We are living in about the first age in the history of the world that has denied guilt and sin. Everyone today believes that he’s immaculately conceived. There are no sinners, we’re just patients, but we’re not penitents.“
It is interesting that Karl Menninger of the Menninger Institute of Psychiatry in Kansas, has just written a book asking, “What has happened to sin?”
Curious, as the moral theologians and our catechism dropped the idea of sin, a psychiatrist is reminding us that there is sin. He, for example, has said that the theologians gave up sin and then the lawyers took it up and sin became a crime. And then the legalists gave it up, psychiatrists picked it up and then it became a complex.
Now, sin is a reality in the world and we have to face it for we are all sinners. Everyone. As a matter of fact, we cannot begin to receive the Mercy of God until we recognize that we are sinners.
Now, what happens when we repress guilt and sin? And we do that. Men sin and they pay no attention to it. It is the same with women. Well, it has a tremendous effect on our minds and sometimes on our body, when we do not bring our sins to the surface and confess them to the good Lord.
You have heard of transplants in medicine — a kidney transplant or a heart transplant. And you’ve often read, too, that the kidney transplant was not effective or the heart transplant was not effective. Why? Because the body resisted it. There are antibodies in our organism that will not assimilate and take hold of a new organism.
Now, our soul is that way. It has antibodies and when any sin gets into the soul, then we’re disturbed. The mind is unhappy. It’s very much like having a broken bone. The bone hurts. Why? Because the bone is not where it ought to be.
And when our conscience is not where it ought to be, then we suffer. We have a disturbance of conscience, we’re uneasy. We may try to cover it up by drink, amusement, and so forth. However, in moments of quiet, the guilt is still there.
Recall some of the effects of guilt as portrayed for us by Shakespeare. Now, just think of it; Shakespeare was born in 1564. I hope that was the year. That’s coming out of my subconscious, don’t look it up. But I think that I was in second year high school and I learned that Shakespeare was born 1564 and died in 1616.
Well, in any case, what is important is the fact that hundreds of years before we had psychiatry, Shakespeare tells of a complex, a psychosis in the mind of Macbeth and a neurosis in the mind of Lady Macbeth.
Now, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have contrived to kill the king in order to seize the throne. After the murder, Macbeth always seems to see a knife before him. He said,
“What is this I see before me? A knife with the handle toward my hand?”
There was no knife. This was a psychosis. This was the way the guilt was coming out. Lady Macbeth, she washed her hands every quarter of an hour. She saw blood on her hands. And she asked,
“Are not all the water of the seven seas enough to wash this blood incarnadine from my hands?”
There was no blood on her hands. This was the effect on her mind of the suppression of guilt.
A woman once came to me about her brother, she said: “He’s been going to doctors for about four or five years and he is no better than before. His weight has gone down to ninety pounds. Would you please see him?”
“If his trouble is mental, I can not help him. He belongs with a psychiatrist. If, however, there is a moral basis for his condition, then I can help him.”
The man came in, he weighed about ninety pounds, frail, fearful, and I said, “Talk to me for about a half hour. I will not interrupt you.”
He talked for about forty minutes and I said,
“How much money did you steal?”
“I didn’t steal.”
“How much was it,” I asked.
“I resent that. I am no thief. I did not steal.”
“How much was it,” I asked again.
“Three thousand dollars,” he said. “How did you know that I stole?”
“I didn’t know that you stole. As you talked, you told me that whenever you put money in the collection box, you always wiped it off first. And, I thought, perhaps you had dirty money.”
“Yes,” he said. “I stole three thousand dollars.”
Well, we made arrangements to pay it back and his health picked up. This was the guilt on his soul.
Just think, my dear ladies, of how many mentally disturbed women we are going to have in the United States in the next ten or fifteen years, when the guilt of abortion begins to attack the mind and the soul. For the present, they justify it on the grounds that everyone is doing it and it’s only scar tissue anyway.
As one doctor said to a girl who came in, telling him it was only scar tissue anyway and would he dismember it? The doctor said,
“What did you intend to call this scar tissue?”
So, in years from now, the guilt will come out in a particular way. However, at present, there may not be any guilt at all. The guilt may not manifest itself at once. That is very evident in the course of the life of King David.
David was one day on the top of his palace in the penthouse and he looked across the street and saw a woman on the adjoining penthouse. She was called Bathsheba. And he asked Bathsheba to come over and see his etchings. And he loved Bathsheba, not wisely, but he loved her too well … and she was found with child.
Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, was away at war. David called him back, as King he could do that, and he said, “Go home to your wife.”
“No, I’m at war. We’re not allowed to be with a wife when we are fighting,” Uriah said.
King David then got him drunk, and said, “Go home.” Uriah slept at David’s front door. David was trying to blame the paternity onto the husband, Uriah. So, finally finding that he couldn’t get rid of him that way, he said to the general,
“Put him in the front lines. Men have to die in battle. Maybe Uriah will be killed.”
Uriah was killed. It didn’t bother David in the least until about seven or eight months after, the prophet Nathan came to him. And Nathan said:
“David, I have a problem and you as king must settle it. There was a poor man who had one tiny little ewe lamb. Next door to this poor man lived a rich man who stole the poor lamb and made a banquet for his rich friends.”
David then said, “This will not be. He will pay with his life and the property will be restored four fold.”
And Nathan said, “Thou art the man. You took the ewe lamb of Uriah. And you killed that ewe lamb. The ewe lamb was Bathsheba, and you have taken this lamb away from the husband.”
And that was the moment when David sat down and wrote the famous and beautiful Psalm 51: “Have mercy on me, oh God, according to thy steadfast love.”
(excerpt from <Frequent Confession> by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen)