Archive of June 23, 2012

The aftereffects of bullying can last a lifetime

Wichita, Kan., Jun 23, 2012 (CNA) - We’ve had a spate of teen suicides in my hometown recently, and like everyone else, I am worried about it, saddened for those who are gone and saddened for those who remain to somehow find the grace to pick up the pieces.

My wife and I always taught our children that no matter how bleak the circumstance, it was temporary. And all their difficulties have to this point proven to be just that. Even problems that originate from bullying.   Bullying is a fixable societal problem. And yet we seem uncomfortable when talking about it. If we talk about it. I’m not sure if it has been determined how many of the six recent teen suicides in Midland, Texas, came by kids who were relentlessly picked on, poked at and made fun of by other children who inflate their self-worth and perceive themselves as some sort of higher being than the victim, often someone who can be, but is not always, smaller, meeker, milder and not as brash or outspoken as the bully.   This is a story about a 9-year-old kid who was bullied. Save for his parents’ response, nothing was ever done about it. Fortunately, the boy never entertained thoughts of suicide. But that doesn’t mean the incident just magically went away.   It was the summer of 1969 and the kid had been baptized in his church a month or so earlier and so he was, in today’s parlance, on fire. So, he decided to be brave and venture out from the walls and protection of his mom and dad, something he had never before done. He and his parents had been many places together, near and far, and so the kid had always felt comfortable in their company.   When he finally relented and agreed to attend summer camp, he did so with sweat on his palms and a knot in his throat. But he went anyway, and that was a big step. The kid will never forget the first night of his church-sponsored camp. After spending most of the afternoon alone (he was a shy kid, see), he had dinner with the other campers and at the end of the night the born-again 9-year-old with a  new found sense of boldness and adventure returned to his bunkhouse with the others.   But that first night’s experience was different for him than it was for the other campers because the kid was a rookie.   Some call what happened initiation. Others think of it as hazing. To me, it was bullying. The kid was tossed into the bunkhouse unawares and told to run down the middle aisle. On either side of the aisle were the bunks, upper and lower, of the 30 or so other campers who were there for a week of fun and games and praise and worship.   So the kid ran down the middle aisle like he was told. And as he did, he was struck repeatedly with belts. He was hit on the torso, the chest and in the backside more times than he cared to remember. The only thing that exceeded the pain of being struck was the humiliation that came with it. In fact, that stung a lot worse and a lot longer than the belt marks.   At the end of the “beltline,” as it was fondly called by his aggressors, were a couple of bigger kids waiting in the bathroom. By this time, the kid was crying. And when he got to the bathroom, the two bigger kids took the new kid, lifted him up and buried his head in a toilet filled with urine.   The bigger kids had a good laugh about the fun time they’d just had. For the rookie, the few moments in the aftermath disappeared from his memory; maybe because it was just too embarrassing to have to walk back through the beltline after the fun and festivities were over, knowing that he was on his way to the camp office, humiliated and embarrassed enough to call home and say,  “Please come get me.”   “Why?” the kid’s mom and dad would ask during the new kid’s call for help. And so he told them, and two hours later the kid’s parents had made the trip from their Dallas-area home and picked up their urine-soaked, belt-licked, born-again son.   The parents, like the good parents they were, informed the camp and the officials at the church, and everyone prayed that the incident would be forgotten and forgiven after the offenders were duly tongue-lashed and finger-scolded.   But the aftereffects of the incident never really subsided. The kid was never embraced by the group of kids his own age in the church, most particularly by those who swung at him and filled the toilet bowl with their surprise at the end of his long run through the bunkhouse.   The kid was scorned and never part of the “in crowd” and he often found himself sitting alone in church or with his parents while the other kids his age bonded together in their own pew. He would, in fact, spend nine more years at the church as he waited for his 18th birthday, but God never really seemed to be there with him. Not sitting next to him, at least.   That kid was me.The incident happened in the summer of 1969, several weeks after I was baptized in the church in which my parents raised me. It’s been 42 years since it happened, and although the pain is most certainly gone now, the memories of what happened are not.   Did it change my life? Yes it did. After being shunned by others my age for the remainder of the time I attended that church, it closed me down to that way of practicing the faith, although I hold that particular church in no way responsible.   In 1983, six years after I last set foot in the church, I met my wife and would warmly embrace — and would be warmly embraced by — the comfort and serenity of the Catholic Church. I was one of the lucky ones, finding a faith that I could call my own after a bad experience in another one.    It took awhile, but I can honestly say those who did what they did quite literally never spoke to me again. But pain gave way to new faith and what has been a wonderful life.   Not all stories turn out this way. If you know someone who is being bullied, encourage them to step forward and talk about it. When they do, remember: that’s when your job as a supporter of that bullying victim is only beginning.    A person being bullied needs someone with them just as much as they struggle through the pain and scorn that will inevitably follow.   Pray for people who are the victims of bullying. And be with them. The scars can last a lifetime, and those who bear them need to be guided through their ordeal so that they will outlive the most painful of the memories.   Posted with permission from the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, official newspaper for the Diocease of Wichita.    Jimmy Patterson is editor and director of communications for the Diocese of San Angelo, Texas.

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International community rejects abortion language at UN conference

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jun 23, 2012 (CNA) - Countries worldwide joined together to prevent language supporting abortion and population control from being included in an international document produced at a recent U.N. gathering.

By maintaining the correct focus, the international community can commit itself to “the pursuit of a more integral development which corresponds to the dignity of every human being,” said Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer.

Cardinal Scherer represented the Holy See at the recent Rio + 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

Timothy Herrmann of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, who attended the conference, explained that the Holy See was joined by a variety of nations, including Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Nicaragua, Russia and Syria in rejecting references to abortion in the document.

He reported on June 20 that groups such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Catholics for Choice and the United Nations Population Fund had been working along with Iceland and Norway to insert language of “population control” and “reproductive rights” into the conference’s final outcome document.

Such language is often used to promote an international “right” to abortion and contraception.

However this effort was resisted by numerous countries, Herrmann said.

The delegation from Nicaragua noted that the language of “reproductive rights” directly conflicted with the laws of many nations and is simply “a code at the U.N. for abortion.”

Chile’s delegation argued that the term “reproductive rights” is “incompatible” with the “right to life” and is not relevant to a document on sustainable development.

Russia observed that the population control language was used as an unacceptable means of reaching sustainable development.
In his address, Cardinal Scherer emphasized the importance of keeping work toward such development centered on the human person.

When dealing with the threats “posed by the persisting injustice of hunger, poverty and underdevelopment,” the international community must remain focused on “the dignity and worth of each and every person,” he said.

He observed that people are “charged with stewardship over nature,” and “this stewardship necessarily possesses an ethical dimension.”

“The right to water, the right to food, the right to health and the right to education are intrinsically linked to the right to life and to the right to development,” the cardinal said.

He warned of the “risk of obscuring this correct relationship,” particularly with regard to the right to health.

“Imposing death upon the most vulnerable human lives – namely, those in the safest sanctuary of their mothers’ wombs – cannot conceivably be brought under the nomenclature of health-care,” he insisted, cautioning that such a view “profoundly menaces the dignity of the human person.”

Cardinal Scherer called for “a renewed and deepened reflection on the meaning of the economy and its purposes,” as well as an ecological view that evaluates current challenges through “an integrally human model.”

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Vatican calls for AIDS medicine to be free

Rome, Italy, Jun 23, 2012 (CNA) - At the 8th International AIDS Conference in Rome, the Vatican urged that medicines used to treat afflicted patients in Africa be provided free of charge.

“Let us ensure that AIDS sufferers are given prompt, free and effective treatment. Access to treatment should be universal. Let us do this beginning with mothers and children,” Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said June 22.

“Here, in the name of the Holy Father, I speak for so many suffering voices, for so many sick people who have no voice: let us not waste time, but invest in the necessary resources.”

The conference, organized by the Sant’Egidio Community, was attended by officials from around 20 governments under the slogan of “Long live mothers and children.”

“We can no longer tolerate the death of so many mothers,” said the Cardinal to delegates, “we cannot think of thousands of children as a lost generation. Nothing is lost; Africa has sufficient resources; it is the continent of hope.”

Friday's gathering marked the 10th anniversary of the Sant’Egidio Community’s DREAM program – Drug Resource Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition – which now operates in 10 African countries.

It aims to provide retroviral drugs to mothers who are pregnant or breast-feeding. Results seem to suggest that such treatment reduces the HIV/AIDS infection rate among their babies to 3 percent.  Meanwhile over 90 percent of adults treated by DREAM are able to resume working and thus support their families.

“The more the infection spreads among women, who are the mainstay of families and communities, the greater the risk of social breakdown in many countries,” explained Cardinal Bertone, “The sickness of women, of children, of men, becomes the sickness of a whole society.”

He concluded by assuring delegates that “Pope Benedict XVI with the Church loves all of Africa” and that “we are committed with you in this fight for life.”

“We know that AIDS is not a fatal destiny for humanity. Altogether, with the help of God, we have the ability and strength to fight it. We have the duty to promote with renewed enthusiasm the gift of life. Thank you.”

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Supreme Knight says Catholic social teaching transcends partisan gap

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2012 (CNA) - In a new column, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus says that Catholics can rise above political divides by committing to and living out the Church's teaching on social issues.

“Catholics are in a unique position to change the culture of partisanship and division that has plagued our political process,” Anderson writes. “But to do so requires courage and an embracing of Catholic ideals and Social Teaching.”

The Supreme Knight's June 23 piece, titled “How Committing to Catholic Social Teaching Can Transcend Partisanship,” outlines three ways to create a social environment for such change.
Fundamentally, Catholics should engage in the public debate in a way that is civil “and with a tone that calls everyone to the 'better angels of our nature.'”

Second, “we must extend that charity in speech to actual acts of charity towards our neighbors, leading by example and extending a helping hand to all in need,” he says.

Lastly, members of the Church “must build a consistent commitment to Catholic Social Teaching among Catholic voters in America.”

In his column, Anderson also laments that what was once a “peaceful co-existence” between secular culture and the Church in America  has now ended as a result of the federal contraception mandate.

The rule, announced Jan. 20 by the Department of Health and Human Services Department, requires employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortive drugs even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
“Catholic public officials, who for years maintained that they would not impose their religious morality on others, now appear entirely comfortable with imposing secular values on their fellow Catholics and Catholic institutions,” he said.

Anderson added that the HHS mandate “has profoundly raised the stakes for our political choices,” by targeting not only public policy issues, but the sustainability of the mission of Catholic institutions.

In response to this, he writes that Catholic voters “should insist that candidates measure their political platforms by Catholic social teaching – especially if they are Catholics and should settle for nothing less.”

Catholic voters should even have the courage to withhold their vote from candidates who fail this test, “even if it means at times that they will withhold their vote for both candidates for a particular office.”

Ultimately, Catholic voters “must have the courage to act boldly and insist that every candidate for public office respect the autonomy, integrity and mission of the Catholic Church and its institutions,”  Anderson says, which include “the fundamental principles of Catholic social teaching such as the sanctity of human life before birth as well as the institutions of marriage and family.”

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