In the aftermath of the Newtown school shooting, Jesuit Father Greg Boyle cautions against looking at the tragedy from too distant a perspective. Looking at this from “an aerial view of nonviolence oddly keeps us from solutions,” Fr. Boyle told the National Catholic Reporter.
“In the same way the [Connecticut] governor said, ‘A great evil visited this community today,’ well, actually, armed mental illness visited your community that day. This is what keeps us from addressing actual issues,” said Fr. Boyle, who has worked with gang members in Los Angeles since 1988 through his Homeboy Industries ministry, which is the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the U.S.
“When we take our views lower, we know we need to address guns and we need to address mental illness,” Fr. Boyle said. “The elephant in the room is mental health, which is something I see more and more with the gang population with whom I work.”
Fr. Boyle also told the National Catholic Reporter that the nation’s mental health care system is in desperate need of rehabilitation. According to Fr. Boyle, because of national, state and local government budget cuts made in recent years, today’s health care system is essentially the same as it was in 1850.
Fr. Boyle said mental health facilities have one bed for every 7,000 patients, and as a result the nation’s prisons, skid rows and homeless shelters are filled with the mentally ill.
“The largest mental health facility in the world is the Los Angeles county jail,” Fr. Boyle said. “These are examples that show we are not actually dealing with the real issues.”