NOW Home Page
Politics & Economy
Science & Health
Arts & Culture
Society & Community
TV Schedule
For Educators
Topic Index
Map of West Virginia
NOW Transcript
More on These Stories:


ANNOUNCER: You're watching NOW with Bill Moyers. With contributions from NPR news. This week on NOW...

MOYERS: It's the new battleground between the economy and the environment.

JOE LOVETT, LAWYER: The sheer destruction is mind-boggling.

MOYERS: Why a mining technique that blows the tops off mountains is gaining by leaps and bounds, cheered on by King Coal and the White House.

And can this man save the Catholic Church?

BISHOP WILTON GREGORY: It's clear these actions should go to the proper legal authority.

MOYERS: My interview with the most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

And had enough of those special effects blockbusters from Hollywood? Here's an alternative:

TOM (CLIP FROM THE GOOD GIRL): It's my slave name.

MOYERS: Director Miguel Arteta on the people Hollywood has forgotten and his movie THE GOOD GIRL.

MOYERS: Welcome to NOW.

It is hands-down the triumphant story of the summer: the rescue of those nine coal miners trapped 240 feet below the earth.

All of us cheered and many wept as they came up and out of the ground to be greeted by family and friends.

But we were also reminded all over again of our uneasy alliance with King Coal.

Coal is our largest supply of fossil fuel and it feeds the economy. But coal exacts a filthy price for the energy we get from it.

Burning coal to generate electricity produces fine particles that are a big public-health problem.

And just getting the coal in the first place can be costly, too, a threat not only to workers below the ground but to the environment above it. NOW'S Brenda Breslauer has our report.

WILLARD KELLY, WEST VIRGINIA RESIDENT: They can just look at this water and see what they're being deprived of. This water used to be pure - they could drink it.

BRENDA BRESLAUER: THESE streams in the mountains of West Virginia are in jeopardy — in danger of disappearing — because of coal mining.

BEN STOUT, PROFESSOR, WHEELING JESUIT UNIVERSITY: There's still water coming out, but it's not the same quality that it was before.

BRESLAUER: To understand why, you have to go up in a plane to get a bird's eye view of the mountains.

JOE LOVETT, LAWYER: You're seeing I think devastation on a scale unprecedented in this country. The sheer destruction is mind boggling. The loss of the streams and forests...

BILL RANEY, PRESIDENT, WEST VIRGINIA COAL ASSOCIATION: Does it harm it? No, we don't think it does. Temporary disruptions, yes, you do have that. It's inevitable that you'd have that. Progress represents that and I feel like mining a mineral to make electricity for this nation is clearly progress.

BRESLAUER: Coal means power. It drove the steam engines and furnaces of the industrial revolution. Now it supplies more than half our electricity. So when you flip on a light….. or turn on a computer... chances are the energy you use began with this mineral mined from a mountain.

This is mountaintop removal mining... blasting the tops off of mountains to reach the coal underneath. Valuable seams of coal are embedded in mountains like layers of frosting within a cake. Coal companies say that to get to the layers near the top, it's safer and more cost efficient to remove the mountain top than to mine underground. Once the rock surrounding the coal is blasted off, in what is known in the industry as "shoot and shove," the excess rock and earth is dumped over the side of the mountain into the valleys below, often burying the streams that run through them.

Mountaintop removal mining has been around for 30 years but not until the 1990's when giant earth moving machines replaced miners did the size of the waste piles suddenly swell. Surface mining now provides more than one third of West Virginia's coal.

But one of the hidden costs of our hunger for coal may be the effect of mountaintop removal...on our thirst for water.

JOAN MULHERN, SENIOR LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL, EARTHJUSTICE: People should care about what's happening in Appalachia. The people should be very worried about what's going to happen in their own neighborhood.

BRESLAUER: What's happening here in Appalachia could happen elsewhere because of a little noticed event in Washington, D.C.

JOAN MULHERN: What the Bush Administration did--, late on Friday, May 3rd is sign into law one of the most far reaching and destructive changes to Clean Water Act regulations in 30 years.

BRESLAUER: Joan Mulhern is the Senior Legislative Counsel for Earth Justice, a not-for-profit environmental law firm.

JOAN MULHERN: …the Bush Administration changed the rules in a way that will allow any industry in the country to apply for a permit to dump any kind of industrial waste into waters, burying them forever

BRESLAUER: The Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman, signed the new rule, then issued a press release describing the new rule change as a "clarification" of the Clean Water Act.

Environmentalists disagree. They say it was done to keep big industry happy.

JOE LOVETT: Everybody knew the rule change was coming because it was something the coal industry very badly wanted. Something the Bush Administration we all knew would be willing to give the industry.

BRESLAUER: Attorney Joe Lovett may have unwittingly set the chain of events in motion that led to this year's rule change. In 1998, he and the D.C. based Trial Lawyers for Public Justice filed the first case arguing that mountaintop removal was destroying streams in violation of mining laws and the Clean Water Act.

