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Columnist Kris Berggren regularly shakes up the status quo with disarming questions that come from her fresh view of this old world and an imagination that is constantly wondering about new possibilities. She sees things differently. All of that is by way of nudging you to check out Kris’ column this week -- maybe even take it out of your normal sequence, if you ordinarily read front to back. Or maybe you’ll want to save this wonderfully savory bit til last. It’s all you’d expect of Berggren with a kicky humorous/serious twist that’ll leave you saying, “She’s got something here.” Enough. I’m verging on being the jerk who gives away the details of a good movie. Just go read it. On page 20.

Fr. Robert Gregorio, a long-time columnist for the Catholic Star Herald, the paper of the Camden, N.J., diocese, posed the following question in that paper’s July 27 issue, after a stint on the Vatican delegation to the recent U.N. conference on small-arms trade:

“Want to know what our pro-life president, he of the oxymoronic compassionate conservatism, did to the world conference to stop illegal small-arms trade? I saw his hired guns take aim on it just as he double-crossed our allies … to gut the global Kyoto treaty on climate change. Any more right-wing heart-bleed and earth may soon be uninhabitable.”

Gregorio didn’t know at the time he wrote it just how prescient that last remark would prove. This has become the administration of broken and abandoned treaties. Before the week was out, the Bush administration had withdrawn from negotiations that had gone on for years on the enforcement portion of a treaty banning biological weapons.

At the conference, Gregorio wrote, the Vatican “set out with the modest intent to call for ‘respect for human life and the dignity of the human person through the promotion of a culture of peace’ “ with a special emphasis on the “needs of children affected by armed conflicts.” The experience, he concluded, “made me proud of my church and embarrassed at my president.”

I am glad to announce that Tim Unsworth, who arguably gets more mail than anyone associated with the paper, is home and recovering from a second round of surgery for colon cancer. He reports that he is regaining energy and appetite. I can report that he also has returned to the computer keyboard. You’ll be hearing from him in the near future.

Our condolences go out to the family of Barbara J. Thorman, 72, of Kansas City, Mo., who died July 22 at her home. She is survived by seven children and 10 grandchildren. She was the wife of the late Donald J. Thorman, NCR’s second publisher. Longtime NCR readers will recall Don Thorman as a major force in shaping the paper’s direction and vision in its early years. He was publisher from 1965 until his death in 1977.

-- Tom Roberts

My e-mail address is troberts@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, August 10, 2001