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 January 23, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 2Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

Positive poster campaign

Congratulations to the Diocese of Oakland for funding the anti-abortion poster campaign. With the help of the pro-abortion folks defacing the signage on BART trains it has been covered by all the TV networks.

Preaching on trains may well have more effect than preaching from the pulpit (though it is difficult to recall any sermons regarding abortion). What is the subject of the next poster program?

Phillip Faight

Challenge of involvement

The current ads on BART about abortion, sponsored by the Respect Life Ministry of the Diocese of Oakland, have caught public attention. They can serve as the beginning of a campaign of civic education over the whole range of moral issues in which Christian values have a significant contribution to make.

In a recent address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI made the point that “Peace is not merely the silence of arms.”

He insisted, “One cannot speak of peace in situations where human beings are lacking even the basic necessities for living with dignity.”

He spoke about starvation and refugee camps and human trafficking. He minced no words about responsibility for such situations, thus laying down a challenge to become publicly involved.

“People live below the poverty line more as a result of situations to do with international political, commercial and cultural relations,” said the pope, “than as a result of circumstances beyond anyone’s control.

Father Donald MacKinnon, CSsR

Send choirs to the loft

Before I go altogether mad, please, please send the choir and director back to the loft. And since we never applaud the miracle that Christ performs on the altar at every Mass, please stop applauding the choir.

And for those churches that don’t have a loft, might the choir and director be moved to the rear so they will be less of a distraction for those who do want to worship?

John Peacock

Abortion exceptions

I am a long-time activist in the pro-life cause. I am supporting the current effort to petition the U.S. Congress to adopt a Life Begins at Conception Act. But I have a problem with a widely held view within the anti-abortion community that abortion is never an option. I have been researching this matter and have come to the conclusion that, to use the pro-choice advocates’ phrase, a woman should have the “right to choose,” but only in exceptional situations.

Historically, abortion has been considered an evil act, but with certain exceptions. Those exceptions are cases of incest, rape or when a fetus is know to be defective (such as in Down’s Syndrome). I would say, as a general rule, that faced with one of these situations, a pregnant woman has an innate right to terminate her pregnancy. I think of the heart-wrenching situations of the thalidomide babies.

The other major exception, of course, is when doctors have determined that carrying a pregnancy to term would severely threaten the life of the woman. Even then, the woman can choose to ignore the threat and her desire (not the doctor’s) should rule.

I have found the book, “Bioethics,” edited by Thomas A. Shannon (Paulist Press, 1976) to be most informative, especially the selection by Sissella Bok titled “Ethical Problems of Abortion.”

Donald King

Take action now

Will the middle-class voters ever rise up? We pay the bills, not the rich, and we are the only hope the poor have. When will moderate Republicans, Democrats, Independents and others demand that the needs of the poor be the first priority, not the last, in the budget. The rich should enjoy benefits, but not to the extent that the poor must suffer so the rich can have it all.

The Congress passed a $40 billion deficit-cutting bill on the backs of the poor. The only items cut were entitlement programs – Medicaid (Medi-Cal), housing, food stamps, student loans, etc. These items affect only the poor. After cutting these programs, Congress proceeded to add $56 billion in tax cuts over five years for the wealthier voters.

People say there is nothing I can do. We can do plenty if we have the will, the determination that there should be more justice and more equity in the budget. We can protest, flood Congress with letters, and most of all, we can vote these egotistical money-hungry, self-involved legislators out of office.

However, this will not happen because the middle class suffer from a fundamental delusion – that I am here and you are out there somewhere. The truth is, as Roshi writes, “Whatever happens to you, to the world, will eventually happen to me. My self-preservation really depends on you.”

Let’s remember, “You are all people and all people are you.”
Take action, do something for the suffering forgotten. Someday that will be you, if we do not act.

Edna Pucci

A just peace

Thank you so much for Barbara Erickson’s excellent article (Voice, Dec. 12) covering the talk and slide presentation by former CNN reporter Jerry Levin and his wife on the tragedy of the situation in Palestine.

The Levins live and work there every day so their eyewitness accounts are so appreciated. It is interesting to note that, since their talk, the media has been reporting that some of the illegal contributions Jack Abramoff collected through his lobbying efforts in Washington have gone to arm and train Israeli settler snipers in the West Bank.

It is very encouraging to see that Jewish groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace, Rabbis against House Demolitions, Tikun and others are working together with many other groups to bring about a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians. There cannot be peace without justice and for this the Palestinians need to have their land returned and the establishment of a viable Palestinian State.

It is so inspiring to read about the Levins and other peacemakers who are devoting their lives to this end.

Sarah Fike

Settler cruelty

After reading Nancy Klein’s response (Forum, Jan. 9) to The Voice’s Dec. 12 article about Christian Peacemaker Team member Jerry Levin, my heart sank.

I reread the article which listed among settler cruelty the impunity with which settlers threaten, trash and stone Palestinian homes in an effort to drive indigenous Palestinians from land that has been in their families for generations as well as the repeated destruction of Palestinian orchards. These orchards are often a family’s only means of livelihood since the Israeli security wall, official and unofficial roadblocks and Israeli-only roads make commuting to work impossible.

While escorting innocent, terrified Palestinian children to school, CPT members have been attacked and seriously injured by settlers. In response to these horrors, Ms. Klein faults Mr. Levin for failing to follow up a condemnation of Israeli violence with a statement of “comprehension” of its origins. She then invokes the Holocaust in this respect.

