GIL DAWES' CRITIQUE of the PBS Frontline documentary The Farmer's Wife ("The Face and Fate of Family Farms," September-October 1998) was excellent and, for the most part, I agreed with it. But as a Catholic, I feel I must speak to his comments on the Catholic Church and its impact on that beleaguered farming family. When Dawes actually quotes from the film ("Prayer got us through all this") and notes that "the church is clearly an anchor for this family," he was accurate. Anybody who watched the film would have to agree with his analysis.
But in the following paragraph he simply draws his own conclusions, and quite frankly it sounds like they were drawn from some of his personal disagreements or discomforts he has with the Catholic Church. I quote: "...it seems that their self-doubt and feelings of personal unworthiness, almost worthlessness, may be compounded rather than alleviated by religious tradition." The key word here is "seems." This is what it feels like to Dawes, and it seems his attitude is rooted in rather hostile feelings toward the Church rather than anything he saw in the film. I watched every episode and I never felt that Juanita and Darrel were full of "self-doubt and worthlessness." I did feel they were full of pain and fear, love, courage, and the determination to survive.