Author: Dana Dillon

Suicide Prevention and the Catholic Moral Tradition

. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), whose motto for the month is “One conversation can change a life,” are reminding us how important it is that we talk more openly about suicide and its connection to depression and other mental illnesses. Far too often, those who struggle with mental illness are barred from getting the help that they need because of the stigma around mental illness and its treatment. We need to talk more openly and honestly about these issues and just how widespread they are. In fact, suicide rates in the US are now at a 30-year high. Suicide is, of course, a moral issue. That is true not only because suicide, if freely undertaken, is a major moral failing, but also because the ways that we speak about suicide and about mental illness and about one another can impact the likelihood of those who need help getting it (or not). In other words, how we talk about suicide is also a moral act. I would like to offer some guidance from the Catholic moral tradition. It is commonly and mistakenly reported that the Church teaches that suicide is always a mortal sin and unforgivable, and that those who die by suicide are in hell. It is crucial to nuance and correct this. In keeping with its vision...

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On Grief and Hope in Ordinary Time

Lectionary #90, Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time June is a time of year when, despite the sun and the warmth, and the generally relaxed pace of a college professor’s summertime life, I am haunted by grief. My mother died towards the end of June 1999, after a long battle with lung cancer. The days of June are marked with memories of lasts: her last hospital admission, her last release from the hospital, the last time her children were all gathered around her, the last time she saw each of her granddaughters, the last time she and I were really able to talk, before the end, where every breath was a battle for her. And, of course, that last terrible night where her breath left her body for the last time and we knew that there was nothing left to be done. So, with grief-filled June upon me, I admit that my first reaction to these readings was one of resentment. Why did God not send a prophet like Elijah to restore the breath to my mother’s body? Why did God not visit his people when my family and I were gathered around my mother’s deathbed in prayer? Why do I not get to pray with the psalmist “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me…. You changed my mourning into dancing”? How many of us, strong in...

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Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Job 38:1, 8-11 Ps 107:23-31 (selections) 2 Cor 5:14-17 Mk 4:35-41 This week, with all the anticipation about the Holy Father’s ecological encyclical, it seems quite fitting that the readings point to the dominion of God over creation.  In the first reading, God reminds Job that the seas and storms are but a baby to be swaddled in the powerful divine hands. And in the gospel, Jesus has long since outgrown his own swaddling clothes and now follows in his Father’s footsteps: calming the storm with a rebuke and allaying the disciples’ fears. And we, with the disciples, stand...

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Students and racial justice

It is the time of year when most of us are far too busy with end-of-semester grading to think much about blogging. And, often, it’s not easy or appropriate for us to share our students’ work with the broader public. But since I’ve been handed an exception, I want to pass it on. This semester, I’ve been teaching (with history department colleague Dr. Jennifer Illuzzi) a colloquium called “Race, Marginality, and Theologies of Liberation.” All sophomores at Providence College must take a colloquium, with a range of topic choices before them.  Some choose based on topic. Many just choose something that fits in their schedule.  And so we get a lot of folks who say, at the end of the semester, that they never really even thought about race before this course.  But also, we get more students of color than the average class at Providence College. So we have a lot of students for whom thinking about race has been a lifelong task.  Those differences and the connections across them have been powerful for me to watch. Two of my students (Nick Sailor and Sammy McSweeney) co-wrote a song, performed it, and worked together to produce a video expressing some of their learning this semester. They want to see it shared as widely as possible, so I am passing it on here.  They (and people pictured in the...

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