National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
April 25, 2003

LettersDictatorial tactics

NCR letter writer Rosalyn Falcon Carter (NCR, April 4) has exposed the strategy that the people who program George W. Bush have used to make their man look presidential from the beginning of his public life. “The strategy of repeating the same answers, no matter what the question, gives the impression of a dialogue, but is actually a monologue attempting to reinforce the inevitable ‘war is the only option.’ ”

This tactic of repeating the same answer, no matter the question, is the preferred tactic of nascent dictators who want to appear sensitive while actually pounding out their particular message. We have heard nothing new from this man since he moved into the Oval Office and we are now witnessing the result of a carefully laid plan that threatens not only the population of Iraq and the Near East but the fiber of our own democracy.

Thank you, Rosalyn!

San Antonio

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I have always been comforted in the knowledge of the wonderful principles on which our nation was founded. I thought they were an indestructible bedrock that could help us stay the course through any storm. I thought our Constitution guaranteed it. Now, it seems like the Constitution be damned! Bush continues to forge ahead with unbridled arrogance to send our soldiers into combat, jeopardizing their mortality, as well as that of the innocent Iraqis, without a second thought. What is America to do? Protests and letters to Congress seem to no avail. All the insightful commentary of NCR, America, Commonweal and the like does not seem to reach Middle Americans, who are embracing this war as a defense of their freedoms.

Hatboro, Pa.

Otter and individual rights

I was disappointed to see that in your March 21 editorial on the “Freedom to Read Protection Act of 2003” that you did not give credit to Rep. C.L. “Butch” Otter of Idaho as a strong supporter (maybe even cosponsor) of the bill.

What is noteworthy about Rep. Otter is that he is from arguably the most conservative state in the Union, and that his was one of the few dissenting votes in the overwhelming (and emotional) passage of the resolution giving President Bush the go-ahead on a preemptive (and probably un-Constitutional) war with Iraq.

I know Rep. Otter personally, and while we are generally far apart politically, I know him to be a highly principled champion of individual rights.

Eagle, Idaho

Married clergy

Now that the headlines about pedophilia have died down, and a program to continually respond to the problem is in place, there is concern that little has been done to eliminate pedophilia. The desire to preserve the status quo, to which the problem must be traced, is much more evident. Spokesmen for the bishops and Fr. Andrew Greeley, an unlikely bedfellow, twist away in childish fashion from facing a fact, plain to all. Married Protestant ministers do not have the pedophilia problem that we have.

Riviera Beach, Fla.

A time for devotion

The April 4 NCR article, “Waning devotions may be a sign of liturgical health,” written by Fr. Richard P. McBrien was very upsetting to me. Is Fr. McBrien writing for the clergy community or the laity?

I think the days are gone for the belief that “the liturgy, after all, is far superior to any private devotion.” With all the hierarchy stuff going on in the Roman Catholic church today, wouldn’t you think that private devotions by the entire community, clergy and laity is the glue that keeps faith going in these testing times? From where I’m praying, my prayer time is equally superior.

Palm Coast, Fla.


A woman from Albuquerque, N.M., writes in response to abuse by clergy and limits on funeral eulogies (“Do-it-yourself funerals,” NCR, April 4). She provides an excellent outline for a priestless, Eucharist-free funeral held somewhere other than a church building. Her conclusion is, “Best of all, your family members will not be subjected to the plague that comes with the appearance of Roman collars these days. Remember, we are the church!”

She is describing, at best, an Evangelical Protestant church. Even communion services are out for her. My question is, why is this anticlerical, anti-Catholic letter in the National Catholic Reporter?

Waltham, Mass.

Anti-American pacifists

I did not renew with NCR after 25 years, and you need to know why. NCR’s issues following the Twin Towers attack were shameful. Nancy Doyle’s letter printed in your Oct. 12, 2001, issue put it well. Among other good points she asks, “And have you considered that the cause of this tragedy might be more than political policies -- that perhaps insanity or even evil might be involved?” I would imagine that a pacifist is hopeful and a person at peace. But the pacifists I know are cynics and anti-American. It is sad that NCR, the best hope for renewal in print in the country, shares this cynical approach. There is more thoughtful and useful analysis of America in other journals.

Fair Oaks, Calif.

