Addiction is a disease

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The papers are still trying to figure out what happened to Philip Seymour Hoffman. One of the most engaging actors of our day died with a needle still sticking in his vein sitting on the can in his apartment. It was a “hot shot” and now his family is stricken with the loss of a father and lover and his friends are devastated.

The costs of addiction are terrible. I know. I have seen the needle and the damage done. A family member is struggling with recovery and it ebbs and flows. My wife and I pray on this every day and night.

There are many kinds of addictions. Prescription drugs are the worst at the moment. There is a pipeline from “Pain Management” centers to the pharmacies who are the new dealers. Oxycontin? Vicodin? Zanax? Opama? Percocet? Morphine? Valium?  Add Meth to the list as well. Ecstasy has had its toll as have many other drugs.

National Review’s Kevin D Williamson describes the Oxycontin Express, a bus route that runs from Florida to Kentucky and West Virginia bringing prescription drugs to the “Pillbillies”. It’s a short hop from Oxycontin and Opana to heroin. Oxycontin is expensive. Heroin is cheaper and more available and more pure than it has ever been. Philip Seymour Hoffman is an example but here in Orange County where I live, we lose 1 to 2 young people per week to narcotics. The toll from alcohol addiction shows up in the hospitals and police statistics. The toll from these addictions and others such as sex or gambling addiction show up in divorce rates and broken families and repetitive behavior from generation to generation.

The world is facing a crisis of addiction. In Iran, in Afghanistan and in the West and even in China.

20% of our population is susceptible to addiction according to the statistics. The National Institute on Drug Abuse data indicates that 50% of addicts have experienced childhood trauma. Close to 90% of young addicts start with pot and alcohol. If one wishes to add in adult trauma, the numbers increase even more. Veterans returning home with PTSD reach for a bottle or a joint or something more and once they are hooked, the monkey is well and truly on their back same as with all other addicts.

It doesn’t want to let go. It is there for the duration. Alcoholics Anonymous has pointed this out since 1935. A gentleman named Rowland H. visited Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychoanalyst, who told him that the case was hopeless from a medical treatment perspective. Jung directed Rowland H. to the Oxford Group, who were dedicated to recreating the spirit of the first Christians. They were founded on the Four Steps and the Four Standards, the predecessor to every 12 step program today.

Addiction is powerlessness. It is physical and it is spiritual and it is biochemical and neurological. You cannot run from it just as you cannot run if you are infected with HIV. In fact, the recovery rate from HIV is better than that of some addictions. Addiction is not a choice.

Addicts are often filling a psychic or spiritual hole. They are often damaged goods long before that first toke or sip or pill at a party. Others become addicted in more traditional forms. An athlete is injured and begins to use painkillers. A veteran does the same. Slowly the drug hijacks the body and the soul. I have met all of these types. They are our children and neighbors and co workers and friends and even go to the same churches and schools and jobs. There are functional and non functional addicts, but in the end they are all non functional since they usually die long before they should have.

The drugs themselves are ruthless. Heroin, cocaine, and meth can all grab a soul in just a few days. And then Satan owns their soul until they can crawl back to normalcy. Addicts often believe they can handle it at the outset; that they are in control. But the statistics say otherwise.

The illness of addiction is often linked to our dysfunctional mental health system and is certainly wrapped up in our penal system. Over 50% of the prisoners in the Federal system are there for drug offenses. According to the National Institute of Mental Health over 50% of all prisoners in our penal system have mental health issues. What is the overlap? 30%? 50%? More?

Fr. Don Calloway is a Catholic Priest. He wasn’t always. He was an addict when he was young. He was in rehabilitation and the doctors, the best in the field, told him that he had a 3% chance of recovery. He was stunned. He said to himself “They are telling me that I have a 3% chance of recovery? With all of the best minds and years and years of experience they say only 3% of opiate addicts will recover? They’re doing it wrong!”

We, as a society, are doing it wrong. As a society we do not wish to credit faith and moral guidance as key elements of recovery and yet time and again these have proven to be the keys. It is a constant process. It is not easy. But just as a HIV infected patient or a diabetic can keep death at bay, so can addicts. Addicts also have a disease of the soul. All of the symptoms and the root causes must be addressed.

But we have to begin to view the problem from a new perspective. With compassion and empathy and respect. Just as the Catholic faith teaches to condemn the sin, not the sinner we must begin to do the same. The addiction must be viewed separately from the person.

Treatment, sober living and living with relapses are all a part of recovery. Continual reinforcement is necessary, even years later. Perhaps especially years later as in the case of Mr. Hoffman. Mental health related issues are one of the scourges of our times. But we can do better. The solutions are there if we wish to seek them out. Neuropsychology, Neurology, Metrology and other sciences are pushing the boundaries back on our understanding of the brain. We have always known the source for the understanding of the soul.

We can do this. But first we must rethink our strategies of dealing with this scourge.

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The UN goes to war with the Catholic Church

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The headlines in the press all over the world are screaming about the UN’s condemnation of the Roman Catholic Church for child abuse by a small number of priests of a faith that encompasses 1.2 Billion adherents around the world.

The members of the committee of 18 experts include representatives from Saudi Arabia (vice-chair), Egypt, Bahrain (vice -chair), Tunisia, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, The Russian Federation, Norway (chair) among others. In fact, one could hardly ask for a more hostile Commission.

You can get the flavor of the attacks here, here, and here. They include:

UN accuses Vatican of adopting policies that allowed priests to rape children

Daily Telegraph

U.N. panel blasts Vatican handling of clergy sex abuse, church teachings on gays, abortion

Washington Post

U.N. Panel Assails Vatican Over Sexual Abuse by Priests

New York Times

The headlines capture a broad condemnation of the Church’s perceived failings, including its stances on gay marriage, birth control, and abortion. Little of this made the headlines. But if you dig deeper and read the report some of the gems include:

“The Committee recommends that the Holy See undertake a comprehensive
review of its normative framework, in particular Canon Law, with a view to ensuring
its full compliance with the Convention.”

