In a recent number of the Zeitschrift f. Psychiatrie (published in May, 1898) Möbius devotes an article to the memory of Heinroth (dead now fifty-five years), who is chiefly famous for the doctrine which he taught that mental disease arises from sin. He was, Möbius tells us, the first clinical teacher of psychiatry in Germany. It may therefore well be that he exercised an injurious effect, and that he was, as Kräfelin says, a dangerous enemy to the school of scientific psychiatry, then recently founded by Esquirol. Möbius, however, endeavours to point that he had nevertheless his merits. To us the matter is chiefly interesting as marking time. Such and such things a physician taught sixty years ago, and in the very next number of the journal which contains Möbius's historical notice we find how a priest writes to-day. In the Zeitschrift f. Psychiatrie published in June, 1898, there is a short review by the editor, Laehr, of a little work on “Pastoral Psychiatry” forming one of the volumes of an encyclopædia of Catholic theology, and setting forth views on sacerdotal work in asylums, which are published “with the approval of the Venerable the Vicariate-General of Freiburg, and of the Episcopal Ordinariate of Regensburg.” The author, Laehr tells us, frankly begins by saying that the physician must take the first place in dealing with the insane, and must have the direction of the treatment. Insanity is described as a disease of the brain, and the causal connection of the mental processes with brain conditions is said to be demonstrable by psycho-physics. The author modestly claims that there should be for every large asylum a special chaplain, so circumstanced that he could devote the necessary time to his work and spend as long as possible in the institution, for (the italics are ours, and they feebly express our feelings) “the acquisition of the necessary knowledge is not very easy, and the mode of intercourse with the various patients is not to be learned off-hand.” It is a pity that this sensible sentence could not be engraven on the tablets of memory for those occasional asylum committee-men who conceive that mere election on an asylum Board makes them familiar with the last results of science, and capable of teaching his business to the physician who has devoted his lifetime to the work. And we must earnestly commend to our older judges, and especially to those venerable denizens of the Gilded Chamber who are finally appealed to as the infallible exponents of the common law of England, the following excerpts from Father Ignatius Familier's work as given by Laehr:—“In all the many intermediate stages between mental health and complete insanity the freedom of the will is always limited in the same degree as the mind is affected. Therefore, such a person cannot be held entirely accountable for his actions, and is only responsible to a limited degree. If serious disturbances dominate any one region of mental activity, then complete irresponsibility must be held to exist, for the morbid errors of one mental sphere are almost never corrected by the part remaining in a better state, but on the contrary bring about a morbid condition of the entire personality” (das ganze Thun und Lassen krankhaft bestimmen). In a chapter “De Sacramentis” the author makes a most interesting distinction “between those lunatics who have been insane from their earliest infancy, and those who have been stricken by insanity after a longer or shorter period of sound mental health. The sacrament of Extreme Unction should never be administered to the former, for the possibility of committing a sin is taken from them by their irresponsibility. On the other hand, Extreme Unction must be administered to the latter when at all possible.”
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.