Rejection of Suffering and the Search for Personal Well-being

Address at International Conference at Vatican

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2003 ( Here is a summary of an address given by Bishop James Wingle of St. Catherines, in Ontario, at the recent international conference on depression. The Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers organized the Nov. 13-14 conference. The organizers distributed the summary.

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Pastoral Care: The Rejection of Suffering and the Search for Personal Well-being
By Bishop James Wingle, of St. Catherines

Suffering is a universal human experience that reveals in a profound way something of the inner nature of man. While frequently identified with evil, it also has a more positive reference in the redemptive capacity that it opens to the human person. This dimension calls forth a deep engagement of faith and the theology of the Cross, with its salvific power.

Wounded by original sin, humanity suffers the consequence and is subject to the burden of pain and the other disorders that have entered the world through the rupture with God brought about by the rebellion of our first parents. This rupture with God echoes throughout the entire network of man’s relationships.

In the experience of personal sin, the human person ratifies as it were, the choice of death and the culture of death. Crippled by the power of sin, the human person cannot find freedom without the intervention of God. Sin cuts off humanity from the source of its joy and well-being and poisons the world and the culture.

When cultural references are closed to the infinite, humanity is constrained to live solely on a horizontal plain. This profound frustration disturbs human life and introduces a dynamic of rupture and brokenness across human culture in a form of negative solidarity.

Depression is an ubiquitous experience of disorder that causes immense personal suffering throughout the human family. Its causes are complex and multiple but it cannot be properly understood or responded to without the inclusion of the human capacity for relationship with God, which is activated as faith. Functional agnosticism is a dominant theme in the present culture marked as it is by a truncated vision of the human person and an essentially reductionist understanding of human destiny.

Efforts to understand depression draw upon the best of our scientific and medical knowledge but sometimes they flag in not averting to the totality of the human person. A more complete understanding of the human person that draws upon Christian anthropology is essential. Each of the aspects of the human person, the biological, psychological and spiritual dimensions needs to be considered when addressing this disorder.

In the absence of such consideration, the root causes of depression are not touched and an even deeper frustration is introduced. Lacking a means to see the meaning of suffering, the person who is closed in the grip of an all-encompassing subjectivism needs to be called to a deep interior conversion.

In the pastoral life of the Church there are many fruitful sources for remedial actions to prevent or alleviate depression. The experience of the new ecclesial movements provides us with evidence of the healing power of Christian community. The values espoused in many of the movements create a much more positive culture that supports health and well-being. This healing context needs to work in harmony with other modes of treatment and response.

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