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 April 17, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 8Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

Start from the Gospel

I want to congratulate my brother priests of the Oakland Diocese for their enlightening and courageous statement regarding immigrants (Voice, April 3). They, along with Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles, speak the clear and challenging implications of the Christian life.

Some of the readers’ letters in the same edition reflect to me the tension and contradiction that can exist between U.S. interests and gospel interests.

Seen politically, the current immigration issue can be about boundaries, labels, and documents. On the other hand, if we see it from inside the Gospel of Jesus Christ we see one human family and one body of Christ without national boundaries, labels, or documents.

Both perspectives are real; the question is which is the priority for followers of Christ who welcomes the stranger and foreigner? If we start from the Gospel I believe we will have a different result than if we start from a map.

Father Jim Schexnayder
Walnut Creek

Obligation to share

Several Voice readers have expressed outrage over Cardinal Mahony’s injunction to break the law if necessary in order to befriend illegal immigrants. The note of self-righteousness in some of the letters is disturbing, however.

Those of us who came into the country legally (or whose ancestors did) should recognize how fortunate we were to be able to do so! In the vast majority of cases it is not a casual disregard for the law, but sheer desperation that impels people to attempt to enter illegally. Having no means of livelihood in their own country (where small farms have been destroyed by the North American Free Trade Agreement), they are impelled to undertake a terribly dangerous journey in order just to survive and provide for their children.

As a prayer recently circulated says, “Lord God...through your goodness, we live in this land that You have so richly blessed. Help us always to recognize that our blessings come from You, and remind us to share them with others, especially those who come to us today from other lands.”

Maureen Wesolowski

Call to justice
It brings me satisfaction and grateful joy reading the commentary, "A pastoral call for justice," on immigration reform (Voice, April 3). I am so proud of the 15 diocesan priests who courageously put their names to this document’s open call for sanity and justice.

That the issue is controversial is all the more reason we need to hear from church leadership. These men are on the side of the immigrant and the poor as the Scriptures demand of us all.

Since the death of Father Bill O’Donnell, I’ve missed the vocal presence of leadership here in Oakland on issues of such great import to the well-being of the voiceless poor.

The article by Patricia Zapor in the same issue of The Voice on the history of legal and illegal immigrants was also very clarifying for me, an immigrant myself of Irish extraction.

Tom McMahon

The politics of God

The lead story in the April 3 Voice says that “several hundred clergy asked for God’s guidance on Senate deliberations on immigration legislation.” The Catholic News Service story then goes on to say that “The Senate Judiciary Committee answered most of the prayers....” The inference here is that God intervened as the result of the prayers to bring about a favorable result.

In “God’s Politics,” author Jim Wallis says, “Clearly the politics of God is different from ours--from the Republicans and the Democrats, the liberals and the conservatives, the Left and the Right.”

He also points out the dangers of invoking “God’s blessings on our activities, agendas and purposes.” When we convince ourselves that God is on “our” side, not the other side, we have stepped over a line that leads to self-deception and manipulation of others.

An example of this would be when Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez, tells his followers during the political campaign, “We have God leading us.” Praying to God individually or collectively can help us understand God’s intentions, but the danger is when we individually or collectively think we are speaking for God.

George Fulmore

Not bound to obey

I was thankful for the April 3 article by Patricia Zapor, “In Immigration law, ‘legal,’ ‘illegal’ distinctions fairly recent” and I hope it was read by all those who wrote the vituperative letters to the editor condemning the “breaking of a law.”

As one person incorrectly stated, “Any citizen may register his/her objections to any law; but until the law is changed it must be obeyed.” In fact, one of the most effective methods of changing an immoral and unjust law is to conscientiously and knowingly disobey it.

Jesus demonstrated that method; the Passion story resulted because he lived and acted consistently with his statement that law was made for “man,” not “man” for the law.

Laws are artificial and constantly changing. We are not morally bound to blindly obey every amendment, especially one that would make it illegal for someone to give succor to someone who is suffering (i.e., would make a work of mercy illegal).
We need to resist such laws however we can, and the best way to walk with
Jesus may be to disobey them and suffer the consequences of our resistance.
Disobedience to unjust immigration law is an act of moral courage.

Paula Dodd Aiello
San Ramon

Drawing the lines

Probably no institution draws lines more definitively than the Catholic Church. And much of the differentiating has to do with our canons of faith. Then we invite outsiders in, but do not allow them to partake in the Eucharist because they may not hold the same understanding or belief in the Transubstantiated bread and wine, or hold it only to be a memorial of the Lord’s Last Supper even when we see they, as individuals, are as Christ-like or more so than we.

When the institution of government draws lines as to the eligibility for membership of its citizenry, the Church claims to be beyond borders and must move to obfuscate any effort to control the illegal immigration at a country’s borders. But here Christ told us to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. This established the full legitimacy of a government to create its laws. It then has to be fair and just in making those laws and enforcing them.

When the government considers the making of a law, I have no qualm with the Church opining as to the appropriateness of it, nor their responsibility to communicate their position to the membership, the country and the world.
Most of us appreciate the foreign influences that have made America a unique country, a truly unique chapter in the advancement of humanity. I certainly value the German and Irish folk who spoke with those unusual accents, and the Slavic influence my wife’s family brought to our children. I love the Mexican people and their food and song and dance. Been to Beijing, and Russia and admire what the people there have done through over most adverse circumstances. And I would send a mission to any country to enhance the lot of the people in those countries.

