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Response to Vatican Criticism of U.S. (Fri Sept 16, 2005 12:57 pm) EXTRA

by Tom Doyle

I read John Allen's column in "Word from Rome" the other day and was livid. I sent the following to him and to Tom Roberts in hope that it gets published. Spread it around if you wish. Tom

Dear John,

I read with interest and dismay your recent Word from Rome column that began with observations about the American response to Hurricane Katrina. I seriously question the purpose of including the subjectively negative opinions about the United States at a time when this country is still reeling from the worst natural disaster in its history. The French and Italian newspapers chose to use this disaster and the bungled elements of the various governmental responses to it as a vehicle to broadcast their anti-American sentiments. Does the repetition of their insensitive comments in an American publication serve any useful purpose at this time other than to further aggravate our national pain?

What I found most offensive however were the remarks of the two Americans sequestered in Rome and quite far removed from the harsh realities of the Gulf Coast. Francis Stafford is in no position to criticize the U.S. government for its response to Hurricane Katrina or to any other natural or man-made disaster. He is a top-level leader in an institution that has not only been unable but blatantly unwilling to deal with one of the most devastating and demoralizing crises in its history. I refer of course to the international Clergy sexual abuse nightmare. Stafford, and all too many other men and women in Catholic Church leadership roles are quick to arrogantly criticize secular governments for their actions, or inactions, in a wide variety of contexts. When the institutional Church faces serious problems arising from its own ineptitude or ethical breakdowns, it's leaders all too often respond with denial, minimization and blame-shifting.

Hurricane Katrina has had a complex, multi-faceted impact on American life. The country is still in shock as it continues to learn just how horrendous this event has been. The critics you cited have chosen to take the low road and join in the blame game. Would the NCR readership not be better served by some of the countless stories of the incredible generosity and leadership from throughout the country as Americans of every stripe have reached out to their fellow citizens. While the French and Italian newspapers have arrogantly tried to politicize a national tragedy, others from throughout the international community have reached out with sympathetic and effective assistance. This is not the time for Church leaders to preach but to support.

Tom Doyle


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