e-mail us

Inside NCR

One of the consistently distinctive elements of the National Catholic Reporter is its letters section. It is your letters that make it clear this is no ordinary newspaper.

The community that gathers around NCR -- agreeing and disagreeing, complimenting and calling us to account -- understands that to be an adult, thinking Catholic in today’s world often means seeing that world through a different lens. It means asking difficult questions. It means honing a moral perspective. It often means not going along with the prevailing thinking.

We think that’s a proper attitude for a publication that, at its core, celebrates the mystery of hope, faith and love that entered the world two millennia ago and proceeded to turn the world on its head.

Your letters have never been more appreciated than in recent months as we have struggled to ask the difficult questions and to provide alternative perspectives on world events. Your notes, phone calls and e-mails, some for print and others private, more numerous than usual, have told us repeatedly that you appreciate NCR’s “difference.” Your critiques -- and they have been and will be printed -- have pressed us to consider a broader range of arguments. Most often, though, you have said that you are grateful that we take the time to look beneath the cries that urge us to war, that we take the time to examine the roots of violence in ourselves, our nation and the wider world. You have thanked us for pressing an examination of what patriotism means in times like these.

Our intent all along has been to try to ask the questions that get tossed aside in the military fervor of the moment. We have tried to use the moment to go over some history and to seek out experts for interpretation of that history that so often gets left out of sound bites and the arguments of ubiquitous talk TV. Throughout the coverage of recent weeks, we have heard that one of the grievances some Arabs hold against the United States is the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. So we asked the simple question: Why do we have troops there and what are the implications for international relations? The answers aren’t simple, but they are lucidly documented in a thoroughly reported story by Margot Patterson on Page 3.

First there was the end of the Cold War, and the world shifted. Now there’s a new war on international terrorism, and the world shifts again. We’re just beginning to try to figure out what it all means. The essays on Pages 11 and 12 seemed a good fit, a look at the long-range implications of those big shifts, as well as the immediate response to the Sept. 11 acts of terrorism. The essays are also a reminder that the contributions of Catholic institutions and Catholic thought to the current important conversation is incalculable and extends well beyond the big-name places that get lots of print. The conversation is going on in countless small universities tucked away in communities across the country, places like Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo., and DeSales University in Center Valley, Pa.

These are daunting times, weighted suddenly with issues that we’d rather not think about and consequences that are dreadful. We all need an occasional break. If you haven’t been able to get away yourself, join Arthur Jones on page 28, for a delightful weekend and a look at things with new eyes.

-- Tom Roberts

My e-mail address is troberts@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, October 19, 2001