our surplus back to the university.


Ashley Rivard:

Oh. So nice.


Father Brian Reedy:

Chastity, meaning simply we can't get married. The simple of it is that we can't get married. So that means also that since we're not looking to get married, that we don't date or anything that. We have to relate to people as chased men. So it changes how you-


Ashley Rivard:

Chased men.


Father Brian Reedy:

Yeah, in chastity, men who are chased. It's a different way of relating to people. It's one that takes a while to learn, but I'm sure we'll probably talk about that some more later. That's the basic of it. One of the things that I found very interesting is that once you make a decision, it's like getting married. Once you make a decision that permanent to be chased a life of celibacy, you start growing and you start relating to people in a different way. There's a lot of freedom in it. At first I would always get nervous around somebody that I found attractive and everything. And then all of a sudden, I didn't because I wasn't nervous anymore because I wasn't looking [crosstalk 00:05:49].


Ashley Rivard:

There's nothing on the table, right? Which does lead to a question I have. Do you feel by taking that oath of celibacy, you're repressing a natural biological desire?


Father Brian Reedy:

Repressing, no. But it is a natural, the desire to reproduce the desire to have sex, the desire for a partner, the desire to have children, those are all very real and very natural desires. So celibate living means that you grow to have a deep understanding self-awareness and that you sublimate or redirect those kinds of energies in a healthy way.


Ashley Rivard:

So have you ever wanted that and then you surpass that when you would work on it, redirecting the energies then you get to a level of where you acknowledge that it's been there, but you don't have that urge?


Father Brian Reedy:

Which urge?


Ashley Rivard:

To have a family, to have sex, to do any of those things.


Father Brian Reedy:

Right. At first, it's a process. Something like being married, at first you make a decision to get married, but then you actually have to emotionally resend to yourself into a relationship where you're actually depending on your spouse and everything. And you stop scanning the horizon for something else. Similarly there's a process involved and at first it's very difficult. For me personally, I was out in the middle of nowhere [inaudible 00:07:24] which is the first two years of formation. We were in a small town in Louisiana, there weren't even any women around hardly except for two old nuns.


Ashley Rivard:

They didn't do much for the eye.


Father Brian Reedy:

No. Sweet women, but they... And then after we take vows, I then moved to New York city and was living in the Bronx and going to a university. And so all of a sudden there were all the possibilities I can imagine, right? At first it's very confusing and disturbing because you haven't learned the new skills yet. You haven't read habituated yourself, you haven't learned how to do celibate loving. It's easy to fall in love or even worse that can happen is that you don't understand that you're responsible for other people's response to you. So people can start falling in love with you and you don't necessarily deal with that the most responsible way. And so it's a process at first and it's Rocky at first.


Ashley Rivard:

How old were you when you took your oath?


Father Brian Reedy:

I was 24.


Ashley Rivard:

Okay. So this is a little personal and you don't have to answer this, but had you had sex prior to that?


Father Brian Reedy:

I had not. No.


Ashley Rivard:

Okay. So you didn't know what you were missing because that could maybe be worst.


Father Brian Reedy:

Yeah. That does for a lot of guys, especially younger Jesuits they are pretty open and honest about all these kinds of things. And so with that guys who have been sexually active before, and the more that you were sexually active before the harder the decision can be, especially at first of course.


Ashley Rivard:

I could imagine.


Father Brian Reedy:

For those that haven't it's just a lot easier. But as time goes on that levels out in a lot of ways, because it really shifts. At first, it's about sex, and then it's about partnership, being somebody's most important person. So being the most important person for somebody out there. Where I will never be the most important person for anybody out there. The thing is that what you learn is that I'm in the top five for a bunch of people, right?


Ashley Rivard:

Right.


Father Brian Reedy:

So it's a trade-off and one that that can be very satisfying. Where I am now, it's more about children. So I see a lot of my friends all have kids. I'm getting old enough that some of my students could be my kids. I frequently had this, I don't want one of those kinds of feeling. That doesn't go away.


Ashley Rivard:

Could you adopt or no?


Father Brian Reedy:

No. Although it's an interesting question, but we could adopt, I guess. Our community could take guardianship.


Ashley Rivard:

Like I have all these dads.


Father Brian Reedy:

Talk about modern family, right? Like I have 32 dads.


Ashley Rivard:

I want to actually segue into a question about religion. I'm very passionate about understanding basically from your view, how religion in the 21st century addresses the larger culture of guilt, shame, fear and taboos and modern society.