LOVETT: When we first brought this action, I thought that it would be as simple as pointing out to the government that the law wasn't being enforced. It's turned out to be far from simple. The government instead of enforcing the law has done everything it can to contort the law and to, to misconstrue it to allow practices that continue to devastate and I was surprised by that.

BRESLAUER: Lovett is executive director of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment. He says that under Republican and Democratic Administrations alike, the government had failed to enforce the law.

LOVETT: The Clean Water Act is supposed to protect the integrity of the nation's waters, not destroy it. And I can't think of any practice that's more destructive than filling streams beneath hundreds of millions of tons of mining waste.

BILL RANEY, PRESIDENT, WEST VIRGINIA COAL ASSOCIATION: You know, the use of waste, first of all, that's a misnomer and I hate for that to spread all across the nation and everybody use waste. And you got this picture of having a landfill out there, and that's not true. It's dirt and rock. It's just like the dirt and rock that's in this yard.

BRESLAUER: Bill Raney, President of the West Virginia Coal Association, says that not only is it legal to dump the excess rock and dirt from blasting into the valleys, it's practical.

RANEY: We had to move the dirt and rock to get the coal out of the ground.

BRESLAUER: After all, he says, it's the same rocks and dirt on top of the mountains as below on the ground, they are just moving them around, the way one does when building a road.

RANEY: Well I can't for the life of me figure out the differences when I build an interstate or a road in West Virginia or Kentucky, and I have more dirt that I need, then I put it in a low place. I put it in a hollow if you will.

BRESLAUER: But all the dirt that's being placed in the hollows of southern west Virginia is in fact changing the landscape and streams. It's also changing lives of the people who live in coal country. Most of the mountains in West Virginia's coal counties are owned by large land holding companies, with communities nestled in the valleys below. When the land companies lease their mountains to the coal companies to mine, the excess fill can end up right above people's homes.

WILLARD KELLY, RESIDENT: These creeks used to be plum full of small fish and minnows.




WILLARD KELLY: They're gone.

EVELYN KELLY: Above us there, they have a strip job at the mountain top removal. We get the effect down here.

BRESLAUER: Willard and Evelyn Kelley have lived at the top of Cow Creek Hollow for the past 39 years, raising five children and now ten grandchildren.

WILLARD KELLY: So they're the third generation here.

BRESLAUER: Willard made a living from mining coal, but when mountaintop removal began in 1989 above their hollow, he and Evelyn found their lives turned upside down.

WILLARD KELLY: The blasting was so heavy when they was close behind the house, which was a half a mile away, they cracked the sheetrock in our house, our cinderblock foundation, our chandeliers. Our doors would fly open. We was eating spaghetti on the table and the spaghetti and the bowls dashed out of the plate onto the table.

BRESLAUER: Now the Kelleys say the remnants of the mining, the fill material in their valley, has ruined the creek on their land.

WILLARD: We used to drink this water. Every time you and I and the 5 children go walking on Sunday we'd drink out of the creek. All seven of us: my wife, myself and the five children. We drank just like this. Just take it to your mouth and drink it.

BRESLAUER: But not anymore?

WILLARD KELLY: No, no, no. And it's not just the creek they're angry about.

EVELYN KELLY: My sons when they were teenagers used to hunt these mountains. There's no top of the mountain squirrel hunting anymore. So they're just taking it all away. They're just taking it community by community by community. Whole communities are being just moved out for the sake of coal.

BRESLAUER: That's what happened in more than a dozen West Virginia communities where families have been displaced. Some have left because of blasting, others have been bought out by the coal companies, accepting what they consider to be a good deal. Still others were evicted outright by land holding companies.

The town of Dehue where Willard Kelly worked once had hundreds of families, churches, grocery stores, even a movie theater.

Blair West Virginia's population plunged from just over 700 residents in 1979 to a population of 60 after a coal company bought out most of its families. And it's happening today in Mud, West Virginia one county north of the Kelley family.

THERMAN CAUDILL, LAST RESIDENT, MUD, WEST VIRGINIA: No business whatsoever in here now. We had, we've had several grocery stores, two or three. We had a nice two-room school down there. I taught in it the whole time it was there.

BRESLAUER: Seventy-five-year-old Therman Caudill, a former school teacher, has lived in the town of Mud all his life.

CAUDILL: I taught all the subjects in all the grades.

BRESLAUER: Sixty families have all moved away.

CAUDILL: I'm the last person left that owns property here. Nobody else owns any in here now. Clear down to two miles down the road.

BRESLAUER: And the last man standing is giving up after he was told the next valley fill would come right up behind his home.

CAUDILL: That's why we've decided just go ahead and move out if we can find us a place.

But you know they're just tearing these mountains all to pieces. I just don't like it you know, but they say that's progress.

BRESLAUER: But the coal companies say in all, mountaintop removal effects only 1% of the land in West Virginia so far and that they do their best to restore active mining sites.

RANEY: And if you are going to show an active site, I ask you to please show a reclaimed site. And because it's substantially different.

BRESLAUER: Coal companies "reclaim" mining sites by sowing grass and planting trees and introducing wildlife to the areas.

