Catholic Charities recently started providing syringe exchange services in New York (see post here).
I am a life-long Catholic. I went to Catholic school grades 1-8, and then asked my parents to send me to a Catholic high school. I approach my work with people who are opiate dependent in moral terms. It’s just who I am.
So when I tell you that I started a syringe exchange program about 9 years ago (and still run the program as part of a broader approach to supporting recovery from opiate dependence), please know that I have spent a lot of time thinking about this issue in terms of ethics and morals.
My years of experience with syringe exchange have left me with absolute personal moral clarity on this issue: syringe exchange is God’s work.
This week, several theologians shared their thoughts on the issue of whether or not it is appropriate for the Catholic church to be involved in providing syringe access services here.
One of them says that the church should do what Jesus would do. But as you will see from the article, even the theologians can’t seem to agree on what, exactly, Jesus would do.
I’m bothered by the opinions of the theologians in the article, both pro and con, because they are offering conclusions when it is clear that they don’t have a full grasp of the facts about syringe exchange. They are operating at a theoretical level, but syringe exchange operates at a very concrete level, with very concrete impacts on real people.
To me, God expects us to use our experience to inform our theology. I have thoroughly studied the scientific research on syringe exchange, and I have years of real world experience with syringe exchange.
I know what Jesus would want me to do, and with the help of a great team, I’m doing it.
Please feel free to share your thoughts about the moral/ethical dimensions of syringe exchange in the comments. This is something I thing people should be thinking and talking about.