May 17, 2010

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Archbishop Richard Smith addressed local media May 11.

CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

EDMONTON - Family violence, homelessness, the economy and life issues are four important societal issues that are not getting enough secular media attention.

Archbishop Richard Smith shared this message with reporters at a media breakfast, held May 11 at the Sutton Place Hotel.

The second annual breakfast was in conjunction with the Church's 44th World Communications Day, marked this year on May 16, the feast of the Ascension,

The archbishop recently started his own blog titled The Reason for Our Hope (archbishopsmith.blogspot.com). It is intended as a means of sharing weekly reflections on Scripture and comment on public issues.

People have been hurt by the worldwide economic downturn, he said. The media should examine the deeper questions of the economy, in particular the principle of unbridled greed that caused the world economy to collapse in the first place.

To stabilize the economy, Smith suggested greater reliance on the principles of solidarity and gratuity.

Today's families face tremendous stress and pressures, sometimes leading to violence within the home and other detrimental effects on society at large. He questioned whether the mainstream media reports on this issue enough.

A total of 3,079 people were counted as homeless in Edmonton's 2008 Count of Homeless Persons. The Edmonton Committee to End Homelessness is a community-based approach that aims to end homelessness in the city in 10 years.

As a committee member, Smith said that a deep societal conversation on homelessness is required. To find solutions, people who are homeless must be included in that conversation.

When some of Edmonton's homeless people were asked about getting off the street, an overwhelming number of them expressed fear. Having their own apartment terrified them.

There was a fear in the responsibility of having to write a cheque, the fear of responsibility of having to make a budget, and the terror of shopping for groceries. These things are absolutely foreign to them, as difficult as that might be for us to understand," said Smith.

Hence, building affordable units is not necessarily the panacea. Providing permanent homes would not solve anything, he said, because people will naturally gravitate to what is most familiar. For homeless people that is the street.

Another goal should be to bust the myths about people who are homeless. Pigeonholed as lazy and without jobs, other factors determine why they are living on the streets.

"Most of the people who are homeless today, they have mental issues, they've never had a chance, or have been in very difficult family situations," he said, citing an example of parents who raised their seven or eight children in a garage.

The secular media also needs to discuss life issues, as they dig deeply into how people relate to one another as human beings. He told of a survey conducted in Oregon, which asked older people why they would want to be euthanized.

"The response was not to avoid terrible pain. The overwhelming response was, 'I don't want to be a burden. I'm afraid of being a burden to others.'

"When I hear that, I automatically ask the question, 'How did we ever get to the point where we are helping our elderly and our vulnerable feel that they are a burden?' Human beings, at whatever stage of their life, are always a gift, never a burden."

The archbishop emphasized that the breakfast was not a press conference but an occasion for informal dialogue between himself and local media. The Church and media often intersect, so Smith said it's vital to have mutual understanding of each other.