All of mankind is trying to solve the problem of suffering. Throughout time, no less than in our day, a multitude of false religions and false gospels have arisen to solve the problem. In our day, the false gospel of Marxism says that revolution—violent or otherwise—will end suffering. This false gospel gained great power especially in the 1960s with the help of another, lesser known false gospel, that of psychology.
The false gospel of psychology, following the errors of Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Reich, says that suffering is a result of outmoded rules which hamper sexual and emotional desires. The solution to suffering, says this false psychology, is to break all the rules in order to fulfill your desires and let your emotions out. Thus comes the psychological word “repression” or “repressed” into colloquial speech, referring to someone who is not psychologically “developed.” In no small part we may ascribe this extreme ideology to the failure of the parents of the baby boomer generation to teach their children how to suffer.
In the wake of the extreme suffering of World War II, that generation could not bear any more suffering, and so they spoiled their children who, when they came of age in the 1960s and 70s, did not know how to suffer and embraced en masse the false gospel of psychology. This false gospel led quickly to the evil of Marxism as its close ally—both preaching sexual “liberation,” “freedom,” and “revolution.” The psychological fad blossomed into the Human Potential Movement which, says William Kilpatrick, “arguably did more harm to Catholicism than Freemasons or communists ever did.” This led to the pervasive vice of effeminacy, which is a reluctance to suffer due to an attachment to pleasure (II-II q138 a1).
This false gospel of psychology swallowed the conciliar Church, and they stripped the Sacred Liturgy of everything that does not make people “feel good.” Many clergy were more concerned with making people “feel good” than preaching the hard truths of the Gospel and repentance. Even worse, many men identified the charity and mercy of Jesus Christ particularly with this false “niceness” and “feelings.” The great good of suffering and asceticism were jettisoned in favor of the false gospel of psychology. In his book, After Asceticism: Sex, Prayer and Deviant Priests, author Patrick Guinan calls this the dominance of the “therapeutic mentality” which had a close connection to the future sexual scandal:
[T]he core change over the course of the twentieth century was one of purpose or allegiance—leaving behind ascetical discipline, having disdain for religious tradition, and adopting the therapeutic mentality, a popular belief that fulfillment of the human person springs from emotional desire in a quest for self-definition, or self-actualization, without regard to an objective philosophical, religious or moral truth. Further, the therapeutic mentality views sin as a social concern and discourages loyalty to religious authority; it is profoundly anti-ascetical.
Allegiance to the therapeutic mentality has dislodged ascetical habits and manners, and it now holds sway over the attitudes of the clergy, just as it strengthened its materialist grip on western societies for nearly a century. Mental health experts and educators, as the main purveyors of the therapeutic mentality, know little of the spiritual life and are ignorant of ascetical discipline. Nevertheless, in the name of science, and as the prime representatives of the educated elites, they advocated a liberalization of sexual standards before the sexual scandal in the Church, and then attempted to advise the bishops and to treat problem priests as the crisis took form. Bishops, who have oversight of the parish priests and seminaries, and who have been at the center of the crisis management, do not speak much, if at all, about ascetical discipline. Priests give few indications that they know or care about ascetical discipline. But most clergy seemed well versed in language of the therapeutic mentality.
The most infamous example of this was the destruction of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters by psychologist Carl Rogers by 1969. This was merely a prelude to the destruction of this false gospel on the priests through the sexual scandal to come. Instead of embracing the great good of suffering, Catholics became effeminate and terrified of suffering.
The Gospel of Christ Crucified
Against this perversion, the Church proclaims the truth:
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men (I Cor. 1:23-25).
The Christian Church preaches the Gospel of Christ Crucified and provides in Him the answer to the problem of suffering. The salvation of man was wrought by the suffering of the cross, and now every Christian soul must bear their own cross in order to be saved as He said: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Mt. 16:24).
All the spiritual masters extol the great good and value of suffering. Fr. Ignatius of the Side of Jesus puts it this way:
Learn, O my soul, in what manner thou shouldst accept whatever God sends thee. It may be a heavy Cross that he sends thee, but remember that it is imposed upon thee by God Himself. Thou wilt never be called upon to suffer as much as Jesus, and unless thou bearest thy Cross after Him, thou wilt never partake of His glory.
Lorenzo Scupoli puts it this way:
You must toil and make every effort, especially at the beginning, to embrace tribulation and adversity as your dear sisters—desiring to be despised by all, and to have no one who entertains a favorable opinion of you, or brings you comfort, but your God.