How very statist.

“The Committee welcomes the information provided by the Holy See during the
interactive dialogue that it has initiated a review of its legislation with a view to
withdrawing the discriminatory expression “illegitimate children” which can still be found in Canon Law, in particular Canon 1139. While also noting as positive the progressive statement delivered in July 2013 by Pope Francis, the Committee is concerned about the Holy See’s past statements and declarations on homosexuality which contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents and children raised by same-sex couples.”

The Committee willfully and categorically misstates the Church’s position.

“The Committee recommends that the Holy See bring all its laws and regulations, as well as its policies and practices, in conformity with article 2 of the Convention and promptly abolish the discriminatory classification of children born out-of-wedlock as illegitimate children. The Committee also urges the Holy See to make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalisation of homosexuality.”

The Committee wishes to reinvent the law and the language.

“Amend both Canon Law and Vatican City State laws to explicitly prohibit all corporal punishment of children, including within the family”

Spanking? Really? It worked in my case.

“The Committee also regrets that the Holy See did not provide precise information on the measures taken to promote equality between girls and boys and to remove gender stereotypes from Catholic schools textbooks.”

Hmmmm….same size fits all? I think the facts speak for themselves.

“The Committee is concerned that the Holy See restrictively interprets children’s
right to express their views in all matters affecting them, as well as their rights to freedom of expression, association and religion.”

Children are children and it is integral to teach them in all matters, including faith and morals. Freedom of expression in a child can range from tantrums to acting out to inappropriate behavior. Let’s ask the Saudi, Bahraini, and Malaysian delegates how they interpret this.

“The Committee strongly urges the Holy See to cooperate in studies to determine the root causes of the practice of anonymous abandonment of babies and expeditiously strengthen and promote alternatives, taking into full account the right of children to know their biological parents and siblings, as enshrined in article 7 of the Convention.

The Catholic Church’s commitment to life is centered on the protection and care of children, wherever they are. In India, where Mother Teresa care for thousands of babies born into other faiths. The Church takes in the abandoned, the halt, and the lame and yet the UN Commission has the effrontery to challenge this mission, which has been abnegated by the state in so many countries?

The Committee also urges the Holy See to contribute to addressing the abandonment of babies by providing family planning, reproductive health, as well as adequate counseling and social support, to prevent unplanned pregnancies as well as assistance to families in need, while introducing the possibility of confidential births at hospitals as a measure of last resort to prevent abandonment and/or death of a child.”

“The Committee urges the Holy See to adopt a policy for the deinstitutionalization of children placed in Catholic Church-run institutions and for the reunification with their families, where possible. The Committee also recommends that the Holy See take all necessary measures to ensure as a matter of priority that children under the age of three are not placed in institutions.

“The Committee urges the Holy See to review its position on abortion which
places obvious risks on the life and health of pregnant girls and to amend Canon 1398 relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted.”

“The Committee is seriously concerned about the negative consequences of the Holy
See’s position and practices of denying adolescents’ access to contraception, as well as to sexual and reproductive health and information.”

“Assess the serious implications of its position on adolescents’ enjoyment
of the highest attainable standard of health and overcome all the barriers and taboos
surrounding adolescent sexuality that hinder their access to sexual and reproductive
information, including on family planning and contraceptives, the dangers of early
pregnancy, the prevention of HIV/AIDS and the prevention and treatment of sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs)”

“Guarantee the best interests of pregnant teenagers and ensure that the
views of the pregnant adolescent always be heard and respected in the field of
reproductive health.”

These last demands by the UN Commission go against the core teachings of Christianity.

The Church’s teachings are believed by Catholics to be the Word of God. The Church is centered upon the imperfection of man and on the redemption of sin through faith and good works. The Roman Catholic Church established the world’s first hospitals and orphanages and considers caring for the world’s poor, regardless of faith as a central mission. As the UN Commissioners met in Geneva, one of the world’s most elegant and expensive cities Catholics all over the world were carrying out this mission. In a world that sees more dark clouds every day the Church has been a ray of hope.

We believe that our Bible is the Word of God and that we must follow its tenets. Central to these beliefs is the Right to Life.

The United Nations has most decidedly advanced a statist, anti-life agenda in this document.The report is a contradiction in itself. It is deeply in error. This is unsurprising considering the composition of the Human Rights Council. It includes a number of countries where Sharia Law rules and women are supremely oppressed. In the Russian Republic the Orthodox Church is the state religion and religious freedom for other faiths, especially Roman Catholics, is forbidden. In many of the member states on the Committee Christianity is suppressed and persecuted.

At the same time the diseases of the libertine Left permeate the report. Anything goes and everything is allowed.

It is deeply ironic that in this country those same Leftists who almost uniformly condemn the Church are silent in the face of Woody Allen’s  crimes.

And while the Church is deeply imperfect, to question its fundamental teachings is a grave offense.

When will we read of a report on the enslavement and stoning of women in Islamic countries? Or the Abrahamic code of punishment of Sharia? Are these not greater offenses? Or will we see a report on the damage done by the casual taking and ending of life through abortion and euthanasia?

Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church in particular have become easy targets for the failings of men. Lost is the message that faith should lift humanity to a more responsible and moral life. Much of the report’s condemnation concerns practices that ended many years ago. Where is there a recognition of this?

The clouds of darkness are gathering. Again I think of Yeat’s Second Coming:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The United Nations, the supposed guarantor of religions freedom, has spoken. And now its position is clarified. It is at war with Western Values.