And, if the company commits to develop the site for a public purpose like a factory or park, they can leave the land flat. The companies say mountainous West Virginia needs leveled land to attract business. They showcase projects that have been built on flat land for a public purpose like a school or a jail.

VIDEO FROM MASSEY ENERGY COMPANY: You've just seen several mountaintop mining sites.

BRESLAUER: But environmentalists point out that those public projects represent a mere two percent of the land that's been mined.

LOVETT: Those are very small developments on very large strip mines. Don't forget, some of these strip mine complexes are more than 10 and even 15 square miles in size. Put those together and you get hundreds of square miles. There are a few projects and those projects are appropriate.

BRESLAUER: Here mines with valley fills have left a 30-year-old footprint on three of the state's top coal-producing counties. If proposed valley fill permits are approved, the footprint will grow larger and more streams will be lost in its path.

LOVETT: The size of the valley fills have gotten significantly bigger in the last 10 or 12 years. And the impacts on the communities have been greater.

BRESLAUER: So Lovett and a team of lawyers representing a grassroots organization and residents living near future mine sites, went to court to stop coal companies from dumping debris into streams. Federal Judge Charles Haden heard the case.

Judge Haden even took a fact-finding trip in the field to observe mountaintop removal first-hand, Haden, a Republican appointee, then ruled that valley fills which covered large streams were illegal. His decision, Rendered in 1999 banned future mining projects that would fill larger streams. It created a firestorm. After coal companies threatened that all mining in the state would stop, causing severe job loss, angry miners marched on the Courthouse, surrounding it with trucks.

CHARLES FARLEY, COAL TRUCK DRIVER: It's the backbone of West Virginia. Without coal mines I wouldn't be working, I don't believe.

We do this for the people and to keep the lights on. Coal keeps the lights on.

BRESLAUER: The coal industry fought the judge's decision and it was overturned on appeal on jurisdictional grounds. But part of the case was settled in what the citizens considered a victory. For the first time in the decades of mountaintop mining and dumping, the government agreed to study its environmental effects. The study has been kept under raps, but this April Lovett and his team obtained a preliminary copy under the Freedom of Information Act.

LOVETT: I was surprised frankly that the Bush administration turned those documents over but I wasn't surprised by the results of them.

BRESLAUER: Here's what the government found to be the impact of mountaintop removal.

..."stream segments located downstream of valley fills… impaired …." "significant increases in conductivity, hardness, sulfate and selenium (a metal that is toxic at high concentrations), and 560 …miles (of streams) eliminated.

BRESLAUER: The study also found that, "Restricting valley fills…will increase the price of coal by only $1 per ton" which would translate to "only a few cents" per month for customers.

BEN STOUT, PROFESSOR, WHEELING JESUIT UNIVERSITY: The forest will never return ever the way that it was to these sites. It's impossible.

BRESLAUER: Dr. Ben Stout, director of the Environmental Studies Program at Wheeling Jesuit University, contribute research to the EPA report. He says the mountaintop removal mining is damaging the environment in a way that cannot be repaired. STOUT: It's wholesale ecosystem destruction. You're basically burying this whole perfectly functional eco-system in order just to achieve waste disposal and that seems like a shame to me.

BRESLAUER: Dr. Stout was also an expert witness for the plaintiff's case against the government on mountaintop removal.

STOUT: We're starting to see serious water quality degradation, impairment of biological communities and much less a major loss of our forest ecosystems.

BRESLAUER: But the coal industry says that's not true at all.

RANEY: And we have fishery biologists that suggest that he's not correct.

BRESLAUER: The coal companies have commissioned their own studies and they claim their data show the environment is not being altered significantly.

RANEY: The use of the stream, the volume of water, the chemistry of the water. All of that is being preserved to pre-mining conditions.

And you do change the environment. And I'm not suggesting you're improving on it. I'm not sure you can improve on what the good lord put here. And we feel like the impact is absolutely minimized.

BRESLAUER: That's not what the residents in the valley think. They worry that with the removal of trees and soil above their homes, they will be more vulnerable than ever to floods.

Just two weeks ago, the worst fears of the community in Winding Shoals Hollow were confirmed when heavy rains caused the sediment pond From the valley fill above the hollow to overflow, knocking homes off foundations and washing cars downstream.

REPORTER: What did you lose?

RESIDENT: Everything.

BRESLAUER: After major flooding a year ago killed seven and left over 1000 homeless, the Governor ordered a study to determine what caused the flooding:

MICHAEL CALLAGHAN, CABINET SECRETARY, WEST VIRGINIA DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: What we decided we would look at is ask the question does mining impact flooding, and does timbering impact flooding? And the answer is yes to both.

BRESLAUER: But in this case, the company said it was an accident.

As flooding becomes more common, residents are increasingly uneasy about living near valley fills. Yet valley fills had been growing in size for much of the last decade. It was one of the grounds for Lovett's lawsuit.

LOVETT: I really, you know, naively believed that we would just go to court, point out what was wrong and that the United States government would fix it. But it hasn't.