Suffering comes from an inordinate attachment to the things of this earth, and lack of attachment to one Unchanged and Unmovable God. Effeminacy and the false psychology have for their root an attachment to earthly, sensual pleasure, whether sexual, emotional or otherwise. The true Gospel of Christ Crucified sees these things in their true light: merely as parts of a created order designed by God. We must practice detachment from these things and enjoy them only in a proper manner. Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange writes that
We must detach ourselves from the goods of the body, from beauty, from health itself; it would be an aberration to cling to them more than to union with God. And we cling to health far more than we think; if it were irremediably taken from us, it would be a true sacrifice for us, and one that may be asked of us. All these things will pass away like a flower that withers…
When we receive consolations in prayer, we must not dwell on them with satisfaction; to do so would be to make of this means of drawing near to God an obstacle that would hinder us from reaching Him. It would be the equivalent of pausing in a selfish fashion over something created and making an end of the means. By so doing, we would set out on the road of spiritual pride and illusion. All that glitters is not gold; and we must be careful not to confound an imitation diamond with a real one. We should remind ourselves of our Savior’s words: Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God and His justice; and all these things (all that is useful to your soul and even to your body) shall be added unto you.
Therefore we understand that adversity is good for us in order to deliver us from illusion and make us find the true road again.
This spiritual axiom of suffering and detachment is of vital importance for all Catholics to recover on a basic spiritual level. This is particularly difficult in an age when instant pleasure is available online, through things like pornography or even simple, anonymous jeering. This effeminate pleasure and hatred of suffering is a plague which must be rooted out before we can dream of a return to Tradition. The Imitation of Christ condemns our folly:
Unless a man be disengaged from all things created, he cannot freely attend to things divine[.]…And unless a man be elevated in spirit, and free from attachment to all creatures, and wholly united to God, whatever he knows and whatever he has is of no great importance.
Or again in another place:
…How is it that you look for another way than this, the royal way of the holy cross? The whole life of Christ was a cross and a martyrdom, and do you seek rest and enjoyment for yourself? You deceive yourself, you are mistaken if you seek anything but to suffer, for this mortal life is full of miseries and marked with crosses on all sides. Indeed, the more spiritual progress a person makes, so much heavier will he frequently find the cross, because as his love increases, the pain of his exile also increases.
Yet such a man, though afflicted in many ways, is not without hope of consolation, because he knows that great reward is coming to him for bearing his cross. And when he carries it willingly, every pang of tribulation is changed into hope of solace from God. Besides, the more the flesh is distressed by affliction, so much the more is the spirit strengthened by inward grace. Not infrequently a man is so strengthened by his love of trials and hardship in his desire to conform to the cross of Christ, that he does not wish to be without sorrow or pain, since he believes he will be the more acceptable to God if he is able to endure more and more grievous things for His sake. It is the grace of Christ, and not the virtue of man, which can and does bring it about that through fervor of spirit frail flesh learns to love and to gain what it naturally hates and shuns.
The solution to suffering is not the effeminate imaginings of the psychologists, but the holy cross of Jesus Christ our Lord. The great good and value of suffering lies in the union of a soul with Christ Crucified, to the point where a man will love suffering as his “dear sister” because it strips him from attachments to the earth and attaches his heart to his Lord and King. Let us put away the foolishness and childishness of the psychology of effeminacy. When I became a man, I put away the things of a child (I Cor. 13:11). Do manfully, and let thy heart take courage (Ps. 26:14) and take up the cross of Christ Crucified.
 I am indebted to a baby boomer, Kh. Frederica Matthews-Green, for this insight in her 2002 book Gender: Men, Women, Sex, and Feminism (Conciliar Press).
 This was Bugnini’s famous justification for gutting the liturgy of our fathers so that Protestants would feel welcome: “[I]t is the love of souls and the desire to help in any way the road to union of the separated brethren, by removing every stone that could even remotely constitute an obstacle or difficulty, that has driven the Church to make even these painful sacrifices” (March 19, 1965 edition of L’Osservatore Romano). In the same way, the Liturgy of Hours specifically justifies their censoring of certain Psalm verses and entire Psalms for “psychological” reasons (General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, 131). Finally, in the new lectionary, “texts that present real difficulties are avoided for pastoral reasons” (General Introduction to the Lectionary, 76).
 Patrick Guinana, After Asceticism: Sex, Prayer and Deviant Priests (Linacre Institute: 2006). Quoted in E. Michael Jones, The Catholic Church and the Cultural Revolution (Fidelity: 2016), 56
 Fr. Ignatius of the Side of Jesus, The School of Jesus Crucified (1866), Day 20
 Lorenzo Scupoli, Of Interior Peace or the Path to Paradise contained within The Spiritual Combat (Scriptoria Books: 2012), 163
 Garrigou-Lagrange, Three Ages of the Spiritual Life, Vol. I (Herder: 1947), 375-376
 The Imitation of Christ, Bk. III, ch. 31
 Imitation of Christ, Bk II, ch. 12
Timothy S. Flanders is the author of Introduction to the Holy Bible for Traditional Catholics. In 2019 he founded The Meaning of Catholic, a lay apostolate. He holds a degree in classical languages from Grand Valley State University and has done graduate work with the Catholic University of Ukraine. He lives in the Midwest with his wife and four children.