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Steps to spiritual sanity

rleonard_02Dr Richard Leonard is a 47-year-old Australian Jesuit and Director of the Australian Catholic Film and Broadcasting Office. His new book, Where the Hell is God? debunks many myths about the role of God in human suffering. After an interview on RTE’s John Murray Show, hundreds of people turned up to hear him at the book launch in Manresa, and packed Gardiner Street church the following day. RTE’s Roisin Duffy, remarking on the impact of Richard Leonard’s radio interview, was asked during the day by three colleagues where they could get the book. Richard’s inner struggle after a tragic accident to his sister, led him to the seven steps to spiritual sanity which he outlines  in his book. Click here to listen to his Gardiner St talk, and here for photos of his book launch.

Richard told the story of the tragic accident that left his 28-year-old sister completely paralysed. “I was appalled at some of the letters we received, that passed as Christian insights into the role of God in her tragedy. That’s why I’ve struggled  in my book to find the seven steps to spiritual sanity, which contradict what many people actually believe about God’s role in human suffering.  When I was studying theology as a Jesuit, looking at issues such as God and suffering and the ethics of euthanasia, it was largely an academic exercise. Then my sister, a nurse working with the aboriginal people, was left completely paralysed from the neck down in a car accident, and those issues literally became matters of life and death for me”.  In these steps he claims that: God does not directly send pain suffering and disease. God does not punish us. God does not send us accidents to teach us things, though we can learn from them. God does not will earthquakes, floods, droughts or other natural disasters. God did not need the blood of Jesus. Jesus did not just come to die but God used his death to announce the end of death. God does not kill us off. “I am very grateful to the correspondents who wrote to me after my sister’s accident”, he says. “They have alerted me to how often  in the worst moments of our lives we hear some terrible theology that does not draw us to God. It alienates us.”  Richard is a film critic and author of Mystical Gaze: An exploration of the films of Peter Weir, and Movies That Matter.