Shock and awe at home

Now that we are in the midst of war in Iraq, one has to wonder what will transpire after the military attacks are over. Let me share my own hope to be “shocked and awed.” I will be shocked if most Americans don’t go back to their regular way of doing things, ignoring the significant problems we have at home. I will be shocked if we do not continue ignoring the responsibility of getting involved in the political process enough to hold our elected officials accountable for their assaults against the poor, the homeless and people of color. I will be shocked if we do not let our country eventually abandon the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, and continue to abandon the Palestinian people. I will be shocked if we do not allow our weapons industry and our prison industry to continue to flourish, instead of putting our energies into building peace in our world, in our cities and in our neighborhoods through sharing the God-given prosperity of wealth and education that we often abuse and take so much for granted. I will be shocked if the good citizens of our country do not just sit back and allow our government to continue its preemptive strikes against our civil liberties in the name of preventing terror.

What will awe me is if even a few more citizens get involved in community organizing, in reclaiming a political process that is not only about voting but even more about holding our leaders accountable. What will awe me is if even a few are added to the ranks of those fighting for the rights of the poor, the innocent and the powerless. I will be awed when even a few more people begin to challenge the people who preach the false belief that violence can ever accomplish a lasting peace. I will be awed when even a few more people challenge the powers that seek to limit the potential of the collective human spirit to resolve conflicts peacefully, to bridge the differences and resist the powers that seek to divide us, to bring about true justice and enduring peace in our world.

Awe, from a religious perspective, is something that inspires admiration and reverence, like a sunset, a newborn child, an unexpected act of bravery or kindness, a sudden conversion of heart that moves someone beyond racism and prejudice to embrace a brother or sister. Awe is something that we all seek and that we need to nurture in our young people.

And so as the military conflict continues, I pray for the safe return of our troops, for the protection of all the innocent and powerless in Iraq and throughout the world. And, after the war is over, I will fervently pray that I will be shocked often; and I will weep with joy every time I am awed by one of my brothers or sisters who call themselves American and truly live not only America’s privilege but its responsibility as well.


It’s independent

Regarding the report of a Voice of the Faithful meeting in Los Angeles (NCR, March 21), the Santa Barbara affiliate would like to comment. The article refers to the meeting as a VOTF/Call to Action gathering and makes several references linking Voice of the Faithful with SNAP, Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests. This article might mislead readers into assuming that Voice of the Faithful affiliates have alliances with these or other groups. While we at Voice of the Faithful, Santa Barbara affiliate, support all efforts that promote healing and positive structural change in our church, we endorse the centrist position of Voice of the Faithful, an independent organization that speaks with a moderate voice for all Catholic faithful.

Santa Barbara affiliate
Peter Kruse

Santa Barbara, Calif.

Kruse is chair of the affiliate’s Leadership Team, which includes Jeanne Bret, Marie Foley, Thomas Heck, Patricia Kruse, Dorothy Macchio and Kathleen Stritmatter.

U.S. goals in the Mideast

Your April 4 editorial against Bush’s Iraqi war was perfect, except for one seriously misguided word, which was indirectly refuted by later paragraphs.

One sentence: “It was . . . in 1991 that a number of hard-line anti-communists began arguing that the U.S. must use its … supremacy to … put down America’s enemies.”

You should have written “anti-Islamists.” Communists won’t suffer from the Bushmen’s (Bushites?) policies, which are aimed at “Iraq … Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Authority” and “a transformed Middle East” (your words).

A person can logically be a hard-line anti-communist (perhaps because of reading Robert Royal’s excellent Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century -- often advertised in NCR) and still totally oppose the Bush plans to try violently to turn the Mideast into what it never was -- a copy of U.S. culture.


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It would take a volume to recount all that Charles Davis leaves out in his “U.S. force necessary to liberate Iraq” (NCR, March 14).

1) That Saddam Hussein might make chemical or biological weapons that he might pass on to terrorists does not, of course, overcome the moral prohibition of preemptive or aggressive war, nor does it pass the proportionality test in the certain sacrifice of thousands of Iraqi lives and much of Iraq’s infrastructure against the possibility of some undetermined number falling victim to some such possible terrorist attack.

2) As my colleague George Caffentzis has pointed out, this is an argument for the United States to control, directly or indirectly, every factory everywhere in the world, since just about any factory could produce weapons of mass destruction, a recognition that partly explains the Perle-Cheney-Wolfowitz et al. doctrine of U.S. world domination and hegemony.

3) Given George W. Bush’s compassion record, no one can believe that freeing Iraqis from their suffering under Hussein has anything to do with this war. Regrettably, the United Nations Charter is flawed in not adequately addressing crimes against humanity within sovereign states; it is, however, explicit in forbidding individual nations from engaging in aggression against sovereign states -- for whatever reason. The U.N. reserves intervention to itself.

4) Davis misses the point regarding oil. We can buy oil, yes, but in controlling Iraqi oil in a world of declining oil availability and increasing demand, we can -- and will -- exercise unprecedented economic domination of the world in controlling its distribution.

5) Iraq has flouted U.N. resolutions. But for over half a century Israel has far more flagrantly flouted many times more, not to mention international law and the Geneva Conventions; developed all manner of weapons of mass destruction (after using chemical and biological weapons at its inception); engaged in repeated, bloody aggressions against neighboring countries, and is bent on driving millions of Palestinians from their homeland, killing them, or reducing them to a class of untermenschen to do menial work at low wages and without civil rights. (Perle et al. have recommended Israeli annexation of the West Bank and Gaza.) Before freeing the less oppressed Iraqis, would it not be incumbent on the United States to cease blessing, defending and financing all of the above?

6) No one, save the White House chicken hawks and their press servitors, suffers the illusion that we will, in relatively short order, turn Iraq and Afghanistan into model democracies for the Arab world, where we have for so long propped up dictatorships with arms. And the Perle-Wolfowitz clan do not recognize that as a motive: Ultimately, we are going after Saddam Hussein and will go after Iran and North Korea as we have gone after Castro’s Cuba, democratic Guatemala, Allende’s Chile, Noriega’s Panama, Sandanista Nicaragua, and Aristide’s miserable Haiti simply because they have not been properly obeisant. They have dared to act as if they have some right to put the interests of their people before those of the United States and international capitalist exploitation of their resources.

Portland, Maine

Defending the pope

The pope has every right to decry the war in Iraq, despite what the ultraright in this country has to say (NCR, April 4). In this country, we who oppose the war in Iraq are labeled traitors. We are not traitors; we love this country and its people except when we do such things as going to war when negotiation is still possible.

How would we like to be on the other side enduring those massive bombings when we know we have done nothing wrong to merit such horror? How can the Iraqis not hate us when they are victims of such madness?

And who goes to that war in Iraq? As before, blacks, Hispanics and poor whites. During the war in Vietnam not one member of Congress lost a son or grandson there. Will a son or a grandson of the current Congress go to Iraq as a soldier?

Meanwhile the killing will go on. The pinpoint bombing will become less pinpoint. Friendly fire will become less friendly. And once more it will be proved that the greatest criminal act produced by man is war.

Glendale, Calif.

Greeley article

Readers who may be interested in comparing my article in America with the NCR editorial about it, should consult my web page:

(Fr.) Andrew Greeley

The coffee connection

Thank you for Paul Jeffrey’s excellent article on the coffee crisis in your Feb. 7 issue. He presented a vivid picture of the suffering caused by the current crisis and a valuable explanation of its causes.

However, the article draws an incomplete picture of the Fair Trade movement. While the efforts of TransFair and Oxfam are important, this is not just a movement to pressure conventional corporations to buy some Fair Trade coffee.

For the past 17 years, Fair Trade coffee has been a consistent and growing presence in the U.S. market. Pioneered by worker-owned cooperative Equal Exchange (of which I am proudly a worker-owner), support for Fair Trade has been rooted in the vision that fairness is essential to good business. This belief is actualized in the organization’s commitment to the Fair Trade principles in all coffee purchases. Furthermore, several coffee companies have followed this example and made the 100 percent commitment, including Café Campesino, Cloudforest Initiatives, Peace Coffee and Dean’s Beans.

In a business environment where profits and stockholder dividends are typically the bottom line, Fair Trade presents a new paradigm. As Jeffrey points out, religious congregations have embraced this movement, and in many cases it is the alternative to “business as usual” that inspires them to do so. For example, through Equal Exchange, 250 Catholic churches and organizations supported Fair Trade by ordering coffee for community functions and Sunday coffee hour.

While pushing Folgers, Sara Lee, Proctor & Gamble, Nestlé and Starbucks to do more Fair Trade, we should “keep our eye on the prize” and recognize that Fair Trade can be at the center of the way we do business, and not just a small percentage.

Canton, Mass.

Wenke is interfaith coordinator for Equal Exchange in Canton.

Letters to the editor should be limited to 250 words and preferably typed. If a letter refers to a previous issue of NCR, please give us that issue’s date. We reserve the right to edit all letters. Letters, National Catholic Reporter, P.O. Box 419281, Kansas City, MO 64141. Fax: (816) 968-2280. E-mail: Please be sure to include your street address, city, state, zip and daytime telephone number.

National Catholic Reporter, April 25, 2003