Two days ago, Tito Edwards at National Catholic Register linked my post on ‘Scrupulosity in Mental Illness‘ which resulted in a good deal of traffic on that post. It also resulted in some questions that I got privately because, since it is an older post, comments were disabled on it. I’ll try to answer a few of those questions here now.
I wanted to note in particular this comment:
“….the Church frowns on marriage for people with mental disorder.”
I’ve not heard this before and wondered – if you get the time – if it would be possible for you to expand on where this comes from, to help me understand more fully the Catholic position.
This is a tough one for some to accept, but yes, the Church does frown on marriage for those with mental disorder. I am not a Canon Lawyer, nor a priest or bishop, but just a mom who has an opinion on what the rules are on this, and I also have experience with mental disorder having Bipolar Disorder myself. There is a discussion on impediments to marriage at Catholic Encyclopedia which mentions “defective consent.” There is always going to be some question about your level of consent if you have a serious mental disorder like Bipolar Disorder. As noted in the article on impediments, the idea of defective consent flows from Natural Law.
The natural law is universal, that is to say, it applies to the entire human race, and is in itself the same for all. Every man, because he is a man, is bound, if he will conform to the universal order willed by the Creator, to live conformably to his own rational nature, and to be guided by reason. However, infants and insane persons, who have not the actual use of their reason and cannot therefore know the law, are not responsible for that failure to comply with its demands.
Because we are less able to be “guided by reason” due to our disorder, we have an impediment of defective consent. I tell my kids that when we all get to heaven, and they are up there on the front row with their humongous crowns, that they should wave at their mom down on the back row who has the teeny tiny crown. In my humble opinion, everyone with Bipolar Disorder will go to heaven with little or no time in purgatory, but have a teeny tiny crown. Of course, I could be wrong about that, but that is my opinion.
Question #2: You seem to be very intelligent, so I don’t think you have Bipolar Disorder, and even if you do, if you’re so intelligent, you should be able to understand that you are doing something wrong. That means you have free will and so you are culpable for the things you do wrong and should apologize.
The ability to reason actually has little to do with intelligence. There have been many philosophers in history who were incredibly intelligent — one might even say they were brilliant — but they were decidedly anti-Gospel because the positions they held do not continue to hold up at all under the light of true reason. The fact that a brilliant philosopher is wrong does not mean that he has an evil heart. Rather, he may have a very good heart but his understanding in his mind is twisted and has led his mind astray. Where the mind goes astray, the heart often follows, but God knows the intentions of the heart, and so, only God may judge a heart. So, how can I believe that all people with Bipolar Disorder will go to heaven but have teeny tiny crowns? I say that because Bipolar Disorder is something one is created with and it inhibits us. The ability to reason is the ladder we all climb to be closer to God through understanding God more and more. The more we understand God, the closer we are to Him. God has taken away this ladder from those of us who have Bipolar Disorder, but He is also holding us in His own image. We were each created to be close to God our whole lives, though we may not have right reason. Our spiritual walk is completely different from that of the vast majority of people. We have a cross, but it is much different than for most people. For most people, the Cross is in serving others. For us who are the sick, just as with someone who has cancer, our Cross is not to serve others. Our Cross is in seeking to be closer and closer to God, and seeking better health. We cannot serve others We are sick. The sick are not expected to serve others for good reason. The sick have the opportunity and the duty to offer their sufferings for God, to strive to be closer to knowing He is embracing them in their sufferings, and to do their best to seek better health. It is neither the duty, nor often the capacity, of the sick to serve others.
People do things that trigger us, and we are not responsible for our actions when we are triggered. For some reason, it is understood that a patient with a broken leg is forgiven if he yells out when someone accidentally sits on his leg, but if a person with Bipolar Disorder is triggered, and yells out, he is supposed to apologize for yelling? It would be an example of scrupulosity for someone with Bipolar Disorder to think he is culpable for acting out when he is triggered.
Question #3: You have said that homosexuality is a mental disorder, yet you say people with mental disorders are not responsible for sin. Doesn’t this mean that we should accept people who identify as “gay” without condemning them for identifying that way?
I do not condemn anyone. Only God is judge of hearts, not me. It is important for everyone with a mental disorder to seek to be closer to God and to seek better health. I have learned that if I consider that my identity is in my disorder and not in the saint that God has created me to be, then I will get sicker. By the same token, if a person with same-sex attraction finds his identity in his disorder, he is putting a barrier between himself and Jesus. If a person with cancer is saying that he is cancer, I am going to assure him that he is not cancer, but a child of God who has been given a thorn in the flesh to offer in union with Jesus on the Cross. When someone says “I am gay” it is the same as saying “I am cancer” and that is why I know that they cannot be as close to Christ as they could be otherwise. I say the things I say in order that people may come to know their dignity as a person created to be a saint in union with Jesus Christ, not to condemn people nor to hurt people’s feelings, nor to do anything else that is hateful. I say the things I say because I love Jesus so much and want others to know Him in the Cross of disorder as I do. The more people find their identity in mental disorder, the sicker they will be. I hope to alleviate that sickness and help people to come closer to Christ. God never gives a serpent to those who are asking for a fish….but he has far better things in store than mere fish for a meal, if we will open our hearts to Him, and it is my prayer that more and more people will come to know that.
I hope this is helpful. Remember that there is no disorder in heaven. We shall all be fixed there so that there is no separation at all between us and God.