Father Brian Reedy:

Okay. One thing is that I'm not the best source for the famous phenomenon of Catholic guilt as it's called, there's a thing called Catholic guilt. And I'm not a good specialist in that because I've never understood it. And in fact, growing up as an evangelical Christian, I had a lot more of a sense of this persistent guilt that I couldn't get rid of. Then I did once I became Catholic because with the dynamics of examination, in which you can examine your conscience and then you go to confession and you have an experience of reconciliation and forgiveness. I actually found that it was a lot easier for me to overcome feelings of shame and guilt as a Catholic. But I don't know why that's not everyone's experience, but it's not. So I don't know why there's such a thing that's called Catholic guilt, but I don't understand it.


Father Brian Reedy:

So you have to talk to somebody else about it because I don't understand the dynamic at all. I find that the psychological health of being able to examine yourself and find things that you're not happy about and then to actually relieve that sense of tension by going in and talking to somebody about it, as deeply as you want to with complete 100% confidentiality and then hear them pronounce over you god's love and forgiveness, very potently powerful.


Ashley Rivard:

Powerful.


Father Brian Reedy:

Yeah. Powerful.


Ashley Rivard:

Which leads me to asking you about this confession thing that again, as you know, I'm not privy to the Catholicism but speaking with people I know who are Catholic as well. Tell me if this is wrong, any of these facts, but somebody I was speaking with specifically, she was saying she had a lot of guilt because before she even had a conscience, right? She was five or six and she was told she was a sinner and she needed to go to confession to basically be deemed worthy. That's how she had felt. And so do you think that type of thing at that, when you're told before you even know who you are, that you're a sinner and you have to go confess, do you think that can cultivate a culture of guilt?


Father Brian Reedy:

Yeah. Like I said, having not gone through that experience, not as a practitioner, as a priest who hears confessions for younger people, I don't see how what I do could do that. But I do see how if done poorly, it could do that. So there could be an early sense of guilt and shame that before the person is even, like you said, before there's even development of a conscience-


Ashley Rivard:

Is that from the religion though? That's what I'm confused. Does Catholicism say basically you're born a sinner and you have to go to confession?


Father Brian Reedy:

No, Catholicism says that we are born with a fallen nature so that we have a tendency to sin. And that is essentially, we have to overcome our own egoism and that learn to be focused on other people and to be generous and to have a life of gratitude. That it takes work to become a free and loving human person. And that for whatever reason that humans have a fallen nature. So we are inclined to do things that are wrong in some way, and that you have to learn how to overcome that. For instance, some parents I've seen... The way I've really seen this play out is that some parents will use confession or the priest as a disciplinary tool where if the child is bad, you'll have to go see father you'll have to go to confession if you keep doing that.


Father Brian Reedy:

Well, that's actually a very strange dynamic that's turning the confessional and the priest if nothing else, just folding it into some super ego as opposed to actually being about reconciliation with God and reconciliation with an infinitely loving God. Because what the confession is supposed to be about is the human soul in whatever brokenness or sin that they commit has an infinitely loving God who welcomes them back. That's what the sacrament supposed to be for. But that's not how it's always practiced. I mean, one is that it can grow this strong sense of guilt. And two is, it can be used on the other side as a great license where you can do whatever you want and then you go to confession. So both of those are abuses [crosstalk 00:15:05]. That's not how it's supposed to be on either way.


Ashley Rivard:

Yeah. Right.


Father Brian Reedy:

But evidence of human sinfulness is that we tend to abuse even really good things.


Ashley Rivard:

Very true, right?


Father Brian Reedy:

We're sneaky creatures.


Ashley Rivard:

Everyone, it's so funny. So I want to shift gears. What in your opinion, were the core factors that conspired to bring so much sexual trauma inside the Catholic priesthood?


Father Brian Reedy:

That's a really good question. There's a lot of factors. One is that in the 60s and 70s we went through the sexual revolution. Everything was in flux in the 60s and 70s and in the United States and just around the world. And a lot of people left the priesthood. So a lot of religious, a lot of dosses and priests, a lot of monks and nuns left the church, left-


Ashley Rivard:

Because of-


Father Brian Reedy:

There was an excitement about a sense of-


Ashley Rivard:

Sexuality.


Father Brian Reedy:

About sexuality and just freedom. Individual freedom is do what you want. A loss of faith and belief in institutions in general and a suspicion of institutions and then a triumph of the individual will. So people just would think, I want to do something different, right?