BRESLAUER: The reason, environmental advocates say, is politics.

PRESIDENT BUSH (FROM TAPE): I want to develop coal here in America.

BRESLAUER: Environmentalists believe that Bush courted coal during the election and now it's payback time.

PRESIDENT BUSH (FROM TAPE): I'm glad I came back to West Virginia.

BRESLAUER: Many credit West Virginia's key five electoral votes with winning him the election.

PRESIDENT BUSH (FROM TAPE): I would have come back whether I won or lost.

BRESLAUER: Do you think George Bush won the election partly because of coal?

RANEY: I think he did. I think he did. I think he won the election because of a very realistic approach on natural resource industries.

And it was this spring that the Bush administration came to the coal industry's rescue, according to environmental groups, issuing the new rule change before Judge Haden's anticipated decision in West Virginia.

JOAN MULHERN, SENIOR LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL, EARTHJUSTICE: In order to keep this out of court they changed the rule to sort of knock out the lawsuits.

BENJAMIN GRUMBLES, DEPUTY ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR, EPA: What we are doing, is we are clarifying and strengthening the regulation so that it makes it very clear that this is subject to a permit process.

BRESLAUER: Ben grumbles is the Deputy Assistant Administrator for water at the EPA. He says the new rule doesn't really change anything.

GRUMBLES: This regulatory clarification is not a significant change from the current practices that have been carried out over the last several decades by the permitting agency.

JOAN MULHERN, SENIOR LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL, EARTHJUSTICE: That's like saying we should help bank robbers to stop breaking the law by repealing the laws against bank robbery. Then it wouldn't be illegal anymore. It doesn't make it right. It doesn't make it not harmful.

They changed the words that were part of the rule. They took the words that said you cannot use waste and they replaced it with words that said, acceptable fill material now includes coal mining waste, other excavation waste, hard rock mining waste, construction and demolition debris, plastics, how can they say it's not a change? The rule does not say the same thing that it used to say.

BRESLAUER: Less than a week after Washington's new rule was announced, Judge Haden rendered his own decision in a second suit brought by Lovett and team. He said valley fills in larger streams must stop. Furthermore, he said, the Bush administration was wrong to change the Clean Water Act. He called it an "obvious perversity" of the law and said it "the rule change was designed simply for the benefit of the mining industry and its employees."

GRUMBLES: Well, we respectfully disagree with Judge Haden's characterization of the motivations and the impact of the regulatory change.

BRESLAUER: The U.S. government and the mining industry have once again appealed, but for the moment, new mountaintop removal permits are halted in West Virginia and Kentucky. In the rest of the country, however, the new rule still stands, leaving water vulnerable to mining and dumping.

WILLARD KELLY: So if there's enough money in it, enough profit in it, then the poor people has to pay for it. But down the road, the rich people will have to pay for it because where are they gonna get their water from? They're drinking the same water that we have to drink.

EVELYN KELLY: Our children and our grandchildren, they're gonna inherit all this. And there has to be something left besides a moonscape mountain and polluted water.

MOYERS: Moonscape mountains and polluted waters will not be our only legacy to the future if we fail to balance the economy and the environment.

Our addiction to fossil fuels means more greenhouse gasses and a hotter world. New technology and policy could get us to the greater balance down the road — but the people running the government seem not to care about these things. Not surprising since it's industry that's running the government.

Consider this: yesterday, the Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton, visited the state we just profiled, West Virginia.

As a private lawyer she fought tooth and nail against regulations on the coal industry. The centerpiece of her West Virginia trip was a visit with the industry's heavy hitters in the state, who are also major funders of the Republican Party.

She offered to spend 30 minutes with local environmental advocates, but they declined, citing her efforts to weaken environmental laws already on the books.

Gail Norton is surrounded by kindred spirits. This man, J. Steven Griles, headed the Office of Surface Mining years ago before he left government to help run a mountaintop removal company and then to lobby for the industry. Now he's back as the Deputy Secretary of the Interior department.

William Myers, who once provided legal services to the industry, is Interior's General Counsel.

This man, Thomas Sansonetti, used to be Interior's top lawyer. He left to lobby for the industry, but has returned to government as Assistant Attorney General responsible for defending and enforcing environmental laws.

MOYERS: When the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops met in Dallas in June, more than 700 journalists turned out to cover the story.

The story, of course, is a church in crisis, and the struggle of its bishops to deal with priests who molested children. All eyes were on the man pushing for reform, Bishop Wilton G. Gregory.

It's not his first time taking on a tough assignment involving scandal. Almost ten years ago, Wilton Gregory arrived in the Southern Illinois town of Belleville to find the diocese in shock, and not because he was the first African American to be made their bishop.

The faithful were trying to cope with a string of revelations that up to a dozen priests had been accused of sexually abusing children. It was the new bishop's task to remove those priests and organize the laity to help him restore trust in the church.

His success then led to his position today: President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the most visible American Catholic, the man in the hot seat.

This recent cover story of the BOSTON GLOBE Sunday magazine asks the question: can this man save the Catholic Church?

