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 October 3, 2005 VOL. 43, NO. 17Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers


Pull the soft porn
Is anyone else disturbed by the latest Vanity Fair issue readily seen in your local grocery store aisle? There for all your kids to see is Paris Hilton topless with only her arms to cover her bulging breasts! As I was standing waiting for the checkout clerk to ring up my groceries, my daughter said, “Mommy, she doesn’t have a shirt on!”

Have I been asleep...or is each cover of Vanity Fair this raunchy? Soft porn does not belong on the shopping aisles. Please tell your grocery manager to pull these magazines. I am happy to report that Jeff Anderson at my local Safeway in Lafayette did just that when I brought it to his attention. I encourage all who are equally disturbed to speak up also.
Anne Fuller

Is the Spirit working?
With the Vatican’s current witch hunt to ferret out gay seminarians I see the Holy Spirit active within our Church. Since 30-50 percent of our priests are gay, preventing gays from being ordained will drastically reduce the already critical number of priests.

The Holy Spirit is working in the Church to then force it to ordain married men, straight women, and further empower the laity to run parishes, which already occurs in 15-20 percent of U.S. parishes. What a blessing!
Mark Gotvald
Pleasant Hill

Gay clergy are part of Church
Regarding reports that the Church is considering closing seminaries to gay men, I have known (and read about) gay seminarians, Brothers and priests (in addition to lesbian women religious—who I am sure were grateful to have been left out of this whole sordid business up till now) who have excelled in their vocations and are a source of inspiration to their many communities.

The recent statements, and the pending letter, seem to have no concept that all these people exist. In order for this to be true, the hierarchy must be members of a different church all together. Surely such educated men wouldn’t ignore the witness of gay priests, psychological and sociological research and any biblical/theological scholarship that was written after the 19th century.

It simply must be that the good souls in the hierarchy have created for themselves a church quite separate from the Church that the rest of the People of God are currently living in. We must consider sending missionaries to Rome.

Lesbian and gay clergy/religious have administered sacraments, taught our children, and ministered to our sick, our prisoners, our homeless. They have been martyred for the faith and have helped in the million mundane tasks that keep the Church going. They should not be discouraged, disparaged or condemned. God called them, God loves them and God will vindicate them.

It is vital that all of us who are shocked, offended and scandalized by the recent statements of the hierarchy pray for all our clergy (including the straight ones) and offer what support we can. I would also advise that we pray for the repentance and conversion of our bishops, cardinals and pope. May they soon return to the loving arms of the Church. We will warmly welcome back our separated brethren.
Kevin Fitzsimmons

Acts of solidarity
In our parish of St. Lawrence O’Toole-St. Cyril we have many communities of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. However, we all share “the call of the blood,” a dedication and commitment to the heart of Christ working through us.
Last month everyone all over the globe was frightened and concerned for our brothers and sisters in Mississippi and Louisiana as the Hurricane Katrina disaster destroyed New Orleans and devastated much of the coastline region. Among the victims were many Vietnamese people.

Our parish priest requested that we reach out to these victims and our parishioners immediately answered the call and collected more than $6,500.
Thirty years ago, the Vietnam War left the Vietnamese people with a share of pains, sufferings and sorrows. Tet Mau Than (Vietnamese New Year) in 1968 and Thang Tu Den (the day we lost our country) in 1975 are painful memories. Hurricane Katrina reminded us of these painful experiences.

As Vietnamese immigrants we have passed through many trials in our search for freedom. While the people of the United States opened their arms to receive us, it was through hard work and determination that we used the opportunity to rebuild our lives and foundations. Now we must share the same suffering and heavy losses of the people in this country.

Indeed, we come from various backgrounds, different cities and countries, but the Church is the center of our collective hearts, unifying us in God and universal love. We remember the words, “Let us do unto others as we would be done.”
The parishioners and priests have generous hearts and loving souls. We welcome the opportunity to help.
Long Nguyen

Refugees are not second-class
I am certain that The Catholic Voice’s use of the term “refugees” was neutral and not as “negative” as Yolanda Sanders’s letter (Forum, Sept 19) claimed. From a historical perspective, refugees, being foreigners yet far from being “second class citizens,” played a noble contribution in the mosaic makeup of this great country.
Khai Nguyen

No stigma attached
The primary definition of a “refugee” is ... “one who flees to a shelter or place of refuge.” In times of war the word also defines those who flee from one country to another to avoid oppression or worse.

The primary definition of a “victim” is ... “someone or something killed, destroyed or injured from some act ... or circumstance”. The word also applies to someone who suffers some loss.

Reference : Webster’s Dictionary.

So, while all those who are suffering the most immeasurable loss of their lives are all victims of Katrina, only those who fled to places of shelter are refugees. The term is used correctly, there is no stigma attached to the word.
If some person or group chooses to create a vocabulary with modified definitions of words that are unique to the understanding of that person or group, there should be no offense taken if others don’t realize that those definitions differ from the norm and exist in some other vocabulary.
Pierre Du Bois

A respectful word
A writer was offended by the Voice’s use of the term “refugee” in reference to the Katrina flood victims (Forum, Sept. 19). I guess it’s true that some people use the term “refugee” in a disparaging way, and so it is appropriate that The Voice honor the feelings of those who were offended.

In defense of The Voice, however, I’d like to quote Supreme Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, whose 2004 opinion in defense of the Pledge of Allegiance included this respectful use of the word “refugee.”

