By Kaelanne Jordan
Archbishop Jason Gordon is firmly maintaining that no-one should ever be housed in cages nor kept in conditions in which they were at the Transformed Life Ministry facility, Arouca. He said it was not for “foolishness sake” that the facility was raided: the conditions were an “affront to human dignity”.
Speaking during the Ask the Archbishop live chat last Wednesday, Archbishop Gordon made it clear that the approach was no longer relevant. “This is the 21st century… That’s a 19th century model of warehousing” which does not bring rehabilitation “and it does not bring health to a nation”.
The Archbishop told host, Tracy Chimming-Lewis, Catholic Media Services Limited’s (CAMSEL) Digital Media Manager that mental illness is a serious challenge which every society faces and Trinidad and Tobago, “awash with money” has not put in place the facilities for those who are mentally ill.
“And I think that’s the crying shame,” he said.
Archbishop Gordon shared that orphanages such as St Mary’s Children’s Home and St Michael’s Home for Boys “got into trouble” because they kept the same 19th century model of operation.
On the other hand, he said, St Dominic’s Children’s Home made “a very conscious choice” more than ten years ago to “decentralise” into small units in “a much more family-like setting….And that’s the same thing for the mentally ill; you cannot do a mega institution,” he said.
The Archbishop also discussed another trending news headline—Budget 2020, which he felt is missing stimulation of the economy, entrepreneurial incentives, and a way of distributing wealth a little more equally. He observed that while the budget did include some “basic stability things”, it does not seem to address the fact that “the pie is shrinking”.
“You have to figure out either how to cut your cloth better or how to increase the pie and it doesn’t seem to address either side of that,” he said.
Archbishop Gordon mentioned that while the cost of living has gone up, salaries have been frozen for a while. Increasing oil prices were something, he said, we didn’t work for.
“It had nothing to do with our strategy, our ingenuity; it had nothing to do with our dedication, our productivity, nothing. It just had to do with a global cycle of oil and prices going crazy that we benefitted from.”
He then suggested if government finds ways to “grow back the pie” by looking at new sectors, then T&T is going to be in an interesting position going forward.
With Divali drawing near (Sunday, October 27), Chimming-Lewis asked the Archbishop to debunk the belief that Catholics should not accept delicacies because they are being prayed on by “Hindu prayers”.
The Archbishop replied that he does not know that the foods are prayed over in Hindu prayers. What he does know, he said, is that Divali is a festival of lights and true light came into the world and illumed the darkness.
The teaching of the Catholic Church has always been that Christians will cooperate with people of different faiths on anything that is good, true and noble. But, he maintained, Christians will challenge anything that is dehumanising, degrading and not of God.
Ultimately, the Archbishop affirmed that being a people appreciating each other does not mean that we don’t understand the truth of our faith. Rather, it means we understand that there is something beautiful and noble in each of our traditions.