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 December 11, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 22Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

Pastoral clarification
I am responding to an article entitled “Summit aims to teach teens about sex, drugs” published in the Contra Costa and West County Times on Oct. 25. I ask for forgiveness and an opportunity to clarify the mission of St. Mark Catholic Church’s community outreach organization, Casa de Esperanza/House of Hope.

Please forgive our naiveté. While the article made for provocative journalism, Casa did not “partner” with Planned Parenthood, an organization diametrically opposed to Catholic life teachings. Procedure errors led to Planned Parenthood speaking at the Youth Summit. Casa staff did not know of the presenter’s affiliation until she arrived. While I would not have allowed her to make a presentation, the staff did.

I am very sorry for the shame brought to our faith community and efforts to ensure the safety of the unborn. This will not happen again.

The Youth Summit was to address issues of violence, gangs, substance addiction and abuse, and reproductive health as identified and prioritized by a teen focus group at St. Mark Church. Presentations regarding reproductive health were to be limited to dangers associated with pre-marital sexual relations. The emphasis was to be on abstinence. I especially regret there was not a presentation of the Church’s teaching at the event. This will not happen again.

The day-to-day focus of Casa de Esperanza is to serve and provide hope to any person seeking to meet their basic human needs. Each day Casa serves the least of God’s people by helping them find food, shelter, safety, health, work, legal assistance and more. Casa strives to uphold Catholic teaching by being the eyes, ears, hands and feet of Jesus in a community that is as marginalized as its citizens. This will happen every day.

Father Ramiro Flores
Parochial Administrator
St. Mark Parish

A disturbing document
With all the urgent issues facing our world today – our nation involved in the deaths of hundreds of civilians daily in Iraq; our war on poverty having turned into a war on the poor; injustice and greed running rampant in our institutions and corporations -- the bishops decided to publish a document which promises to cause tremendous harm to those they seek to serve.

Sometimes we human beings see our own good intentions so emphatically that we miss the impact our words can have on those most effected. Without adequate consultation and scientific information, the bishops approved a disturbing and confusing document on homosexuality.

In this document the bishops, perhaps inadvertently, promote secrecy, repression, and shame about one’s identity, which often lead to self-hatred, depression, blatant hypocrisy and dangerously inappropriate acting out. (Note Pastor Ted Haggard.)

In God’s wisdom, which the bishops speak about, there is also great mystery. None of us can assume to know God’s plans and interpret God’s will for others without humbly acknowledging the mystery of creation and seeking to understand the experiences of those who are diverse from ourselves.

For those seeking a positive vision and perspective on the subject of homosexuality, I would refer you to Always Our Children, a publication written by our bishops in 1997 and to the group Fortunate Families.com, who are following the tenets of the Catholic Church while deeply honoring the experiences of their friends, sons and daughters.

Anna Marie Franco

Outdated Church law
With great interest did I read the article “Bishops OK statements on Iraq, gays, contraception” (Voice, Nov. 20).

Cardinal William Keeler’s statement about the message of contraception raises a serious question for me. Why is this the first word on this subject in such a long time? Does the cardinal and his committee forget that family planning based on the use of contraceptives has become a common practice among the child-rearing generations, including Catholics, for quite a few decades? Many of the clergy quietly approved of this, if a person could live with his or her conscience.

To suddenly enforce an outdated Church law and create guilt feelings about receiving Communion under these circumstances may have the opposite effect. People may leave the Catholic Church, join other churches or turn away from a church entirely.

I hope the bishops take a good look at the situation of the Catholic Church in western Europe. Services are scarcely attended. As a result, churches are closing and either being torn down or converted into shopping malls or offices.

Is this the direction the bishops would like to lead the Catholic Church in the United States?

Adrianus Rommelse

Transparency, not bashing
I want to commend The Voice for publishing the review of “Deliver Us from Evil” (Voice, Nov. 6). There have been abuses within the Church and while they may not have directly affected the majority, they have indirectly affected us all.