Bishop Gregory is with us tonight, and I am grateful to you for coming.

BISHOP GREGORY: Thank you, Bill.

MOYERS: You've dealt so often in the last ten years with this issue. Has your own faith been shaken?

BISHOP GREGORY: In all candor, Bill, I can say my faith is stronger today than it probably was ten years ago, because I really believe, with all of my heart, in the Church that I serve and the community of faith to which I belong.

I've been hurt to see the church suffering. Sometimes dismayed at how these events unfolded. And at times, angry at those who may have been the source, the cause for the hurt. And confused, myself, as to what the right thing to do is in response.

MOYERS: I spent this morning looking at some of your public appearances on video, and I couldn't help but notice that your eyes, your face are full of sorrow.

BISHOP GREGORY: Well, this is a difficult time for us, Bill, to see, first of all, as a bishop who has spoken with people who have been harmed, sexually abused by members of the clergy.

That tears at your heart strings to know that these young innocent lives were so corrupted and harmed by one who was called to be a protector and a shepherd and a father for them. It's difficult to confront people in parishes who lose a priest that they love and who say, you know, "Bishop, he was a great preacher, he was filled with energy and dynamism, and he had great compassion for the sick, he visited my father every Friday for the six weeks that he was in the hospital, he brought communion to my mother faithfully all during her illness."

It's difficult to have them say, "And Bishop, I find this hard to believe, I will never believe that this priest that we know and love and trust has done these things."

It's difficult to hear my brother bishops criticized, to have us held up as somehow negligent or intentionally, intentional dishonest.

MOYERS: What is your own understanding of why these abuses occurred?

BISHOP GREGORY: I'm still baffled by that.

First of all, there is so much we don't know about the factors that cause a person to harm a child, to sexually abuse a child. I know that there are many theories and perhaps more than a little truth in most of them that... About the personality that would sexually abuse a child.

That's part of the dilemma that we're in, and I think that's part of the responsibility that the Catholic Church has to the larger society to help explore that.

MOYERS: Do you think there is something that is seductive about the priestly culture itself that draws troubled men to it, to the vow of chastity as a way of avoiding trying to deal with the issue and of trying to find real help?

BISHOP GREGORY: There are some who say that; I do not believe that. I believe that the call of celibacy is rooted in the highest religious principles...

MOYERS: Which is?

BISHOP GREGORY: Which is to give up all things to follow Christ. It is a lived response to the Gospel passage of giving up mother and father, wife, family, children to follow me.

MOYERS: Can even the love of God restrain or constrain the human desire for sexual intimacy?

BISHOP GREGORY: Certainly the love of God can give a person the power, the will, the determination to live out vows under the most difficult circumstances. But human beings have a need for intimacy. That's part of the way that the good Lord fashioned us.

MOYERS: But priests take that vow, and so many fail. And I have to come back to say, what is your own insight? What is your own intuition about what happened to so many?

BISHOP GREGORY: Well, first of all, you say so many fail. Certainly a number have failed; far too many of the priests and bishops have failed to live out their promises of celibacy and to live chastely. But I do not accept the premise or even the suggestion that somehow celibacy is the cause for sexual abuse of children, because from all that we know in our as yet incomplete studies of this abnormal, this pariah behavior, child abuse occurs most often among those who are married. So to link celibacy directly is I think to take a facile solution to a very, very complex human problem.

MOYERS: But the fact of the matter in these cases it is, as you said earlier, shepherds and pastors and figures of authority who have abused the trust of the children.

And in fact we have a number of Catholics on our staff, and they were talking this morning, and one of our producers, who is a parent, says, "You know, we're talking here about child molesters. And I won't be satisfied" — said this father, a Catholic — "until the church calls for these priests to be prosecuted under the full extent of the law."

That's what it will take for him to have faith again in the church. Do you think that is widespread among Catholics?

BISHOP GREGORY: I think it is widespread among Catholics and I think it is widespread among the general population. I think one of the great sadnesses is that there was a tendency on the part of bishops and others-- but certainly bishops because we're the responsible ones-- to say this is a sin, this is a human failing.

It's primarily a crime, and crimes should be handled by the civil authorities. It is also a sad and human depravity, but let's begin where it should begin. It is a crime, and they should be reported. As a matter of fact, that's part of our protocol in the charter, that...

MOYERS: The charter passed at Dallas by the bishops.

BISHOP GREGORY: The charter passed in Dallas said that these cases will be presented to the legitimate civil authority. And you will take the initiative to report this information even if it harms the church.

MOYERS: And you will take the initiative to report this information even if it harms the Church?

BISHOP GREGORY: Well, Bill, we've seen what has happened to the church when we fail to do that. It's clear that these actions should go to the proper legal authorities. There is no question about that.

As you know, I believe the group that most wants that are the vast majority of our priests who have been forced to live under the shadow. I believe our priests in parishes and schools and institutions who have not done this want very much to have their good name restored.

MOYERS: If that is true, and I believe it is true, why did it take so long for the Church to act?

