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'OK guys, here's what I want you to do ....' (Sen. Jesse Helms and US Catholic hierarchy) (Editorial)

If Jesse Helms, R-N.C., ever voted to aid the poor or to oppose a weapons boondoggle, it escaped me. His "liberal" ratings, according to the National Journal, which tracks congressional votes, consistently runs zero; his "conservative" ratings conversely run 96 to 100 percent.

Year after year Helms votes against such things as raising minimum wage, giving coal miners greater benefits, civil rights legislation or handgun control. This tightfisted conservative, however, always manages to find generosity of heart when it comes to tobacco subsidies or missiles and warhead systems or more Star Wars research.

As you can see, Helms is quite a guy.

When it comes to programs that might be considered applications of U.S. Catholic social thought, this senator has stood to block them all. All except one, that is. The defining Catholic social issue of recent Catholic hierarchy choice: abortion. Forget the "consistent life" ethic. Most members of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy have had little or no problem being associated with Helms because they see eye to eye in their desire to criminalize abortion. This wedding of interests was caught in black and white last January by NCR photographer Rick Reinhard, who snapped a memorable pose in front of the White House during a 20th anniversary rally commemorating the Supreme Court's ruling of Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion (NCR, Feb. 5).

Back on the Helms track recently, we found the august senator again pushing for an official U.S. Senate stamp of approval on an insignia - the flag of the old confederacy. To some, it may speak of Southern pride, but to many others it smacks of racial hurt and bondage.

Given the above, it was nothing short of delicious to see one of the "Good Old Boys," Helms, unexpectedly come up against Senate newcomer, Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill. She took Helms and the club on, and in the process, possibly - just possibly - helped sensitize the ranks on the pains of the remnants of slavery and continued racial discrimination.

Moseley-Braun's historic speech which turned the Senate around - and against Helms - got some press attention. But not enough. So we share it with you on the back page. We need more Moseley-Brauns, vanguards of a more inclusive government. Listening carefully, we might remind ourselves we all have more to learn.

Our good friend and bishop, John. J. Sullivan of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, retires next month. He has worked tirelessly and has served the diocese well for 16 years. We wish him the best in retirement. We thank him for his many kindnesses over the years.

Our new bishop, to be installed Sept. 9, will be Bishop Raymond J. Boland of the Birmingham, Ala., diocese. In a compassionate act, he announced recently he was canceling a planned $12,000 installation reception at a local hotel so the money could be freed and channeled to flood victims.

Momentum last week was building for the Aug. 11-15 World Youth Day gathering and papal visit to Denver. As the big days approached and all sorts of interest groups tried to muscle in to have their say, it was beginning to look a bit like a three-ring circus. As NCR went to press, word was:

* Pope John Paul II would meet President Clinton in Denver.

* Organizers reported at least 170,000 registrants and serious overflows expected.

* Mother Teresa, under the weather, bowed out.

* The Rocky Mountain News reported the pope will stay in a suite refurbished for him at a cost of some $80,000 (funded with donations) and sleep in a Jacobean-style French walnut and mahogany bed.

* Pope John Paul is slated to give at least seven formal talks.

* Protests are planned. Catholic Organizations for Renewal had organized a number of activities.

* Ousted Haitian president Fr. Jean-Bertrand Aristide who was to show, has bowed out. He cited responsibilities related to his negotiated return to Haiti. (The Vatican remains the only state to recognize the Haitian coup leaders set to be forced out by international accord.)

* The pope's visit has prompted talk of "war." Abortion rights activists have vowed to do battle with antiabortion groups planning to shut down abortion clinics during the pope's visit. "This is war," said Katherine Spillar, national director of the Feminist Majority, an organization based in Los Angeles.

* Anti-Catholic fundamentalists have Promised to target young Catholics for conversion.

* And finally, television crews from the major three national networks were interviewing NCR staff asking what it all means.

Pure Americana!
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Author:Fox, Tom
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Aug 13, 1993
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