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 March 5 , 2007VOL. 45, NO. 5Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

A misunderstanding

Although I am not directly responsible for raising funds for the cathedral project, I feel compelled to address it, since many comments from the Catholic public are directed to the Diocesan Development Department.

Many comments reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the cathedral project. They seem to come from the perspective that the bishop has accumulated huge sums of money and then diverted them to the cathedral against the donors’ expressed wishes. This is disgracefully unfair to an honest and exemplary spiritual leader.

In fact, the cathedral project is donor- driven. A number of generous organizations and individuals have committed the leadership funding to make the project happen. It has been past the point of no return for years now and abandoning it would not only squander millions of dollars already invested, but also be a serious violation of covenants with the most important Catholic philanthropists in our diocese.

No money donated for other purposes has been diverted to the cathedral. With few exceptions, those who have contributed most to the Cathedral project are also, not surprisingly, the same ones who have contributed the most, by far, to Catholic education, to individual Catholic schools, to FACE (Family Aid-Catholic Education), and to the Bishop’s Appeal over the years.
No doubt, their generosity will continue in the future to help with other needs of the Church, including Pope John Paul II High School in Livermore, and other exciting initiatives that are planned and that are going to happen in good time.

The large amounts involved may seem staggering, but they must be put in perspective. Since the cathedral project began, approximately $300 million in capital projects have been undertaken by Catholic institutions within the diocese, most of them approved by the diocese, all of them serving small communities exclusively—some in parishes without schools who have given higher priority to other building projects. This is about four to five times the amount that still needs to be raised for the cathedral after realizing the appreciated value of properties belonging to the project that can and will be sold.

I have often heard it said that downtown Oakland is the wrong place to build a cathedral. Are some saying that only wealthy suburban parishes deserve to have inspiring places of worship? That decaying old churches are good enough for minorities in the inner city?

Parishioners of four former downtown parishes will soon celebrate our Catholic faith in our most beautiful setting, while also sharing it with every other Catholic in the diocese. They will all be closer to the Cathedral of Christ the Light than many suburban parishioners are to their churches.

The project will include five revenue-producing elements and serve other important needs like the Chancery office and bishop’s residence. Social services to the poor of the surrounding community will be dispensed from the project and several other interesting initiatives are already being pursued.
Moreover, its cost must be evaluated in terms of its longevity—which could be as long as half a millennium or more.

The importance of other works of the Church, in comparison to the cathedral, is a matter of individual consciences, but to protest the building of the cathedral by cutting off support for the schools, our clergy, and family programs is a step in the wrong direction. We are called to help build up our Church in many ways and we should respond to every call that we can.

John Neudecker
Director of Development
Diocese of Oakland

One project at a time

The complaints regarding the funding for the new cathedral have been triggered once again, this time by Bishop Vigneron’s decision to follow his Finance Council’s advice. The new high school to be built in Livermore will cost over $90 million. The new cathedral has raised less than half of the funds needed to complete the complex and still needs to raise more than $90 million.

Both of these are major fund-raising tasks and require the direct and complete attention of the bishop, else both will fail.

Complaints are being made that the diocese is putting bricks and mortar ahead of the education of our children. Those who claim this should check the diocesan budget. Of the funds raised by the annual Bishop’s Appeal, 40 percent is earmarked for the schools, in addition to other diocesan support.

Apparently those who are complaining do not fully understand what is happening. The bishop’s report published in The Voice (Jan. 8) clearly pointed out that activities surrounding the building of the high school will continue. “These include finalizing the design, securing of the necessary building permits, building an access road through the property from the Springtown exit off the 580 freeway, and creating the school’s governance,
financial and administrative structures.” It is fund raising that must be delayed.

If the building of a high school is so critical, I suggest that the people in the Tri-Valley area conduct their own fund-raising drive.

Clifford R. Wiesner

Answer cathedral questions

For the cathedral to pull people together rather than alienate them, I urge the diocese to candidly address the following recurrent sources of confusion and anger:

l. Financial Planning. Why did the diocese begin construction without a clear commitment of needed funds? If funds were not clearly available, why wasn’t an existing church used?

2. Obfuscation of Cost. As Joe Moran queries (Forum, Feb. 19), why the gross contradiction between The Voice articles of Dec. 15, 2003 and Jan. 8, 2007 regarding the real cost and what exactly would be included?

3. Who Pays? As the project started, the diocese announced that funding would be raised through private sources and that parishioners would not be expected to donate. Now, suddenly a priest is being assigned to promote greater “ownership” of the project by parishioners. Will this lead to an informal but expected “goal” for each parish similar to the Bishop’s Appeal?

4. Pope John Paul II High School. After decades of waiting, a green light was finally given a few months ago to proceed with construction of this much needed Tri-Valley school. Suddenly the light was seemingly turned red with the explanation that only one major construction project could be pursued at a time.

First, as any major CEO can attest, large entities can juggle more than one ball at a time. (And, if not, why was the green light given?) Second, an obvious lesson from the clergy abuse scandal: there is nothing people feel more strongly about or give a higher priority to than their children. Third, will parishioners affected by this indefinite delay be motivated to donate?

To garner the support of parishioners throughout the diocese, these questions need to be addressed promptly and openly.

Bob Norris

Orthodoxy attracts youth

The Feb. 19 article on young Catholics was a downer, but I don’t believe things are as bad as it purports. Where kids are given orthodox Catholic teachings and parents drive their kids often long distances to Masses offered by holy, reverend, orthodox priests, these young people are highly likely to love and esteem the Church.

Too many touchy-feely Confirmation programs treat kids like morons, never explaining the reason why the Church holds the positions she does on contraception, abortion, homosexual lifestyle, premarital sex etc.

