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 March 21, 2005 VOL. 43, NO. 6Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

Cathedral light should be love
I had a dream over a year ago about the new Cathedral of Light the diocese is planning to build. In the dream it had already been built and in the basement were facilities for the poor, a shelter for men and for families, a soup kitchen serving hundreds, childcare for children of the working and non-working poor.
There was outreach and respite for the young women pushed to sell their bodies for food or a roof over their head, and care for the immigrants. It was like the Sermon on the Mount made flesh.

And in the dream, as a father was driving by the cathedral, his child asked him why it was called the Cathedral of Light. And he answered it was because of all the love that was lived there. He explained how the poor were welcomed and could sleep there in the winter, how food was served to the hungry and children taken care of and the elderly had someone who would care for them. He explained it was that love that was the Light of the World and made it the Cathedral of Light.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen at the new cathedral, but it is happening at St. Mary’s Center on the old cathedral site. We ask the bishop not to throw out St. Mary’s Center and its people — the children, the poor, the marginal — for some millions of dollars to plow into the new multi-million dollar building.

Though there may be other instances in the Gospel of building urges, the only one I can think of is after the Transfiguration, when the followers wanted to build temples for Jesus and Moses and Elijah. Jesus made it very clear to them that building buildings was not what he was about.

I hope that after prayer and reflection, our bishop will through deed or other means allow St. Mary’s Center to continue right where it is to serve that special community.
Robert Nixon
Oakland


Remember cathedral history
Regarding the Cathedral-St. Mary’s Center dialogue over the possible sale of the diocesan property currently housing St. Mary’s Center (Voice, March 7), I understand that there are strong feelings generated on both sides of this issue.
Folks who wish that St. Mary’s could stay put would argue that the Center provides superb and desperately needed services to 1500 homeless and “at risk” elderly poor, in an area that has been identified as having the largest number of elderly poor in any urban area in the state. They think the Center should continue its profoundly effective services, in situ.

Folks who see the sale of the property as a reasonable effort to fund the cathedral construction would argue that the property was always intended as an offset to fund cathedral construction and the time for sale is now.

In judging this matter, I think a historical perspective might be helpful. From the 1960s on, St Francis de Sales Cathedral was a happening place. Their liturgy was so outstanding under the leadership of Father Don Osuna and John McDonnell that it was noted in Time Magazine.

From a social services perspective, the efforts of Sister Thomasine McMahon were a miracle of care for the elderly poor of the area. Sister’s programs were so good that Catholic Charities Department of Aging used them as a prototype when developing programming for aging in the other parishes of the diocese.

Then we had an earthquake of monumental proportions and the church was demolished; the parishioners emigrated to St. Mary’s, and eventually the social services to the elderly returned to the property under the auspices of St. Mary’s Center.

Now we have, paradoxically, a potential new cathedral, which will doubtless have superb liturgy, and a desperately needed social services component that is at risk in the whole construction/funding process.

My hope is that both goals can be achieved. I would love to see the new cathedral do its thing with vigor and St. Mary’s Center continue the 40-year history of quality care of the most vulnerable amongst us, either at its present location or a suitable substitute.

This result will take collaboration amongst all the players, but it is a genuinely desirable goal. Deliberations are ensuing and I suspect prayer is in order.
Joan Leslie
Orinda


Serving Christ in disguise
I have been reading, with great sadness, about the possible sale of St. Mary’s Center in order for the diocese to use the proceeds to help build the Cathedral. The folks who are served meals there and those who are provided shelter are “Christ in distressing disguise” as Mother Teresa would say. Many have formed a deep sense of community, family, at St. Mary’s Center and many would be lost without that important connection.

The recent call of St. Mary’s Center representatives asking for an act of “Jubilee Justice” is indeed a prophetic call. Jesus told us that the most important commandments are to love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. An act of Jubilee Justice towards St. Mary’s Center would certainly show our faith in that great commandment.

| As a resident of Oakland, I have watched the downtown area change a great deal over the past several years. Mayor Brown has brought more housing to the area with more to come. The one thing missing in this plan of urban renewal is exactly what St. Mary’s Center and surrounding grounds provides — open space and a senior center.

