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 January 22, 2007VOL. 45, NO. 2Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

Gay outreach is ministry

Michael Arata’s statement (Forum, Jan. 8) that “most diocesan ‘outreaches to gays and lesbians’ routinely misrepresent Church teaching” is absolutely false and is an insult to the bishops who oversee these ministries.
As resource director of the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries, I know that these ministries operate within Church teaching and authority. Evidence of this is that they are attacked by extremists on the left and right who want to force their agendas.

Bishops and archbishops have shared with me the criticism they face in providing authentic pastoral care that balances Church teaching, the insights of the human sciences, and the witness of gay and lesbian persons of faith.

As the Catholic Catechism so wisely states: “Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.”

Successful integration is what diocesan and parish ministries with gay and lesbian Catholics is about. This is not accomplished with simplistic words, but with respect for complex growth processes and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

In the Diocese of Oakland, the Outreach Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Catholics and Their Families has provided support, education, and spiritual growth opportunities for over 15 years. The ministry “encourages lesbian and gay Catholics to take an active role within the Christian community and to allow gospel values and Catholic wisdom to shape them as they grow in faith and chastity, so that they may achieve the fulfillment and happiness to which Christ calls them.”

This ministry can be contacted through the Oakland Diocese at 510-893-4711 or through Michael Harmuth at 925-918-0863.

Father Jim Schexnayder
Walnut Creek

Dangers of reparative therapy

Michael Arata’s letter (Forum, Jan. 8) entitled “Same-Sex Affliction” deserves a few comments.

Mr. Arata cites (but does not name) six Catholic mental health professionals who advocate teaching about the “horrendous dangers of homosexual activity and the successes of reparative therapy.”

In 1998, the American Psychiatric Association released a position statement: “The potential risks of ‘reparative therapy’ are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”

Dr. Ariel Shidilo and Dr. Michael Schroeder, in a 2003 article published in “Professional Psychology: Research and Practice,” report on a survey of 202 individuals who had participated in sexual orientation conversion interventions.

They found that only four percent of those individuals were able to successfully “manage their homosexual behavior,” with over 74 percent of the group experiencing “significant long-term (psychological) damage from the conversion therapy” (page 254). People in this group blamed themselves for not being able to change and reported feeling worse than when they first sought conversion therapy.

An attraction to a member of one’s same gender is not an “affliction.” Sexual orientation is more like a trait than a state, more like a person’s rather immutable personality than just simply a behavior. It’s an identity; it’s a personality characteristic; it is the core of one’s being.

Mr. Arata also cites Courage as a source of “consistently authentic ‘vision and perspective.’“ The Catholic Action Network for Social Justice has published a fact sheet on Courage the shows how Courage’s understanding of homosexuality directly contradicts statements by major professional mental health and medical associations, including the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The fact sheet can be accessed at http://catholicactionnetwork.org/dec05/documents/CourageFactSheet_001.pdf.

Jim McCrea

No theological lapse
Father Basil De Pinto seems to have reacted rashly in his letter (Forum, Jan. 8). In doing so, he has presumptuously criticized the vicar of the Diocese of Rome and the Holy Father.

The decision by the Diocese of Rome to refuse to allow a Catholic burial for Mr. Welby did not involve a “theological lapse” nor an “appalling refusal of compassionate care a few days before Christmas,” as Father De Pinto falsely asserted. Mr. Welby had been a longtime advocate of the legal right to euthanasia, a position clearly at odds with settled, definitive Catholic doctrine.

“In denying a Catholic funeral for Welby, the Rome Diocese made it clear that the ruling was not a reaction to the man’s death but a result of his earlier high-profile involvement in public campaigns for legalized euthanasia.” (Source: http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2007/jan/07010303.html)

I believe Father De Pinto owes an apology to readers of The Catholic Voice for his misinformation, to the vicar of the Diocese of Rome for presumptuously criticizing his pastoral judgment, and to the Holy Father for impetuously criticizing his administrative appointments.

It would seem that Father De Pinto has some lapses of his own to attend to.

Mark Bauman
San Jose

Speaking the truth

I wish to comment on Thomas Hockel’s extremely well-put letter (Forum, Jan. 8) concerning the Church’s teaching on contraception. Before the letters of judgment and condemnation start coming in, I would like to state my gratitude to God for providing us with someone else who, in his love for Christ and his Church, is willing to, in a sense, put his life on the line, by sacrificing self for the will of God as taught by the Church He Himself founded for our salvation.

Mr. Hockel speaks the truth, though most do not want to hear it nowadays. What couples do is, I agree, up to their consciences, well-formed or otherwise, and God will be their judge. But the Church’s teaching and the truth of it is as unchanging as God is. God bless Mr. Hockel and may He provide us with many more like him to help us along this difficult road to our eternal goal--heaven.

Diane Dawes
San Francisco

What would Jesus do?
Adrianus Rommelse complained (Forum, Dec. 11) about the U.S. bishops’ statement on the use of contraceptives, saying they were suddenly enforcing an outdated Church law and creating guilt feelings about receiving Communion.

When I read and hear these attitudes, I no longer wonder why the Protestants seem to start a new church every month. I guess there is a church out there for everyone to allow others to do their thing.

I would strongly suggest to the writer and those others who support these more liberal lifestyles to ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?”

Rommelse asked if the bishops had forgotten that family planning based on the use of contraceptives has become a common practice. I would remind the writer that abortion has also become a common practice for too many Catholics.

