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As the pieces by both Luis Angel Saavedra and longtime Latin American analyst Gary MacEoin make clear, the situation in Colombia has become hopelessly tangled.

Questions remain about the approach of Plan Colombia to untangling the mess. One of the most compelling -- What is the U.S. doing about drying up the market that makes growing coca so profitable? -- still doesn’t get much attention. We’ve raised that question in earlier stories, but the answer so far has been simply to stack more users in warehouse prisons. The country hasn’t been in the mood to consider other solutions such as adequately funded rehabilitation. Prisons are easier. Inevitably, though, the warehoused will be leaving the prisons.

In Colombia, meanwhile, we keep spraying. Go to any local hardware store. Look at a container of the weed killer Roundup. Read all the warnings. Now imagine 150,000 gallons of the stuff being pumped out of an airplane. I think there’s good reason to listen to the urgent concerns being voiced by some in Colombia.

It was good to be amid the crowds at Call to Action’s 25th anniversary celebration in Chicago last weekend (more about this on page 28).

There was, however, one sour note during the weekend that points up the dangers of inviting media and then trying to control access. Among those welcomed the first night of the weekend gathering was a crew from Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network. For the record, I have little time for the ossified vision of church so often preached on the sets of that network. I think it shameful that, given the size and vibrant nature of the U.S. church, EWTN is the sole expression of Catholicism widely available on television.

That said, EWTN and its followers are part of the large Catholic family, even though they may not be my favorite relatives. They’re hurt by a church trying to be born into the future, as much as we may feel hurt by the extended labor of the very same change. So it was reasonable that Call to Action agreed to allow them to send a film crew. The problem came in trying to limit the crew’s access. The EWTN representatives were finally asked to leave.

There are no sunshine laws governing this kind of meeting. But it is impossible to hold a widely advertised national meeting, invite the press and then restrict access to an event held in a huge public hall and attended by several thousand people.

NCR has argued strongly in the past for access to similar meetings that were widely advertised and that involved discussion about a range of Catholic issues.

No rules exist, but I believe allowing access is better. Call to Action doesn’t have anything to hide. I was told some Call to Action officials were worried that the event would be distorted in the telling or that tapes would be sent to Rome.

Perhaps both would happen. But if that were EWTN’s intent, there were easier ways to go about it: Call to Action was selling its own video of the very session in question, and audio tapes of almost everything else that went on.

What was lost was the chance to cooperate, to make leaders available for interviews. Who knows what would have gotten through had the welcome been unconditional? Instead the EWTN crew goes home with a got-booted-out story.

I regret that a credit line was inadvertently dropped from the essay by Bishop Donald W. Trautman that ran on page 17 of last week’s issue. The essay was reprinted with the permission of America magazine. Normally, we would write a report of our own on such a piece, but the essay was so significant we wanted our readers to see it in its entirety. Trautman has been quoted often in stories in NCR documenting the attempts to roll back liturgical reforms. As a bishop and expert on liturgy and one who has been involved in this issue at a high level for years, his observations hold a special weight, his questions a special urgency.

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, November 16, 2001