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Inside NCR

This week’s cover story and its insights into the caregiving at St. Anthony Village in Portland, Ore., is not simply another NCR parish story. Like our Feb. 22 story on free health clinics being stretched to the limit, it signals NCR’s increasing commitment to health care coverage. Health care is a complex field.

The lack of access to health care in the richest country on earth is a national disgrace. New developments in biomedicine, cloning and stem cell research are growing moral challenges. The financial pressures on hospitals and providers, Catholic and otherwise, affect all Americans, while the increased understanding of the interplay between spirituality and good health is promising to some people.

NCR has its eye on all these issues and, in the months ahead, will gradually steady its focus to bring the full force of the discussion and dilemmas, national and local, to the readers on a regular basis. Stay tuned.

And those stories about extraordinary parishes? We’ll keep doing them, too.

The priest sex abuse story is exhausting to cover and comment about. It is a terrible abuse of power, a horrible betrayal of our children, and it causes deep embarrassment and shame for the Catholic community before other churches and the wider culture.

More than 15 years ago NCR broke the story of priest sex abuse and the pattern of cover-up and further abuse of victims by leaders who abandoned their pastoral instincts and acted to protect the reputations of priests and the institution.

It is somewhat maddening that all of the broken trust, expensive settlements, betrayed victims and shattered priests of the past decade and a half lead to the same questions and frustrations that were expressed at the start.

Many of us hope that this time, this new explosion of disclosures will lead to more than just another round of forced apologies.

In the meantime, our coverage this week is a special report package that includes stories from Boston by Chuck Colbert, who interviewed Fr. Jerry Osterman, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Everett, Mass. Osterman seems to be the kind of pastor -- not only open and forthright with his parishioners, but deeply respectful of their intelligence and experience -- who inspires hope that something good can come from this awful crisis.

Jesuit Fr. Raymond Schroth, who spent hours reading through thousands of pages of documents released by the courts, gives us his analysis of the case of John Geoghan, the defrocked priest convicted of child abuse.

I call your attention, too, to a brief on Page 8 (briefs are not posted on-line) that tells of theologian Lisa Sowle Cahill’s call for an economic boycott to force the church to consider the kind of significant reform needed to deal with the clergy sex abuse scandal. Her plea was carried in an op-ed piece in the March 6 issue of The New York Times.

Fr. Richard McBrien on Page 20 (no posted on-line) argues that any solution to the crisis will require a kind of strong leadership that appears in short supply. Finally, don’t miss the letters section for a healthy dose of wisdom and insight. The anguish and the questions contained in the letters on the sex abuse crisis are a powerful testament to how deeply Catholics both love their church and are disturbed by the ongoing scandal.

-- Tom Roberts

My e-mail address is troberts@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, March 15, 2002