OBSERVATIONS Photo courtesy of West Texas Catholic The Most Reverend L. T. Matthiesen D.D. Background on the Bishop Austin Who is this Bishop Leroy T. Matthiesen, who has risen to confront nuclear immorality like Thoreau transported from Concord to the High Plains? He is a West Texan born and bred, he has spent 35 years laboring in the Catholic Diocese of Amarillo, and now his time has come to prophesy and to lead. His parents had a poor cotton farm near Olfen, which is near San Angelo. They also had eight children, who are the Bishop, his brother who is a Monsignor in the same diocese, a sister who is a Benedictine nun in Florida, and three other brothers who farm in the Miles, Olfen and Millersview communities near San Angelo, and two other sisters who live with their families in San Angelo. In Germany, Bishop Matthiesen’s grandparents were maids, leatherworkers, and harness-makers. He has been back there, searching into his family’s lives; he found 75 letters that his great-grandmother wrote in old German script. For the historical novel he has been working on, based on his family’s life in Muenster and Olfen, Germany, and then in early Texas, he has memories of his own. On the farm near Olfen, Texas, as a boy, Matt took baths in a big lard kettle that was 4 SEPTEMBER 11, 1981 used to make soap. He ate with Mexican families who cooked over open fires outside the buildings they slept in “I developed a real love for the Mexican people,” he says. When he was 12 the farmhouse burned down and his family had to move into a three-room house. After finishing eight grades at the Olfen school, taught by the Benedictine Sisters, he wanted to go to seminary, but could not get in. The parish priest started teaching him Latin anyway. Matt got Spanish and Latin mixed up “You’ll never learn Latin!” yelled the priest slamming down his book but Matt did. Ordained in 1946, he later obtained masters’ degrees in journalism and secondary education. This then is the home-bred Bishop, the Texan, the West Texan, gentle readers, who wrote in the West Texas Catholic last January 11th “There is even talk now of abandoning the concept of a first-strike capability. In short, we are setting ourselves on a not only totally un-Christian, but also unrealistic. There is no way we can do the enemy in without them doing us in. We are caught on the horns of a dilemma of cosmic proportions. If nuclear war comes, the Golden Spread, indeed, most of the world will lie dead and desolate. “A symposium of physicians, scientists, and concerned citizens meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts [advocated banning the use of all nuclear weapons and beginning to dismantle them]. My first reaction to that was: That’s unrealistic. We can’t do that. But the scientists, who are much more realistic about material things than I am, say this is the reality: “In an all-out nuclear exchange, all major population and industrial centers will be hit, both in the U.S. and in the USSR. Such an exchange will be complete in one hour, and will destroy most life in the northern hemisphere. Worldwide fallout will result, with possible destruction of the ozone layer, changes in the earth’s temperature, and mutation of crops. It will be a different world afterward, colder, harsher, and contaminated by radiation for thousands of years. The number of deaths will break all scales of comparison. . . . “If our own hands were clean there would be reason for confidence that goodness will prevail. But they are not clean, as we must ever remind ourselves. It was we who set off the first atom bombs that threaten now to destroy us all, and we are not even horrified by it, assuring ourselves that we saved many lives by taking thousands of them., . . . 80,000 men, women, and children, were indiscriminately destroyed in nine seconds. Tens of thousands of others were left crippled and maimed, their lives destroyed … they were killed or maimed without warning. There are still survivors suffering from diseases caused from that one bomb dropped 35 years ago. . . . “The choice today, said the late Martin Luther King, is no longer between violence and non-violence. It is either nonviolence or non-existence.” This is the unpretentious, homely Bishop who calls his vestments his “monkey suit” and who presented himself to the hearings April 20 at the Amarillo Civic Center on whether to locate the MX missile system in West Texas and New Mexico and said: “Like you, we love our country, and more than you we love this part of it. We live here. I know you have our interest at heart as you look into the feasibility of locating the MX Missile System here. I beg you not to do this for reasons that have already been recorded by people more technically skilled than I am: You will criss-cross our farms and our ranches with highways and yet more roads; you will uproot families, hundreds and hundreds of them; you will drain our already rapidly decreasing water supply; you will bring in a boom-town atmos
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