I met Fr. Larry Richards once when he came to Ottawa for a Men’s Conference. He is a naturally charismatic and likable person. He has helped, and continues to help I’m sure, many, many persons. Over the years I have heard some things he has taught that I do not agree with, namely, his position on some objectively sinful behaviour between married persons that he has claimed is not necessarily sinful, and also his ‘pastoral’ approach to Catholics attending attempted weddings that we know are not going to be valid. He also has given what I would consider bad advice to those who want to take a serious look at family of origin issues. But overall, he is a very good priest. Lately he has received some very public criticism for some things he has said, and it is becoming very messy. In an attempt to help some persons, maybe even Fr. Larry himself, I decided to weigh in with my two cents worth in the comments section of a LifeSiteNews article. After posting a very long comment, I had second thoughts and greatly edited my comment to replace the original. Since then, some fellow commentators have replied to me and it looks like the comments on the article might be turning from anger into compassion. I hope my posts helped in that regard. You can follow the link to see the article and all the comments if you wish. I will now post my original comment before I edited it.
Below is the original comment that I wrote in the comments section but is no longer there, and here is the link to the articleLife Site News article
The modern Church family has become highly dysfunctional. There is healing for members of dysfunctional families, but only for those willing to intentionally break the three unspoken but very rigid rules that keep the cycle continuing on the downward spiral, namely 1) To repress and suppress personal feelings, 2) To not trust yourself and to not trust others, and 3) To not talk about the real problem(s); the proverbial elephant(s) in the room.
I do not know anything about what types of help Fr. Richards has sought for himself, and for all we know he is seeking help for himself presently, but I have heard him flippantly dismiss and ridicule persons who sincerely seek healing for themselves due to family of origin issues. I recall him saying something like, ‘Get over it, your parents weren’t perfect and neither are you.’ Those are the types of things that I have heard others who grew up in an alcoholic home say when they don’t think they personally need any help, but would actually greatly benefit from a recovery program or therapy or 12 Step groups. It’s almost as if they are afraid, but that fear makes them put on a bold front. I empathize with Fr. Richards. He has openly spoken about his father’s alcoholism and his breakthrough forgiveness or final expression of love at his father’s deathbed, and I suppose the advice he has given to others to ‘just get over it’ is probably the advice that he has given himself. And this bad advice might be catching up with him.
An addict is often trapped in denial. An addict often cannot seem to see that he or she has a problem with dependency on his or her preferred substance. Persons who are also trapped in denial are those closely associated with an addict. Some of these persons sometimes are also addicts of one form or another, but they all become codependent to varying degrees, and this to their own detriment.
Addiction is often understood as a disease, and I agree. Codependent persons also suffer from a disease, and this we call codependency. The type of denial that codependent persons have is much more difficult to overcome than that of an addict, because the codependent person usually becomes very good at controlling things. Until they can’t. And then things like we see in the video within the above article start happening. Just for the fun of it, why not search for Adult Children of Alcoholic Syndrome and see if things start making a bit of sense. And then let each of us consider the log or the plank in our own eye.
The disease of addiction and the disease of codependency is actually deadly, but thanks be to God, it is treatable. But more often than not, most will never accept the help to become free. Confrontation is not usually well received from the inflicted person, but rather defiant denial and angry accusations are directed to those trying to help.
I think that many of the major present day problems in the Church can be understood as untreated addictions and untreated codependency. Consider the don’t feel, don’t trust, and don’t talk rules in respect to these Church problems: the same-s/x scandals and cover-ups, priests and bishops not preaching and teaching the entire Gospel, a climate of fear at all levels, and the inability to deal with the obvious unpredictability, inconsistencies, and contradictions from Francis and various cardinals, bishops, and priests. Then consider all the in-fighting and cruel ad hominem insults hurled between otherwise good Catholics. The reality is that every person is hurting deeply, including those persons who are inflicting great suffering on others.
To really find healing and freedom, I suggest we begin by taking Our Lord’s words seriously: “The truth will set you free.” Theological truth? Sure, but also the truth that is right in front of us that anyone with eyes to see can see. Acknowledge the problems. Do not deny them. Then, with love for all as the motive, intentionally break the dysfunctional rules.
Breaking the rules will have both negative and positive consequences. The negative consequences mostly involve being on the receiving end of the anger and resentment of whoever remains in denial. The positive consequences include finding a new freedom that those trapped in addictions and codependency could never otherwise imagine! But that freedom, for whoever might be actually still reading this post, is a real fruit of the Resurrection. Do you want a tangible religious experience of Jesus setting the captives free in this life? Do not be afraid to learn about addictions and codependency, and, if by the grace of God, you can identify with what you learn, then don’t be afraid to get the help that is available to anyone who looks for it. The result will be the gift that Jesus promised, and that is, a peace that the world cannot give! In Viam Pacis.