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 January 9, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 1Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

Thank you from New Orleans
I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for the Catholic community’s generous response in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the greatest natural disaster ever experienced in the United States. The outpouring of love and concern for the welfare of our local church both in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast has been extraordinary and humbling. Dioceses, parishes, lay organizations, corporations, individuals, and even young school children have generously contributed thousands of hours of volunteer time and funds in excess of $12 million to rebuild our parishes and schools.

Through the graces of God, the commitment of our administration, priests and leadership, and with tremendous assistance of the entire Church, we have made some great strides in re-establishing our pastoral and ministerial presence in the archdiocese.
• Over 120 parishes throughout the country are “twinned” with parishes and schools in our archdiocese to help them rebuild.
• Through Operation Helping Hands over 2,400 local and out-of-state volunteers ages 18 and up to help will clean-up and restore homes of the poor and elderly.
• Nearly 100 of our 142 church parishes and missions are celebrating Mass at least weekly.
• 66 Catholic schools have reopened in the archdiocese educating 37,000 students.
• 8 Catholic Charities community assistance centers are open in the Greater New Orleans Area distributing $200,000 in direct humanitarian assistance weekly.
• Catholic Charities continues to serve its clients in the New Orleans area in our residential programs, the mentally ill, victims of domestic violence, abused and neglected children, the elderly, the deaf, foster children, families in crisis, women facing unplanned pregnancies and adoption services.
• Second Harvesters Food Bank is now the largest food bank in the country having distributed over 30 million pounds of food in the months following Katrina.

The need continues to be great, and the future holds unprecedented challenges for us all. At year’s end, the archdiocese faced a multi-million dollar deficit with still much damage to our property to contend with. Yet, through the blessings of our Lord and your constant prayer and assistance, we will rebuild an archdiocese stronger in faith than ever before.

You can continue to receive updates on our progress and learn more about how to help our archdiocese rebuild, online at www.archdiocese-no.orgwww.archdiocese-no.org.

May our good Lord pour out his blessings on each of you for your service to our archdiocese.
Most Reverend Alfred C. Hughes
Archbishop of New Orleans

Blurring the distinctions
Judge John Jones III recently ruled that the Dover, PA school board’s decision to require the teaching of “Intelligent Design” was a violation of the separation of church and state intended by the First Amendment. Such decisions make a mockery of the intent of the word “religion” as used in the First Amendment.

The words “God,” “faith” or “spirituality” are not legally synonymous with the word “religion,” but too many judges today choose to blur the distinction between those words. There are many people in this world who believe in a Supreme Being and who are also faithful in the beliefs and are also spiritual people but do not belong to any religion.

One can only assume that judges such as Jones lack the understanding of the word “religion” as intended by the Founding Fathers or that their reasoning is diabolical.

In recent years, too many judges in deciding cases involving abortion (most recently partial birth abortion) also seem to place a higher legal priority on the right to privacy than they do on the right to life. That type of judicial reasoning goes beyond secularism and also approaches diabolical thinking.
George E. Pfautsch
Walnut Creek

No contradiction
As a member of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, an affiliate of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, and the Institute on Religion in the Age of Science, I have read many articles on the intelligent design controversy, but none has been as precise and clear in presenting factual information as that by Stacy Meichtry (Voice, Dec. 12).

Equally stimulating was Rene Gadoua’s interview with Jesuit science teacher Brother Guy Consolmagno who, in affirming that science and faith do not contradict each other, said, “Of course, God did it. I want to know how God did it.” The first is faith, the second is science.

Advocates of intelligent design (many of whom seem to be thinly disguised special creationists) fail to realize they are putting limitations on God. As an anonymous poet said: “…surely it must be a great sign/Of God’s supreme perfection in design/That his creative power works unseen/Without a need for Him to intervene.”
Gene Moloney
Walnut Creek

God’s maternal qualities
In response to Catherine Norman’s objections (Forum, Dec. 12) to Julie McCarty’s column on calling God “mother” (Voice, Nov. 21), Norman writes that McCarty “rightly points out that all good qualities, including those of a mother, come from God. But from that it does not follow that God may be called our Mother.”

Dame Julian of Norwich, the 14th century English Christian mystic and anchorite, wrote down her powerful visions of Christ, which have been affirmed by the Church as theologically correct, and which included her sense of God’s maternal qualities.

In her Revelations, or “Showings”, Julian writes: “And so I saw that God rejoices that He is our Father, and God rejoices that He is our Mother....as truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother. What do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, Love was His meaning...”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also speaks of our limited human ability to truly grasp or define who God is. “Since our knowledge of God is limited, our language about him is equally so. We can name God only by taking creatures as our starting point, and in accordance with our limited human ways of knowing and thinking.” (CCC 40)

It goes on to warn us about limiting our image of God. “God transcends all creatures. We must therefore continually purify our language of everything that is limited, image-bound or imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God -’the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable’- with our human representations. Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God.” (CCC42)
Mary Ann Bachmann

An insult to marriage
Let me get this straight. It’s O.K. for a sodomite who’s been clean for three years to be a priest, but a married man can’t? How insulting to married Catholic men and their wives is that?
Anne Downey-Jerome
Castro Valley

Weak justification
I am writing in regards to Jim Dempsey’s letter (Forum, Dec. 12) that implies a ban on gays in seminaries and the priesthood is justified because of the existence of gay-focused internet pornography that exploits young men. 

