We must also reflect on our own fears as we grapple with our prejudices toward those with mental health needs. Our society must provide health services and support to those who have mental illnesses and to their families and caregivers. As a community we need to support one another so no one feels unable to get help for a mentally ill family member or neighbor in need. Burdensome healthcare policies must be adjusted so people can get help for themselves or others in need. Just as we properly reach out to those with physical challenges we need to approach mental health concerns with equal sensitivity. There is no shame in seeking help for oneself or others; the only shame is in refusing to provide care and support.
The events in Newtown call us to turn to our Lord in prayer and to witness more profoundly Christ’s perfect love, mercy and compassion. We must confront violence with love.
There are glimmers of hope in this tragedy. Many people, including some of the victims, made extraordinary efforts to protect life. In particular, the teachers, the principal, the children, the first responders and other leaders showed tremendous courage during the tragedy. Some sacrificed their own lives protecting others.
In their memory and for the sake of our nation, we reiterate our call made in 2000, in our statement, Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, for all Americans, especially legislators, to:
1.Support measures that control the sale and use of firearms
2.Support measures that make guns safer (especially efforts that prevent their unsupervised use by children and anyone other than the owner)
3.Call for sensible regulations of handguns
4.Support legislative efforts that seek to protect society from the violence associated with easy access to deadly weapons including assault weapons
5.Make a serious commitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime.
As we long for the arrival of the Prince of Peace in this Advent and Christmas season, we call on all people of goodwill to help bring about a culture of life and peace.