If Leo Tolstoy was right and “true life is lived when tiny changes occur,” then we are living life to the fullest here at America. In fact, with apologies for the mixed-up metaphysics, it’s safe to say that change, at home and abroad, is the substance of this issue. It starts off with William Collins Donahue’s report from Rwanda, where the Hutu and Tutsi are approaching the 20th anniversary of the genocide in that country. Change is not a philosophical question for the Rwandans, Donahue shows, but a practical matter of life and death: “Is the 1994 genocide to be remembered as an end point,” Donahue writes, “or is it a tragic link in a chain of ethnic cleansing and vengeance?”
In the second feature in this issue, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore identifies a series of socio-political changes that in his judgment pose a growing threat to religious liberty. “We are not dealing with a single threat that admits of a discrete solution,” the archbishop writes, “but a complex of threats that share deeper causes.” While these threats to religious freedom are “not as dramatic as what is happening in other countries,” they “nonetheless entail coercion against conscience.”
Contributors grapple with other, less dramatic but still unsettling changes elsewhere in this issue. The late Rev. Andrew M. Greeley examines “the new breed” of young Americans; “new” for 1964 that is. Father Greeley’s piece is part of our Vantage Point series, articles from our archives that might have something useful to say to us today. Father Greeley’s article itself represents a change; only five years earlier he had called the next generation of Americans “a cynical and disillusioned lot.” By 1964, you will read, Father Greeley was talking about a new generation that “does more than talk about human suffering. It is from the ranks of the New Breed that volunteers are recruited for the Peace Corps, Pavla [Papal Volunteers for Latin America], the Extension home missions....” As for the current new generation, our columnist Bill McGarvey looks at the “hookup” culture among young people today. It is “a time when sex has become entirely unmoored from any religious or cultural institutions like marriage and family,” he writes.
We’re also initiating some changes ourselves. First off, we welcome Colleen Carroll Campbell, who makes her debut as an America columnist. A former presidential speechwriter, Ms. Campbell starts this fall as the host of a new show, “EWTN News Nightly With Colleen Carroll Campbell.” She will write about spirituality, politics, culture and faith for America. Ms. Campbell offers a poignant reflection on change: “God is full of surprises,” she writes. “Growth comes when we embrace his inconvenient invitations to movement and change.”
Another change in this issue is somewhat bittersweet. If you look immediately to your right, you’ll notice that James S. Torrens, S.J., has retired as poetry editor, a position he has held since 2005. Father Torrens wrote to me earlier this spring and, with his customary humility, suggested that at 82, perhaps it was time to hand on the torch. Jim’s keen literary eye, poetic sensibilities and good-natured disposition will be greatly missed. The new torchbearer is Joseph P. Hoover, S.J., a Jesuit brother of the Wisconsin Province. In his 40 years of life, Joe has accomplished a great deal. A poet, actor and playwright, he has written for The Jesuit Post and was featured in The Best of Catholic Writing 2006. In addition to shepherding us through the annual Foley poetry contest, Brother Hoover will expand America’s poetry content to include the Web and other new media platforms.
Well, that’s about it for the tiny changes. As always, please let us know what you think. And have a blessed summer.