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Catholic Psychiatrist "Answers" Tom Cruise

By Matt Abbott
Catholic Online

I asked Catholic psychiatrist William F. Woods, M.D., of Chesapeake, Va., about the recent controversy surrounding actor (and Church of Scientology member) Tom Cruise, who condemns psychiatry as a "pseudo-science." Woods gives the following response (slightly edited):

"In our day of fleeting images and snatches of sound, we often look to those among us who present some mixture of physical beauty and talent in order to fill a void created by our repugnance of the efforts needed to acquire deeper knowledge and understanding. Like most of us, I am more apt to notice this common human failing when it hits close to home.

"Thus, I shook my head more vigorously than usual when a well-known movie star pounced on my profession, psychiatry. This particular celebrity gave my medical specialty a thrashing and advocated Scientology as the way to health. Of course the merits of both psychiatry and Scientology may be debated. But we are not looking at any rational discussion here. Rather, we are looking at the ability of a celebrity to draw people along his path mostly by the power of their fantasies about him.

"It is likely that each of us has a similar axe to grind about some celebrity, who could be a film star who exhorts us to save an endangered species, a popular singer who campaigns for a politician, or a renowned athlete who supports aid to a foreign country. The list could go on and on. The relative merit of any of these causes is beside the point. When we slide into the habit of judging an issue based mostly on the looks, sound and charm of its advocate, we are headed for trouble.

"This kind of trouble inflicts its gravest damage when mixed with religion. Although it would appear that Protestants, especially those of the 'low church' persuasion, are most vulnerable among Christians to the lure of a charismatic preacher, we Catholics are by no means immune to infection by this virus of celebrity worship.

"Like nearly everything else in our culture, Catholic liturgy has been 'dumbed-down' in recent decades. Worse still, lax enforcement of remaining standards allows some 'innovative' clergy and their lay helpers to create their own modes of worship. Thus he who should be a celebrant leading the faithful in adoration of God tends to become a celebrity known for his personal creativity in worship.

"It is worth noting here that the Greek word charis, meaning a favor or gift, has given us both the word for our highest form of worship, the Eucharist (= true/good gift) and the word to describe someone gifted with an especially appealing talent -- charismatic. Whenever we turn that adoration properly due to the True Gift from Him to any creature, however greatly gifted, we invite our own spiritual ruin."

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