National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Inside NCR
Issue Date:  April 4, 2003

From the Editor’s Desk

I’m not sure where I stand on embedded war reporting. Too often, early on, I heard so much breathless cheerleading for the war effort that I was skeptical that we’d get any reporting of value out of the exercise. Then some differences began to appear as the movement of troops from Kuwait north to Baghdad began to encounter resistance and serious struggle.

One of the most significant benefits of embedded reporting, as I see it, may be unintended. One gains an immediate understanding from the reporting among the troops that we have sent our kids -- and there seem to be so many who fit that category -- into the sands of Iraq to do the bidding of those in Washington and London. Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair may try to pretty up the matter with noble language and ever evolving justifications. However, the pictures make it clear. We’ve sent our kids to do the dirty work. The least we can do is keep them in our prayers around the clock and hope they come home soon.

The tugs and pulls of war get complex the longer this goes on and the closer one gets to it, and some of that complexity comes through in the reporting of Washington correspondent Joe Feuerherd. His interviews with chaplains, for instance, provide a window into the demands on those who, below the pro- and antiwar arguments, are confronted with real people who are likely to soon encounter life-and-death situations.

Last week in his “Word from Rome” column, John Allen profiled peace activist Jim Douglass, who was fasting and praying in St. Peter’s Square before taking off to be part of a Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq. This week, Jim e-mailed a first-person account of his dash across the desert from Amman, Jordan, to Baghdad. We received the account just before deadline and print it below on this page. Douglass is one of those dedicated peacemakers who show that nonviolence is not an easy or passive pursuit. Some might call him a wild holy man, engaging in acts that seem utterly foolish to most of us. At that, of course, he is in good company.

If you’ve been to our Web site recently, you’ve noticed the promise of new things in coming weeks. Someone who will have a lot to do with that is Dennis Coday, a recent addition to our newsroom. You may recognize the name, since he has been a regular contributor to NCR since about 1999.

In his new role, he will be both staff writer and editorial coordinator for the Web site. He’ll serve as an advocate of sorts for the Web site in the newsroom and coordinate many of the new elements that will become part of the site. We’ll have a lot more on those new developments in a few weeks.

Since returning to the United States early this month, Coday reports a certain feeling of déjà vu. Coday, who spent the last 11 years in Thailand, said: “When I left the United States, a Bush was in the Oval Office and U.S. troops were in Iraq. So much has changed, and so little.”

Coday was an editor and reporter in Thailand, working for the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN), The Nation (an English-language daily) and as a freelance writer. He now lives in Kansas City, Mo., with his wife, Jaratsri Piewklieng, and their three sons, Sam, James and Michael. Prior to moving to Asia, Coday was part of the Catholic Worker Movement and worked for diocesan newspapers in Kansas City, Mo., and Joliet, Ill.

Last November’s Gallup poll showed that 68 percent of Catholics polled want greater financial transparency from the church. NCR intends to look into diocesan and parish financial reporting. How is our money being spent and accounted for? What does financial accountability at its best (or worst) look like in the U.S. Catholic church? How does your parish or diocese shape up?

I encourage you to contact NCR editor at large Arthur Jones ( or Washington correspondent Joe Feuerherd ( if you have examples, kudos or complaints.

-- Tom Roberts

My e-mail address is

National Catholic Reporter, April 4, 2003

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