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Issue Date:  January 6, 2006

From the Editor's Desk

Starting the new year with thanks

On Page 14 there’s an ad that thanks new NCR readers for coming aboard, especially for the number who joined us last month. I mention it because it gives me the opportunity to start the year by adding my thanks. As I was writing this I got a phone call from an occasional reader who belongs to another Christian denomination. He just wanted to talk about NCR and how we got to doing what we do. He said he was unable to find anything like this publication in any other denomination, including his own.

It is rare, he said, to come across a religious publication that has independent reporting as the heart of its mission.

That is the distinctive element about NCR that caught my interest years ago and that keeps me engaged in the work of this little enterprise today. It was the impulse behind the founding of NCR and it remains the essential work that guides us forward.

I think there is important news constantly developing in the church, some of which might not see the light of day were there not an independent publication paying attention. We are convinced, as were those who founded this paper, that adult Catholics can not only tolerate, but deserve, a broad conversation, that they deserve a place where questions can be asked and debate can be joined without fear of reprisal.

Your support says that the conversation is important to you, too, and assures that it stays alive. Your support also implies trust in what you read in our news columns and in the integrity of our opinion writers and editorials. We don’t take that trust lightly, and we hope to deserve it each issue.

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One example of the conversation I refer to occurs, where Robert Kaiser writes about Fr. Hans Küng’s visit to Phoenix in November. (See story) Kung had earlier visited Philadelphia, where he received an award from the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church. One of the founders of the association is theologian Leonard Swidler, professor of Catholic thought and interreligious dialogue at Temple University. Swidler is probably the individual most responsible for making Küng known to American Catholics years ago.

Kaiser, who writes with panache and strongly held opinions, is also an entrepreneurial spirit, so I include the information that if anyone would care to obtain CD or DVD copies of the Küng event in Phoenix, they are available by sending a check (CD for $15, DVD for $20 plus $5 shipping and handling for either) to [Living the Questions, 5501 N. 7th Ave PMB 733, Phoenix, AZ 85013].

It is worth noting the organization Jesuit Alumni in Arizona, which sponsored the Küng visit. It is the kind of organization that I think will continue to emerge in this period when so much focus is placed on shutting down conversation and eliminating any questions.

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There is nothing funny about the government spying on its own people, whether they be radical Christian groups or avid environmentalists. But as Joe Feuerherd’s piece on the FBI spying on Catholic workers makes clear, such undercover work can make for some humorous prose. The FBI discovered, for example, that the Catholic Worker, referred to in the memo as the CWG (Catholic Worker Group), “advocates love and peace thru [sic] prayer.” Wouldn’t Dorothy Day (also an FBI target) be glad? The local agents would do much better to understand CWG if they just showed up at one of the houses and volunteered. My experience is that CWGs can always use some help. ( See story)

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, January 6, 2006   corrected [01/13/2006]

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