more on the ground

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Nov 26 21:01:08 UTC 2003

At 10:58 AM -0600 11/26/03, Albert E. Krahn wrote:
>Doyle McManus
>LA Times
>Wash Week in Rev
>21 Nov 03
>"This was a bad week on the ground."
>. . . sort of meaning "among the events of the week"
>or "considering what happened" this week.

and in today's N. Y. Times, there was an op-ed piece by Nicholas
Kristof that had one use of "on the ground" and another of a variant
on the expression--"at ground level".  I find the opposition between
the priests and nuns operating "on the ground" (or "at ground level")
and the pope and bishops with their noses in the air (or in heaven?)
especially effective.

[emphasis added]

The New York Times
November 26, 2003, Wednesday, Late Edition - Final

  SECTION: Section A; Page 25; Column 5; Editorial Desk

  HEADLINE: Don't Tell the Pope

  BYLINE:  By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF; E-mail: nicholas at



  The Vatican has consistently opposed condoms and safe-sex education,
even claiming falsely that condoms don't protect against AIDS. That's
on par with the church under Pope Urban VIII putting Galileo under
house arrest -- except that this will have more deadly results.

  Yet I take my hat off to the much broader Catholic Church that is
toiling in the barrios of Latin America and the slums of Africa and
Asia. Catholic Relief Services, one of the most vigorous aid
organizations in the third world, is an example of humanitarianism at
its noblest.

*At ground level*, priests apply doctrine with a flexibility that
must drive the pope wild. In the desperately poor Salvadoran hillside
village of Chucita, where campesinos live in shacks without water or
electricity, a teacher explained how his fifth-grade class learns
about dealing with AIDS.

  "A social worker comes in with a banana and puts a condom on it,"
said the teacher, Eduardo Antonio Ascencio Mata. The priests, he
says, have no objection.

The Vatican has appointed hard-line bishops to eviscerate liberation
theology and bring parishes back into line. Still, the French and
German bishops' conferences have urged that condoms be permitted to
fight AIDS, and Bishop Kevin Dowling of South Africa is pushing hard
for the church to change policy to save lives.

  Just this month, Catholics for a Free Choice and 20 other Catholic
organizations called on bishops to accept condoms as a way to fight
AIDS. The irony is that no organization does more to help AIDS
victims and their orphans than the Catholic Church. Some 25 percent
of AIDS care worldwide is provided by church-related groups. Yet the
Vatican blindly opposes condoms, even within a marriage when a
husband or wife is infected with H.I.V. A member of the Kenyan
Parliament has called the church "the greatest impediment in the
fight against H.I.V./AIDS."

  Let's hope the Vatican will learn from its priests and nuns *on the
ground*, who do so much heroic work fighting the disease. In
Coatepeque, I spoke with Father Mario Adolfo Dominguez, who sighed as
I grilled him on the theology of condoms.

  "We don't recommend the use of condoms, but we're not opposed to
their use because we know they prevent AIDS," he said, looking
nervous as I wrote down his words. "There is no
  contradiction between Christianity and a piece of rubber."

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