To the Editor:
It was with great sadness that we read the letters by Tom Thomas and Myles Miller (Aug. 16). The issues of gun violence and mental illness in this culture are complex, and the necessary and painstaking work towards a solution is not served by either further marginalizing, dehumanizing or demonizing the mentally ill (with such terms as “crazies”) or suggesting that St. Francis of Assisi would condone the shooting of any person.
As Secular Franciscans, we view any attempt to treat the mentally ill as anything less than fully human, our brothers and sisters in Christ, as contrary to the Gospel. And, as Secular Franciscans, we take special exception to the claim that Francis might approve of violence against even an armed individual. We can only assume that the correspondent is unaware of the writings by and about St. Francis and about the Franciscan charism. Franciscan poverty is not just about material wealth; for Francis, poverty meant powerlessness — the same kind of powerlessness found in the Beatitudes; the same kind of powerlessness in which St. Paul rejoiced … for only in that kind of total abandonment to God is found true strength in Christ. Violence involves the use of power over another. Therefore, it seems to us that suggesting that the Little Poor Man of Assisi would condone violence against another creature of God is not consistent with what we know about him.
But we should not be surprised. Francis’ life and dream have been a challenge to us for 800 years, and we do not like to be challenged. Better to create him in our own image — as we so often do with Christ — than to take him seriously. But, as Franciscans, that is not a path that we are willing to take.
Kent Ferris, OFS
Minister, Blessed Pope John XXIII Fraternity
Deacon Frank Agnoli, OFS
Director of Formation, Blessed Pope John XXIII Fraternity
To the Editor: