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Inside NCR

The war is over, so let's save the Iraqi children

To make the 1991 Iraq war a success, the Bush administration had to work overtime to demonize Saddam Hussein. This worked so well that by the time we had "won" the war we had learned to demonize all Iraqis. Our ire even spread to the children, as if they too were in collusion with bad old Saddam to deprive us of gas for our big cars, or somehow deprive us of jobs as James Baker, who was then secretary of state, hinted.

We won, so we still have the gas. Iraq lost, so the children, in particular, have been suffering ever since, even dying at a rate that should be shameful now in the 20th century. Indeed, we must be a bit ashamed because this is a story seldom reported in the Western press.

NCR's story, page 3, of one woman's fight to save the children is overdue. The good news is we can still do something to make amends and help save the children. Those who wish to help in this gallant work may send contributions to Voices in the Wilderness, 1460 W. Carmen, Chicago, IL 60640.

We are getting an early look at some U.S. Catholic priorities for the Third Millennium from the Bridgeport, Conn., diocese. When priests asked for some spiritual workshops to prepare for the next thousand years in the light of the pope's call for renewal, Bishop Edward M. Egan responded, in collaboration with Fairfield's Sacred Heart University, with "Jesus Christ Priest and Pastor: A Leadership and Certificate Program Designed for Priests in the Diocese of Bridgeport."

And who could but welcome that?

The 1997 program includes "The Spirituality of Pastoral Administration," "Church Law and Pastoral Administration," "Liturgical Practices and Sacramental Life" and "Management and Pastoral Administration."

We understand the priests were seeking some spiritual signposts into or nourishment for (pick your metaphor) the future, but have been promised a program that "develops practical skills and strategic thinking, and enhances one's potential for increased responsibilities."

Increased responsibilities -- isn't that every priest's dream?

And just in case the point is lost, the 1998 program lets them know precisely what they're responsible for: "Fiscal Concerns and Pastoral Administration," "Development and Fund Raising I," "Development and Fund Raising II," "Fiscal Concerns and Pastoral Administration II."

Sounds just like the second millennium church to us.

One can have too much of a good thing, and that may already be happening with regard to the homilies I solicited some time ago. The findings, if any, would seem to be that homilies will always be a mixed bag. It must also be added that a homily capable of transfixing a congregation in the heat of the moment might be much less awe-inspiring on the dry page. Vice versa, of course, may also be true: An uninspiring preacher could make a mess of the most exotic material.

We hope the homilies we have published -- with one or two more to go -- will act as an indicator of what Catholics are missing by not letting every Tom, Dick and Carrie into the pulpit.

Please consider the homily experiment over for now and don't send any more.

In "Inside NCR" for March 21, I mentioned that a Hollywood publicist was promoting a Statue of Responsibility, to be built in Los Angeles Harbor. Meanwhile, Joyce Woods wrote from Ashland, Ore., to remind us, as the publicist had failed to do, that the original idea was that of Viktor E. Frankl, survivor of the Nazi death camps and renowned psychotherapist.

In Man's Search for Meaning (1959) Frankl wrote: "Freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast."

Longtime readers of NCR no doubt remember Penny Lernoux, Latin America correspondent, justice advocate and author, with admiration and fondness. Penny died in 1989. The journalism school of the University of Southern California, her alma mater, has established the Penny Lernoux Award in her honor. This year it was given to Kate Seeley and presented by Penny's daughter, Angela Nahum, currently a student at the journalism school. All praise to USC for perpetuating the Penny Lernoux tradition of idealism and excellence.

-- Michael Farrell

National Catholic Reporter, May 23, 1997