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Issue Date:  June 16, 2006

From the Editor's Desk

The struggle for balance

Tom Lorsung is well known in Catholic journalism circles as the longtime director and editor in chief of Catholic News Service in Washington, a post from which he retired in 2003. Less well-known is his skill with a camera.

About 10 years ago, he and his wife purchased a second home in the vicinity of the Chesapeake Bay and he turned his eye to the waterscape and has produced some stunning images, a few of which are published in this week’s special section on the environment. ( See story)

Photography is not entirely new to him. During his earlier years in journalism, he was a photo editor and copyeditor at the Sentinel in Milwaukee, and he came to the then National Catholic News Service as photo editor. It was in that capacity that he shot a number of assignments including the Watergate hearings, Vietnamese refugee camps and various sites in the Holy Land.

In a phone conversation recently, he spoke of a longtime fascination with nature photography, an interest that he has been able to engage along the shore of Chesapeake Bay. It seems good to be reminded of the beauty and resources at stake as we struggle for the balance between the way we live and our responsibility for the earth.

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I am not one who believes that balance in journalism is simply a matter of placing equally obnoxious (and loud) gainsayers in front of camera or tape recorder and having them go at it.

That’s not to say that reasoned, passionate argument isn’t useful in shaping opinion and public policy. So it is with two volatile topics treated in the back of this week’s issue: energy policy and the Middle East.

On energy, the central question is whether to pursue alternatives to the main sources at the moment or take a new look at nuclear energy as a replacement for fossil fuel-powered plants and their growing contribution to global warming. The debate once cut along fairly predictable ideological and environmental lines: conservatives and liberals, tree huggers and those in favor of progress. Those days are gone; the debate is no longer so clear.

As if to prove the point, John O’Neill, who argues for expansion of nuclear power, has an abundant appreciation for the fragility of natural systems and often takes off from his Kansas City, Mo., base for what many of us would consider godforsaken places, little more than binoculars in hand, in search of some equally obscure species of bird. Indeed, it is at least in part a wish to preserve that is behind his convictions.

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In a 1994 speech welcoming Shmuel Hadas, the first ambassador of Israel to the Holy See, the late Pope John Paul II said, “After the tragic extermination of the Shoah, the Jews began a new period in their history. They have a right to a homeland, as does any civil nation, according to international law,”

He continued, quoting from one of his earlier documents, “For the Jewish people who live in the state of Israel and who preserve in that land such precious testimonies to their history and their faith, we must ask for the desired security and the due tranquility that is the prerogative of every nation and condition of life and of progress for every society.”

Of course, in most Vatican pronouncements on the Middle East, there is a corollary of hope that somehow the residents of the Palestinian territories will enjoy the same security and tranquility. It is a hope frayed to the point of breaking. Yet such hopelessness is not in our warrant, not for any of the cultures, political persuasions or religions involved.

Perhaps that is why even the most aggrieved antagonists seem to continually return, however momentarily, to the search for accommodation and compromise in the hope of peace. Perhaps that is why so many have such determined convictions, or why there are so many different views of what would constitute justice and lead to peace in the Middle East.

And if that all seems a rather weaselly approach to the intractable thicket of conflicting claims and interests in Israel and the Palestinian territories, then I accept the charge and invite you to more of the discussion. ( See story) (See story)

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, June 16, 2006

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