National Catholic Register


Letters 04.27.2008

BY The Editors

April 27-May 3, 2008 Issue | Posted 4/22/08 at 3:23 PM

Socially Irresponsible?

Your recent article, “Hijacked?” (3/2-8/2008 issue), makes spurious and fallacious allegations about the 800-SUICIDE hotline, misrepresenting facts that are readily available to the public. 

First, the notion that callers to this number are routed to the Mental Health Association of New York City, whereupon “pregnant callers are routed almost solely to Planned Parenthood abortion businesses” is an outrageous fabrication.

Mr. Butler, who once controlled the 800-SUICIDE line, knows quite well how the line works, and how calls have always been routed to one of more than 125 crisis call centers across the country that have participated in this national network.

As the director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, I can also clarify what Mr. Butler already knows: Calls to the Lifeline’s 24-7, confidential toll-free numbers (800-273-TALK and 800-SUICIDE among them) are routed by area code to the nearest call center in the network.

The Lifeline website describes the routing process clearly. When a caller reaches a local center, a trained helper listens to his/her problem, assesses the degree to which the caller could be at risk, and seeks to engage the caller in finding the help that he/she needs.

Although local crisis centers may collect caller information, the Lifeline does not currently collect data on caller problems from its centers, so the number of Lifeline callers who are pregnant, who have financial problems or who are depressed, for example, is not known. Member centers in this network report that helpers are trained to be non-judgmental and compassionate and to be sensitive to the needs of the individual, regardless of cultural, spiritual, political, socioeconomic or other differences between the helper and the caller.

Research published in 2007 has shown that these lines are successful in reducing emotional distress and suicidal thinking in callers.

I can assume that Mr. Butler must believe in the rigorous care and sensitivity of the crisis call centers in this network, as he had a hand in recruiting more than half of them into the network when his agency was routing calls from the 800-SUICIDE number.

However, this is not the only stark contradiction in his presentation of the facts, as recounted in The Register.

In the article, he stated that his agency was always financially stable, and that “the [800-SUICIDE] line was never in danger of being disconnected.” However, Mr. Butler conducted a broad-scale, public fund-raising campaign in 2006 to “save 800-SUICIDE” due to financial troubles, claiming widely that if he didn’t have enough money by August 2006, he would have to shut the line down.

Articles representing his reports of financial distress in 2006 can be found easily on the internet by searching “save 800 SUICIDE”. Either Mr. Butler was misrepresenting the facts in 2006, or he is now.

In either case, “the facts,” as he presents them, appear to be used to conveniently support his needs at the time, either for fund-raising in 2006 or to reassure the FCC and the public of his agency’s financial viability in 2008.

The mischaracterization of this service in the Register is not only wrong, but socially irresponsible, in that it may prevent persons in crisis from seeking help from this vital, lifesaving resource when they most need it.

John Draper, Ph.D.

director, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Sue Ellin Browder answers: I’m puzzled by this letter. It seems in several cases that Mr. Draper has misread the story. The article clearly states that 1-800-SUICIDE ”serve[s] as a central switchboard to connect callers to crisis centers all across the country,” and that the Mental Health Association of New York City “helps channel” or “routes” these calls to those centers — both facts on which Mr. Draper agrees.

Perhaps this process could have been made clearer in the story, and I thank Mr. Draper for explaining in more detail how the hotline works. 

Contrary to Mr. Draper’s assertion, Mr. Butler does not state in the story that the Kristen Brook Hope Center “was always financially stable,” but that it “is financially stable” now. The article also carefully lays out SAMHSA’s position that “there was a risk” of the line being disconnected vs. Mr. Butler’s position that the hotline was “in no danger of being disconnected.”

Both sides of this debate are stated plainly. The story contains no misrepresentation of facts.

My deeper concern is that Mr. Draper remains silent on the matter of suicidal pregnant women being channeled almost solely to Planned Parenthoods’ abortion businesses and seems to have no interest in investigating the matter to make sure it’s stopped.

If implicitly sanctioning referrals of suicidal young mothers to abortionists is, in Mr. Draper’s view, a “vital, lifesaving resource,” the Register is quite socially responsible to report this story, so readers will know what’s going on.

Revisit Guidelines

Thank you Robert Allard for the great article, “The Great Epidemic: Divine Mercy Is the Cure” (March 30).

I have one addition to add, and that is on Easter Sunday, when the Church is full of seasonal Catholics, there should be a review of the Church’s “Guidelines for Receiving Holy Communion” and making it known that it is a mortal sin to not attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.

This review would also be worthwhile on Christmas, first Communions and especially confirmation when the bishop — our teacher — could add his emphasis.

Don Daudelin

Canaan, New Hampshire

God Bless Our Pope

Relevant to “5 Key Issues of Benedict the Rock” (April 13):

With deep joy I welcome the Pope to America. Pope Benedict XVI is a man rich in spiritual passion, humility, self-denial and love for the cause of God and of man.

