National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Inside NCR
Issue Date:  July 30, 2004

From the Editor's Desk

Unearthing the stories of the dead

Humans have shown a propensity for doing awful things to each other in the name of causes and states and religion and access to resources.

The century just finished was a sad testament to the degree of violence we are capable of deliberately and systematically inflicting on one another, a reality that has endured seamlessly into the new century.

Looking upon the horrors of the past would be a numbing act of desperation were it not for those like Clyde Snow, who have persisted in building and keeping the record of the violence, of holding people accountable.

“Disappeared” is a term that grew from Latin American struggles. It was often right-wing governments who employed murderers “to disappear” the opposition. In many places it resulted in secret, often mass, graves. Opposition silenced.

But not entirely. This week’s cover story tells of Snow, one of the world’s foremost forensic anthropologists who, motivated by a deep belief in holding the killers accountable, began to interpret the stories of the dead. The bones don’t lie, he says. They can tell a story.

~ ~ ~

The Bush campaign is serious about courting the Catholic vote. As Joe Feuerherd reports on Page 5, the Republican National Committee is asking Catholics to help dig up and send on to the RNC parish directories and membership lists of Catholic groups.

I hope, if Catholics are that hot a commodity this year, that we’re smart enough to use a little political muscle.

Bush fans should make the case for the whole agenda -- opposing capital punishment as well as abortion, extending health care benefits to everyone, providing funding to improve lousy schools, responding to the pope’s relentless opposition to the Iraq war -- before promising anything.

Elections historically have lacked any meaningful discussion between voters and the candidates. Perhaps this year, Catholics can force more than sound-bite exchanges.

~ ~ ~

One hesitates to keep getting caught up in the muck of the clergy sex abuse crisis for fear that it becomes the only perspective through which the church is viewed. That said, each month seems to bring some new chapter and yet another indication from church leaders of why it won’t go away. Most recently it is the scandal in Austria (see John Allen’s story on Page 11) and the comments of Bishop Kurt Krenn that what was photographed at his seminary amounted to nothing more than a “schoolboy prank.”

Closer to home, the Times Leader newspaper, which covers Scranton, Pa., quoted former Scranton Bishop James Timlin in a testy exchange with the lawyer of an alleged sex abuse victim. Referring to the guidelines for dealing with clergy sex abuse promulgated by the U.S. bishops in 2002, Timlin said under oath in a deposition last October, “I know there are some bishops in the country who refuse to have anything to do with it and they have permission from Rome to do this.” The full story can be found on the paper’s Web site.

The bankruptcy in Portland is symbolic of more than fiscal distress.

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, July 30, 2004

This Week's Stories | Home Page | Top of Page
Copyright  © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO   64111
All rights reserved.
TEL:  816-531-0538     FAX:  1-816-968-2280   Send comments about this Web site to: