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Symington, N. (1990). Religion and psychoanalysis. Free Associations, 1T(19):105-116.

(1990). Free Associations, 1T(19):105-116

Religion and psychoanalysis

Neville Symington

The Cult of the Virgin Mary, by Michael P. Carroll, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986

The inner emotional life of millions is encapsulated in their devotion to the Virgin Mary. As the author says, over four million pilgrims visit the shrine of Lourdes in southern France each year and over two million the shrine at Fatima in Portugal. From these and millions of others the Virgin Mary evokes a devotional intensity that is little short of worship. The Roman Catholic Church has laid down that latria — worship — be given only to God himself and that the saints are accorded dulia, but that the Blessed Virgin Mary can be accorded hyperdulia. In other words, she cannot officially be entitled to worship but she is entitled to a status of devotion which is higher than that which is allowable to the saints. A psychologist, however, would find it difficult to differentiate between the devotional intensity in a believer praying to God during the Canon of the Mass and the same believer saying his rosary before a statue of the Virgin Mary. The author rightly recognizes that devotion to the Virgin Mary is a particular preserve of the Roman Catholic Church, and it is here that his examination of the cult of the Virgin Mary begins.


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