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Issue Date:  August 12, 2005

From the Editor's Desk

Facing up to the present and past

For weeks now we have heard and read about the bombings in London: the investigations, arrests, bewilderment, determination and the diabolically perplexing. Bits keep surfacing with each new round of stories, pieces that lie about a puzzle that so far has no boundaries and very little internal shape.

So I was grateful when, on short notice, John Wilkins, former editor of the London-based Tablet and long an astute observer of the European scene, agreed to write down his understanding of -- and the relevant questions about -- the situation in England. The piece goes beyond those discrete vignettes with which we’ve become familiar and talks about the larger context of confronting terrorism in one’s midst and the growing reality of Islam in Europe.

“It is difficult for Europeans to take the measure of what confronts them,” he writes. “Even so exceptionally acute and principled an observer as Robin Cook, the former British foreign secretary, who resigned in opposition to the 2003 Iraq war, was still saying the other day that the best way to defeat terrorism was to act against poverty. Most Muslims who came to Britain did so to escape poverty, and in various degrees have succeeded. A recent photograph reproduced throughout the British media showed a crew of young men white-water rafting in Wales, smiling with bonhomie as they partook in this team pursuit. A few weeks later some of those young men blew themselves up in London.”

Read John Wilkins’ entire “Letter From London” (see story).

~ ~ ~

I’ve never met him, but from the sound of things, Fr. Robert Cushing can be, how to say this politely, extremely forceful when challenging Catholics on the question of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He is headed, as I write, for Japan to participate in 60th anniversary observances and to issue his own apology to the Japanese people, in the name of some peace activists in the United States, for the dropping of atomic bombs.

His advocacy cost him his position in a parish. Maybe it was just a matter of style, though he has a wide reputation for being pastoral and compassionate, maybe more than that (see story).

~ ~ ~

Often big truths lie in the little things. So I call attention to a news brief that reports that some bodies of members of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo movement in Argentina have been discovered after 28 years ( see story).. The women were dropped from an airplane into the sea during one of the “flights of death” conducted by the government, common punishment for opponents of the military dictatorship during the years 1976-83. The demands of the day force us to reduce that untold horror to a few paragraphs. But it is essential to note it, briefly as we do, because of the relevance of those actions today. If we puzzle at why the world has not rushed to take up our moral crusade against a particular dictatorship, perhaps it is because the world is more aware than most of us here that the United States not only failed to take up against dictatorships in our own hemisphere but that too often we tolerated them, propped them up and turned our backs on their atrocities. Fr. Cushing argues that we’ve never faced up as a society to the moral horror of dropping atomic bombs. There’s more to add to a list of denial.

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, August 12, 2005

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