Tim Russert, Man for Others
In the midst of the avalanche of news coverage of Tim Russert’s death came the inevitable references to his Catholic roots, including his Jesuit education at Canisius High School in Buffalo and John Carroll University in Cleveland. One commentator said he was “raised by Jesuits,” which not only neglects his own parents, but also sounds suspiciously like “raised by wolves.” Less known is the esteem in which the longtime host of “Meet the Press” was held within the Jesuit world. He was a recipient of honorary degrees from many of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the country. Russert embodied a certain ideal of Jesuit education: the working-class youth who, through diligence and faith, contributes to his family, his church and the common good, while keeping a sense of humor, even about his own past as a Jesuit alumnus. He delighted in recounting the comment of John Sturm, S.J., prefect of discipline at Canisius. When the young Russert asked Father Sturm for mercy after a minor infraction, the prefect said, “Mercy is for God. I deliver justice!”
“Man for others” (or “person for others”) is a phrase often used to describe the ideal Jesuit alumnus or alumna. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., who popularized the expression, meant it to be a challenge: it is not simply about “being nice” but being a person of self-sacrifice in the cause of justice who strives to emulate Christ in his labors and loves. Russert exemplified this ideal in both his professional and personal life. We pray that he will now enjoy God’s abundant love and, yes, mercy.
U.S. Forests Threatened
The nation’s 155 national forests, from the Chugach National Forest in Alaska to the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire and Maine, are under attack by the Bush administration’s new rules issued in April. They remove key protections not only for forests but also for endangered wildlife populations that make their home in forests and grasslands. The conservation group Defenders of Wildlife and two other organizations filed a lawsuit in May to challenge the rules because they eliminate protections that call for the management of forests and grasslands in a manner that protects them and their wildlife populations.
Trent Orr, an attorney for Earthjustice, one of the groups participating in the suit, has called the administration’s move President George W. Bush’s “parting gift to the timber industry” because the new rules “remove vital checks and balances on logging while minimizing...the public’s say in maintaining wildlife.” The suit claims that the U.S. Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act by approving the new regulations without adequately analyzing their environmental impact. Earlier rules contained measures that protected wildlife, water and forests, and provided opportunities for public involvement in decisions affecting them. The general counsel for Defenders of Wildlife, Bob Dreher, has said that “the American public has a right to be involved in planning for the management of their national forests.” In the Bush administration’s remaining months, it should take steps that truly protect the nation’s threatened forests and grasslands rather than maintaining its too industry-friendly stance.
Compassion for Refugees
In addition to the 11.4 million refugees cited in the latest figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, another 26 million internally displaced persons have been forced to leave their homes because of conflict or persecution. An additional 4.6 million Palestinian refugees are helped by a different U.N. agency, UNRWA, and are therefore not counted in the above figures. The crisis, which is worldwide, will be exacerbated by a vote of the European Parliament on June 18 that approved a directive calling for strict treatment of illegal immigrants. The directive is only slightly less harsh than measures already operative in some developed nations. The bishops’ conferences of the European Union have expressed “deep concern,” saying that the provisions do not “take into account the reality of many migrants, refugees and asylum seekers” and insisting that “the dignity of every human being should be respected.”
That sentiment was expressed earlier this month in Rome by Adolfo Nicolás, S.J., the Jesuit superior general, who said that often “refugees do not know how to survive.... Our families, natural borders, should always be open to welcome others in difficulty.” Speaking of the emigrant experience of Europeans, he called for the development of a “collective memory” so that people do not forget what it is like to be a migrant. The Rev. Lorenzo Prencipe, the director of Rome’s center for emigration studies, echoed those sentiments: “European migrants of the last century had to confront discrimination in daily life, but I don’t think they ever had to confront such restrictive or penalizing measures.” The current collective lack of compassion shows a profound failure of moral imagination and political will.