Psychotherapeutic values in the confessional and in pastoral counseling
VanNostrand, Manning Eugene, Jr.
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The dissertation has for its purpose the study and analysis of the confessional compared with the techniques and skills of pastoral counseling. It is basically concerned with the healing function of the Christian Church. The confessional is a relatively ancient custom, while modern pastoral counseling is within the memory span of the majority of present-day pastoral counselors. Therefore, it is believed that a study of the confessional from the viewpoint of psychotherapy may result in an addition to the growing knowledge of pastoral counseling. The study presents an analysis of the Roman Catholic confessional which includes a survey of ita history, a consideration of the present position of the Roman Catholic church regarding the confessional, and finally an evaluation of the confessional from the point of view of psychotherapy. This part of the thesis is followed by a similar analysis of pastoral counseling which includes a discussion of the historic therapies of Protestantism, a presentation of the present-day techniques of pastoral counseling, and finally an evaluation of Protestant psychotherapy. The final chapter of the dissertation offers some comparisons between the confessional and pastoral counseling as well as some values which each may find in the other. Special emphasis is placed upon those values of the confessional which may be adapted by Protestant pastoral counselors. A survey of the sources for this thesis, and to an extent, for the historic concern of Christianity for the well-being of individuals, includes Biblical, literary, and psychological sources. Psychological values of the confessional 1. The first psychological value of the confessional is the act of confession itself. By this is not meant any formal ritual, but the pouring out of one's inmost thoughts, problems and difficulties to a wise and trustworthy confidant. For the many lonely repressed people in today's world, confession is the way out, indeed it is the only way out known to psychotherapy. 2. A second value for therapy is that it is good psychic medicine for the individual to bring to verbalization and confession thoughts, emotions, and acts which if they remain unexpressed in confession become repressed, either wittingly or unwittingly. The confessional is preventive psychic medicine. 3. For the devout Roman Catholic, in the sacrament of penance there is certainty of divine forgiveness and the consequent laying down of the burden of guilt and anxiety. There is undeniable healing in such a faith. Psychological values of pastoral counseling 1. There are a number of direct values of pastoral counseling, which are found principally in the spiritual discovery or re-discovery of the abundant life by some person who had been lonely, frustrated, burdened and ill. Those values are brought about through interpersonal relationship with one who has discovered them for himself, in the healing presence of the spirit of God. The way of confession and true penitence leading to radiance in personality through removal of fears, guilt, anxieties, and perplexities brings abcut the reorientation of life on higher levels of integration which take into consideration not only immediate goals, but also eternal values and purposes. 2. There are indirect values, too. These are experienced principally by the counselor in the other phases of his total ministry. His preaching becomes vitally oriented towards the needs and problems of his people, his pastoral calling becomes sensitized to the spiritual hungers and confusions in their minds. His ministry to the sick and bereaved becomes a source of spiritual growth and enrichment for them, and the total program of the Church becomes integrated in what has been called a person-minded ministry. Also, personal evangelism takes on new and individual meanings. Values which may be shared 1. As a result of the comparative study of the psychological values of the confessional and pastoral counseling, the idea of the priest-counselor is suggested. Having completed the work of the confessor, the priest may lay aside the role of confessor and take on himself the role of priest-counselor. With this change of role there will be a laying aside of compulsion, authority, and judgment. Together with the counselee he will be permissive, mutual, and noncondemning since sacramental absolution has already been granted. A further value area in this proposed priest-counselor function is that in the mind of the confessant there is firmly established a cognitive and affective sense of trust, confidence, and rapport with the priest-confessor. In such a relationship, therefore, the priest-counselor begins with the initial confession made and the sense of rapport established. 2. The dissertation presents four principal areas of value of the confessional which may be incorporated into pastoral counseling, or adapted by it. First, the possibility of a greater emphasis upon and use of confession in the Protestant churches, stemming from increased awareness of its therapeutic value. Second, the value of a heightened consciousness of a sense of sin, and an increased assurance of the certainty of forgiveness. Third, as a consequence of the first two values, there may arise a personal realization of reconciliation with both the Sustainer of Values and the cherished human group. Fourth, the availability of the confessional in every Catholic church indicates the value of an expansion of Protestant psychotherapy. General conclusions 1. In the history of Christianity, penitential acts, including confession, gradually changed their character. In the early church, both penance and confession were public, non-sacramental, and primarily used therapeutically. By the time of the Council of Trent they had become private, sacramental, and disciplinary. 2. At the present time in the Roman Catholic Church, the values of the Sacrament of Penance are quite thoroughly sacramental, and only incidentally therapeutic. The psychic by-products appear to be release from a sense of guilt, reconciliation with the favored group, and a subjective sense of peace. 3. Historically, the Protestant churches have been concerned with proper modes of worship and personal morality. The maintaining of these religious emphases has necessitated considerable effort and sacrifice by groups and individuals. From these efforts have come the historic therapies of Protestantism. These therapies have been the more or less unconscious psychic gains of the conscious religious practices and goals. 4. Modern pastoral counseling is seeking to bring about psychic and physical health in individuals by the triple emphasis of a rebirth of interest in the healing methods of Jesus, an adaptation and use of those psychiatric and psychological techniques which may be used by pastoral counselors, and a focusing of attention upon the therapeutic values of Protestantism. 5. There are values in pastoral counseling which may be adapted by those Roman Catholic priests whose function is to administer the Sacrament of Penance. There are also values in the Confessional which may be adapted, or more strongly emphasized in Protestant therapy.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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