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Issue Date:  August 13, 2004

From the Editor's Desk

Eyes on Latin America

A number of people have called and e-mailed asking if the Latin America series, which totals 10 parts to run through the early fall, will be available in one piece. If the interest is there, we will certainly consider republishing the whole series in an inexpensive, easy-to-use form for those wishing to use the material for educational purposes in classroom or parish or small-group settings. Send me an e-mail ( if you would be interested.

“Escape from Poverty” might, more accurately, be “Attempted Escape from Poverty” because the issue runs off in so many directions and success is hard to quantify. If someone actually makes it to the United States, for instance, having escaped the poverty of one of Latin America’s teeming cities, will it be to slip into a different kind of poverty here?

In this summer of Iraq war and high-stakes political battles, NCR returns repeatedly to the stories of trial and hope in Latin America because we think, even though the attention of the rest of the world may be averted, that the consequences will be significant. One thing is certain: The numbers are overwhelming. The numbers of displaced people, of refugees, of migrants, of dollars moving to countries in the South from the economy in the North, can only be a precursor to chaos and a challenge to anyone’s sense of justice.

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Colman McCarthy has raised the hackles of some by suggesting that Catholics should leave the church that he left years ago because it did not meet his rather rigorous standards for being a peace church. One particularly exercised colleague and reader called me and caught me on a golf course in New Jersey. (Right, the question here is why did I have a cell phone at all on vacation, why especially did I take it along on the golf course and why, most incredibly, did I answer it? I leave the analysis on that one to professionals.) The caller was certain I should ban McCarthy forever from the pages. (Colman is recovering in Washington, by the way, from a severe ankle fracture sustained in a biking accident.) I won’t ban him. I find myself always challenged by his thinking, not infrequently agreeing and not infrequently disagreeing, often laughing with him, but rarely neutral. Not bad for a columnist.

On this particular issue, another columnist turned letter writer, Joe Cunneen, came through with a particularly eloquent reply to McCarthy that you’ll find on the letters pages.

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Speaking of that vacation, I finally put the cell phone away and sank into the activities of an extended family. There was a wonderful bit of serendipity at work that found two branches of the same clan in roughly the same place at the same time. It was wonderful. For the sake of familial harmony I will not go into the details of the beach football game or the results of that latest in an occasional series of Roberts-Dougherty contests. And the Doughertys, it needs be said, are rather fine poets and humorists.

The side I am associated with is overseen by matriarch Mary Walsh, wise woman, mother-in-law, grandmother, perennial stalwart of church life in her Southeast Pennsylvania parish and an inveterate news junkie. She’s always good for fresh pastries and at least three newspapers at the breakfast table.

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, August 13, 2004

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