He has a brilliant philosophical and, in particular, theological mind that has endearingly embraced a vision of broad spiritual and ecclesial horizons: personal holiness extended to the supreme sacrifice, missionary outreach combined with constant concern for unity, the necessary integration of spiritual charism and institutional ministry.

His episcopal motto “Co-worker of the Truth” has guided him in his tireless and uncompromising efforts aimed at defending and promoting the Catholic faith and its morals against modern errors in an age in which the Catholic Church has suffered unprecedented persecutions and martyrdom.

Pope Benedict XVI has also worked to encourage studies aimed at increasing knowledge of the faith so that the new problems arising from the progress of science and civilization can be answered in the light of the Word of God.

The aim for which he has always striven has been to serve the truth, seek to know it ever more thoroughly and make it ever more widely known.

May the Lord bless Pope Benedict XVI during his trip to America.

Paul Kokoski

Hamilton, Ontario

Where Is the Church?

Let me start by saying how much I appreciate your newspaper. It is the only way I can keep informed about the Catholic Church. That being said, I sometimes wonder where the Catholic Church you talk about can be found.

As a military family, we have belonged to 10 parishes — both civilian and military — in six states and two countries. We have also visited countless Catholic churches during our travels from one duty station to the next. 

I think that provides a pretty good sample of the Catholic Church in the United States. Never once did we hear mention of the Year of the Rosary or the Year of the Eucharist. Never once have we belonged to a parish that had the sacrament of reconciliation available except for a half hour on Saturday evening or the obligatory penance service at Easter and Christmas, some of which only offered communal absolution.

There was even one parish that handed out index cards, told us to write our sins on them and then we were to process up Communion-style, hand the card to the priest and he would read the card and then absolve us. I declined to participate.

Never once have we belonged to a parish that had Eucharistic adoration or Forty Hours.

Two Sundays ago was Divine Mercy Sunday. I have not heard of it mentioned once in church, however our priest opened his sermon by telling us what day it was.

My heart rose as I thought I was finally going to hear about this day from the pulpit. After our priest said what day it was, he said Divine Mercy Sunday can mean different things to different people. To me, he said, it is redundant. I’ll take the cross. And that was it. Nothing more on the subject. This was from the same priest who during his Easter Sunday sermon did not mention one time that Jesus rose from the dead. All he did was gush over all the “twice a year” Catholics who were there.

Again I ask: Where is the Catholic Church of which you speak so often in the pages of your paper?

I would love to belong to it.

Dan Clabaugh

St. Robert, Missouri

Different Moral Weight

I feel compelled to respond to Sister Simone’s letter to the editor, “Serious Questions” (April 6). Sister describes herself as an attorney and the executive director of a “social justice” lobby.

She argues that to designate Sen. McCain as the logical candidate for Catholics is “foolish.”

Although Sister Simone is correct that neither party is perfect, and each falls short of all Catholic values, she is wrong to fall into the trap of giving all “social justice” issues the same moral weight. Sister cites and quotes the U.S. bishops’ document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” but I have to wonder if she understood the point of it.

Yes, there are many issues that should concern the Catholic voter, but one issue trumps all others — the most basic and fundamental of all issues — the protection of innocent life.

Robin Barrett

Fairbanks, Alaska

Readers Comment on Pope’s Visit
God Bless Benedict

I am so glad the Pope has come to our country.

I am a faithful Catholic, and I ask for his prayers for all of us. I also would like to say now that the Pope has left our country, he has left us with so many powerful messages to live out.

If we do this we will definitely change our lives, country and our world for the better.

The speech to the youth and seminarians was very powerful, especially when he spoke of his teenage years and what happened and how easily the Nazis took over.

This is so important for us to understand.

This could happen to our country very easily, and we must stand up for life and the teachings of the Catholic Church, which are universal.

God bless America and God bless His Holiness, the Vicar of Christ on earth: Pope Benedict XVI.

Denise Martelli

Grapevine, Texas

‘The Best Experience’

I attended the Papal Mass at the Nationals Stadium in D.C. today. It was incredible! The best experience of my life.

Thank you very much for initiating the “Pope2008” website. What a great idea of welcoming the Pope and keeping us informed of the papal events.

I just want to emphasize how thrilled I am that the Pope is coming to the States. It has always been my wish to see John Paul II. I was never given that opportunity, but God has granted me an even better grace — the Pope has come to see me; he whose love for us is personal.
After hearing on the news, about the unfriendly, unwelcoming comments made by some Catholics in California about the Pope’s visit, I want to let others know that the majority of us Catholics love the Pope and have embraced him with open arms.

“Pope Benedict: We hope to see more of you. And may God grant you a long life. Amen!”

Again, thank you for a job well-done.
Count on my prayers! May God continue to bless your work!

Evelyn Nassar

Alexandria, Virginia