I mean, this is not a new phenomenon. There were reports of it in and outside the church over the years. Why... And this young man who works with me this morning said, "I just don't understand why the Church didn't act more swiftly."

BISHOP GREGORY: Well, in all candor, the bishops have been grappling with this and addressing it — albeit not with the intensity that we did in Dallas — for the past 17 years.

Almost all of the duration of my service as a bishop this topic has received careful attention. Now not every diocese implemented the steps, the procedures that were outlined. But many did.

So it's really not an accurate description to say that the whole church was completely ignoring this. But we did not address it with the clarity, with the unanimity that we did in Dallas.

MOYERS: In fact, one of your leading public intellectuals says that it comes down to a massive failure of leadership.

Bishops failing to teach the fullness of Catholic truth. Bishops failing to be fathers to their priests. Bishops failing to enforce the discipline of the church. Do you agree with that?

BISHOP GREGORY: I have to agree with it, because I expressed many of those same sentiments in my presidential address.

Again, I go back to Dallas. It was a turning point, because we as a body of bishops realized that we're not judged by our best case, we're judged by our worst case. And for that reason, we have to act in concert together.

MOYERS: But just as it's going to be necessary, some people say, to restore faith in investment by punishing severely the executives of Enron and WorldCom who were accountable for what has happened in the last few months, some people are also saying the church has to do the same with negligent bishops, that there must be some examples made.

BISHOP GREGORY: Well, it seems to me that there is a righteous public outrage. However, the assignment, the appointment, the resignation, the transfer of bishops belongs to an authority that is higher than the conference of bishops.

MOYERS: And that is?

BISHOP GREGORY: That is to the Holy Father himself.

MOYERS: So the Vatican will be the decisive...

BISHOP GREGORY: The Vatican has to be. We don't appoint bishops and we cannot accept the resignation of bishops.

MOYERS: But isn't there a basic conflict there, that this cardinal tenet of the Church in this regard is that all power resides in Rome, and yet Americans who are democratic by intuition and by impulse want something to be done now.

They want the right thing to be done now, and they, the laity, want to have a role in this. They do not want to leave it to a group of men thousands of miles away whose first priority ostensibly is to protect the church and not to hear the claims of the parishioners.

BISHOP GREGORY: It seems to me that your statement that the people want the right thing to be done.

I believe that in my heart. So, too, does the Holy See, so, too, does Rome. They want the right thing to be done.

MOYERS: Is it your understanding that the Vatican believes that these men, these offending priests, should be subject to criminal prosecution?

BISHOP GREGORY: Again, in my conversations with the Holy See, there is great sorrow, sympathy, and in truth, outrage, at the terrible behavior that has led to this crisis. Many of these officials in Rome don't live in countries that have... That follow the same legal principles that we do.

So there's some confusion, certainly a lack of personal firsthand experience, as to how bishops are being... And dioceses, are being sued for the misbehavior of an individual who is clearly acting contrary to the teachings of the church, clearly contrary to the gospel message, and often without the knowledge of the bishop.

They don't understand how I can be held accountable in a court of civil law for that misbehavior.

Now if I knew about it and covered it up, hid it, denied it, then I, too, am subject to criminal prosecution.

But if it is a matter that comes to my attention without my prior knowledge and I am... My diocese is held accountable, there's some who do not understand that.

MOYERS: One more question on this. There's a story in the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR today that says many of the victims of child abuse are concerned and angry that you and your fellow bishops have not moved fast enough to remove the offending priests from their positions.

And they want to know, when is this going to happen? And how are you going to do it?

BISHOP GREGORY: Bill, I can say in all candor that any bishop that I have ever met or ever talked to, and certainly post-Dallas, who has received an allegation, moves with all swiftness to take the proper action, to take the priest out of the environment where he could harm children.

I do know that there are cases that come to light that are discovered on Monday and the priest is removed within 72 hours.

However, I think that bishops even using their review boards want to make sure that they hear people, that they understand facts, that they move with great equanimity and justice for everyone.

MOYERS: What do you think this means for the recruitment of new priests? I mean, almost every major religion has been suffering from a decline in those who are committing to it for a vocation. What do you think this means for the church?

BISHOP GREGORY: Well, it certainly will mean that the church must seek only the best. This is not a moment for us to, out of concern for numbers, to lower our standards. This is a time actually when we ought to ask only the best to come forward.

MOYERS: Will you change your procedures for recruitment and screening?

BISHOP GREGORY: We certainly will. We are constantly looking at our formational procedures, looking at the training we give our candidates to live celibacy, to develop in healthy, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually holistic ways.

This is nothing new. However, this moment gives us greater impetus and greater focus on doing those things that will guarantee a generation of healthy Catholic priests.

MOYERS: There are many people who believe that if the Church ever acknowledged the call of women to God's service this way the Church would be the most formidable power on the face of the earth.

Is that going to happen in your time or mine?

