[m de P's civil name Edited out]
P. O Box 54....
Houston, TX 77254-....
August 27, 1997
[St. Monica, Patroness of Mothers]
Reference: Recent teenage suicides and attempted suicides
Subject : Is there a common denominator that is being overlooked?
Dear Ms. Davis-Mullen:
Please accept and convey to your friends and neighbors my sincere condolences for the tragedy that has struck South Boston.
I became aware of the recent rash of suicides and attempted suicides in So. Boston last weekend through an article from the New York Times republished in the Houston Chronicle.
I am writing to you as a devout Roman Catholic first, and secondly, as a trained Stephen Minister [Christian Multifaceted Family Counseling Ministry] with extensive field experience with youth and young adults.
From what I have read "not all pieces fit the mold" [B.Globe 07/22/97] and a common denominator is yet to be found.
Ms. Davis-Mullen, forgive my abruptness but I must go to the heart of the matter without many preambles. It is as delicate a matter as it could be conceived, but it must be dealt with. Six suicides, and seventy attempted suicides in a period of six months in a neighborhood of 29,000 inhabitants screams for frontal and decisive action.
A Line of Reasoning
What is the common denominator for any suicide? Despair.
When do humans normally despair? When their burdens are beyond their strength and they feel that they have no one to go to.
If they don't have anyone to go to is because they feel that:
But we know down deep that... "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest." [St. Matt. 11:28]. Usually, when the chips are down, even the wildest teenage, who has had some positive exposure to Jesus Christ, will seek Him. Even in a loud and wild Discotheque environment. I can attest to that.
That (almost) unfailing hope fails when the image of Christ has been destroyed for that human being.
And how is the image of Christ, of God, destroyed before the eyes of a human being? When precisely the one who claims to represent Him and dispense His Graces has abused that human being.
What child has the courage to accuse such an individual, be it a clergyman or a father? After all, in most cases, he has been led to believe that: (a) He is not being abused, regardless of how he may feel about it; (b) He likes it because "you were born already that way"; (c) That such behavior is normal but not spoken about and "you'll grow to like it"; ad nauseum.
When this happens, we start seeing unruly/rebellious behavior in young men. Behavior accentuated by heavy drinking, and the-soon-to-follow drugs as well as many other tell-tale signs.
"It helps me forget the pain", how many times I have heard that heart wrenching justification! But like with an infected wound, the pain continues to increase until finally death seems to be the only way out.
Once someone gets the courage to end his life, the others, afflicted with the same "despair virus" find strength in the courage of their buddy. This may have a snowball effect. The second victim has only the courage drawn from the death of one before him, however, the fifth one is drawing the courage of the four prior victims.
It is recommend that in a quiet, but in a very persistent way, the possibility of sexual abuse by some members of the Clergy and/or Religious staff, and secondarily, by other apparantly responsible male adults of the community, be explored. Denials will pour, accusations of witch hunting will fly, but remember, if there is nothing to hide, any reasonable human being would cooperate to clear the air.
We have many, many fine clergymen whose Evangelical work is in effect shunted because, in the eyes of the youth who has experienced or know of sexual abuse, "...they are all alike."
The best course of action will be a grass roots type of approach. That is, start a campaign which would encourage young fellows and teenagers to speak up and report any kind of sexual misconduct. Like the suicides, one report gives courage to the other and soon, all will come out in the open. Surely, there may be a little chaff mixed in with the wheat, but a truly competent and experienced counselor can easily identify any false accusation.
May I suggest that all documents are first reviewed in the order in which they are presented? Some of the enclosed documents will serve as my background credentials. Forgive me for this apparent lack of humility but I feel that is imperative that, in this case, a name and a signature be animated and fleshed-out somehow.
You may contact me at any time if you consider that I may be able to be of further assistance and/or clarify something that may not be clear enough.
I will be contacting other Civil and Ecclesiastical authorities regarding this matter. I will inform you as to whom those individuals will be.
At the service of God, thus at yours, I remain
[civil name of m de P]
a Stephen Ministry Counselor
Private Telephone No. (713) XXX-XXXX