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Inside NCR

These are nerve-jangling times. As we go to press, part of the capital is shut down, anthrax scares keep popping up and no one seems to have a good idea where the threat originates or how. The bombs keep falling on Afghanistan, U.S. officials are scrambling around the Middle East and Central Asia trying to hold a coalition together, and the mourning goes on for the victims of terrorism in New York and Washington.

One reader from the East Coast wrote me, “It seems … that an overwhelming number of the memorial profiles published in local newspapers end with details about a Catholic funeral or memorial Mass. The feeling is that we are all one community of sorrow. Everyone knows someone.”

Eloquently said. We all need some help getting through these unsettling times.

Perhaps we can offer some help. Beginning this week, NCR is initiating the Peace Pulpit, a spot on our Web site that will feature the weekly homilies given by Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton at St. Leo Parish in Detroit. Gumbleton has been a distinctive Catholic leader, applying the gospel and church teaching in rigorous and compelling ways to the issues of the day.

Co-founder of Pax Christi USA, he has been a strong voice for peace and a staunch opponent of military solutions, as well as an advocate for so many in the church who feel alienated and marginalized, including gays and lesbians. In a special arrangement, we are able to make available his sermons, at least through the end of the year, as he applies the readings of the liturgical year to the demands of the times we are living through. To reach the Gumbleton page, follow the same procedure for reaching John Allen’s Word from Rome weekly online column. Go to our Web site -- www.natcath.org -- look for the Peace Pulpit button in the left-hand column and click. When you get to the Gumbleton page, you will have the opportunity to register for an e-mail that will notify you each week when the column goes online and that will contain a link to the site.

I call your attention to two items in the paper of special significance. One is John Allen’s exclusive interview with the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, James Nicholson, who assured Allen that the Vatican has given its support to the U.S. military effort. That comes, of course, on the heels of U.S. bishops and cardinals at the synod deeming the U.S. war in Afghanistan justified. One has to wonder if the measure for determining if a war is just is reviewed daily and whether the Bush administration would take any notice should the prelates and Vatican determine at some point that the war had turned unjust.

In another matter, a brief on Page 8 outlines the chill that has descended on those who might voice criticism of the president or opposition to U.S. policy. I find the firing of newspaper columnists for voicing criticism of a president, even in wartime, a frightening development. So, too, with academics who are coming under fire for voicing unpopular views. In our own city, a university journalism department is taking considerable heat for suggesting, reasonably, that budding newscasters and reporters put away flag lapel pins and other such symbols when practicing their profession.

Finally, I make an unusual, though unabashed, pitch for your financial support of this year’s Friends of NCR campaign. I’m not a very good pitchman. In my view, the paper will have to speak for itself. But if it is something you value, please help us keep this project going.

I have written in recent weeks about the letters, e-mails and phone messages I have received from many of you. One such was a call last week from a woman on the West Coast, a subscriber who did not leave a number, just a message on the answering machine, thanking me for the issues that had come since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. She wanted me to know that the issues had been a deep comfort to her. One had provided a priest friend some perspectives he found valuable in preaching that week. Not everyone reacted that way. Some found the coverage troubling, and you will see their letters printed. But overwhelmingly you have written or called to say thanks for the difference NCR represents, particularly in these past weeks.

That difference is possible only because of you, your support as subscribers and your support as Friends of NCR, a campaign that in recent years has increased in number of donors and grown enormously in value to the paper.

We are grateful, and hope, of course, that you will continue walking with us.

-- Tom Roberts

My e-mail address is troberts@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, October 26, 2001