As we approach Holy Week I am reminded of the words of Mother Teresa: “Jesus is reliving his passion in our poor people. The poor are really going through the passion of Christ. We should treat them with dignity. These poor people are Jesus suffering today. We must find ways and means of helping them; don’t add to their sufferings. Poor people are living Jesus’ Calvary today.”
Mary Ann Bachmann
Oakland


Examination of conscience
I would like to applaud Father Paul Schmidt (“Present-day martyrs call us to confront social injustice also,” March 7 Voice) for sharing with us his and his companions’ painful and deeply touching experiences from their recent tip to Guatemala and El Salvador.

It is indeed disturbing that a majority of today’s American citizens close their eyes to things like NAFTA and other trade agreements that lead to the exploitation of indigenous people and often to the destruction of their land and lives to profit fat American industrialists.

It seems clear that a large number of people are like the rich man who asks Jesus what he must do to get into heaven.

Why is it that so many of our brothers and sisters in this country do not come to help someone when a crime is being committed or are quiet when they could help solve a crime or do not speak up when they realize that racism or other discrimination is still wide spread?

Why is it that elected officials often are perpetrators of corruption instead of stamping it out as they promised when running for office, or why bishops and other “servants of God” look away and keep quiet when helpless children are being molested? It will be difficult for many institutions to rebuild the trust that has been destroyed.

The “examination of conscience” questions that Father Schmidt lists as well as his list of things that we can do are so important and should be taped to every good Christian’s bathroom mirror.
Werner Koellner
Walnut Creek


Shame and guilt don’t work
Father Paul Schmidt (Voice, March 7) would seemingly have citizens of the United States take responsibility for the all of world’s evils and crimes! In the newest twist to liberation theology it is not the despotic, torturing, inhumane rulers of third-world nations who are at fault. It is instead Mr. & Mrs. Jones who happen to purchase their goods at the local Wal-Mart, which singularly feeds the evil empires of murderers, torturers and dictators that exist in lesser developed countries. Absurd!

How unfortunate that Father Schmidt must appeal to the lowest levels of shame and guilt in addressing important social issues. Perhaps it would be better to lift up the human spirit of men and women by acknowledging the tremendous charitable contributions of the citizens of the U.S., or acknowledging the freedoms that South Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq enjoy because of the contributions of the United States, its citizens and soldiers.

Father Schmidt, please examine your own conscience and ask a woman in Iraq or Afghanistan how they were treated before being liberated by the United States and its allies.

I am not embarrassed by the history of the United States or its accomplishments in any way, nor will guilt-ridden and logically incorrect missives make me so. It is always easier to treat the symptom instead of the cause, and I suggest social justice organizations focus on causes if they wish to be effective.
Chris Smith
Lafayette


Abortion and the Holocaust
The Holocaust started when Hitler’s Weimar Supreme Court declared that German Jews were not members of the Aryan race. They, therefore, could not be German citizens and consequently were not covered by German law. The German Jews had become non-persons, and the road to the gas chambers was paved and ready. By 1945, six million German Jews had been eliminated.

Abortion began in 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court abridged the homicide statutes in the various states, abortion statutes that had previously made killing an unborn baby a crime of homicide. American law no longer applied to the unborn, who had, in fact, become non-persons. The road to the abortion chambers was paved and ready. By 1998, at least 38 million unborn babies had been butchered inside their mothers’ bodies.
Frederick Arend
Oakland


Shameless misrepresentation
Fancying himself a logician, Stan Coppock (Forum, Feb. 7 and March 7) confuses readers with mischaracterizations of Forum letters which criticize abortionists.

