Issue Date: April 1, 2005
From the Editor's Desk
Going beyond soundbites
In another week jammed with news, I hope we help you sink in to some of the issues that you may only catch in 30-second glimpses elsewhere.
We were fortunate to benefit from Chris Herlingers recent trip to the Darfur region of Sudan for Church World Service, a relief arm of the National Council of Churches. While the air is thick with language about freeing people from tyrants and oppression, such bravado does little for the people of Darfur.
I asked Chris for some personal impressions, and he supplied these comments:
As a journalist and humanitarian worker Ive been to a number of tough locales -- Colombia, Afghanistan, Liberia to name just three -- and in all of those places, as difficult as they were, there were still institutions in place and people working on the ground, religious leaders, say, who were providing leadership and a sense of hope.
Whats different about Darfur is how little hope there appears to be. People really do feel trapped and powerless; the feeling of fear in these camps is real and palpable, and what little protection people have is being provided by already overworked humanitarian agencies. I dont see any long-term solution in the works, but I do hope the international community continues to seek protection measures. At the very least, I hope they (we!) dont forget Darfur. The Darfur story has faded on and off the American media radar screen for about a year or so; we dont seem to be focused on it (once again) but the grim reality shows no signs of improving.
Joe Feuerherds reporting on the Terri Schiavo case is worth the time even if, by now, you think you dont want to hear or read another word about it. Why? Because his reporting goes in a different direction from the 24/7 onslaught of emotionalism, raw piety and three-year-old video clips of a woman in a sad and desperate situation. Whatever happens in this case -- and it is uncertain at the time of this writing -- it is clear that such matters are far more complex than any collection of sound bites. It is also a certainty that medical technology will continue to hand us these awful dilemmas. Its important that we continue to educate ourselves, to hear from our tradition as well as our ethicists and to learn how to think about these things.
I want to call special attention to Fr. Raymond Schroths media piece -- a refreshing push back against politics based on manipulation of fear. He reviews a BBC report on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda that certainly was not produced by any of our governments proliferating faux news units.
We at NCR had no idea that the special section on Wealth and Responsibility, published March 11, would be received so enthusiastically. Spontaneously parishes and other groups began ordering extra copies for discussion sessions and classes.
One parish, the Church of St. Ann in Hoboken, N.J., ordered 200 copies to pass out to parishioners. I talked to Br. Bob Reinke, a member of the Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis, who recently began working at the parish. He said pastor Fr. Tom Crangle, a Capuchin Franciscan, recently conducted a survey to determine topics of interest in the parish, which is made up mostly of young professionals. One of the areas of concern in determining how to live out Catholic faith in the real world was finances and investing.
I was greatly encouraged to hear, in the course of our discussion, some of the innovative ways the parish has used a variety of Catholic publications. It is always gratifying to hear of parishes or small groups that make creative use of our material.
We still have a supply of the Wealth and Responsibility issues available. For further information contact Jo Ann Schierhoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or (816) 968-2239.
Heres a quick heads up on two major topics were working on for the issues dated April 15 and April 22. Each involves the anniversary of the death of a major figure in 20th century Catholicism, and the events planned for those anniversaries are proof that the witness of powerful lives and the force of challenging thought does not fade quickly from the Christian community. First, in the April 15 issue, well have extensive coverage of the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. The coverage will include a report by Robert J. McClory, on the mid-March conference at the University of Notre Dame titled Archbishop Romero: Martyr and Prophet: A Bishop for the New Millennium. Meanwhile, Paul Jeffrey, a name well known to NCR readers and one of the authors of the Latin America Today series that ran last year, will be back in El Salvador to report on events there.
In the April 22 issue, well be covering events surrounding the anniversary of the death of the French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin. That report will include an engaging look at the life of Teilhard and his relevance today by Jesuit Fr. Thomas King of Georgetown University, as well as coverage of events in New York and Washington related to the anniversary.
-- Tom Roberts
National Catholic Reporter, April 1, 2005
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