The title of Mr. Levin’s talk, “The Incredible Shrinking Map of Palestine: The Piece Process Continues,” clarifies his understanding of the Israeli government’s motives in the escalating, illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

Mr. Levin honors the victims of the Holocaust when he reminds us that “The abuse of Palestinians has horrified hundreds of thousands of Jews in Israel and abroad. Some have come to work with CPT and other peace groups.”

Jerry’s books “West Bank Diary” and “Reflections on My First Noel” are available at hopepub@sbcglobal.netor 800-326-2671.

Mary Vivian Zelaya

Sanctioned killing

Where is the Catholic voice being heard regarding the issue of capital punishment? While the issue of abortion evidently persuaded many Catholics to vote for the “pro-life” candidate, it seems politically inconsequential for a candidate to position themselves for the death penalty. (e.g. Gov. Schwarzenegger’s approval of Stanley Williams’ recent execution.)

I have not heard homilies preached rallying the troops to speak out against the practice of murdering (however humanely?) criminals in an institutionally sanctioned process. Where is the leadership on this issue?

I am ashamed of being a citizen of this land whose final answer to crime is killing. Pope John Paul II remarked on the “culture of death” here in the US, and I don’t see what we as Catholics are doing to challenge this particular issue of capital punishment.

While I am not proposing that any election should be based on one issue, I am interested in how we as Catholics can do more to express our value for life in all of its forms. I’ll bet if we put our heads together and asked the Holy Spirit for guidance, we could address this issue.

Kathleen E. Hayes

No better alternative?

Reading about the U.S. Catholic bishops’ efforts to abolish the death penalty, we all should agree. It is inhuman and immoral to support such human sacrifices in a democratic nation. I don’t see how the death penalty can still be practiced. Is that the only thing a U.S. intelligent mind can come up with to improve those in society?

John M. Schoppe-Rico
Crescent City

Don’t be offended

When I don’t shake hands with you at the Sign of Peace or after Mass, please don’t take it personally. After years of back-to-back colds, some lasting months at a time, my doctor told me to stop shaking hands. Since doing so a few years ago, I sometimes go a whole year without a cold.

As a senior citizen, I do not have the stamina and resilience I once had, so I must do what is best for me. It is distressing to have a priest or parishioner appear offended and start to tell me about all the other ways of catching a cold. I already know about that.

I think a friendly smile and a wave of the hand is a sufficient greeting. Last year Bishop Vigneron advised it was OK not to shake hands during cold and flu season. It’s time for him to mention that again, for everyone’s wellbeing.

Thank you for being sensitive to another person’s needs.

B. J. Lieberman

Too much attention on clothes

Recently, we have had many letters in The Voice about wearing our “Sunday best” at church. There have also been homilies by priests and deacons. I have a few comments to those who find this issue so compelling.

Why do we even notice clothes, shoes, and hair at church? Shouldn’t our eyes be on the Lord? We have one hour to come together as a community and focus on His message. How do we justify thinking about clothes?

The best someone with bad fashion taste can hope for after a homily about “appropriate dressing” is an irritated frown. The worst is being ordered from church. Thankfully, I have not heard that happen.

However, if inappropriate dress at Mass is so horrible, what action is recommended? Should greeters turn away? Do we deny exchanging a sign of peace? Should worshipers glare from across a pew at the offender? Or do we shun a person to let them know they are not welcome?

Several years ago, I attended Mass in San Francisco. Before Mass started, a homeless man sat beside me. To be blunt, he smelled like urine. I really wanted to move, but it dawned on me that I do not have to be this man’s friend or spend time with him, but God does call on me to see his humanity.

I turned, smiled a welcome, and greeted this man.

Don’t our searching youth who are often pierced, tattooed, and poorly dressed deserve to have their humanity respected? Can’t we find it in our hearts to welcome others?

Mary Fadhl

No dress code left

Let’s face it, folks, the dress code for the Catholic Church disappeared when the ladies stopped wearing hats or mantillas to Mass.

Mary McMahon

Defend the unborn

The left wing of the Democratic Party has raised a crescendo of dire consequences regarding Samuel Alito. This outpouring has arisen from their fear that Alito may be pro-life. It appears that anyone who does not agree that a woman is entitled to have an abortion at any time for any reason is out of the mainstream and not worthy to sit on the Supreme Court.

If they have their way, there will be no one to speak for the true victim – the defenseless, unborn child. What has happened to our country that this can come to pass?

There are those who dismiss this with the claim that the unborn child is just a mass of protoplasm and has not human rights. They would also deny him/her an advocate. I refer them to Psalm 139:13-16:

“Truly you have formed my inmost
being; you knit me in my mother’s
womb I give you thanks for I am fear-
fully, wonderfully made;
Wonderful are your works.
My soul also you knew full well;
Nor was my frame unknown to you.
When I was made in secret,
When I was fashioned in the depths
of the earth.
Your eyes have seen my actions;
In your book they are all written.

Clifford Wiesner

CCHD says Thanks

On behalf of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, I wish to thank the faithful of the Oakland Diocese for a very generous 2004 collection contribution of $95,616. This support enables the Church in the United States to continue to support people who are poor to break the cycle of poverty.

Last year CCHD gave $9 million in support of 330 projects in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We are proud to be one of the largest private funders of anti-poverty programs initiated and led by people living in poverty. The 2005 collection took place in November.

We are indebted to the leadership of Bishop Allen Vigneron and Maurine Behrend, Oakland’s CCHD director and the people of the Oakland Diocese.

Timothy Collins
Executive Director
Washington, D.C.









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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