Although I agree with Mr. Dempsey’s presupposition that internet pornography is a bad thing, I am concerned that he does not mention the preponderance of heterosexual pornography on the internet featuring young teenage girls. We can only assume that it is men with a deeply rooted tendency to heterosexuality that are the target audience of these websites.

Alas, by the standards set forth in Mr. Dempsey’s letter the only people who might be allowed into the Roman Catholic priesthood are women.
Kevin Fitzsimmons

Go back to Scripture
I hope this letter will help clarify some of the misinformation contained in the Reader’s Forum regarding the homosexual issue.

How can we discern God’s will without knowledge of his Word? We send our children off to Catholic schools and universities and they come back filled with “good” ideas that do not line up with Scripture.

Remember Isaiah 55:8: “Those who live according to the flesh are intent on the things of the flesh, those who live according to the spirit, on those of the spirit. The tendency of the flesh is toward death, but that of the spirit toward life and peace. The flesh in its tendency is at enmity with God; it is not subject to God’s law. Indeed, it cannot be; those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

We, as Catholic Christians, are not of this world. We err greatly when we take the things of this earth and boastfully flash them at the Holy Spirit as an example of our knowledge. Let us pray for his discernment in these critical times.
John Malaspina

Anti-Israel bias
The Catholic Voice demonstrates a remarkable and inexplicable anti-Israel bias.  This was evidenced several months ago in its sycophantic coverage of Yasser Arafat’s death and in the Dec. 12 issue’s article on a so-called Mid-East peace advocate’s allegations against Israel and another article entitled “Israeli security measures threaten tourism in Bethlehem.” 

These articles uncritically embrace the position of the Palestinian and Muslim enemies of Israel -- enemies that are sworn to the destruction of Israel and the Jews.  Meanwhile Israel withdraws from the Gaza in good faith.  Where is the balance?

Before you berate Israelis for defending themselves, please recall they are democratic, tolerant, and free in ways their neighbors cannot imagine.  Israel extends rights to all its citizens, Muslims included, that the rest of the Middle East, save the proto-democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan, would not dream of.  If it weren’t for terrorist groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Arafat’s PLO, perhaps the security measures in Bethlehem would be unnecessary.
Tom Stuhlreyer

Motives for violence
This concerns Jerry Levin’s statement (Voice, Dec. 12) that he does not condone violence by Palestinians but comprehends it.

Supporters of Mr. Levin’s view weaken their efforts to persuade when they do not extend to Israelis the same condemnation of violence together with understanding of its motives. Some Israelis and their supporters seem to remember only the Holocaust; some Palestinians and their supporters seem to have forgotten it entirely.
Nancy Klein

Death Penalty
What was it about convicted killer Stanley “Tookie” Williams that caused the bishops to speak out in opposition to the death penalty? He’s not the first convicted killer to be executed. Nor the first possibly innocent “defendant,” as some people have called Williams, to be administered the death penalty. 

The bishops have had 30 years or more to take an aggressive public stand against the death penalty. I’m talking about abortion. Abortion is the death penalty against a pre-born baby. This presumed “enemy of the state” isn’t even killed humanely with a lethal injection to remove any pain and sensation of death. This human being is tortured to death. 

Where were the bishops when Paul Hill was executed in Florida in 2003 for the 1994 killing of an abortionist and his bodyguard? That was an incident of only two lives taken and only nine years from sentencing to execution. Where was Jesse Jackson then? Where was Danny Glover? Where were the bishops? 

Where were the bishops when Terri Schiavo received the death penalty for being a burden to society and to her husband? 

Almost every day of the Church year has a day of recognition for a martyr for his/her faith. These “enemies of the state” of their time committed no crime but were legally executed rather than commit the sin of denial of God. Can the bishops say that Tookie Williams deserved similar honor and recognition? 
Camille Giglio
Walnut Creek

(Since the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the late 1970s led to the resumption of executions, the nation’s Catholic bishops have voiced strong opposition to the death penalty. Their 1980 “Statement on Capital Punishment” and their November 2005 statement “A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death” can be found at www.ccedp.org. Statements against the death penalty by state groups of bishops can be found at www.nasccd.org.

Regarding the execution of Paul Hill, the Florida Catholic Conference of Bishops condemned his actions, but said, “When society can be kept safe from criminals, we should not execute them.” They appealed to Gov. Jeb Bush to stay the execution. The Florida Conference also spoke out in favor of providing nutrition and hydration even by artificial means to Terri Schiavo “as long as it is of sufficient benefit to outweigh the burdens involved” in her care. Their full statement on Schiavo can be found at www.flacathconf.org. – Editor)

Historical inaccuracies
There is a certain amount of discussion about the true origin of customs like the Christmas tree, but I believe there are some glaring historical inaccuracies in the Voice article (Dec. 12) about the history of the tree.

For example, the article refers to a story about Martin Luther who cut a tree and put it in his home for his children in 1510. Martin Luther was ordained a priest in 1507 and wasn’t married until 1525.

Moreover, the actual origin of the Christmas tree is recent and much more fascinating. Jesuit Father Francis X. Weiser, in his “Handbook of Christian Feasts and Symbols” (Harcourt, Brace and World: New York, 1958) says that the Christmas tree is essentially the merging of two medieval religious symbols: the Paradise Tree and the “Christmas Light” sometime between 1500 and 1600.

The Christmas tree is not (as is often asserted) a descendent of the Yule Tree which has been popular in Central Europe for many centuries (even predating Jesus Christ). The origin of the Christmas tree is therefore completely Christian.
Father Matthew Bloomer









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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