In modern psychology when we talk about empathy we use two terms: cognitive empathy and affective empathy.
What modern psychology seem to say is that compassion and empathy is something that has to do with the brain. It's not so much about the heart. I have even heard psychologist speak of the emotion of love. Modern psychology do tell us strange things indeed. I do like people who have cognitive and affective empathy but it must be something more than the brain in order for me to call those people empathic. On the other hand some Catholics say strange things like we have extreme freedom when choosing how to behave (but some of us have psychologival problems).

Please give mr a Catholic respond to all of thiss!

It seems to me that cognitive empathy means that I can appreciate what another person is going through, whereas affective empathy means that I feel the emotions of that person.  A good physician would have cognitive empathy, but with respect to the patient he is working on, would try not to have affective empathy.  (William Osler talked about this).  On the other hand, having affective empathy might be a good thing for someone who works with children or people who are cognitively challenged, where what causes them pain or pleasure may not be apparent to the caregiver.  Of course both kinds of empathy come from the brain.  The heart has nothing to do with emotions.  As for the Catholic position, we believe in free will -- that a human being who is intact physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually can make choices.  That is why the story of Adam and Eve (a "myth" -- It is theology, not history) is so important.  They were those "intact" human beings, and freely chose to not do what God asked.  Now Catholic theology says that none of us are completely intact, and therefore our choices are in part governed by emotions, by previous choices, etc.  We aren't as free as we would like to be, and some people have almost no freedom (schizophrenics, etc) because of disease, etc.  That is the theory behind annulments -- was there something going on when the couple took their vows that prevented them from making a "free" decision to marry?  And the Church teaches that the seriousness of sin is related to whether the action was freely chosen or not.  So I think the Church has a very rational position on "free will" which is supported by modern psychology.  Hope this helps.  


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Donald Higby


Most any question about Catholic teachings, the structure of the Church, issues related to Catholic teachings on sexuality and marriage; I also know a lot about biblical foundations for Catholic teaching, and apologetics. As a scientist and a deacon, I am conversant with the dialogue between science and religion.


Deacon, 13 years; Religion minor, Catholic University of America. Self study.

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Diaconal Formation, four years (college level courses) Catholic University of America, religion minor, philosophy minor. (AB)

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