BISHOP GREGORY: Bill, I do not see that happening. I do not see it, because it runs contrary to the tradition that we as Catholics have, that call men to the priesthood in image of Christ not just in his humanity, but in his masculinity, especially when we look upon the act of worship in the offering of the mass where the priest acts, as we say, "in persona christi"-- in the very person of Christ.

So I do not see women being called to priesthood. But I'd like to add something else to that, because I think that in that conversation there is a great deal of shifting of questions to say that the only way that women will be equal in the church is that they be ordained. That means that every person who is not ordained is somehow unequal. Men or women.

Our church could not exist without the gift and the faith, the courage, the integrity and the witness of women. We could not exist. But we cannot exist without the sacramental priesthood as Christ gave it to us, and we must be faithful to that.

MOYERS: Bishop Gregory, I hope you'll come back and let's continue this conversation down the road. I thank you very much for being with us tonight.

BISHOP GREGORY: Thank you so much, Bill.

MOYERS: A new movie opens next week, and it, too, is about tough moral choices. Here's my colleague Elvis Mitchell, entertainment commentator for NPR's weekend edition and film critic for THE NEW YORK TIMES.

ELVIS MITCHELL: Miguel Arteta is a director with a gift for portraying the kind of off-kilter, unglamorous lives that Hollywood usually ignores.

All three of his films — STAR MAPS, CHUCK AND BUCK and his latest movie, THE GOOD GIRL, which opens next Wednesday — revolve around life-shattering obsessions.

But no matter how bizarre things get, we identify with his characters, because he manages to capture all the rough edges and conflicting emotions of real life.

Miguel Arteta lived all over Latin America as a child, but his career has found a home at the Sundance Festival, where all three of his movies have been widely acclaimed.

He has also directed episodes of some of television's best programs, not this one, but HOMICIDE, FREAKS AND GEEKS, and SIX FEET UNDER. Miguel, welcome to NOW.


MITCHELL: These movies are about the oddest family relationships I can possibly think of, people reaching out trying to build new families for themselves. Where does that come from for you?

ARTETA: Well, you know, I have my own dysfunctional family I came from. And the movies do work like free therapy for me. It's been, you know, kind of great.

MITCHELL: Well, we have to pay for it, but that's okay for us.

ARTETA: That's true. But it's nice, you know, as an independent director you can pick movies where the characters are going through something that's actually very difficult for yourself.

And, you know, I think that's how you make a movie personal, is like by not coming into it saying, "I'm the complete authority about these characters," but allowing those characters to be exploring something that you don't have a handle on.

MITCHELL: Let's talk about that then, because this reaching outside of their homes literally for family. I mean, in the newest one, THE GOOD GIRL, she's trapped in a marriage that she's a little bit too smart for.

And in some ways she's kind of like a heroine that Bette Davis or Joan Crawford would play. We want something better for her. And she sort of does, too, but she's a little passive about going after it.

ARTETA: Yes, you know, it is a movie about a woman making a realistic tough choice. You know, it's a dark comedy, too. But at the heart of the film, it's this conflict between conforming or rebelling.

You know, she's in this marriage, only she's 30 years old, and she already feels she's lost all passion in her life. And she's feeling trapped. She feels like she's serving a life sentence in her life, and she wants to escape.

But the moment she escapes, she realizes that rebelling really doesn't give you a place in society either.

So the film does pose the question, you know, if you conform, it's not comfortable; if you rebel, it's not comfortable. So what do you do?

MITCHELL: Well, what do you do, because for you these movies are often about playing to these weird kind of moral questions, particularly in terms of sexuality, aren't they?

ARTETA: Yes. You know, I feel like it's always important to confront people's ideas of sex, because people really open up when you do that, you know. And I want people to be as open as possible to accept the movie, to laugh and feel with the movie.

And I feel like treating sex in almost outrageous ways helps people kind of open up to your movie.

MITCHELL: It seems interesting that sex is used in these movies as a coup coop.

It's a desperation in your movies with sex and that's often where the humor comes from.

ARTETA: In this case she's feeling like this is a real romantic escape and the sex turned out to be far more romantic than she could imagine.

Which was a big challenge from a performance point of view, you know, to get that. It's really hard to have realistic sex. It's easy to have a comedic sex scene, but to have a sex scene that is meant to be taken seriously is hard.

But it was very important, because, you know, it's a movie about trying to regain passion and about experiencing passion for the first time. You know, like Jennifer Aniston's character wants to regain it, and Jake Gyllenhaal's character has never had it and doesn't know it.

And so when they get it, they both sort of go crazy in different ways.

MITCHELL: I guess we should take a look at just the clip from the film right now to get a sense of this kind of intimacy they're both looking for.

HOLDEN: Do you want to come in?

JUSTINE: I don't know.

HOLDEN: I'm not going to beg you. I'll be in my room.

JUSTINE: Okay, Tom.

Do I call you Tom?

HOLDEN: It's my slave name. Holden is what I call myself. This is my room.

JUSTINE: Not a lot to look at. What are your folks like?

HOLDEN: They are okay. They don't get me.

JUSTINE: My husband doesn't get me.

HOLDEN: Since when do you have a husband?

