Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren has praised as a “watershed moment” the release of a new pastoral letter by Catholic bishops who are calling on the wider community to care for those who are mentally ill and help end the stigma around them.
The letter comes after years of collaboration between Warren and Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange, California, on the issue of mental health. The two began working closely together after Warren’s son, Matthew, committed suicide in 2013 following a lifelong struggle with mental illness.
The letter, posted in full earlier this week on the California Catholic Conference website, says that America’s pastors and bishops are “deeply concerned with the heartbreaking prevalence of mental illness in our society and are taking action to address this tragic form of misery and sorrow.”
It warns that mental health “strikes deep within the human soul, impacting and influencing a person’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors; thereby affecting all aspects of a person’s life — work and rest, family life and relationships, prayer and one’s relationship with God.”
The bishops declare that “mental illness is neither a moral failure nor a character defect.”
“To suffer from a psychiatric disorder is not a sign of insufficient faith or weakness of will. Christian faith and religious practice do not immunize a person against mental illness. … As Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, who lost a family member to suicide, said: ‘your chemistry is not your character’ and ‘your illness is not your identity.'”
It is crucial that Christians get to know, befriend, and listen to people suffering from mental health issues, which could include depression, addictions, psychological trauma, or loneliness, the letter stresses.
“This is not because we have all the answers to their problems or can cure all of their afflictions, but simply because these encounters — these small acts of love and compassion, understanding, and friendship — are precisely what people need most.”
The letter reminds the faithful that those who have lost ones ones to suicide also need care and attention.
“They have not only lost someone dear to them and are deeply grieving, their intense grief is often complicated by feelings of shame, confusion’ anger or guilt,” it states.
“Furthermore, they often feel alone and misunderstood, as though they cannot discuss this with anyone.”
Warren explained that the new document will be used “not simply by Catholics and Christians in California, but also by nonbelievers.”
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Source: Christian Post