4th Annual Karl Stern Lecture: Confessional and Couch: A Rebellious Priest at the Dawn of Psychoanalysis

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Edward Boyd Barrett [1883-1966] was an unorthodox and renegade Jesuit priest who became a psychoanalyst in Greenwich Village. He spent his career attacking sacred cows: the infantilization of young men training for the priesthood, American racism, and Catholic opposition to family limitation. How to explain this unorthodox career and Barrett’s conviction that psychoanalysis had much to teach Catholicism? Theories of the subconscious or unconscious mind, emerging at the opening of the 20th century, were at odds with a Catholic understanding of the human person as more than body and mind. The soul, however, had no place in psychoanalysis as an empirical concept or reality. Sigmund Freud, therefore, was regarded with suspicion for ignoring the true nature of the human person, as well as for his emphasis on sexuality. What role did Barrett and the Jesuits play, then, for better or worse, in interpreting psychology and psychoanalysis to Catholics in its early decades? In the 4th annual Karl Stern Lecture, Professor Paula Kane will explore how Barrett’s books and journalism illustrate his unusual and progressive opinions which championed the use of psychology for religious purposes, criticized the limits of seminary training, and imagined the formation of priest-therapists to help fellow Catholics as well as themselves, in addition to his interest in issues of race and birth control that remain timely today.

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