Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.

The Vatican Agrees with me!

06-16-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

So it seems that my true greatness has finally been noticed! That is with all humility of course. Or at least God must be tired of hearing my rants about the dangers of medicalizing every emotional and behavioral issue a child faces and the lack of imagination in finding solutions other than medications to those problems. This past week at the Vatican, the Pontifical Council for Health Care (which oversees the Church's healthcare institutions and practices) held a conference entitled: The Child as Person and as Patient: Therapeutic Approaches Compared.

In my amazement the issues that I have been telling you about for many years have finally caught the attention of the Vatican! They have assembled a very impressive group of international cutting edge researchers and clinicians to discuss the problem with current clinical approaches to helping young people deal with their unique emotional and personality issues. Specifically many of the speakers, like me have tried to raise the red flag about the dangers of the pharmaceutical approach.

This is great news. The Vatican has a worldwide pulpit and a huge influence on health care practices. While this sort of thing can take a while to filter down to actual clinical practice it will initially raise the questions that so many refuse to ask. More than that hopefully it will influence the Church's pastoral practice in the way in which we help families shape and form their children. We have an epidemic of addiction among children and young people that is killing them spiritually if not also physically. The Church needs to lead on this issue and it appears that is what this Conference is all about.

The Church's pastoral practice is rooted in an understanding of the human person as both body and soul, physical and spiritual. And when we treat the individual exclusively on the physical level alone we are serving them in an incomplete way. Yet as I pointed out in my letter of 5/26/13 (Why We Need to Move to France) at least in the US we tend to treat all problems as a biological pathology that can be fixed with the use of medication. Our loyalty to that approach is pretty fierce. Somehow once a drug is labeled a medication we think it is safe to use. It may not be. In particular drugs like Adderral and Ritalin are even more dangerous than the methamphetamine you can get on the street simply because they are of high quality, pharmaceutical grade something that's hard to get from a dealer.

Because of the push to label every emotional or behavioral problem as a chemical imbalance that can be fixed with the right mixture of chemicals it can be hard for us to hear another way of approaching the problems our children face. That is always one of my challenges: how do I speak about these issues, knowing that many parents have used the pharmaceutical approach (often because they have been given no other options) to treat their child's problems, and do so in a way that doesn't turn them off, tick them off or push them away? But instead offer them another way of looking at the problems their children face. This Conference should help families make better decisions when weighing the risks and benefits of any type of treatment and to so with all the facts.

Fortunately I will be attending the Conference at the Vatican. So this is being written before the actual event. I am not sure what will happen or how this will play out but I do know that this is God's timing. This is sort of like living in the middle of the answer to my prayers!

Also while I am in Rome Pope Francis will be celebrating Mass in St. Peter's with a particular focus on John Paul II's 1995 Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life Encyclical). John Paul reminded us in a powerful way that all life is a precious and fragile gift that has been entrusted to us as a responsibility to pro- tect, defend and nurture at all stages. I can't think of a more apt convergence: all that we do especially for our children is so that they might have more and more of the Abundant Life.

So if you are reading this on Sunday, I will be offering Mass at the same time at St. Peter's for all of the People of Mt. Carmel.

Love, Fr. John B.