From "The Possibilities of Perversion" in "Masochism, a Jungian View"
Lyn Cowan, Spring Publications, 1997
Much of Catholic Christianity's liturgy, sacramental ritual and theology is built on an awareness of, if not appreciation for, psychological (or religious) "masochism." In the central image of crucifixion we are confronted with the paradox of the pathology in redemption, and the redemption through pathos. The imitatio Christi is a call not to punishment but to suffering. The root meaning of the word "suffer" is "to bear" or "to carry", as a burden.
... we can ... discern the outlines of some fundamental Christian concepts (suffering, repentance, atonement, sacrifice) behind masochistic phenomena. Of course masochism becomes pathological when it is a surface phenomenon, a superficiality, with no backdrop, no reference to a deeper ground .... Without its sense of worship and submission, without acknowledgment of the god moving in it, masochism loses its connection to, and meaning for, the soul. Unconscious of deeper motive and soul needs, we see only sin in unreflective sadomasochistic sex. Religious suffering looks like perversion; repentance like excessive, fruitless guilt, atonement like one-sided moralism, crucifixion like martyrdom, and sacrifice like self-mutilation.
Suffering, repentance, atonement, and sacrifice, whether or not they are cast in a specifically Christian framework, are fundamental psychological experiences. They may be humiliating to the ego, but they are of profound import and meaning - and sometimes intense pleasure - to the soul. These experiences may bring humility and healing. Masochism requires that we stay with the down-and-under side of Christianity.