Public or private?
Fr Nick Punch op, Thomas More Centre, Webster, USA

With regard to Who speaks for whom?  (Letters, OLC #120), it is difficult to say that a public pronouncement from a Pope can be merely a private opinion.  And when a Minister of the Government speaks it is also difficult to argue that he speaks privately when the topic is within his portfolio. Presumably, both of them have their public positions because of who they are. I think Brian Toohey was accurate in his judgement.


Holistic rehabilitation
Fr John George, Randwick North, NSW.

After constant UN, INCB reports criticising the Kings Cross 'shooting gallery' the UN praised in 2003 the Australian Federal Government’s achievements in the fight against drugs, while opposing shooting gallery. Thus it noted:

a) The provision of more treatment services to help those with a drug problem;

b) The significant decrease in the use of heroin in Australia which has resulted in the number of heroin overdose deaths falling significantly;

c) The National Drug Strategy Household Survey findings that there had been a 23 per cent reduction in the proportion of people using drugs in 2001; 

d) The number of fatal overdoses had more than halved between 1999 and 2001.

Since the commencement of the Tough on Drugs Strategy in 1997, the Australian Government has implemented a range of successful measures to reduce the supply of drugs.  This has resulted in the seizure of more than nine tonnes of heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamine seized by law enforcement authorities.

A further measure that the Australian Government has introduced to reduce the demand for illicit drugs is through the provision of more than $340 million to all States and Territories for diversion programmes. Through these successful programmes more than 50,000 drug users have been diverted from the criminal justice system into treatment services to assist them to address their drug-related problems. And since the commencement of the Non-Government Organisation Treatment Grants Programme in 1998, the Australian Government has provided more than  $123 million to more than 200 projects including funding of almost $18 million to 64 non-government treatment services in April 2004 to provide treatment, rehabilitation and support for those affected by illicit drugs.

Importantly, efforts in raising community awareness about the dangers of taking drugs are working. The evaluation of the 2001 National Illicit Drugs Campaign shows that three out of five parents thought the national campaign made it easier for them to talk to their children about drugs. The federal Government does not accept second-best for our community or drug users: they help people to overcome their drug problems, not to continue to damage themselves and their community through heroin or other illicit drug use.

There is much still to be done to combat illicit drugs in Australia.

The injecting room has been superseded by an aggressive, effective, holistic programme with rehabilitation replacing filling the alcoholic or druggy with more drugs!  This information is based on report of the Prime Minister, Mr. Howard.

(Editor’s note:  Previous correspondence can be found at OLC issue # 120, #119 and the originating article, Lost charity.)


How can we know the way?
Barry Soraghan, Lismore, NSW.

My brother died last week. He had suffered a devastating virus several years ago that left his system severely weakened; his was beset with many health problems. He was determined, though, to make the most of his time and fight all the way. He never complained and loved having his family around him. Finally, his body could not keep fighting and he died quietly, aged 63.

He is loved by many, especially his family. Throughout the years of his illness, the prayer, love and support of family and friends were immediate and tangible. The hallmark of this underpinning was faith in Jesus and the power of the Risen Lord.  Every day, his wife prayed with him and for him, embracing the wider family and faith community whenever she could. At no time was there any doubt that Jesus was with them and for them. This faith was not “blind” but built on the many years of constant striving, reflecting and praying. And always it was joyful, for Jesus is leading us to our true home.

In the few days and hours before he died, he knew he was going “home”. At one stage he saw some bright light that gave him a glimpse of what this home was like. No one doubted what he said or what he saw. It is that sort of family and that sort of faith.

The night my brother died, his wife and children and I surrounded his ICU hospital bed, where he was lying unconscious: Sometimes speaking to him, holding his hand or stroking his hair; sometimes praying out loud or silently; even occasionally laughing at some remembrance, and sometimes crying and holding each other so tightly. Always, the support and love for him and each other shone through.

The funeral Mass was called “a celebration of a wonderful man”. 

Tears and sorrow were mixed with hope and prayer. So many joined us in this celebration, which truly was “thanksgiving”. His son embraced this within a beautiful eulogy. No finer praise could be told for a man than through this grateful love of his son. It was a prayer of the earth that rose to heaven.

My brother’s body was laid to rest surrounded again by family and friends with that same love and prayer. As I walked from the graveside, I felt no pang of sorrow. He wasn’t there.  He is now elsewhere.

So many in our world do not know where they are going and where their true home is. There is so much anger, despair and bitterness surrounding so many not knowing where to go. They echo the words of Thomas in John’s Gospel, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” In fact, they do not even know of whom to ask the question.

We who call ourselves Christians have an answer that is true and life giving, and a duty to speak that answer. As always throughout history now is the perfect time to speak of the good news because now is the time so many need to hear it. The illness or death of a loved one brings this into very sharp focus. Yet despair and hopelessness are all some find – no other answer.

I wish to speak of my brother’s life and death because within it and from it comes a powerful message of family love, support and faith. For in the experience of this love and faith there cries out the answer to Thomas’ question: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”, said Jesus. “No one can come to the Father except through me”.  Jesus is the answer for us all and when we recognise him in ourselves and in each other we help to speak powerfully his message so that others can hear. It is our duty and our right as Christians. What more needs to be done?

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