‘’It is unsurprising that a nation founded by religious refugees and dedicated to religious freedom should find references to divinity in its symbols, songs, mottoes and oaths. Eradicating such references would sever ties to a history that sustains this Nation even today.’’
Catherine Norman

The real disgrace
Had the word “refugee” been used about those who had the material wherewithal to evacuate storm-threatened cities it would have been inappropriate. However, is it possible that its use to describe those who had no means to leave is a call from the conscience of the country? To the conscience of the country?

Is this a sort of “Freudian Slip”? Could this be a moment of grace? Don’t we sense that any calamity in any of our cities would play out identically?

Yes, these people are victims. But as Cornel West points out, there is a danger here too that we label ourselves and spend our days playing a role instead of living our lives.

I fail to see the disgrace in being a refugee. Yes, the pain, the sorrow, the horror of it defy description. The real disgrace is in participating in a system that refuses to see the cause or act to rectify an evil situation — in this instance Americans who are denied “the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity.”

This is and has been a fact of life throughout our entire country for at least the last 40 years. And people of every ethnicity suffer from it.

As a society we seem to be comfortable with having some citizens live as disenfranchised persons but when this is pointed out we go into denial and “kill the messengers.”

To paraphrase the ‘60s song: How many years, roads, people, wars, deaths does it take? No answer blowin’ in the wind ...

But the prophet saw the Spirit of God in a gentle breeze! Could we?
Aloysia Moss

Training is essential
If Angela Backman (Forum, Sept. 19) doesn’t consider it worth her while to attend an annual Safe Environment for Children refresher, perhaps she should re-consider her motivation for coming forward to volunteer.

Everyone in any ministerial role may be in a position where inappropriate behavior towards children comes, or is brought, to their attention. Whether or not their work specifically pertains to children, each person working in a parish must be prepared to respond properly and responsibly.

In addition, children are and should be involved in nearly every aspect of parish life. The only way in which Ms. Backman can know if she is comporting herself to the requirements of the Safe Environment Project is via continuing education as to its requirements.

Anybody who has been awake through the last several years of Church history should be able to understand why this is so important.
Greg Bullough
Annandale, NJ

Misuse of religion
I feel fairly certain that C. Schneider (Forum, Sept. 5) would consider himself a religious person since he discusses God’s plans in his letter. His comments brought to mind a statement by physicist Steven Weinberg: “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do (espouse) evil things, that takes religion.” Enough said.
Kim S Wayne

Rationalizing inaction
C. Schneider (Forum, Sept. 5) argues that “a certain number of people were meant to die prematurely” and that God “created” natural disasters and diseases as population control. Schneider explains that God’s plan of population control worked until the Industrial Revolution, when man learned how to provide and transport food and develop drugs to sustain life. He argues that the Industrial Revolution came with a high price to the environment and loss of natural resources, etc.

Schneider concludes that interfering with God’s intentions creates disaster; therefore, we ought not interfere with God’s plan, but allow starvation in places such as Niger to take place.

By Schneider’s faulty and disturbing logic, those of us who are fortunate enough to benefit from the Industrial Revolution are allowed to interfere with God’s plan. On top of that, we’re allowed to decide when interference is OK, and when it is not.

We decide which parts of the world should receive from our abundance, and which ought to be left alone to die as part of “God’s plan.” What a convenient way to rationalize your own inaction and failure to follow the teachings of Jesus. The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches exactly the opposite.

It is because of our own advancements in medicine, and our abilities to produce and transport food, that we are charged with the responsibility to share with the rest of the world. If our Industrial Revolution, our “interference,” has caused disaster in the world, then we should fix the problems we’ve created.

Jesus commands us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked …. Never did Jesus teach that we ought to ignore those in need.

To assert that we ought to stand by and let others suffer and die of starvation is absolutely contrary to Christian principles.
Elizabeth Woo
Pleasant Hill

God doesn’t will starvation
Words nearly fail me to respond to C. Schneider’s letter (Forum, Sept. 5). Is this person claiming to be a follower of Christ?

To believe that our creator, who is Love and who came to join us 2000 years ago in the person of Jesus Christ to demonstrate how we could practice to be the creation he had in mind, would also plan to have his beloved people starve to death in Niger and Darfour and elsewhere is just ludicrous.

I presume that the tragic death of primarily poor people in the recent disasters in the Gulf of Mexico region or in the Sri Lanka area can be explained by C . Schneider as part of the plan of our loving God who, in his words, creates these premature life-ending disasters, diseases, and plagues.

The starvation of human beings, young and old, in Niger and elsewhere, is not caused simply by too many people living in those areas, but by rich countries like ours (and people like C. Schneider) not willing to follow Christ and not willing to share from the abundance of goods and talents. There is room for all — just look at the waste that happens in our country.
Werner Koellner
Walnut Creek

Neither fair or balanced
The Sept. 19 Voice necessitates a non-FEMA-like response. Pages eight and nine give much insight into either The Voice policy or its shortage of staff. Two parish celebrations – one gold and one diamond.

Was it dementia that caused the 50th anniversary of St. Bede Parish to get more written prose? Was there no staff member who could do research beyond 50 years?

How the photographer was not moved by the soloist at the St. Benedict Parish 75th anniversary is beyond me. Why wasn’t she featured?

On page two we were asked to support The Catholic Voice. The answer never comes to the question not asked. Why? Why should I or others whose noted spirituality vis-a-vis the traditions is only reflectory – reflect has different meanings?

Reporting in The Catholic Voice describing these two parish celebrations was neither “fair or balanced.”
Leo Galloway

The opinions expressed in letters to Reader's Forum are the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Voice or the Oakland Diocese.

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