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October 23, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 18Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

Once upon a priest

This letter is in no way meant to criticize or hurt the feelings of our deeply dedicated priests. I have just been thinking for some time about the days when there were enough priests to go around. For quite of few years now, we have been told about the sad decrease in vocations to the priesthood, and now we Catholics are really feeling the effects. 

I hate to give this away, but I was a Catholic school girl from the 1950’s and 60’s and having an abundance of priests was something that we took for granted because there were so many priests to go around.

My family always seemed to have a wonderful relationship with the priests of our parish. They were able to visit often and they became a very dear part of our family circle. They would come to our house for holidays and christenings and various family gatherings. But what I remember most were the visits just to have a cup of tea and some good conversation. 

Today, sadly, our priests just don’t have the luxury of spending as much time with their parishioners as they would like. I really miss those days and the opportunity to spend time with my parish priests whether it be to bless my house, hear a private confession or just be there as a friend or to share a cup of tea. 

Today we’re blessed with deacons, more precious than the dollar. 
But there’s just something special about the man who wears the Roman collar. 

Pam Brady
Pleasant Hill

Guiding votes

It is hoped that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops does not publish any statement on the upcoming November elections. In the 2004 national elections, they published a letter to be read or circulated within every Catholic church.

The contents of that letter were pro-Republican and ultra-conservative. Many Catholics, and especially African-American Catholics, concluded that the letter influenced the votes for the Bush administration. The current pamphlet regarding a Catholic Guide to Voting does not rival the 2004 letter.

Peter Guidry Sr.

Voting issues

Several years ago the U.S. Catholic bishops wrote a pastoral letter called: “The Challenge of Faithful Citizenship: a Catholic Call to Political Responsibility."
This document is the primary educational resource for parishes during election season and is available in English and Spanish on the website of the USCCB: http://www.nccbuscc.org/faithfulcitizenship/index.htm
Our Catholic approach to voting and political participation begins with the wide range of moral principles present in Catholic Social Teaching and reminds us that “participation in the political process is a moral obligation.”

Our parishes can encourage voter registration and can discuss the moral questions of our communities and nation. Catholic social teaching supports economic justice; housing, health care, education, and the rights of workers are crucial issues because they support human dignity.

Catholic social teaching supports a consistent ethic of life, protecting human life at all stages, promoting peace, and ending violence in all forms. Global solidarity with the poor and protecting the environment are also essential parts of our teaching.

These principles shed light on the serious issues facing our nation this election season and help us consider the common good when we vote.
In the Oct. 9 of The Catholic Voice, an article mentioned several voter guides.

While some of these may be helpful for personal education, we do not distribute these materials in the parishes. Voter education materials are available from the Catholic Conference of California, Catholic Charities of California, and the Alliance for Catholic Health Care, as well as the social justice office of the diocese.

If you have any questions about which materials to use in your parish, please contact my office. We hope all Catholics will wrestle with their faith and the issues of our day, and get out and vote on Nov. 7.

Mary Doyle
Social Justice Office
Diocese of Oakland

Put priorities in order

Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” on the hypothesis of global warming, is designed to scare people into action, as Steve Schneider, a climate scientist, said: “To capture the public imagination, we need loads of media coverage; we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts we might have…Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective, and being honest.”

So, just what action are we to take to reduce carbon emissions, particularly since industry is the main contributor to “greenhouse gasses,” and China is planning to build 500 additional coal-burning power plants, erecting one each week for more than a decade to come?

The movie recommends that we change our light bulbs, turn down the thermostat, plant trees, recycle, and ride bicycles. Oh yeah, and vote for leaders who will help us to “find the strength to change.” (Now, I wonder who that might be - why the pro-abortion candidate Al Gore, of course!) The facts can be accessed at www.goremoviefacts.blogspot.com.

We need our Catholic leaders now more than ever to help people put their priorities in order.

Jack Hockel
Walnut Creek

Ministry to soldiers

While the pro-life movement is clear on its stance against abortion, these Christians become fuzzy in speaking up against war and capital punishment. I become concerned when a Franciscan priest and president of a theological institution alludes that soldiers are doing “the right thing” by killing “the bad guys.” (Voice, Oct. 9).

Our legal system in the U.S. shows us how difficult it is to determine if a person merits the death penalty. And even with all these moral safeguards, we know that innocent people too often end up on death row and are executed.

More than truth, what usually determines justice in a court of law is wealth and the ability of the accused to afford good counsel. In this regard, we have not advanced much since the time of the Passion of Our Lord. 

In present times, we saddle 18-year-old children with weapons and fear, and expect them to “do the right thing” in war. Exposed to combat, these young innocents experience the trauma of witnessing death and destruction.

Like Vietnam veterans, this generation will return wounded psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually.

While the U.S. government is guilty for leading us into an unjust war, it becomes the responsibility of the Church to address the long term effects on our veterans.

I hope theologians will take time off from the discussion tables in order to lead us towards the pastoral ministry our veterans deserve. 

Carmen Hartono 

Potential for abuse

I think that religion can be a beneficial thing for individuals and communities. However, in the wrong hands – with the wrong leadership - religion can be (and has been) abused and extremely destructive.

Religion can provide an individual with a sense of context in life – a sense of belonging and acceptance, helping to understand what it all means and what their place is in it.

It can also provide communities with a way to cohesively teach neighborly behavior and pass on cultural traditions and wisdom. When used properly, religion can bring communities together and help the individuals know what values are encouraged and discouraged in their community.

But when any human or group claims to act in the name of God, beware! A religious zealot or theocratic politician is a mere mortal who wrongly manipulates the community by claiming to act in God’s name.

Why would a politician invoke God anyway? Are their political skills alone not good enough to earn the vote legitimately? Do they realize that they could never gain power on their own merit? Are they delusional?

These are questions that even the most devout believers of religions around the world must ask themselves any time a leader or would-be person of authority invokes God or religion as being on his/her side, especially when that leader commands them to act in a way that contradicts the teachings of their religion.

Our forefathers knew this when they drafted the Constitution. They wisely insisted on the separation of church and state, knowing of the potential for abuse and the inevitable negative consequences.

Alex Smith

Not good policy

Congratulations to Paula Doyle for vividly summarizing (Voice, Sept. 18) what Proposition 85 is about: the victory and revenge of unrelenting xenophobes, defeated in Proposition 73.

Prop. 85 is about subverting the rights of a family of three or more human lives, represented by a pregnant, albeit legally unemancipated woman with alleged, unwarranted rights of would-be grandparents and legal relatives.
Prop.85 is blatantly discriminatory as it excludes the male parent of the embryo/fetus under consideration.

Prop.85 is about legally coercing a family to submit to a counsel it may justifiably object to and setting civil liabilities on qualified, certified and/or licensed health care and education professionals, otherwise exempted under the Child Protection Act of 1993 and subsequent Good Samaritan Laws of the State of California.

Prop. 85 is as “good public policy” as the right to bear arms, [with loaded weapons in the vicinity of unemancipated minors who are susceptible to access them and engage in tragic activities].

Pierre Breuinin
Pleasant Hill

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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