Ashley Rivard:

Right.


Father Brian Reedy:

There's a lot of enthusiasm around that and so a lot of people did. And so it led to a vocations crisis almost immediately that I think that we just a desperation just in the same way that when you go to war that the entry qualifications and the vetting process for your soldiers goes down because you just need more bodies. And I think that in some ways, one thing is just that we had this strong need, we had these big institutions that needed men and women to lead them. And so we just in one way, lowered our standards. That's one piece, is that we lowered our standards. Two, we were emerging from a time of very high sexual repression. So right before the sexual revolution, we were a very puritanical culture and you just didn't talk about issues of sexuality, we used repression to deal with it. And once that lid came off there was a lot of growth that happened.


Father Brian Reedy:

But at the same time, people just didn't know what motivated them. So very religious people would... A lot of our situational abusers had never really dealt with their sexuality, they never really explored the sexuality. They didn't know where their sexual energy came from, they didn't know what it was-


Ashley Rivard:

They didn't go through your training then? They didn't go through that link that-


Father Brian Reedy:

No they didn't do nothing like what we do now. Nothing [crosstalk 00:18:01].


Ashley Rivard:

Oh, okay. So would you say that a majority of those cases that come out in the news are from that generation?


Father Brian Reedy:

Yes.


Ashley Rivard:

Okay.


Father Brian Reedy:

The vast majority. Yeah. In fact, the frequency of abuse now is really... I mean, the abuse cases even from that generation are still below the national averages. So we're still doing well, just statistically speaking, we're doing pretty well. The problem for us is not so much that we have a higher frequency of abuse. It's the institutional protectionism, it's the tendency to protect ourselves. So because the church holds lots of money and has very deep pockets and people go after that. So there's a sense that we have to defend what the people own. And so there's this defensiveness, that's really where the real serious problems came in. Is that the leadership was not capable of dealing with these things. A lot of the leaderships still had the same repressive techniques. They didn't understand their own sexuality so they're hiding from their own dynamics.


Father Brian Reedy:

And then you have these cases they're dealing with, they just want them to go away, psychologically and financially just want them to go away, which is a lot of pressure. Now all institutions dealt with that for awhile, but we just took longer to learn. And we were circling the wagons a lot more strongly. I think we're a lot better on all of those things. But I think those are some of the things... Before Vatican too, in the 50s and before the sexual revolution and the major transformations in the church as well, people didn't talk about sexuality, hardly at all. And so people didn't understand themselves and if they did have experience like something with homosexuality or something like that, they would understand that is a sin and temptation, that they could just get rid of.


Ashley Rivard:

By going to confession?


Father Brian Reedy:

No, just by essentially using reversal techniques.


Ashley Rivard:

Oh, by becoming a priest.


Father Brian Reedy:

No, not necessarily because it may be a priest, maybe not, but the priesthood could be a place you could hide from things like that.


Ashley Rivard:

Exactly.


Father Brian Reedy:

If you had a complicated sexuality and you didn't want to deal with it, the priesthood, you might naturally gravitate over there without actually consciously ever making a choice about that, right? Because you-


Ashley Rivard:

And then it comes out.


Father Brian Reedy:

And then it comes out and you don't even know why, because people weren't dealing with their sexuality in a straightforward way. They weren't trying to understand themselves sexually, they weren't recognizing the fluidity and complexity of human sexuality and so they're pretending everything was neat and clean and then shocked when it wasn't.


Ashley Rivard:

Right. Yeah.


Father Brian Reedy:

Whereas we've really chimed in as... Jesuit formation now is really a pretty deep dive into our own psychology and spirituality and sexuality.


Ashley Rivard:

So, you feel strongly that in the next, we'll say generation or years to come, what we've been seen will dissipate?


Father Brian Reedy:

Definitely. I also think that even right now, I would say that the... Because we've taken really pretty profound action. I think that the church is probably one of the safer institutions actually. Now, I don't want to sound triumphalistic or overly proud about that, but we've really taken a lot of action and in ways that a lot of other institutions haven't because other major institutions like public schools and sporting teams and such, the same kinds of things are happening there. And so I think that probably we're moving much more quickly in a good direction. And so I think that that will definitely... We are interesting creatures, humans are. And issues of things pedophilia and abuse run in our populations. We don't really understand why, but they're human phenomenon. We're getting better and better at understanding the phenomenon itself and then ways to recognize problems and to identify them and then to address them.


