There are many definitions of mental illness, a term covering many illnesses, which sadly carry a stigma, which we all must try and destroy. This stigma hides the reality of various types of mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress, or bi-polarism or schizophrenia. Perhaps, the most common type of mental illness today is depression. Sometimes depression is caused by chemical imbalances, but sometimes it is brought about by the inability to deal with circumstances or a trauma in one’s young life.
There is another type of definition for mental illness besides the common one of being unable to work, or have solid relationships owing to the unhappiness brought about by mental illness. This definition is more specific, and has to do with the type of mental illness which may or may not be chemically induced. There is a type of mental illness which one brings on one’s self, by sin and the lack of self-reflection. In other words, a lack of humility can cause delusional behaviour.
I am referring to an illness which denies reality, and pushes a person to create a parallel universe which is totally fictional, made up by a person to cope with his or her inability to face reality. In psychiatry, delusion is a term used for a stubborn belief in something which is not true. Delusion may be connected to denial, and both are symptoms of paranoia and/or psychosis. Denial of reality can happen when someone is faced with the inability to deal with the reality around them. For the Catholic, the apprehension of reality is based on three things: the existence of God and the truths of the Catholic Church, especially Credal truths; the awareness of grace in the world and the acceptance or refusal of grace, the second meaning sin and separation from God; and the last, trust in Revelation and the Teaching Magisterium of the Church. While most denial and delusion is physical, this type is brought about by choices. Calling this type “derangement’” separates it from physical, chemical or traumatic types of mental illness.
Derangement or delusion may be defined as not be able to think rationally or uncontrolled thought patterns. Those who are deluded sometimes create their own worlds in order to deal with their unruly thoughts. These people deny reality.
Without accepting these tenets of our Faith, but with a desire to be Catholic, many, many Catholics have created their own versions of truth and even of history, denying reality for some of the reasons which follow:
1. Reality is too painful for them and they fall into anxiety and stress.
2. Sloth prevents them from studying and bending their minds to the Mind of Christ which is found in the Church
3. The acceptance of ideologies and even heresies which cause them to create a false Church in their mind—like a certain group which insists that they are the real Church instead of the one in Rome
4. Post-traumatic stress which causes a disorientation of reality
5. Pride, which demands that their viewpoint is correct and that of the Church wrong.
6. These people persist in their own, subjective ideas instead of looking at age-old definitions and concepts. They lack the ability to stand outside their own interpretations.
7. Which leads me to the worst aspect of this type of derangement—the inability to learn. Ideologues do not want to learn but want to insist on their own opinions and thoughts. Even when presented with research, truths, definitions, history, they refuse to budge.
Persisting in falsehood and creating a fictive Church which never existed and will not exist, is a sign of mental delusion and denial. Accepting reality is a sign of the saint. Both the reality of God and grace, as well as the realisation that salvation is only found in and through the Catholic Church, plus humility and detachment, as well as objectivity, are signs of holiness.
Those who are caught up in delusion and denial insist on their own ideas and their own ways. To persist in unreality is a sign of serious mental illness, especially when behaviour changes such as anger and even violence result. What I have read online for the past five months on many sites and on facebook make me wonder if many, many Catholics are in denial and delusion regarding the Church. I do not mean denying scandals or tragic problems, which we all face. What I mean is the effort to push blame and evil on certain events, people, and even traditional truths of the Church instead of looking at sinful behaviour as the norm for members of the Church for those who have lost grace.
One simple example of a position of mental illness is the acceptance of false seers who have been condemned by the Church, and who some people insist on following . To follow a false, obviously wrong seer when the Church has warned us against him or her, is setting up a reality which is false and pitting one’s mind against the teaching of the Church. To persist in error is a sign of mental illness, when one’s errors of thinking have been illuminated by objective truth.
The lack of emotional restraint is another sign of mental illness. Those who cannot control their emotions have a problem of perspective and the reality that violent reactions of the emotions are damaging both to the person and society. Recently, I was in conversation with a man who believed it was the duty of Catholics to seek out and kill Muslims who made threats. I tried to explain that our duty was not to kill but to correct and evangelise. In addition, this type of vigilante violence is not from God. I tried to show him that Christ did not come as a military messiah, as believed by those who follow Liberation Theology, an idea condemned by Holy Mother Church. He insisted that Catholics had a duty to start a war. I tried to explain Just War Theory and the fact that all pre-emptive strikes, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, were immoral. He would not budge, quoting the Old Testament idea of holy way, which was surpassed by Christ’s Beatitudes—“Blessed are the meek…” “Blessed are the peacemakers.” I also noted that we were only allowed to defend ourselves if struck but not to start a war of attrition or safety. He did not get it. He is stuck in an ideology.
Another man was stuck in the ideology of thinking that every political position on the Right was good. And that only Leftist ideologies were bad. He could not understand that Fascism was a condemned political view which comes from the Right and not the Left. I tried to tell him that utilitarianism and totalitarianism were ideologies of the Right idea that the State is god, and that extreme nationalism was condemned by the Church. He could not see it because he was not open to being taught. Nazism was an ism from the Right, not the Left, a Fascist ideology. I finally gave up as I could see that the persistence of ignorance, even to the point of ignoring definitions, was more important than reality.
The lack of objectivity and the ability to think and accept facts when presented with such is another and common sign of denial and delusion.
Those who refuse to acknowledge certain truths, and if carried to extreme, live according to false ideas, are out of touch with reality and live in one of those parallel universes so common among those who are paranoid or schizophrenic.
Western Civilisation is decaying rapidly for one reason—there is no reality outside of God and His Creation, AND His Church. Everything else is partly true or completely false. The Church is how we learn God’s truths and “get” grace, through the valid sacraments.