Yes, what would Jesus do?

Maybe instead of complaining, we should spend more time praying and going to daily Mass?

Rich Petersen

Teens don’t count

The diocese has done it again. The new cathedral takes precedence over everything else that happens in the Oakland Diocese.

We have been told for the last several years that the new Cathedral of Christ the Light was being paid for by major donors and would not affect the rest of life in the diocese. Now our teens will have to wait for the new high school in the Tri-Valley area (Voice, Dec. 11, 2006). This just tells me what is more important to our bishop and the leaders of the diocese.

Here is another reason why the Church keeps having our youth leave the Church. Let’s put the new high school back on the front burner and stop the bad politics.

William Beiriger

Focus on the poor

Regarding Bishop Vigneron’s article (Voice, Jan. 8) urging Catholics to pray and act for an end to violence and support the new cathedral, I am overwhelmed by the monies needed for the new cathedral. The bishop intimates that we will be “instruments of that peace right here in our families and in our neighborhoods” if we give to this façade.

The amount of violence in the diocese is overwhelming and yet a cathedral will change that? The article in the same issue states that St. Mary’s Center, which does great works for the homeless and less fortunate, has received $1,365,000 in contributions and has entered an agreement with an option to buy the property for $3.2 million from the diocese in the future.

And we have read that the Catholic high school in Livermore can’t get started until the money for the cathedral is funded. We, in all the parishes, were told that no monies would be used for the cathedral from our parish collections. Another $100 million is needed for the cathedral. Should we give to organizations that help people daily or to a façade that to me is embarrassing and a disgrace?

What are we showing to those who need our help? Hope to those people is not a cathedral and certainly won’t stop violence. We definitely need to pray.

Virginia Everist

Put children first

Once again the diocese is delaying building a new high school in Livermore because our bishop cannot focus on two projects at once (Voice, Dec. 11). His leadership is more important for the cathedral over starting a new high school, the first one to be built in over 40 years.

The need for a Catholic high school in our area was here before the earthquake in 1989 that destroyed the old cathedral and long before any plans and fundraising for a new one. This raises serious doubts about their commitment to “high quality, accessible” Catholic education of which the bishop wrote in a statement to parishes about his decision.

We are tired of being ignored or thought of by those in power in Oakland as being not important enough to be given secondary Catholic education out here in the Tri-Valley area. Studies conducted for the diocese over the past 10 years have shown that Tri-Valley parents are eager for a Catholic high school in their area.

The children should come first. I will pray for a change in priorities.

Nancy Morgan

A plea from Gaza

I was so happy to see the article (Voice, Jan. 8) about the only Catholic priest in Gaza, Msgr. Manuel Mussalam. I recently spent a sleepless night after reading a letter from him in a SABEEL publication:

He wrote: “Gaza cannot sleep! The people are suffering unbelievably. They are
hungry, thirsty, have no electricity or clean water. They are suffering constant bombardments and sonic booms from low flying aircraft. They need food: bread and water. Children and babies are hungry...people have no money to buy food. The price of food has doubled and tripled due to the situation. We cannot drink water from the ground here as it is salty and not hygienic. People must buy water to drink.

“They have no income, no opportunities to get food and water from outside and no opportunities to secure money inside of Gaza. They have no hope...Without electricity children are afraid. No light at night. No oil or candles...Thirsty children are crying, afraid and desparate.

Many children have been violently thrown from their beds at night from the sonic booms. Many arms and legs have been broken. These planes fly low over Gaza and then reach the speed of sound. This shakes the ground and creates shock waves like an earthquake that causes people to be thrown from their bed.

I weigh 120 kilos and was almost thrown from my bed due to the shock wave produced by a low flying jet that made a sonic boom...Gaza cannot sleep...the cries of hungry children, the sullen faces of broken men and women who are just sitting in their hungry emptiness with no light, no hope, no love. These actions are war crimes!”

We seldom hear these voices in our corporate media. Thank you, Catholic Voice!

Vivian Zelaya

Join ‘Die-in’ for peace

In his address at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “’A time has come when silence is betrayal.’...Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world....but we must speak.”

I invite everyone to seriously consider joining a stand for peace on Thursday, Feb. 1, at 1 p.m. in front of the San Francisco Federal Building.

The action and all aspects of the gathering will be carried out with respect and nonviolence.

This “Die-in” involves either the simple action of lying down on the ground, covered by a white sheet with no intention of being arrested; lying down in front of the entrances to the Federal Building and getting up when warned by police, or risking arrest by remaining lying down.

The gathering and “Die-in” will follow the noon vigil sponsored by the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco, now in its fourth year.

Feb 1 will be the fourth monthly “Die-in”.” This one is intended to call Catholics and youth to participate. We are calling for the presence of as many people as possible.

Stella Goodpasture, OP
Promoter of Social Justice
Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose

Forgiveness, not revenge

In the Ten Commandments, it says, “Thou shalt not kill.” All Christians, Jews and most other religions live by that law.

Then why do we still have capital punishment in California? Why was Saddam Hussein executed? Why do judges and governors still have people executed?

Families and friends of victims say that it will bring closure. I say it is an act of revenge. The right way of closure is to follow the example of John Paul II who went to the prison in Rome and told his would-be assassin that he had forgiven him, and the example of the Amish people in Pennsylvania who forgave the man who killed 10 of their children. God will bless them abundantly.

Nick Bruckner

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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