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November 29, 1991     The Message
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November 29, 1991
 

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The Message n for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana i Perspective November 29, 1991 i. ¸  By PAUL  LEINGANG Message Editor We had turkey, dressing, a cranberry dish and pumpkin pie. We even had a guest from another cultural background at our table• It was a typical Thanksgiving dinner except for one basic fact -- it was not Thanksgiving• Or was it? We had decided to have the dinner with our German exchange student, Tobias, who was re- turning home a month before the holiday. We wanted to give him the opportunity to experience a traditional American feast. Tobias was interested in all things American, and during his visit of less than two months we were able to arrange a fair amount of typical Amer- ican activities -- a professional baseball game, a day ill downtown Chicago, a St. Louis riverfront festival, a Huey Lewis concert and a Chicago Sym- phony Orchestra concert in the park along Lake Michigan• Along with the crowds and the travel and the big cities, other activities were more home-and- family centered -- carving a pumpkin a few days before Halloween, visiting with family members, Was it Thanksgiving? When is Christmas? and celebrating an early Thanksgiving. We gathered around our table, we gave thanks, and we celebrated with a traditional feast• Was it Thanksgiving? Or was it "pretend?" How important is the day chosen for the ob- servance? Many holidays in the United States have drifted away from their historical connections to a nearby Monday• Columbus has floated away from the date on which his arrival was once an- chored. Presidents' birthdays have been up- rooted from firmly fixed spots in the calendar. If there is a pattern to the changes, it is this: the circumstances of a coinmunity's celebration can be adjusted by the conmmnity that is cele- brating. Such is our own religious tradition, observ- ing the birth of Christ. In early centuries, there was not such complete agreement about the ap- propriate days of celebration of the Nativity or the Epiphany. Clement of Alexandria in the early third century suggested May 20 as the correct birth date of Jesus. We in the Roman Catholic tradition and al- most every Eastern tradition have agreed to ob- serve Christmas on Dec. 25. It was a day many say was selected to replace the pagan winter festival of the "Unconquered Sun." As we celebrate the holidays of fall and win- ter, whatever we (:all them and on whatever days we observe them, there is a need to acknowledge a reality that is greater than the artificial customs of days and dates: that God who is timeless has come into our human history. Next Sunday, we begin to prepare for the cel- ebration of the God who came to us in a place and time. It is a wonderful event to plan for. to fill with joyful expectation. There is so Inuch to do in our chosen observance of Advent that it takes weeks to accomplish. And as for whether or not our early Thanks- giving was -- or was not -- a real Thanksgiving, you may decide according to your own thoughts and feelings. I believe that it was. But on Thursday of tbis week. we celebrate again, and give thanks. Washington Letter Goal of peace 'an enormous chalh,0000ge' in El Salvador By LAURIE HANSEN Catholic News Service WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In most nations it's risky for a government or military offi- cial to speak out against wrongdoing by those higher in the chain of command. In El Salvador the risks in- volved with being what Washington terms a "whistle blower" are multiplied. In that small Central Amer- ican nation named for the Savior where military im- punity for human rights abuses has been institutional- ized, telling the truth -- no matter how vital to the public good -- can be deadly. This reality, coupled with a related lack of faith in the Salvadoran judicial system, makes the goal of achieving a permanent peace in El Sal- vador an enormous challenge, says Jesuit Father Peter Klink, spokesman for the Washing- ton-based U.S. Jesuit Confer- ence. A Nov. 19 memorandum The MESSAGE 4200 N. Kentucky Ave. Evansville, IN 47720-0169 Weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Evansville Published weekly except last week in December by the Catholic Press of Evansville PuNisher .............. Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger Associate Publisher ............... Rev. Joseph Ziliak Editor ............................................ Paul Leingang Production Manager ........................... Phil Boger C=rculation .................................... Susan Winiger Advertising .................................... Paul Newland Address all communications to P.O. Box 4169, Evansville, IN 47724-0169 Subscription rate: $17.50 per year Single Copy Price: $.50 Entered as 2rid class matter at the post office in Evansville, IN 47701. Publica- tion number 843800. Postmaster: Return POD forms 3579 to Office of Publication Copydght 1991 Caltic Press of Evansville made public by Rep. Joe Moakley, D-Mass., shows how the dangers involved with whistle blowing in E1 Salvador frustrated the work of a special House task force charged with investigating the 1989 slayings in E1 Sal- vador of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter• Moakley's memo, which has not surprisingly raised hackles in El Salvador, charges that Gen. Rene Emilio Ponce, current Salvadoran defense minister, and other high-level Salvadoran mili- tary officers attended a meet- ing at the Salvadoran military academy the day before the murders and that it was there the decision to slay the Je- suits was made. Moakley, who is Catholic, says his information was based on the word of "experi- enced, respected and serious" members of the Salvadoran military "who were in a posi- tion to know the information they conveyed" and who he believed to be "credible and sincere.' He said none of them was willing to be named for fear of retribution. Father Klink notes that in the U.S. context, Moakley's sources would be expected to identify themselves. "We would expect the accuser and the accused to face each other and their disagreements to be made public" -- a practice currently incomprehensible in the context of El Salvador, he said. He noted that during the Je- suit trial there was talk of re- locating the jurors in case their identities became pub- lic. "That's how painfully dangerous" life in E1 Salvador remains, he said. The five jury members heard the case from behind a wooden panel. In his memo, Moakley wrote: "I want it understood that these people incurred great personal risk in talking to the task force. "Although I encouraged them to come forward and testify officially concerning their knowledge in the case, they refused to do so. All cited the risk of retribution against themselves or their families by extreme right- wing elements of the armed forces. "Some said they had al- ready been warned not to talk .... None expressed faith in the ability of the judicial system to convict high-rank- ing officers even with the evi- dence they could provide," wrote Moakley. Ponce has called Moakley's allegations "mere speculation and an interference in domes- tic affairs." Ponce told reporters Nov. 19 that the congressman's conclusions were "an affront" to national dignity and came at a very sensitive time in the nation's history. The government of El Sal- vador is involved in U.N.- sponsored peace talks with rebels of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front. Moakley, in his memo, said he had "no illusion" that the Salvadoran government would take further steps to examine the possibility that top military officials ordered the crime. Two years after the brutal slayings, debate continues in Washington over what steps should be taken to coax Within E1 Salvador a halt to military impunity and a peaceful end to its 12- year civil war. From Father Klink's per- spective, "unless faith in the Salvadoran judicial system to prosecute human rights abuses" is established, a suc- cessful negotiated peace set- tlement will be difficult. He said the Salvadoran people "need hard evidence" that the military "no longer enjoys practical impunity" on human rights abuses. The "mixed results" of the Jesuit trial, which resulted in the conviction of an army colonel and lieutenant, "do not provide that hard evi- dence," said Father Klink. He called the Jesuit case "sym- bolic" of many others in which "prosecutions haven't been forthcoming or haven't involved higher-ups in the military" who were ulti- mately responsible• Without confidence in the court system, any peace re- suiting from negotiations will be "precarious," he said. • es0it In the view of the J .. Conference, prospects t O peace in El Salvador we01° be heightened by restrictiS' U.S. military aid. . The Bush administr800 begs to differ, of At an Oct. 30 meeting the Subcommittee on W Or" ern Hemisphere Affairs of 0 House Committee on Fo reig Affairs, State Department 3s" sistant Secretary for Irite American Affairs Bernr Aronson redicted the $a tIt" vadoran government .,, rebels were "close to negOtla,, ing a permanent settlera°,t to the conflict, adding ! the "guns of war could u- stilled" by Christmas. Bishops schedule The following activities and events are listed on tile schedule of Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger Dec. 2, noon. . "Cry of the Poor," television documentary view, St. Mary's Medical Center, Evansville, day, Dec. 3, 8:30 a.m. CST. Priests' Personnel Board, bisho Wednesday, Dec. 4, 1:30 p.m, Bishop's staff, Cathoic Center, Thursday, DeC, 10'15 a.m. CST. Memorial High School, Speech Team High Finals, Thursday, Dec. 5, 7:30 p.m. CST. Indiana Catholic Conference, day and Saturday, Dec. 6, 7. Santa Claus, Sunday, Dec. 8, Mass at 10 Precious Blood Church, Service, Advent Vesper, Sunday. Dec. 8., 6:30 p EST. events, Monday, Dec, g, 4 I6;m, EST.