I don’t know if I would have picked up Ashamed No More: A Pastor’s Journey Through Sex Addiction if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m participating in the Patheos Book Club discussion (so yes, I received a review copy).
I wasn’t sure I would finish it.
It’s a compelling topic but…I just wasn’t sure how I would react (a) as a Catholic, (b) as a person, and (c) as a reader.
What I found in Ashamed No More
The book is well-written and the story is engaging. What T.C. Ryan describes is something I’ll bet more people have experienced than not.
Ryan is honest, but he never crosses the TMI line. He’s candid, but he doesn’t pretend to understand what every other person has experienced.
Chapter 9, which covers mindfulness from a myriad of viewpoints, is worth the price of the book, in my opinion. If I had been marking the book, I would have left this chapter nearly completely highlighted. Much of what it covers speaks to so many of us in our struggles with everyday life.
In fact, this book as a whole has that effect. It’s part memoir and part advice, and while it is painful to see what Ryan went through, it’s also enlightening.
I think many people could stand to learn from this former pastor and his journey.
Thoughts I had during Ashamed No More
I found it interesting that many of the breakthrough experiences the author had in his healing happened in contexts that were decidedly Catholic. He went to confession (though he couldn’t receive the actual sacrament) with a Catholic priest. He had a huge “God moment” in a Benedictine monastery before an icon of Christ.
I did have a few shake-my-head moments, though, things that I’m still processing. In fact, I’ve talked to my priest about many of these things, and my take on what he responded with is included.
I’m no theologian, mind you, and I don’t want to nitpick this book. That’s not my intent (so please don’t read it that way!).
Is the person essentially good or essentially bad?
Maybe it’s because I just had a discussion with someone about how Catholics and non-Catholics approach this differently. Maybe it’s because I kept feeling like, throughout his story, Ryan was pointing to the fallenness of humanity.
I don’t argue with that. We are fallen.
And yet, weren’t we created essentially good?
I don’t have the answer, and I didn’t research it. It niggled and naggled me as I read. He dealt with it well, I thought.
According to my priest, this is a point where Catholics and non-Catholics differ. In fact, it can be a major point of difference. So the fact that I noticed it and was niggled and naggled by it isn’t surprising.
Are some sins worse than other sins?
There were quite a few places in the book when Ryan posits that those who commit sexual sins are no worse than those who commit other sins. I couldn’t quite get my mind around why this bothered me so much and then, while I was discussing it with a friend yesterday, it came to me, I’m Catholic! We have a ranking of sins.
There are venial sins and there are mortal sins. Stealing from someone is worse than telling a white lie. Killing someone is worse than not coming when your mother calls you.
Yes, without a doubt, some sins are worse than others. Period. I disagree with the theory that all sins are the same. And the Catholic Church is behind me on this.
That said, I wonder if there’s not a hurdle of semantics and phrasing between us.
Because, honestly, I have some struggles that are more serious than others. I have some recurring bouts of sin that need a heavier hand than others.
This is a point of theological difference again, I suppose.
Where are the sacraments?
It was painful to read about Ryan’s journey knowing he couldn’t receive the graces of the sacraments. I’ve had some Big Struggles With Sins (which are no one’s business, thankyouverymuch), and I have benefited immensely from the Eucharist and Confession especially.
What’s Church vs. church?
When Ryan talks about the church as a universal entity, he uses the small-c reference. And yet, I couldn’t help but see large-C Church implications.
Where’s the authority? Who has it?
There’s pain in our disunity, in our non-universality as Christians. I felt it as I read his references to the church of God and noted, each time, how there was no large-C tying us all together.
May I introduce you to Theology of the Body?
There’s a chapter near the end of the book (Chapter 11, actually) when I wanted to give a copy of Theology of the Body to Ryan and anyone else who struggles with sexual sins.
If you haven’t read it, even if you’re not Catholic, it’s worth reading. It’s biblical. It’s true. And it is all about how our sexuality is designed by God, for our good, in His image.
Parting thoughts on Ashamed No More
I’m glad I read it. I didn’t rate it on Goodreads, because, well, I’m still not sure how I would rate it. It made me really consider my own faith, our Catholic approach to this topic, and the many graces available to Christians in general.
It made me face some stark statistics and consider the important role I play as a wife, mother, teacher, woman, Christian.
It also made real for me in a whole new way the pain that’s in the divide between Catholics and our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters. Reading this book broke my heart from that aspect as well.