Vietnam: Day Two
Today, our interfaith delegation from the United States visited the /Center for Children with Disabilities/ in Cu Chi, Vietnam. It is run by a Catholic priest, Father Phan Khac Tu and a wonderful staff.
As we walked into a large room on the ground floor, we were greeted by a couple dozen children sitting on the floor, singing and chanting and welcoming our strange looking group. These children suffer from a wide variety of disabilities, but they were able to be hugged, and to appreciate Bob Edgar’s crazy/wonderful magic tricks.
Upstairs, we visited more severely disabled children, lying on mats. Most had badly crippled limbs, and some had enlarged skulls. One girl, eleven years old, had the body of a two-year-old. Still, they smiled, reached out, and seemed to welcome our visit, and our hugs.
These are just a small fraction of the children with birth defects that are believed to be caused by Agent Orange/dioxin, the poisonous herbicide the United States sprayed over the countryside for ten years during the Vietnam conflict.
Tom Fox has done us a tremendous service by covering various gatherings of sisters both in the United States and across the globe. His editorial this week highlights the remarkable vitality and perseverence that has provided the Catholic church with examples of compassion and sacrifice for the sake of the "least among us." In the midst of one of Catholicism's darkest hours, the sisters continue to produce light, reminding church people that there is a dimension of Christianity that is sadly lacking in press accounts of scandal.
Many NCR readers are familiar with Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, author, teacher and peace activist. Nhat Hanh currently lives in Plum Village, a Buddhist meditation practice center and monastery he founded in southern France. He travels regularly throughout North America and Europe to lecture and lead retreats on "the Art of Mindful Living." He was recently interviewed about his life and work. You might enjoy what he had to say.
Deal Hudson is right when he states that the prospects for a new bill that would amend the just-passed health care bill are nil. He wants bishops to “call out” Catholic members who do not support the new bill which would seek to enhance the current restrictions on the possibility of federal funds being used to cover abortions. But, the reason there is so little support for such a measure is because there is so little need for such a measure.
A man who was a self-anointed spokesman for a mob that locked a priest out of his own church, then was part of the same mob that physically intimidated him when he tried to gain access, is soon to be ordained a deacon by the Catholic Bishop of Raleigh. N.C., Michael Burbidge.
Catholics in more than 100 parish churches around the metropolitan New Orleans area were asked for donations to support fishing families and others pushed out of work by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Archdiocese of New Orleans said.
In addition, Archbishop Gregory Aymond asked the region's nearly 400,000 Catholics to pray for relief to Our Lady of Prompt Succor, whom Catholics regard as the patroness of the region and protector against natural calamity.
Aymond told pastors to take up special collections anytime over the next three weeks. The money will go to the archdiocese's Catholic Charities arm, which has already begun distributing relief to affected families in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes.
In a letter to all the parishes of his archdiocese he asked for prayers for all the victims of the blast on the oil rig that occurred on April 20. He encouraged prayers for those who died, those injured, and their families, that “God may give them peace in their time of crisis.”
“Pray too for those working to clean up the oil spill and for those that will be adversely affected by the effects of the spill.”
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tIn a strongly worded brief for the United States Supreme Court, the Obama administration has sided with the Vatican in an Oregon lawsuit that names the Holy See as a defendant for its role in the sexual abuse crisis.
tIn effect, the brief asserts that the standards for an exception to the immunity that foreign governments enjoy under American law have not been met in the Oregon case.
tFiled on Friday, the brief stops short of recommending that the Supreme Court directly take up the case of Doe v. Holy See, originally filed in federal district court in Oregon in 2002. Instead, it suggests that the Supreme Court set aside the 2009 ruling of an appeals court that allowed the case to go forward, sending it back for further consideration.
I write this on Pentecost Sunday, an auspicious day to be in Vietnam… but an appropriate day. t
Last night, I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). I am part of an interfaith delegation investigating the lingering effects of Agent Orange and dioxin on the civilian population and the environment of Vietnam. This morning, I went to a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Notre Dame in the city. Unexpectedly, the Mass was in English. In his homily, the priest talked about the importance of not being silent when speech is required. That message fits the work of our delegation.
tThe delegation is led by Bob Edgar, President of Common Cause and funded by the Ford Foundation, the leading NGO involved in providing aid to investigate the effects of the poisons, clean up the toxic “hot spots” and promote a high level US/Vietnamese dialogue on the issues.