Raymond Roussin, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver’s Archbishop has retired due to an ongoing battle with clinical depression. Mr. Roussin, 69, said that learning to cope with depression has forced him to reassess his calling as a priest. “I believe my call is from God and to be a bishop, to be a pastor. I was unable to do it, and all the rest of the things that come to mind you when you become neurotic,” said the Archbishop.
Roussin made international headlines when he ordered his more than 130 parishes and schools to cancel their contracts with Telus Mobility over the company’s decision to become the first major wireless carrier in Canada and the U.S. to openly sell erotic images directly through cellphones. The news story drew the attention of The New York Times and U.S.-based Bloomberg News, among other major media outlets. Roussin’s protest was key to Telus on Tuesday dropping its adult content offerings. Indirectly, the Catholic consumer boycott added up to a dramatic coming out of the depression closet for Roussin, who had never wanted to be in the spotlight in the first place, especially through the media.
When his depression first struck in 2005, Roussin found it dangerously exaggerated his already introverted nature. “It made me want to pull away completely from the world. I didn’t come to the point of despair. Despair would be a sense there’s no hope. Some days it felt like no hope, but I knew it was there despite the hell I was going through. There was faith in the darkness. There’s just something there in the raw heart that says, ‘I believe,’ ” Roussin said, softly pounding his fist on his chest, above his heart.
The archbishop believes there is presently an “epidemic” of depression in society, in part because “expectations are so high today, even for those doing the simplest jobs. The psyche tries to hold on and hold on and then can’t do it any longer.”
In 2003, Pope John Paul II gave a talk in which he said the West’s “alarming” rates of depression indicate how “human, psychological and spirituality fragility” are being increased by societal factors — “including consumerism and the idea that every desire could and should be satisfied immediately.” Asked about John Paul’s analysis of the cause of depression, Roussin commented: “I think it’s true, to a certain degree. But it wasn’t true for me. I certainly wasn’t looking for a bigger car, or bigger house or more power. I think the presence of the stress caused the darkness, the sense ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ ”
The cleric, who has served as Archbishop of Vancouver since 2004, is retiring more than five years earlier than the normal retirement age for bishops. The Vatican said that Pope Benedict has accepted the Archbishop’s retirement, citing an article of Canon law that allows bishops to retire because of illness or some other issue that makes them unable to carry out their duties.