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Inside NCR

At press time, we were watching the battle lines deepen over George W. Bush’s cabinet nominations. Linda Chavez, the nominee for labor secretary, had withdrawn because she had housed an illegal alien in the early 1990s. It was downright eerie to hear someone who had worked for the Reagan administration justify harboring a Guatemalan refugee. Demetria Martinez has an interesting take on that angle. See her column on page 18.

Many of Bush’s appointments -- Chavez, John Ashcroft for attorney general, James Watt protégé Gale A. Norton for interior -- seem a drop back in time. This is Reagan without the acting lessons or the passion. This time there’s no “great communicator” to convince most of the country that the right people to appoint to cabinet-level positions are those most virulently opposed to the very purpose of the departments they are charged to oversee.

It could be a long four years.

Claire Schaeffer-Duffy moves the awful issue of the death penalty from the theoretical realm to bitter reality in this week’s cover story. It was a difficult story to do, she said, after spending two days with the family of Mark Andrew Fowler, witnessing the charade of a clemency hearing and hearing the agony of the victims’ family members, some of whom have been waiting for years for what they believe will finally bring justice.

Schaeffer-Duffy, whose work on prison conditions and the use of solitary confinement appeared in earlier issues, lives with her husband, Scott, and their four children, Justin, 15, Grace, 12, Patrick, 9, and Aiden, 5, in the Ss. Francis and Therese Catholic Worker House in Worcester, Mass.

Not all was bleak in Oklahoma, she said. She was particularly moved by the people who came to support Fowler’s family. “They were giving all they could. They didn’t flee from something that it would have been natural to flee from. I was touched by everyone’s fidelity.”

It was quite unintended, but putting together the Ministries section gave some of us a taste of the frustration of communicating in a world where not all works as we sometimes presume. Deacon Patrick Graybill was gracious enough to “speak” the performed language on the cover. In trying to make certain we had the correct images in the correct order, our limitations became painfully evident. It was, indeed, difficult to “hear” this expressive language. We hope we got it right.

-- Tom Roberts

My e-mail address is troberts@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, January 19, 2001