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Inside NCR

Anyone who has visited the grand headquarters of the National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company in a converted mansion here in Kansas City, Mo., knows that the foyer to our wonderful, quirky old building gives special credence to the fact that the place is indeed quirky and old. In recent weeks, the foyer has also become wonderful with the installation of a 8-by-10 foot “Mosaic of Peace,” designed and created by NCR artist, Denise Laughlin.

The mosaic presents a white dove against a blue background, colors that symbolize truth, faithfulness, loyalty and the miraculous. The cruciform, of course, symbolizes Christianity, and the larger field of the work splays out in shades of gold and reds, evoking heavenly light, love and the fire that created the world.

“The mosaic has been placed in the main entrance of the NCR building as a reminder to all who enter that the message of hope, which radiates throughout the Christian tradition, must be foremost in each person’s heart,” reads the inscription in a program printed for a small dedication ceremony Feb. 3. “This is what we believe. This is what we publish.” The dedication was attended by NCR board members Patrick Waide Jr. and Landon Rowland.

That the mosaic was ready for unveiling as the clamor for war increased was, in one way, a coincidence. It was long in the planning and execution, and no one knew that it would immediately serve so poignantly.

In another sense, it was no coincidence at all. For if there are central tenets to the mission of this little paper, then the pursuit of peace -- even against the craziest of odds -- has certainly been, and continues to be, one of them.

The journalistic balance to the whole matter (and we have been rightly challenged on the issue from time to time) is this: In the cause of waging war and finding justification for war, the scales are always tipped -- to the point of spilling over -- toward those who resort to the use of force. Few are there to counterbalance the call to arms, to suggest other avenues of dealing with conflict, to even seriously entertain serious questions. That’s what we do. That’s what we publish. It will never begin to balance out the call for war nor the appetites of those who profit from war. Still, we climb up on that side of the scale.

We have heard little from U.S. bishops on the march toward war, so it is interesting to note the comments of Cardinal Francis Stafford on Page 4. Check out John Allen’s “Word from Rome” column this week for further reporting on Stafford’s thinking on war. Allen asks Stafford if there were a circumstance under which he could envision approving a war with Iraq. Replied Stafford: “I come at this as a Christian and religious leader who celebrates the Eucharist every day. It’s not possible for me to celebrate that Eucharist and at the same time to envision or encourage the prospect of war.”

Say what you will about Judge Mildred Edwards’ decision (see Page 5) in the “unlawful entry” case against three gay Catholic activists, we at least ought to be able to get the facts straight.

One conservative pundit claims that the three were tried for “refusing to leave a church after having been denied Communion.” Further, said the commentator, “the three gay would-be communicants were attempting to use the holiest sacrament of the Catholic faith to make a political statement.” That latter sentiment was echoed by a group that actively searches for affronts to the faith.

None of that is true. The activists did not refuse to “leave a church” -- they refused to leave the lobby of the hotel.

And according to the Washington archdiocese, it was a case of “mistaken identity” that led a priest to deny the three Communion-seekers the Eucharist at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Enough damage was done initially by getting the facts wrong. No need to keep compounding the error. As for the judge -- well done. She served both the law and common sense.

-- Tom Roberts

My e-mail address is troberts@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, February 14, 2003