Father Brian Reedy:

And so as a church and as a society, I think we're getting better. I think that all of these things will be getting better. Certainly what's very clear is even for the leadership, who's still from a generation that it's still very taboo, so very difficult to talk about. And they still often don't even have the self-reflection to understand themselves, they know they can't cover it up. we've been smacked on the nose enough times that even if people don't have the self awareness to be able to deal with these topics, they know they can't cover it up. And so that's one thing that was very important for us to learn and I think that we mostly have. There're still a few holdouts that you still see every once in a while somebody's circling the wagons and you're like, you got to be kidding, we can't do that.


Ashley Rivard:

I want to shift into, as we've talked about or you and I chatted off, with the suicide rate of vets coming back. Is that something that is talked about in these institutions, in the military, in the Navy? Are they addressing it?


Father Brian Reedy:

It's one of the highest priorities in all of the branches of the military. For instance, the Air Force really took a Stand Down Day, where they took a 24 hour period where they were mostly trying to tactically address what's happening with them and their suicide rates. Because their rates continue to go up, they're a little bit peculiar. Most of the other branches, the rates are going down slightly, but the Air Force is still struggling. And so they're doing everything they can, everyone is doing everything they can. I would say the main thing that I do for the Navy is suicide prevention. So one is that I'm on 24/7 call for those 500 men and women. They're supposed to have my... Sir, if you're hearing this and you don't have my number, my number is... No.


Father Brian Reedy:

So they're supposed to have my number in their cell phone and when they need somebody to talk to. Because the main thing is that we have... And this is pretty cool, we enjoy 100% confidentiality. So we are not mandated to report on anything.


Ashley Rivard:

Oh. So even-


Father Brian Reedy:

By law. So we are protected in that a service member can come to us and talk about suicide, abuse, even child abuse. And we do not have to report them. The reason is-


Ashley Rivard:

But you can?


Father Brian Reedy:

No.


Ashley Rivard:

Oh you can't.


Father Brian Reedy:

Because the person owns the information, you cannot. So it's 100% confidential and the service member owns the information. I cannot share that information with anyone or any of those issues. And the reason is we just recognize it was necessary because they had to have someone that they could talk to. They had to have someone that they could talk to and still own the information and the last thing they need is to be in extreme situation, have something from their childhood or something else that comes up that involves abuse or something and they have to just bottle it up and sit on it because they can't talk to anybody without having repercussions. So there has to be someone.


Father Brian Reedy:

Now we're trained pretty extensively on that because as a priest, it's not that unusual. Because that's like confession, only confession's a lot stricter than confidentiality. In confession, I can neither share information nor can I act on an information. Once they leave my confessional, I can't do anything. Whereas with confidentiality as a chaplain, I can still do something, I can physically intervene. If they're going to tell me that they want to commit suicide, they're going to leave, I can stop them. Or if they say that they intend to kill somebody, I can just follow them.


Ashley Rivard:

If they say they're going to kill somebody and it's a homicide case, you can't report that?


Father Brian Reedy:

No. It's 100% confidentiality. I know, it's like-


Ashley Rivard:

But how would you... you know what I mean?


Father Brian Reedy:

I can stop them. I can physically restrain them, but, it's 100%. In all protected communications with the chaplain, in other words, when the service members seeks the chaplain in their role as chaplain, then the service member owns the information.


Ashley Rivard:

Tell me again what you were saying regarding that. I believe you said the rate of suicide with the vets it's not so much around PTSD, but it's called moral?


Father Brian Reedy:

Moral injury.


Ashley Rivard:

Moral injury.


Father Brian Reedy:

PTSD is essentially, after a trauma, there is a strong emotional, largely fear based. Your root emotion is usually fear relationship that then has a whole set of predictable, but a constellation of behaviors that rises from it. But moral injury is a different category. It's not currently recognized within the... What's the document called? I never can't remember it.


Ashley Rivard:

The suicide document?


Father Brian Reedy:

No. The psychology book that has all the M-R-S-


Ashley Rivard:

I didn't take psychology, I don't know.


Father Brian Reedy:

There's a big book of disorders. In the psychological big book of dis orders-


Ashley Rivard:

Okay. Yeah, We'll call it that.


Father Brian Reedy:

There's a name, something for it. M-S... Manual of... Anyway, MS [crosstalk 00:27:12] see whether it comes to mind. But we can look it up later.


Ashley Rivard:

Okay.