“Deliver Us from Evil” and the published review serve a dual role. They help to inform all Catholics on the who, what, where, when, and how of these abuses, thus empowering us for healthy, active participation in the future of the Church.
Secondly, both the movie and The Voice’s publication of the review show that the Church is unafraid of transparency. Being open about the past and the present strengthens the Church. Avoidance can only weaken it.

Christ taught us that knowledge is power. It is no less true of abuses that tear down God’s kingdom as it is for graces that strengthen it. Matthew 10:16 “I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

Thomas M. Loarie

Abuse victim speaks
If Ms. Fiatarone of Pinole (Forum, Nov. 20) had taken the trouble to see the documentary “Deliver Us from Evil”, she would have seen how moving and important the film is for our Church in general and especially for the cardinals and bishops who administer the Church.

She stated that the movie could be “devastating to the Church,” which, in part, it should be. The abuse scandal is a worldwide scandal; it appeared to be mostly in the U.S. because Catholics here are more open to speaking up to the hierarchy. The abuses were not talked about by anyone until a few spoke up. This gave courage to others who lived in fear and shame to do the same.

When I was 14 years old, I was forcibly tied up with rope and raped on the floor of the rectory of a parish in the Oakland Diocese by a priest who was a trusted and spiritual friend of my family. I was the first person in the diocese to file a lawsuit under the Burton Act.

Until those of us who were abused began to come forward and speak of the horrible abuse done to us as children, many Catholics believed, as Ms. Fiatarone seems to, that it was something minor done by a few errant priests to a few altar boys. The facts show that not only were there numerous priests and bishops involved with attacks on both boys and girls, but that the coverup was so widespread, so egregious, so overwhelming that it began to almost overshadow the
fact that the abuse took place.

“Deliver Us from Evil” takes on both aspects of the abuse scandal. The film is devastating, repulsive and incredibly moving. Amy Berg has opened one scab concerning the serial rapes and abuse by one priest in one diocese in one state. There, of course, were thousands and thousands more.

I have returned to my Church and support it. I am disappointed with the hierarchy for what they did and did not do to protect innocent children and instead chose to protect their brother priests and their own reputations.

There seems to be an effort to change by many of the cardinals and bishops in the American Church. Our own Bishop Allen Vigneron stands out among them as having the understanding and compassion necessary to begin the healing of those abused by the clergy and of the Church, which was abused itself in the process.

To turn a blind eye on the situation, on the facts, in hopes that it is, as Ms. Fiatarone says, “enough already,” is both naive and harmful. To attempt to blame those who had the courage to come forward and tell the stories of their horrors is
counterproductive and hurtful. Only when we, as a broken Church, as a human
Church, as a hopeful Church, come together to heal can we, as Ms. Fiatarone hopes, “finish the title with ‘Amen’.”
Tim Lynch

Abuse did happen
Marie L. Fiatarone (Letters, Nov 20) manages to categorically state “My children and I are products of 12 years of Catholic education. We never experienced any such abuse from any priest or nun nor did any of our classmates.”

Ms. Fiatarone’s attitude is exemplary of what, for decades, kept abuse victims from coming forward. It says “We don’t want to hear about it, believe it of priests we may know, or deal with it. They’re just attacking the Church.”

The reality is that in the collective years of her's and her children’s Catholic education both are statistically almost certain to have known clergy abuse victims. The latter half of my dozen years in Catholic schools was in the Diocese of Oakland. I was exposed to five known abusers and I personally know of more than a dozen survivors amongst my peers.

Finally, I would say this to Ms. Fiatarone: One of the most vicious sexual predators in the Oakland Diocese was a priest who I clearly remember in a Roman collar and with a breviary in hand. Secrecy was another part of those traditions.