But we cannot bring them all here. Those we can bring in via the institutional process of application for visa, work permitting or citizenship, we should. For all others, the Church should take their assistance into those countries and provide their evangelical effort for both body and soul.

It is Christ-like for the bishops to call for fair and just immigration laws, but in their efforts at political correctness, to thwart existing laws or to harbor, aid and abet the circumventing of the existing immigration laws, they deserve the wrath of God.

James J. Knapp
Pleasant Hill

Remember Darfur

Special thanks to The Voice for its April 3 article on the Darfur genocide. The article noted how to send electronic postcards (via www.savedarfur.org and www.millionvoicesfordarfur.org) to the Administration asking its support to protect the people of Darfur.

Providing readers with ways to respond to crises, like Darfur, is a very good thing, and The Voice did just that when it noted the e-mail addresses. Most of us mean to do something, but having the “how to” data is a real help.

For example, Catholic Relief Services, Africa Hunger Crisis (800) 736-3467, and catholicrelief.net would welcome contributions to feed the folks of Darfur, and the rest of Africa.

Joan Leslie

Consistent with Christ?

I would like to respond to Bert Palmon (Forum, April 3) and those of other readers on the issue of homosexuality and Church teaching. It was interesting to read the Bible quotes he provided.

I wonder, however, if Mr. Palmon equally subscribes to the law outlined in Genesis, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy which supports slavery, animal sacrifice, polygamy, and rape. (Gen 4:23-24, Gen 19, Gen 20, Lev 11/Deut 14, Lev 15: 16-32, Lev 19 27-28, Lev 21: 1-7.) I can only expect that Mr. Palmon also abstains from eating pork, has a full beard, and expects his priests to marry only virgins, as stated in these passages.

How do we know which laws to follow? Do we pick and choose? Do we blindly follow Church leaders without questioning if they are consistent with Christ’s message?

What lessons have we learned from the church’s history that includes selling of dispensations, the Inquisition, and priests and popes having illegitimate children?
The point is that we each need to examine Church doctrine in relation to Christ’s teaching, and speak out when we believe the leaders of the Church are setting doctrine contrary to Christ’s teaching. The Church’s current lambasting of homosexuals is just such an instance.

Lori Durand

The issue is fidelity

Father Declan Deane responded in the March 20 Catholic Voice Reader’s Forum to Cardinal William Levada questioning the ability of homosexual priests “to represent Christ, the bridegroom, to his bride, the people of God?”

Certainly Cardinal Levada must have much larger concerns to address than priests who are openly homosexual. I have never heard any of the people of God concern themselves with a priest’s sexual orientation. The real issue is whether the priest adheres to his vows of celibacy and whether, as Father Deane writes, he preaches and practices "love of God and love of neighbor.”

With all the current anger and distress, let’s not also succumb to those hateful feelings that plague so much of our world today.

Ido Nienhuis

Misleading rhetoric

I write in response to Father Declan Deane’s letter (Forum, March 20) in which he insists that Catholic parishioners only care about their priests preaching and practicing love of God and of neighbor.

No, Father, you are so wrong. There exists a silent majority of us who are truly dismayed and growing increasingly tired of this terribly misleading rhetoric.

There are clear expectations of those who choose to become priests -- expectations and requirements that all priests are well aware of and must live up to or do the honorable thing by removing themselves from parishes and Catholic schools. No priest has been conned into the priesthood.

Preaching and practicing love of God and neighbor are just two of the base requirements and only hint at the more encompassing obligations, codes of conduct and expectations of one called to the Catholic priesthood. And at the point a priest can no longer live true to the requirements, obligations and expectations of his calling, he should seriously consider removing himself from positions where he can impact and unduly influence the flock. This in spite of the great perks some of these priests rake in under the auspices of the church and indeed stand to lose.

The Catholic priesthood is a sacred and extraordinary institution and vocation with clear restrictions and so is not for the weak of heart or body.

Audrey C. Heath

No perfect family

Some Catholic Charities are closing their adoption services, since they are forbidden by the church to place orphaned children in the care of same-sex couples, and they are prohibited by civil law from such discrimination. I am saddened by these actions and concerned about where this moral framework and its policies are leading us as a church community of faith and love.

Dare I say, that most of us did not grow up – and most children these days are not growing up -- in perfect environments whether they be reared by same-sex couples, single individuals, co-parenting divorced parents, blended families, or even intact heterosexual couple families.

Parenting is the hardest task on earth, and there are no persons perfectly qualified to do that job. All of us – whatever our social, or sexual preferences – are uniquely peculiar, fall short of the glory of God, and are in need of God’s mercy, never so desperately as when we are entrusted with the care and responsibility of children and vulnerable adults. Only the grace of God allows any of us to rear healthy and reasonably well-adjusted children.

I have difficulty accepting that my church leaders would prefer that any child live without a family rather than be reared by selected, decent and conscientious same-sex parents. I have to believe that they are acting less from malice than from misinformation and lack of experience with diverse human families.

I invite them (and all of us faithful) to become more personally acquainted with the gifts and goodness of those who may seem strange at first glance and even dangerous. Please rethink your position quickly so that later down the road you won’t be needing to make more public apologies for harm done to children and increased suffering to those most vulnerable in our society.

Anna Marie Franco

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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