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Inside NCR

'Inside NCR' goes interactive--only if you read it

We the editors are determined to make the "Inside Box" interactive: I write it and you read it. But seriously. We want to hear what amazing things are happening in readers' lives, or what wild imaginings are running through their heads. If they're printable we may share them with the world at large. We are grateful to everyone who takes the trouble to write. Even if they're anonymous. Even if they're mean. I read somewhere that when people are mean to us, it's only that they're trying to get our attention, wanting us to love them.

We live, alas, in uptight times. The novelist Georges Bernanos had a word for the stressed: "Indignation has never redeemed anyone, but it has probably lost a great many. ... The church does not need reformers but saints. When poetry is in a bad way, the important thing is not to denounce bad poets but to write great poetry."

If you find your neck of the woods getting unaccountably mellow, let us know; it might be some kind of redemption spreading.

Those who care have probably noticed that new cyberstuff, namely our Web site and America Online particulars, have been added to our masthead on page 4. This information is mentioned here to turn the tables on the cyberpersons who send messages barreling down the info superhighway at such speed that they neglect to give their addresses and phone numbers. For reasons too tedious to explain, inclusion of the old, reassuring phone number is still likely to help your message reach its destination.

We ruminated recently on what can be done about the quality of sermons, homilies and such and invited samples of excellence. Sadly, no torrent of eloquence has yet poured into the newsroom. Madeleine Furth suggested putting all the old human talk aside and just reading the scriptures, followed by more scriptures. While this may be a good thing, it is neither homily nor sermon.

Deacon Dennis Dunn wrote: "What I suggest is that you regularly publish stories -- the kind that we can weave into our sermons/homilies. I'm a big fan of Megan McKenna, Jack Shea et al. I think homilists would be well served with stories of all kinds that might relate to the gospel for the week."

A caveat with regard to the investigation of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado on page 6. Maciel, founder and current superior of the Legionaries of Christ, is accused of sexually molesting former students of the order. The details of the allegations are frequently explicit to a degree that may be unpleasant for some readers.

Yet, to cloak the story in unspecific accusations and generalities would compound an already serious problem. The Legionaries are a high-profile group, one of the most quickly expanding in the church. They and Maciel seem to be favorites of the pope and other high Vatican officials. It is alleged that Rome ignored very serious allegations by the victims.

However, to allege general wrongdoing is an easy ploy and liable to equally easy dismissal. It is the methodical, step-by-step, victim-by-victim buildup of The Hartford Courant story that bestows on it its compelling authenticity.

We have been down this road before, but seldom at such a high, or low, level. Our church is sailing through treacherous waters, dangerous currents not far below the surface. While there are great things happening -- which we are ever eager to publish -- there are also difficult problems that must be confronted if the church is to have the relevance and vitality to carry it through another millennium.

Last week, NCR carried an extended excerpt from Oblate Fr. Tissa Balasuriya's book Mary and Human Liberation. Many readers have phoned to ask how they can get a copy. It is out of print at the moment, but when it is republished we will, no doubt, have something to say about it.

-- Michael Farrell

National Catholic Reporter, March 7, 1997