Mental illness, such as delusion and denial, has created sub-cultures of so-called Catholics who insist they know better than the long tradition and Tradition of the Church. Sadly, these voices have taken over many conversations and article online.
Only facing reality through counselling and learning, and, of course prayer under the guidance of a truthful spiritual director can bring these people back to reality. However, some lack so much objectivity that they are the very ones to refuse to see their disjoint with reality.
The difference between this type of mental illness and the usual illnesses which afflict people, even innocent children, is that it is brought on by sin. The more one sins, the more one becomes out-of-touch with reality. The reality of sin becomes the “world” of the sinner. Hence, abortionists and satanists, for extreme examples, no longer have sensitive consciences, as calling evil good over a period of time confuses the soul to the point where the soul, mind, and heart can no longer see evil as evil, but only as good.
With less extreme examples, but no less deadly to the mind, heart and soul, is the constant denial that a certain pope is validly elected, or that the only valid Mass is the TLM. These “opinions,” contrary to common sense and the teaching of the Church, if said over and over and believed, undermine the person’s ability to discern the realities of Catholic teaching from opinion.
I taught, before I turned to journalism, Church History, the history of the Councils, heresies, saints, some of the Early Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church, comparative religions, Credal truths, introduction to the Faith at several levels, sacraments, Old and New Testament studies, marriage and family and prayer. When my students, who had to pay a rather large sum to attend the private schools and universities where I taught, sat in front of me with their notebooks and pens in hand, and they took notes NOT on my opinions of the Church, but on what the Church actually teaches. My opinion was only valid in-so-far as it agreed with the long Traditions and teachings of the Church. It was not Jamie Hunter’s ideas and doctrines, but those of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.
Those students WANTED to learn, and had open minds, wanting to learn about the Faith. In my adult classes, the older ones were most receptive to Catholic teaching.
Not so online, not so in discussions after Mass with fellow trads..They do not want to hear that Pope Francis made the canonisation process more difficult, or that the Novus Ordo is a valid Mass. Those who persist in their opinions have not only stepped outside the safety of Church walls of orthodoxy, but have created their own “churches,” mostly in their heads, churches which do not exist and are not Catholic. To persist in an unreality is a sign of madness, and mental illness brought on by stubborn refusal to look at reality.
Once a person insists that his or her idea is more valid than that of the Teaching Magisterium of the Church, that person is in danger of becoming mentally unstable, as he or she have become pope. There are too many lay individual popes talking, spewing out ideas which are simply not true— exaggerations, or worse, lies. The number of trads who skip Mass on Sunday because they cannot get to a TLM, thinking the NO is not valid because their priest tells them it is not, is appalling. However, they have created an unreal parallel life which is not connected to Church teaching. I first met this parallel world of false teaching about 15 years ago in the Midwest of America, and now I am meeting this in Great Britain. So, this is not an isolated phenomenon. To persist in false teaching creates an unreality and one falls into more and more separation from the one, true Church by believing the false teachings of sects. When one is wrong in one idea, one is usually wrong in a series of truths taught by the Church. Those who fall into this madness have created their own versions of the Catholic Church.
This also applies to those who chase after false apparitions—again, even those already condemned. To persist in thinking something is true when it has been proven false is a true sign of mental illness.
Denial may begin with pride, or deceit, but soon it becomes a habit—the habit of dissent. This habit of dissent is the mark of the schismatic.
Yesterday, someone I know was rude to me in a conversation about the coming canonisations. I tried to explain that the Church has changed criteria many times regarding this, and that in the past two years or so, Pope Francis tightened up the process. This person said I was quoting fake news—he had fallen into madness, not being able to discern reality from unreality. He only had to look, not only at the many secular article which carried this story, but Vatican news as well, and follow up on the information given. Prejudiced and willing to demonise this pope as well as thinking that the NO is invalid, my acquaintance has created his own church, full of his ideas, and his opinions, rather that reality. I tried to explain that the Church has always made rules regarding both canonisation and the liturgy. He could not see this, not having studied Church history and thinking that only some of the works of the Magisterium were worthy of study, not all.
He is another Luther, but he cannot see beyond his own parallel universe. As a journalist, I have tried to point out to him his logical errors and give him links to follow up on various topics which upset him, but he REFUSES…another sign of madness is the refusal to change, to learn, to move away from ideologies. When I was teaching, I loved teaching those students who knew that they knew nothing or little. They were open to hearing the Truth. I had taught three generations before turning to journalism. The end of the Baby Boomers were open and wanted to learn. So were the Millennials, who admitted they knew little or nothing The hardest group to teach where the Gen Xers, who did not care about ideas only money and position. This type of close-mindedness still exists among some of those that age on the whole, as once they find an idea, some of them cling these false ideas with a passion and will not budge.
Anyone is culpable who persists in false thinking when it is pointed out to him. I wonder how these people acted in their courses in university? To want to learn means that one has an openness to the beauty of the long teachings of the Catholic Church and not merely to blogs, or websites with agendas. Without real study, and that of primary texts, such as the writings of Augustine or Bellarmine or Bernard of Clairvaux, or Catherine of Siena, or Teresa of Avila, and so, on, one can get lost in la-la land, which we call the Internet.
Hatred can also cause mental illness. Those who hate become fixated on certain topics, or on certain people. Fixations are another sign of mental illness.
I need to stop here, as I have some editing to do. I thank Jay Toups for letting me post this on his blog, and I thank my spiritual advisor for beginning this conversation, as he believes as many as 50% of the inhabitants of the West are mentally ill, for various reasons, and that includes Catholics.
Jamie Hunter is a freelance journalism and political commentator in Europe, as well as an ex-teacher and ex-political activist. He lives and travels in Europe.
JMJ, pray for us!
God is good,