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February 19, 2007VOL. 45, NO. 4Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

Beyond sexuality and gender

Many thanks for The Voice’s front page coverage (Feb. 5) of recent sweeps by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of undocumented men, women and children in Richmond. Since increasing numbers of undocumented individuals at St. Mark’s and elsewhere are our sister and brother Catholics, the treatment they receive is an especially significant justice issue for U.S. Catholics.

Thanks, too, for including at the end of the article Cardinal Roger Mahony’s comment that “Some people question the Church’s role in politics.” This is certainly the case. But as the Walk for Life Parade (page 3) suggests, a significant number of Catholics clearly do not so much question the Church’s role in politics as they question its role in politics beyond issues of sexuality and gender.

It seems perfectly logical to many, I suspect, that bishops would exclude from communion, or threaten to exclude, Catholic candidates who do not oppose abortion.

On the other hand, it seems only logical to conclude that the Church has strayed into areas that do not concern it if Catholic candidates who support the war in Iraq were to be excluded from communion. And yet the war in Iraq is unjust according to Catholic just war standards.

The Voice is to be commended for featuring the ICE sweeps of the undocumented as well as the Jan. 27 anti-war demonstrations in Washington on its first page and the local Walk for Life event on page 3.

I do not believe that the positioning of these articles means that the Voice considers fetal life less important than the lives of the undocumented and of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. But that positioning does undercut the notion that abortion is the only political issue that ought to concern the Catholics of the Diocese of Oakland.

Marian Ronan
Associate Professor of Contemporary Theology and Religion
American Baptist Seminary of the West/Graduate Theological Union

Orientation is God-given

As a heterosexual Catholic, I could not help but recognize two factual errors in the letters of Catherine Norman and Lan Nguyen (Forum, Feb. 5) on the subject of homosexuality.

The first writer referred to “people with homosexual inclinations ... enslaved by those sinful tendencies.” The second writer quoted a Catholic priest telling a gay Catholic, “You are called to be like me, to be celibate.”

Homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is a fundamental part of one’s psychosexual makeup. It is an orientation, not a choice. We choose behaviors, not our God-given orientation. A gay man having sexual intercourse with a woman is not straight; a lesbian having sex with a man is not heterosexual. The Vatican considers homosexuality an “intrinsic disorder,” not a “tendency” or an “inclination.”

The recent document on this subject issued by the American bishops in Baltimore does not change the official position of Rome --- even though more and more straight Catholics see homosexuality as part and parcel of God’s good creation.

The last I knew, the Catholic Church taught that everyone --- clergy, religious, laity --- is called to be chaste but not necessarily celibate. Chastity and celibacy are two different subjects. I know of no priest who is qualified to tell a person that s/he is called to be celibate. If a male wants to pursue ordination, he knows that celibacy is part of the package. If a male wants to get married, he knows that chastity is part of the package.

As a retired federal employee who once hired physicians, psychologists, and other healthcare personnel for the government, I know that professionals are subject to the same biases and prejudicial attitudes as is everybody else.

For this reason, I regard Ms. Norman’s link to a website run by the so-called National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality as useless. The “findings” cited by this link are shot through full of holes. If we acknowledge, for instance, that human sexuality is a continuum, then we can easily understand how someone “in or near the middle” could supposedly be “cured.” This association promotes pseudo-science.

Our Church needs to see homosexuality as what it is, namely, a normal and inherently healthy manifestation of God’s loving creation. The current teaching is nothing more than a slap to God’s face.

Joseph Jaglowicz
Louisville, KY

Reverse feminist turn

My husband and I have participated in the Walk for Life (Voice, Feb. 5) all three years because we fervently believe in the sacredness of life. The Walk was a wonderfully strong, silent statement affirming respect for life. We were highly energized and encouraged by the powerful showing to support this critical issue in our society.

However, I am seriously concerned about the subtle turn the Walk is taking toward a feminist movement. We all know women are not totally innocent in this concern. They are not forced to abort their child/children. Many women freely, irresponsibly, chose to have an abortion.

Yet, numerous signs carried said “Women deserve better than abortion” and “Abortion hurts women.” While this is true it is also misleading, going all the way from simply misguided to downright lies, in an effort to support a cause other than life.

It would be far more accurate and much stronger to have signs that read “Children deserve better than abortion” and “Abortion hurts children.” Children are the totally innocent victims. It is important that we not overemphasize the Walk as a feminist issue.

Abortion hurts children. Abortion hurts women. Abortion hurts men, Abortion hurts families. Abortion hurts society. Let us always be mindful of and focus on the broader ramifications.

The Walk is a marvelous statement in support of life. Let us not make it a woman’s cause only.

Pat Garidel
via email

Illegals are criminals

I cannot believe that The Voice devoted most of the front page (Feb. 5) to an article about the “fears” of the illegal aliens being caught and deported. What you call undocumented men, women and children are in fact illegally in this country.

Saying that ICE officials misrepresent themselves as police is disrespectful to the men and women who are charged with policing and protecting our borders and immigration policies. All my relatives came to this country legally, learned the language, the customs and the American way of life and did not become a burden on society.

Why do we now pay for all the medical expenses of illegal aliens and allow illegal children to be educated in our schools at our expense?

You choose to glorify the criminals - yes, illegal aliens are criminals -- and condemn ICE for doing what is right. They should live in fear - all criminals should always live in fear that they will be caught and dealt with within the framework of the American justice system.

Alex Dourov

What’s in a name?

