Catholicism and Psychology
A client walks through your door and mentions that she is Catholic. As you learn of her denominational identity, you find yourself developing a series of associations. They may include thoughts about the church, the pope, the bishops, or Catholic approaches to social issues such as abortion, birth control, or the scandal of clergy abuse. Her ethnicity, moreover, may make you ask yourself, what kind of Catholic? As part of a pluralistic universe, you might also be led to wonder what difference does being a Roman Catholic make?
This chapter offers a brief overview of some of the more salient features of Roman Catholicism that are relevant for the treatment of clients. Such an attempt is addressed by means of definitions, distinctions, and descriptions of a multiplicity of beliefs, concepts, and historical events that have shaped Catholicism and its adherents. Given the limited parameters of the chapter, there is no attempt to address the differences among Catholics according to ethnic backgrounds. Indeed, from African to Asian, Irish to Italian, Hispanic to Polish, many expressions of the Catholic faith are conditioned by cultural variables. Such diversity reflects the Catholic Church's belief in the mandate of Christ to go out and teach all nations (Mt. 28:19). In this respect, Catholic qua Catholic sees itself as a faith that is multicultural in scope and historical in depth.
With its vast diversity the Catholic Church, as a web of peoples and international institutions, nevertheless promotes some common elements of belief. It should be noted that Catholic clients as individuals may, in a cafeterialike fashion, accept some beliefs and not accept others. Such decisions and doubts may suggest a congruent sense of belonging or an alienated sense of marginalization. Moreover, because Roman