JUSTINE: Since seven years. He's a painter.

HOLDEN: What does he paint?

JUSTINE: Houses.

He's a pig. He talks but he doesn't think. I'm sick of it. I liked looking at you in this door and I liked how you kept to yourself. I saw in your eyes that you hate the world. I hate it, too.

MITCHELL: Miguel, tell us what we just saw and who those characters were.

ARTETA: Yes. Jennifer Anniston plays Justine, who is a woman who works at a discount store in Texas. And she's married to this guy, played by John C. Reilly, who didn't turn out to be what she was... she hoped.

He's a big stoner, he paints houses, he's lost all ambition in his life. And she's kind of desperate to escape, you know, and she meets Jake Gyllenhaal at the store, he starts working there as a clerk. And he's always reading CATCHER IN THE RYE, and there's something kind of dark and sexy for her about him.

And you know, this is the first moment where they're really... You know, she comes out and says it to him, you know, there's something about, you know, "I've noticed that you hate the world and I hate it, too."

And you know, it's sort of like she's really coming on to him for the first time. And at the beginning, one feels that Jake's character can really take this, but slowly as the script goes along, you start realizing that she's really endangering this kid's life because he is so messed up that he can't really handle this affair.

He's a person that's in a risk situation even more so than her. As you can see, the movie balances a tone of comedy and drama, you know, it's got very sparse humor.

I really love that line about, "that's my slave name."

MITCHELL: So do I, yeah. That's really great. It's funny, too, because this movie deals with the thing we talked about earlier that runs through all your movies, these kind of odd morale, the choices characters make. What does morality mean to you in the context of these movies?

ARTETA: Well, you know, I feel like to be a human being is, like, to be honest, you end up having a perverse side.

The more honest you are, there is sides of yourself that become morally dubious, because we all have, you know, this wide range of emotions. And like you know, when we live in society, we try to put them in places and try to think of ourselves as moral beings.

But when we really confront our longing and these feelings there of trying to escape life, I think we're confronted with the fact that we would cheat on our husband... Or we would, you know, give a lover away to the police, or we would maybe even try to get rid of somebody that, you know, we used to love but now we don't. You know, these are human emotions. And I just... You know, I like confronting them as honestly as possible.

MITCHELL: But you also seem to like dealing with the absurdity of trying to lead a moral life.

ARTETA: Yes. Yes, it's embarrassing.

MITCHELL: It's embarrassing?

ARTETA: Yes. I mean, like, life is embarrassing. You know, I really feel that way. And I love, in Mike White's writing, you know, the characters are trying to live sort of a "normal life," or conforming to society in some sort of way.

And there's so much humor that comes from it, because, you know, we try to have dignity while we're doing that, and, you know, it's almost impossible.

MITCHELL: We talked about these dysfunctional families. Moving around so much, how did you connect in the way you grew up?

ARTETA: Yes. We were really displaced. My father worked for Chrysler and moved to different countries in Latin America. So I have brothers and sisters, you know, from all over Latin America. And as a kid I lived in Puerto Rico and then we moved to Costa Rica and then I came to the United States when I was 16. So I always felt like I'm an outsider. I don't have a home or a country that I can claim for myself.

But that's been really helpful, because I think I'm comfortable in the role of the observer, you know, just looking from the outside in. But it also has created a lot of weird feelings in our family, because it's good to feel grounded.

And I think that we all feel a little lost because of it. And I think it's been helpful for me to explore that in the films.

MITCHELL: Sort of hunger for some kind of normality or conventionality comes for these characters, you have some need to have a standard kind of relationship, be it romantic or friend or whatever?

ARTETA: Yes, I think so. When you're always on the outside, I think you have these feelings.

I mean, I think this is pretty universal. Everyone who feels it is, like, you know, you're always wondering, does everybody feel the amount of longing or desperation that I'm feeling? You know, it's just like it's a private thing where you're trying to connect to other people and saying, do you feel as bad as I do? Like, but it's kind of scary to break that wall that society creates and really just ask that question.

MITCHELL: That's probably a good place to end it. Miguel, thanks for being here.

ARTETA: Thanks for having me.

MITCHELL: THE GOOD GIRL opens Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles, and throughout the month of August nationwide.

NARRATOR: Now a look at stories coming up on NPR radio this weekend:. LIANE HANSON: Hi, I'm Liane Hanson coming up on the radio on WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY.

The longstanding travel ban to Cuba may be dropped in Congress has its way but President Bush is threatening a veto.

Also a documentary on Cuba's classic cars and Linda Thompson. She was once called the greatest vocalist in the world of folk/rock music. She spent the best of two decades afraid to sing in public. She's back.

Go to our web site,

MOYERS: That's it for tonight. Next week Ralph Nader will be my guest and I'd like to know what you'd ask him if you had a chance.

If you prefer pen and paper, send your questions to:

Attention: Talk Back
450 West 33rd
New York, NY 10001.

or email at

For NOW, I'm Bill Moyers.

about feedback pledge © Public Affairs Television. All rights reserved.
go to the full archive