Catholic Cults and Devotions

Catholic Cults and Devotions: A Psychological Inquiry

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Catholic Cults and Devotions
    Book Description:

    Michael Carroll is the first to bring psychoanalytic theory to bear on a range of Catholic cults and devotions, including the Rosary, the Angelus, the Stations of the Cross, the Blood Miracles of Naples, the Stigmata, the Forty Hours, the Brown Scapular, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6195-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-9)

    The failure of psychoanalysts to take any significant interest in the study of popular Catholicism is puzzling, since popular Catholicism seems ideally suited to psychoanalytic investigation. Imagine, for example, the heart ripped from the body of a man, wrapped tightly with a circlet of thorns, pierced with a knife, and then displayed on the outside of that man’s chest. Not a stylized “Valentine” heart, mind you, but a real, physical heart, complete with aortic opening and asymmetrical shape. If such an image appeared recurrently, say, in a person’s dreams or in hallucinations experienced by several individuals, psychoanalytic investigators would have...

  7. CHAPTER ONE The Anal-Erotic Origins of the Rosary
    (pp. 10-26)

    In one of the many critical essays that he wrote on popular Catholic devotions, Herbert Thurston, S.J., (1900d, 403) called the Rosary “the most widely spread and the most highly prized of all our modern popular devotions.”¹ A later Catholic commentator, though just as willing as Thurston to be critical of some Rosary traditions, nevetheless felt compelled to begin his own study of the Rosary with an even more elegant panegyric: “The Rosary … is the most satisfyingly complete form of Christian prayer outside the Mass and the Divine Office … Every Catholic knows it, and probably most Catholics say...

  8. CHAPTER TWO The Angelus
    (pp. 27-40)

    In theHibernian Magazinefor August 1778, an anonymous Englishman described a play he had attended during a recent visit to Spain:

    Everything in this country must have the air of devotion, or rather superstition; even during the representation of the piece [the play] just mentioned, I heard a bell ring, and immediately all the spectators fell upon their knees. The comedians set the example, and the two actors who were upon the stage in the middle of the scene stopped, moved their lips, and muttered some words in a whisper with the rest of the people. This ceremony over,...

  9. CHAPTER THREE The Stations of the Cross
    (pp. 41-56)

    A great many things have changed in the Catholic Church since Vatican II, and several of those changes are apparent if Catholic churches built after Vatican II are compared with those built before. Many new churches, for instance, contain none of those plaster statues of various saints before which so many pious Catholics used to pray. Similarly, whereas it used to be common for a Catholic church to contain several different statues of the Virgin Mary, many churches now contain only one such statue, and often even this one statue has been banished from the main body of the church...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR The Blood Miracles of Naples
    (pp. 57-78)

    Of all the books written by Sigmund Freud, the one that seems to have proven the most popular with the general public (after, possibly,The Interpretation of Dreams) is hisThe Psychopathology of Everyday Life(1901). This book is concerned with “parapraxes,” a broad term that includes “Freudian slips” (slips of the tongue and the pen); the sudden forgetting of otherwise familiar terms and memories; the bungling of usually simple tasks; and so on. There is very little theory in the book (Freud’s only theoretical point is that parapraxes result when an unconscious thought or desire overcomes and influences a...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Heaven-Sent Wounds: The Stigmata
    (pp. 79-103)

    The term “stigmata” has a range of meanings in the Catholic mystical tradition, but its most common meaning, and the one that will be used here, refers to visible wounds (or at least visible wound marks) corresponding to the wounds received by Jesus Christ during his Passion.¹ Most devotional accounts assert that the first person to “receive” the stigmata (and the implication is always that the stigmata have been given to the individual by some supernatural agency) was St Francis of Assisi. St Francis is supposed to have received the stigmata on Mt La Verna in 1224, two years before...

  12. CHAPTER SIX The Forty Hours
    (pp. 104-113)

    It is no accident that Freud’s first insight into the nature of unconscious processes came with his investigation of hysteria. What we observe in hysteria is the outcome of processes that are operative in us all but which in the hysteric have been intensified and exaggerated. The extreme nature of the phenomenon is the very thing that makes it easier to identify the underlying processes at work, and the same is true of stigmatization, itself a form of hysteria. This is one of the reasons that stigmatization has been included in this book. The study of stigmatization also provided a...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN The Brown Scapular: Ticket to Heaven
    (pp. 114-131)

    A scapular consists of two small rectangular pieces of cloth held together by two strings. It is worn over the shoulders so that one of the rectangles falls over the wearer’s chest and the other over the wearer’s back. Over the centuries the Church has associated seventeen different scapulars with various indulgences. Although nearly half are associated with the Virgin Mary under one of her many titles, there are also scapulars associated with Christ and with particular saints; see Table 8. The oldest scapular, however, and the one that has proved the most popular of all with lay Catholics, is...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT The Sacred Heart of Jesus
    (pp. 132-153)

    As should be obvious by now, this book owes much to Herbert Thurston. Thurston was a rationalist who spent virtually his entire adult life subjecting pious Catholic beliefs and devotions to critical analysis in an effort to sift historical fact from religious fancy. His arguments were almost always concise, well documented and — to my mind — convincing. But Thurston was not just a rationalist. He was also a Jesuit priest. One might reasonably wonder how he combined the two roles, especially since his critical approach could so easily be seen as undermining the faith of ordinary Catholics. Actually, Thurston...

  15. CHAPTER NINE The Splintering of Religious Devotion in Catholicism
    (pp. 154-175)

    Theologians and historians have often written of the doctrinal differences between Catholicism and Protestantism — differences having to do, say, with attitudes towards the Eucharist, the role of faith in achieving salvation, the relationship between the institutional church and its members, and so on. Less well-studied are the systematic differences between the practice of Catholicism generally and the practice of Protestantism generally. One such difference, and the one of concern of this chapter, has do with the greater proliferation of separate and distinct religious devotions in Catholicism. Quite apart from those devotions that are part of the official liturgy (like...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 176-180)

    When the editors of the originalCatholic Encyclopedianeeded someone to write on popular devotions, they not-unexpectedly turned to Herbert Thurston. Athough the brief article that Thurston submitted (see Thurston 1913f) was informative, Thurston was unable to recommend to his readers a general reference work that dealt with popular Catholic devotions. “There seems,” he said in the bibliographical note at the end of the article, “to be no authoritative general work on [these] devotions.” The best he could do was to refer readers to some of his own earlier articles inThe Monthand to a few works — like...

  17. APPENDIX A The Angelus Prayer
    (pp. 181-181)
  18. APPENDIX B The Liquefaction of the Blood Relics
    (pp. 182-188)
  19. APPENDIX C Three Blood Relics Still Liquefying
    (pp. 189-196)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 197-210)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 211-226)
  22. Index
    (pp. 227-230)