Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bishop Releases Pastoral Letter on Opioid Crisis

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bishop Releases Pastoral Letter on Opioid Crisis

Article excerpt

Roman Catholic Bishop Edward Malesic of Greensburg says that when he visits parishes in his diocese, he repeatedly hears laments from priests who have buried victims of drug overdoses, from parents of adult children in drug rehabilitation, from grandparents raising grandchildren after their own adult children died of opioid abuse.

Bishop Malesic on Thursday issued a pastoral letter calling for Catholics to offer hope and support, rather than judgment, to those facing such struggles.

The bishop said the church should not seek to duplicate what others are already doing in providing drug treatment and related services, but the church should support them while offering hope to those in despair over the ravages of addiction.

"I have been hearing the cries of people who have been affected by the opioid scourge," Bishop Malesic said at a news conference Thursday in Greensburg. "We have to choose hope. ... We cannot simply give up and let this evil win when we have the God-given ability to fight it."

In his letter, he said: "We need to show every person who is addicted to opioids that there is help and there is hope ... that we will not judge them, that we will not condemn them and that, above all, we care for them."

And family members, friends and co-workers of those dealing with addictions need to "know that they are not alone."

The letter seeks to mobilize a religious response to the staggering effects of the epidemic.

Similar statements have begun to emerge from Catholic leaders in other regions, such as the bishop of Hamilton, Ontario, and the Massachusetts Catholic Conference.

About 13 people in Pennsylvania died of overdoses per day in 2016, according to state and federal statistics.

The diocese's four counties - Westmoreland, Indiana, Fayette and Armstrong - had a combined 319 overdose deaths in 2016, with 85 so far in 2017, according to the Pennsylvania Opioid Overdose Reduction Technical Assistance Center.

Bishop Malesic said that as a onetime biology major in college, he understands that people with addictions have a physical dependency and not a moral failing. …

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