Father Brian Reedy:

In that manual of disorders and such, there's no diagnosis currently for moral injury. But within the psychological community and within the chaplain core, we recognize that there is a distinct phenomenon called moral injury. And that is when somebody has been forced in some way, either by circumstances or by some authority, to violate their conscience. So they do something that they believe is wrong and it leaves them not feeling afraid, but instead guilty and they feel ashamed. So the primary emotion is shame and not fear. A great example of this is drone pilots. So drone pilots sit on a base 1000s of miles away from action and they fly a drone and they kill people, right? But they have no mortal feeling of their own, the mortal tickle, right? They're not under threat themselves, it's not, self-defense. Normally in military actions, you can console yourself with dimensions of self-defense, you yourself were under mortal threat.


Ashley Rivard:

So you feel almost a sense of validation in doing that.


Father Brian Reedy:

Yeah. Whereas when you're under no threat and you're still taking lethal action, it can cause moral injury because you can't console yourself with the fact that you can't understand your own behavior. Because you weren't defending yourself. And so Air Force has tried to adjust how the system works to try to distance the person, the shooter is different than the observer, et cetera. So they try to separate the different-


Ashley Rivard:

What does that mean?


Father Brian Reedy:

The person who's flying a drone and surveilling the situation and gets to know the people, isn't the person who takes the shot.


Ashley Rivard:

Oh, isn't the person taking the action. Got it. Okay.


Father Brian Reedy:

So it's different teams. And they've tried to relieve the psychological tensions this way and such. So they're doing what they can, but in the end, it is a lethal action that you're taking, right? And you're not under mortal threat and so you can't console yourself with the fact that it is self-defense. so kind of thing is what is an example, or just in general, if you're under fire and you respond with fire and there are children present and accidentally they die, you don't mean to kill them. Or there's oftentimes in war where children will be used intentionally as cover or to deliver weapons. And so then it becomes necessary actually to kill a child and people often morally don't ever recover from that obviously, right?.


Ashley Rivard:

I would assume.


Father Brian Reedy:

Yeah, exactly, right? So that's not PTSD. That's an entirely different phenomenon, or they could be conjoined. Now, one of the things that's tricky about moral injury is that institutionally speaking, moral injury admits guilt of some sort. In other words, if the Navy were to separate out moral injury from PTSD and start investigating it and diagnosing it, they would be admitting to some fault. So if the definition is, the psychological response that somebody experiences by some standard required to violate their conscience or commit an action that by some standard is considered wrong, well, then there's a capability issue from the institutional side. So that's why there's a lot of hesitancy on addressing this issue that is emerging.


Ashley Rivard:

What do you think as a priest are your most effective tools in helping people deal with guilt and shame or fear?


Father Brian Reedy:

One is that a priest is supposed to be... The reason that we spend all the time in school and the reason that we do all these different things, that a priest is supposed to be a specialist in human nature. A priest is supposed to understand how we tick really well. And we're given a lot of opportunities to grow in that, to understand essentially practical psychology and how the human person works. And therefore we can help counsel people. So I think the main thing is compassion and empathy, a loving and unconditionally positive response to somebody who seeks help. And then we have at our disposal that primary approach of being somebody who's knowledgeable about human nature and compassionate is the first thing.


Father Brian Reedy:

But then we have a whole bag of tricks, so tools that we can use, confession being the main one. Because in confession, essentially what you do is you go item by item and talk through what's happening with them. How do they understand what they did wrong? Why did they do it? Is this part of a pattern? Are there habits involved? What was motivating this? So you analyze the actions in a way that helps them potentially adjust what they're doing. So it's again, a very practical counseling thing, behaviorism sort of thing. And then you assign a penance. And the penance that I assign is always specifically related to the thing that really stood out with waht they did wrong. So I assigned something that makes sense. In other words, it's a step in the direction they want to go. It's a step of rehabilitation.


Ashley Rivard:

What's an example?


Father Brian Reedy:

So somebody stole something from a store, okay. One, by Catholic theology, they have to make restitution. So anyway around it, they have to get the thing back if they can or something like it. So they have to fix the injustice they've done. That's just required, that's not a penance. But then two, we talk about why. Why did they take it? What motivated them? Is that something that they have done before, that they have a habit of some sort or what were the circumstances? Were they choosing something good? Was there their daughter who they could not currently provide for in need of something or wanted something and out of their love for them they...