Every person here in America who is, or was, a citizen of another country is, by definition, an “alien.” Some aliens are legal by virtue of holding visas to visit, attend school, or work subject to continuing compliance with our laws.

Some legal aliens, but by no means all of them, are also properly characterized as “immigrants” either because they have already become legal citizens or because they intend to become legal citizens and are in the legal process of doing so.

It is an unconscionable affront to legal aliens, especially to those who have done what it takes to become citizens, to refer to illegal aliens - those who are here without legal permission - as “immigrants.” The distinction is clear and necessary to the orderly administration of our democratic society in which everyone, albeit free, is expected and required to uphold as well as to obey the law.

It is outrageous that some members of the laity, clergy, and hierarchy urge that the distinction between legal and illegal be ignored and, in so doing, fail in their duty as citizens to uphold the law.

I wonder if our bishops would be as eager to welcome masses of illegal aliens if
they were Muslim refugees from Iraq or Palestine, Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe, Buddhist sweatshop refugees from Southeast Asia, or any sort of struggling, suffering people other than presumed faithful Roman Catholics from south of the border?

Tom Billings

Support immigration reform

The recent local raids by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (Voice, Feb. 5) highlight the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform in our country.
The U.S. Catholic bishops have called for a comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. immigration system which would include the following elements:

1)An earned legalization program for undocumented immigrants, regardless of nationality, which includes a path to citizenship; 2) A future worker program (i.e. “temporary” worker program) which includes protections for both U.S. and foreign-born workers with an option for a path to citizenship; 3) Family-based immigration reform which reduces family backlogs and waiting times for family reunification; 4) The restoration of due process protections for immigrants; and 5) Policies which address the root causes of migration.

Any just and humane immigration bill should contain these basic elements.
Specifically, any legalization program must be workable (easily administered) and achievable (with requirements that are not onerous) and should not divide the undocumented population into groups. Any future worker program must contain worker protections, adequate wages, and a path to citizenship for participants.

This spring the Congress will be debating immigration reform and the bishops are encouraging us to contact our legislators and communicate our values and hopes for laws that promote human dignity.

Contact your Senator and Representative as soon as possible with the message that comprehensive immigration reform must be enacted this year with the elements supported by the U.S. bishops.

To learn more and to take action, visit the Justice for Immigrants website at: www.justiceforimmigrants.orgResources are in English and Spanish. At the same website click on the CLINIC icon to find resources for immigrants. As this policy debate continues, let us remember and respect the basic rights of the immigrants who live among us.

Mary Doyle
Social justice resource specialist
Diocese of Oakland

Tri-Valley high school needed

I am not alone in expressing my deep disappointment in Bishop Vigneron for postponing the building of a much-needed Catholic high school in the Tri-Valley.

Both my husband and I attended Catholic elementary and high schools and can attest to the great benefit they provide not only to the Catholic Church but the community as a whole. And now as a St. Michael School parent, I am again witnessing the great gift of Catholic education.

We are in desperate need of a Catholic high school in the Tri-Valley. The future of the Church is our youth, and while the new cathedral will be beautiful, its pews will be empty without future, practicing Catholics.

Torri Nagy

Funding a high school

The growth of the Livermore and San Ramon Valley areas more than exceeds the need for a new Catholic high school now.

We also have the financial ability to fully fund the new construction costs both now and in the future given the affluence and desire of the residents of the area.

I personally am willing to donate to the new high school because my school age children deserve a quality Catholic education. They don’t need a new cathedral.

Jim Croker
Via e-mail

Diocese needs a cathedral

Cathedrals always build up the body of Christ. Oakland needs one badly, so too, the entire diocese. Nothing is cheap anymore. Those who are against it will be against it. Those who are for it will listen and try to help.

It will not be easy, but it will be built and God will be pleased. In time it will mold the faithful of the East Bay to a new understanding of light and how it all comes from Christ. It will profoundly affect the intellectual and spiritual life of the East Bay.

Thomas P. Greerty

Cathedral obfuscation 

On Dec. 15, 2003, The Voice reported the Cathedral site includes “… conference center… and mausoleum.” “Total cost of the cathedral complex, which includes several other buildings, is $131 million.” The article said that the site cost $31.5 million, leaving
nearly $100 million for actually building the complex. 

On Jan. 8, 2007 The Voice announced the total is now $190 million, up almost 50 percent from the 2003 total. Why? Quoting: “Bishop Vigneron said the original estimates did not include costs for the mausoleum and ... conference center. Those expenditures along with the cost for the cathedral’s organ, account for $44 million of the additional costs, said Michael Brown, spokesman for the cathedral project.”

In that same issue, Bishop Vigneron wrote a letter about the cathedral center and said, “We held the mausoleum and conference center costs out of the first estimate and knew the number likely to be low.” 

So, in 2003 the diocese said the conference center and mausoleum were included in the $131 million. In January 2007 Bishop Vigneron said the conference center and mausoleum costs were purposely not included in the 2003 total. 

The question arises: If the committee in 2003 knew the total building cost was 44 percent greater than revealed to them by the diocese, and such was known by the bishop but purposely concealed, would it have recommended going ahead? Or does total cost make any difference, given the diocese’s desire to build this monument. 

Withholding the $44 million cost information for several years and especially until after construction began does not seem in consonance with “Cathedral of Light” ideals, i.e., openness and transparency. 

Prediction - within 2007, cost projections will top $225 million. 

But does anyone care? 

Joe Moran 

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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