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Peter Kreeft Discusses What Is Ailing in Modern Psychology
Says field must acknowledge existence of the human soul.

Peter Kreeft at IPS
Peter Kreeft has been involved with IPS since its beginnings in 1999.

by Kelly Luttinen

“St. Anthony, St. Anthony, come around.
Something’s lost that must be found.”

This simple Catholic children’s prayer sums up the talk given by Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, during the Founder’s Day celebration for the Institute for the Psychological Sciences in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday, September 11, 2009.

Just what has been lost, and who lost it?  The answer lies in the title of Kreeft’s talk --“Has Psychology Lost its Soul?”

“The answer to that question is yes,” he said.  “It’s not only lost its soul, but the soul.”

Kreeft is referring to the tendency for those who practice modern psychology to deny any supernatural aspects of human existence.  According to Pope Benedict XVI in his latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, this is a serious mistake.

“Social and psychological alienation and the many neuroses that afflict affluent societies are attributable in part to spiritual factors…” the Pope writes. “There cannot be holistic development and universal common good unless people´s spiritual and moral welfare is taken into account, considered in their totality as body and soul."

In answer to this urgent need, IPS was founded to help psychology once again find and address the needs of the human soul.  “How can we do this?” Kreeft asked.  “We help people find their soul by showing ours.”  

IPS is the first graduate school in the psychological sciences to incorporate Catholic theology and philosophy into its program.  Kreeft has been involved with IPS since its beginnings, according to IPS founder and dean, Dr.
Kreeft, Sikorsky
Fr Charles Sikorsky and Dr Gladys Sweeney with Peter Kreeft, author and guest speaker at the founder's day event.
Gladys Sweeney.  During her introduction of the professor, Dr. Sweeney told the audience how the professor had came to be involved in almost every major celebratory milestone for IPS since its founding.

In 1997, Sweeney and colleague Nancy Flynn (now Coordinator, Student Services and Events and Planning for IPS) went to visit Kreeft to solicit his involvement in the institute, but Kreeft was not in his office that day.  So they came back the next day.  Kreeft was there, and gruffly told them that they could have 10 minutes of his time.  He barked, “and if you ask me to join any boards, the answer is no.  I’m not a joiner.”

Despite the cold reception, Sweeney and Flynn held Kreeft’s interest for an hour and half.  He shared with Dr. Sweeny and Flynn how his own daughter had been searching for a Catholic graduate school to study psychology, but found that no such school existed.  She settled for an Evangelical Protestant college.

Ten years later, IPS has filled that void.  Fr Charles Sikorsky, LC, president of IPS, told the group gathering on September 11, 2009, that the institute will “go where secular psychology does not want to go.” 

Students and faculty at IPS are well aware of the challenges they face, but they are also aware they are called to help a troubled society that often finds few answers for its deeply seated problems in a secular approach to psychological healing.  The graduates of IPS are determined to help their clients once again discover their souls, and the purpose of those souls.

Quoting CS Lewis, Kreeft said all human beings know they want something they cannot have in this world.  Referring to the well-know statement by St. Augustine, he said, “You have made us for yourself, Oh God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  

Kreeft explained something modern psychologists ignore and IPS graduates relish– that the soul is the image of God within us. 

“The womb is like an altar,” Kreeft said, “where God says ‘This is my Body.’  In the womb, he creates images of himself.”

He continued, “The soul is capable of union with God.  It can know God.  It can be transformed into something that can participate with God for eternity.” 

To learn more about IPS and its efforts to integrate psychology and the Catholic faith, visit the web site at



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