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Q.  I tend to trust ìthe tried and the true,î the spiritual authors and saints who lived a long time ago. I fear that the advice offered by modern thinkers is somehow lacking.

 A. Even the great St. Thomas Aquinas was dependent for his knowledge and theological conclusions on what he was able to experience and observe. Since he lived more than 700 years ago, his experiences were different from those of today. He knew nothing of the atom. He didn’t know about bacteria. He had never heard of psychology. His view of the universe was limited, compared to ours. If he could have had knowledge of all of the things we know about, his teaching would have been substantially different. It is unwise to depend on teachings that are incomplete and potentially harmful. God wants us to be educated and make well-thought-out decisions that reflect our time and place. 

Q.  Is “healthy shame” possible? I read somewhere that shame can be very healthy and very healing.

A. Shame, if it is a temporary condition, can perhaps be somewhat healthy if it serves as an invitation to growth and maturity. Shame for its own sake, shame that’s persistent, or shame that’s inflicted on another person is not healthy, in my opinion. In both the long run and the short run, I believe we should always try to find gentle and loving explanations or interpretations of experiences. Shame can do a lot of damage.

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