Coppock entirely evades the term “abortionist,” and abortionists’ for-profit, barbaric slaughter of unborn children — ignoring the argument’s core. (He demands these evildoers be called “doctors” instead, though they violate both the Hippocratic Oath’s prohibition of abortion and the physician’s fundamental standard: First, do no harm.)

Coppock shamelessly misrepresents abortion (though dodging the term) and Sharon Arata’s (my wife’s) precise citation of the Church’s abortion condemnations (Forum, Jan. 24) as merely some obscure, unnamed thing “she disapproves of,” and then accuses her of “abuse of logic” and “guile” — the straw man technique, outfitted in rank hypocrisy.

Camille Giglio, California Right to Life director, exposed Coppock’s misdirective meanderings (Forum, Feb. 21), including his repeated failure even to mention the term “abortion.” Coppock calls that “hysteria” and “fantasy” — the baseless ‘ad hominem’ approach.

The Catholic Voice should routinely fill in the blanks with editor’s notes supplying genuine Catholic teaching when correspondents disinform the readership, or when they wrongly present the faith as some as-you-like-it carrousel. Instead, an editor’s note cites a Catholic News Service stylebook directive in rationalizing your refusal to capitalize pronouns referencing God.

You need a different stylebook. CNS proudly proclaims its Newspaper Guild (AFL-CIO) affiliation — and thereby, its unreliability as either an objective news source or an arbiter of Catholic style.
Michael Arata
Danville


Valuable lessons
“He wandered very far, very far, over land and sea. A little shy and sad of eye, but very wise was he. Then one day…he passed my way, and while we spoke of many things – fools and kings – this he said to me. The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

These words of a Nat King Cole song reflect the sentiments I have for the spiritual direction given to me by Father Joseph Parekkatt, parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish who is being transferred to St. Edward Parish in Newark.

As we spoke of many things, Father Parekkatt taught me above all else to love Jesus Christ and to let him love me back. Father Parekkatt often quoted Mother Theresa who said, “We have to be forgiven in order to be able to forgive.” He has shown me the importance of receiving God’s forgiveness and the healing power in forgiving others.

He wandered very far from his home in Kerala, India, to minister to the people of
St. Mary Parish. I thank God for the day he passed my way. May God bless him in his vocation as a priest and as a minister in his new assignment.
Marylea Battaglia
Walnut Creek

Attacked with distortions
Jack Hockel’s spirited response to my Feb 7 letter regarding the vocation shortage is just the kind of response I frequently see from people who refuse to believe that anyone but they know what is right and good and true.

First, he attacks with distortions. I never claimed that I know better than the Pope, but suggested that the Church begin to look within itself.

Then he tries to challenge my statements without so much as one fact or statistic brought forward by himself. He has access to the same periodicals, magazines and books that I do. He could start with “Priests: A Calling in Crisis”(University of Chicago Press) by Father Andrew M. Greeley, the internationally acclaimed author whose research focuses on the sociology of religion. However, I fear Mr. Hockel does not hold Father Greeley in high regard.

I agree that Bishop Vigneron has excellent credentials to deal with this challenge. I believe he has the insight and open mindedness to consider all opposing views and I look forward to his involvement.
Clifford R. Wiesner
Antioch


Glaring hypocrisy
The recent decision by the Supreme Court to end the execution of juveniles and its denunciation by one of the conservative justices highlights the glaring hypocrisy of the Right. As the darling of the “pro-life” movement, Justice Antonin Scalia wraps himself with the mantle of his Catholic faith and has implied on many occasions that he bases his conservative decisions on his faith.

How then does this square with the Church’s stated opposition to state-sponsored executions?

This obvious inconsistency is unfortunately shared by many, if not most “pro-lifers.” It is clear then that to them, “life” just refers to the life of the unborn. And so one must assume that in the parlance of the Right, the words “culture of life” that Mr. Bush claims he wants to encourage (having bombed who knows how many innocent Afghans and Iraqis and oversaw the execution of hundreds of prisoners while governor of Texas) has an extremely narrow definition.
Leo Akiona Sr.
Fremont


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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