Greg Bullough
Doylestown, PA

A survivor’s pain
I was shocked and saddened to read the letter of Marie Fiatarone (Forum, Nov. 20) regarding “bashing” of the Catholic Church because of the movie review of “Deliver Us From Evil.” As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I find her attitude to be heartless, without empathy, compassion or concern, and the very reason why many survivors of clerical abuse never come forward.

Attitudes like hers make me feel like I am not welcome or accepted in the Church. I still haven’t gone back to Mass for this very reason. I won’t allow myself to be judged and victimized by others who wear blinders. No one delights in “bashing” the Church, but victims of abuse do deserve to have our voices heard, and need for others to learn about and to accept what has happened to us. We need understanding, support and prayers, not venom. Nowhere in her letter did Ms. Fiatarone express any sorrow for the pain we have suffered.

She should indeed feel blessed that she and her family were never “touched” by clerical abuse. I wish I had been so blessed. She should walk a mile in the shoes of those of us who continue to live with the scars our abusers left us with.

I applaud The Catholic Voice for mentioning this movie, and I hope that all Catholics will take the time to see it. Most viewers will leave with a far better understanding of what it means to endure this type of abuse and to struggle with the issues this type of abuse leaves.

Name withheld

Cleaning sacred vessels
I would like to thank Mark Gotvald for his letter (Forum, Nov. 20). He proved the point for Pope Benedict and Cardinal Arinze that priests and/or deacons should purify the sacred vessels after Holy Communion.

It is unfortunate that Mr. Gotvald does not appreciate “crumbs and drops of the Eucharist.” The dishes and the chalices hold the Sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the exact same Body and Blood that Jesus Christ offered at the Last Supper over 2000 years ago. That should blow any faithful Catholic Christian away.

Since the paten and the chalice hold the sacred species, cleaning the sacred vessels is not the “tedious work of washing dishes.” It appears that the Pope and Cardinal Arinze are trying tell us that this is an important function that must be done prayerfully and with great care by ordained ministers of the Catholic Church.

It is a beautiful thing to see my pastor purify the cup after communion. He does this with great prayer because he knows the great work he is doing by “washing dishes.” Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles, why shouldn’t priests and deacons take care of the dishes as imitators of Christ. And who cares how long it takes, it’s more time to “pray in silent thanksgiving.”

The directive is not about a “nonsensical idea.” It’s about responsibility and having the utmost care for the sacred vessels which contain the core elements of our Catholic Christian faith, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Joe Murray

Historical accuracy
Sandra Mortimore’s letter (Forum, Nov. 6) deserves comment. She quotes an earlier letter writer as saying “They (our forefathers) wisely insisted on the separation of church and state knowing of the potential for abuse and the inevitable negative consequences.” Our forefathers never said such a thing, thus the statement regarding the “potential for abuse…etc” has no foundation in fact.

What “our forefathers” did was develop the Bill of Rights (effective Dec. 15, 1791). This document contains the First Amendment which, in part, states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof:…etc.” Essentially, there will be no government-sponsored state religion, but there will be freedom of religion (not from religion).
It wasn’t until Jan. 1, 1802 that in a letter to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, President Thomas Jefferson used the phrase “separation of church and state.” Regarding Jefferson’s letter, D. L. Dreisbach, Professor of Justice, Law and Society at American University, has made this assessment:

“Several features of Jefferson’s letter challenge conventional, strictly secular constructions of his famous metaphor. First, the metaphor rests on a cluster of explicitly religious propositions (that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship.)
“Second, Jefferson’s wall was constructed in the service of the free exercise of religion. Use of the metaphor to restrict religious exercise (e.g. to disallow a citizen’s religious expression in the public square) conflicts with the very principle Jefferson hoped his metaphor would advance.

“Third, Jefferson concluded his presidential missive with a prayer, reciprocating his Baptist correspondents’ 'kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common father and creator of man.' Ironically, some strict separationists today contend that such solemn words in a presidential address violate a constitutional 'wall of separation.'"

A careful study of Jefferson’s letter and its context should take place prior to making the claims in the referenced letter.

W.J. Dick

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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