Father Brian Reedy:

So the context makes a huge difference, right? It's understanding why. And then the penance would be probably some act of generosity. I often do mental things where I have them imagine something just because you're trying to form a new habit. And so my penance is always deal with rehabituation. So it's taking one step towards forming a new habit. That's, what I have at my disposal. And then absolution is words, essentially, where the person understands that God forgives them. And so that's I think psychologically pretty potent too.


Speaker 3:

Absolutely. So for those who are listening, who have experienced guilt or shame around Catholic religion in particular, what advice could you give them to bring them inner peace?


Father Brian Reedy:

Well, it's interesting the Jesuits have, it's called an Ignatian spirituality, it's a way of spirituality. And one of the things that is particularly potent in it is that it's not at all about shame or guilt. It's all about freedom and becoming a loving person. In fact, shame and guilt are a huge part of what holds you back, they're are not helpful or they're only helpful in the early stages. I mean, they have to be outgrown. Shame and guilt are dynamics of infancy and childhood.


Ashley Rivard:

But then why do so many... It's a common thing I hear that people just throw it around. I'm Catholic, I have guilt. I'm just guilty.


Father Brian Reedy:

Like I said, I didn't grow up with that. So I don't really understand Catholic guilt very well. But I think-


Ashley Rivard:

But you hear it?


Father Brian Reedy:

I think that what happens is... So in PJ's developmental models you have earlier on, shame and guilt are part of what are psychologically used to help form a conscience. In childhood, shame is something that helps you become socialized. It's one of the socialization dynamics that helps you realize what your cultural and social societal roles are and how you function within that. So it's one of the dynamics that dominates childhood in your conscience formation, your moral formation. But you're supposed to grow past that, adult moral formation is not about shame and guilt, but about choosing what's good and right for its own sake.


Father Brian Reedy:

I think that maybe a lot of the dynamics of the church have at different times just been very infantilizing. So people like ministers or just practitioners in general, just weren't operating out of that higher moral standard and just maintained a simplistic and infantile set of moral principles. And therefore people felt stuck in shame and guilt as opposed to arriving at higher levels of moral formation. Now I think the whole set are present in the church, but I think that there are different times of different places or different levels of health.


Ashley Rivard:

Okay. Makes sense. Makes a lot of sense.


Father Brian Reedy:

Similar to the idea of masculinity, right?


Ashley Rivard:

Right.


Father Brian Reedy:

So in the church, the billion people have all kinds of different views on masculinity, on the role of gender and that kind of stuff. But some places, there can set up a dominant set that's really unhealthy. And so similarly, I think that the way that you understand guilt... The Christian religion is largely about understanding yourself as free from fear of sin and death. That's what the central theme of Easter and the cross is. Is that it's supposed to be that humans are radically free from sin and death. And there's no reason to be afraid and no reason to feel shame and guilt, and yet that's not what people often experience in it. So I would say that if that has been or is your experience, my source of hope would be, Oh, there's so much more. There is real true freedom and a true sense of-


Ashley Rivard:

Yeah. To move past it.


Father Brian Reedy:

Yeah. Of moving past it.


Ashley Rivard:

Awesome. Well, to wrap this up, I have a very off the cuff question I was thinking of when we were talking about what you can and can't do. So you can't have sex, can you drink?


Father Brian Reedy:

Oh, yes.


Ashley Rivard:

So you guys can go get hammered and that's okay.


Father Brian Reedy:

Well, not get hammered, but-


Ashley Rivard:

But I mean, is there... You know what I mean? You can have this many beers or is there rules or alcohol in general is okay?


Father Brian Reedy:

Well, we are committed to lives of virtue. So alcohol can certainly form a part of a virtuous life but we'd be governed by the same thing. In Catholic theology, it's understood that drinking to excess, drinking to the point that it's damaging to you, it would be considered sinful. So we couldn't get hammered. But yeah, we can-


Ashley Rivard:

Just some times?


Father Brian Reedy:

Yeah. We can certainly party. We can have a good time. But drinking to the point that you are no longer in use of your rational faculty and would make bad decisions, that would be dangerous. So that wouldn't be smart, but yeah, we definitely. Alcohol's a healthy part of our lives.


Ashley Rivard:

Okay. Very cool. Well, thank you so much for talking with me today and enlightening me in Catholicism.


Father Brian Reedy:

It's been my pleasure.


Ashley Rivard:

And yeah, I wish you all the best in all your endeavors you have going on. That's it for today's podcast. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen today. Please let me know what you think. Leave a comment, share, and we'll be back next week with a new episode.


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