By Gordon Nary
Gordon: When did you join St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church and what impact has the parish had on your spiritual life?
Kevin: My wife, son Matthew and I joined St Francis Xavier parish in 1999. The parish has given us a regular place of worship, fellowship and connection to a community of faith with an outreach to communities in need. as well as adult education on issues of critical importance in the church and world today.
Gordon: Early in your career, you served as a hospice chaplain. What did you learn about people facing death?
Kevin: What I learned and continue to learn is that you can’t take it with you and what lasts is faith, hope and love. The greatest of these is love. I learned about living more fully from those persons and families dealing with impending death. It is all about relationships and connection.
Gordon: What impact does a person’s faith have on their experience of dying?
Kevin: Without faith, it is easier to become depressed and despair. Faith gives meaning in the midst of suffering. I have often been touched by the powerful witness of faith amidst incredible suffering.
Gordon: What initially interested you in becoming a clinical psychologist?
Kevin: I was working as a hospice chaplain and often felt ill-equipped to deal with the many family issues that would arise during the suffering of patients and families.
Gordon: You head the Institute for Sexuality Studies. What are the primary challenges counseling people with sexual addiction?
Kevin: The primary challenge is overcoming shame. Shame fuels the addictive pattern in sexual addiction. Most sexual addicts feel intense internal and toxic shame that convinces them they are bad and unworthy persons and that no one could love them for who they are. There is also the extra stigma on sexual addiction. Whereas the stigma around alcoholism and drug addiction is somewhat less today with education, sexual addiction still carries with it a toxic stigma that often keeps people from reaching out for help.
Gordon: From 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses. 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Is there anything that parishes can do to help address this challenge?
Kevin: Yes, invite in speakers in for adult education to discuss the issue from multiple perspectives, psychological, social, and spiritual.
Gordon: How is sexual addiction related to other forms of addiction?
Kevin: Instead of being powerless over alcohol, drugs, gambling etc. the sexual addict is powerless over lust. The same 12 steps of AA recovery apply quite well to sexual addiction but are also applied to the powerless and unmanageability in one’s life as it relates to sex. Sexual addiction is less recognized and understood by the medical community >and many debate whether it is a true addiction which is problematic for research, education treatment and prevention.
Gordon: You also serve as Adjunct Faculty in Pastoral Ministry for the Catholic Theological Union. What have been some of the most challenging questions that some of your students may have asked?
Kevin: I love the questions related to how the church as a system can sometimes become part of the problem rather than the solution, especially in the case of sexual abuse in the church that for too long was covered up. Another common challenging question relates to the misuse of power and authority versus true servant leadership.
Gordon: You gave a dynamic presentation in May 2017 at Assumption Church on Responding to Toxic Language. Could you share with our readers a few of your recommendations?
Kevin: Yes, I think the major recommendation would be he challenge to become part of the solution for reconciliation, healing and choosing to enter difficult conversations with family, other church members and those of different views.
Blame has an inverse relationship with accountability and responsibility according to Dr. Brené Brown She reports that “Blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain.” So, discomfort and pain are internal states. They are the root of dysfunctional and negative communication that causes all the problems in our relationships.
Our Christian faith as modeled by Jesus invites inner transformation and conversion. Jesus was continually inviting his followers to do less judging, blaming and critique of others without first going through an inner transformation to gospel values of mercy, justice and reconciliation.
The challenge is to put less energy looking outside and look within to what needs to be changes within me.
The final point would be to see the other person, even those we see as the enemy, as a child of God and seek to express the truth in love and allow God to work in their life and mine
Gordon: Thank you for a great interview the challenges that many of use face.