In the article, Catherine Heinhold, a campus minister at Georgetown, said “many students believe it is more important to serve the poor than go to Mass.” And that is my point! Some adults dealing with young Catholics don’t have the faith themselves, so all they pass on to the kids is a watered-down humanism.

My college-attending daughter told me she thought she had been partying too much so she decided to give a couple of hours on a Friday night to Jesus in front of the tabernacle on campus at the University of Dallas (an orthodox Catholic university).

She thought she would be a loser for being in chapel on a Friday night but was amazed as all evening students were dropping in to pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. She said these students will party Saturday night, but they treasure their faith and the vast majority of them will be at Mass on Sunday and there are long lines for confessions.

If you seek out parishes and colleges that love the Church, you’ll find the faith alive and well even among beer-drinking, fun-loving students.

Mary Arnold

Young Catholics don’t believe

After reading The Voice article on “millennial” Catholics (Feb. 19), I feel compelled to voice a strong opinion regarding this topic.

The time has come for the Catholic Church to speak out on this subject instead of following the p.c. rules that controls most of the media in the U.S. today.

When someone joins any organization, it is assumed that they at least “believe” in the rules, customs and laws. Whether or not they “follow” all of rules is a separate issue and we are told to leave any judgment up to God.

The label “millennial” Catholics is very misleading. The reason most young adults don’t attend regular Mass etc. is because they do not believe or accept the basic teachings of the Catholic Church or the Bible for that matter.

Therefore, this group does not represent Catholic membership no matter how it is labeled. I believe that this same logic applies to the rest of the adults who believe that abortion, divorce, premarital sex etc. is OK. No sense beating this to death although there are numerous other examples to support this viewpoint.

In conclusion, I wonder how many “real” Catholics exist in the world today? I know that the membership in Europe has fallen dramatically and it looks like the U.S. is next.

David Brusiee

Use humanizing language
Hispanic Catholics cross the United States border every day. They look for a better life. They look for work to feed their families. They see the immense comparative wealth which we have in the United States and want to enjoy a similar lifestyle.

Yet, sometimes the reactions of the press and elected U.S. leaders to the immigration issue is heated as if the topic focus is killer bees or rodents scurrying across the border. We all know that language can be used to dehumanize a situation.

While there are enormous economic and national security issues tied to whatever decision is made in the immigration policy debate, the core consideration should be: What future immigration policy will affirm basic U.S. values and be morally justifiable?

For Catholic political leaders across the United States, there is an additional burden because whatever they decide will impact their fellow Catholics who because of chance of birth happen to be immigrants and who are workers in the vineyard, no better and no worse than babies born middle class or higher status here.

The run-up to any government policy is a stream of language woven into stories, into scenarios, into creative predictions of what could be and extrapolations based on the situation now. Language is the tool of government policy and of everyday thinking for you and me.

Language as a tool has a good as well as a self-serving side. We should not be afraid to use sanctifying language whenever possible to clear a path to clear thinking especially on the immigration issue.

Jesus Christ on the mount said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.”

These powerful words from God, our Savior, trump our frail day-to-day words.

John Brunson

Uphold immigration laws

I take exception to the Voice article on the ICE arrests of illegal immigrants in the East Bay (Voice, Feb. 5, Feb. 19). The fear is the result of the immigrants knowing that they have disobeyed the laws of this country and realizing that they are about to be held accountable. The ICE officers are only doing their jobs.

Illegal immigrants are breaking the U.S. immigration laws. Federal law enforcement officers are obligated to arrest them when encountered. Many of those arrested in the recent incidents have committed felony crimes against citizens of this country, have been deported, and have then returned. All of them have ignored our immigration laws.

I know that your next remark will be, “Poor souls. All they want is to take care of their families and to have a better life in the United States.” Hogwash. I would like a better life too, but that does not entitle me to commit crimes such as illegal entry, document fraud, fraudulent use of benefits designated for legal residents and/or citizens, driving without a license and/or insurance, etc.

If I used a fraudulent Social Security number or committed identify theft as these people do every day, I would be arrested and put into prison. The Church would not be lobbying for my release. Why should these illegal aliens be treated any differently? They should be punished to the full extent of the law.

If I recall, there is a phrase in the New Testament that reads, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” I was taught in my 12 years of Catholic education that this statement supported the separation between Church and state. The Church needs to butt out of immigration law issues and let our law enforcement officers do their jobs.

The Church should be encouraging its members to uphold the laws of this country. To do otherwise is to support disregard for civil law. Of course, recalling the behavior of the Church on the child abuse issue, I must only assume that the Church picks and chooses which laws it will and will not obey to its advantage.

Joyce Harrison

Help Palestinian Christians

Recently I became acquainted again with Bethlehem Imports through contact with Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour of Galilee. They help Palestinian Christians who earn their living as woodcarvers, embroiderers and making greeting cards. 

Now these handicraft workers are suffering financially because of the current political situation in Bethlehem.

These artisans are often confined to their homes and restricted from traveling. Likewise, tourists, who were the bulk of their customers, are not visiting the area. These circumstances are making it very difficult for these workers to support themselves and their families.

Bethlehem Imports is helping out by offering beautifully hand-carved olive wood items, including attractive Nativity sets, on no risk consignment.

Embroidered items are also available. An individual or organization can earn 30 percent profit on all items sold while helping severely restricted Palestinian families.

This arrangement offers hope and employment for the beleaguered wood carvers. It’s a win-win situation. It’s fund raising made easy. In the spirit of concern exemplified at the wedding at Cana, please consider helping out.

You can find information about this program at: www.bethlehemimports.orgor by contacting Cerena Fischer at BethlehemImport2@aol.com.

Brother John Samaha, S.M.

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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