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June 4, 2007 VOL. 45, NO. 11Oakland, CA


What do you value most about your parish?

Send us your thoughts, in 150 words or less, to: voice@oakdiocese.org
Or mail to: Reader’s Forum, 3014 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland CA 94610.
Include your name, address and telephone number.
Deadline is Monday, June 11.


Letters from Readers

Insurance for gun owners

Even though they do not agree with my view, I welcome the responses by Dave Day and Arthur W. Peterson (Forum, May 21) on the issue of guns and violence in our society. We must keep talking with one another about this life and death topic, and not wait till it is stimulated again by the next disaster.

I really believe no one wants another disaster, nor the daily toll of violence that is taking young lives on the streets of our cities.

Yes, the culture of violence and disrespect perpetrated in music and film is part of the problem. But the proliferation of guns is an even bigger part of the problem. It is simply not true that there is more violence and crime in countries with gun control (like the U.K. and many others) than here in the U.S. We absolutely top the list for deaths caused by guns. And the mantra “guns don’t kill, people do” is so trite and tired already.

An auto can kill and maim. Isn’t that why insurance coverage is required for a car or truck? Perhaps, we should require substantial insurance coverage before the purchase of a gun. (It was actually my doctor who suggested this, and I want to pass along the idea). Besides making it more difficult to get a gun, it would be a sort of bond against the damage its owner/user might inflict.

Tom McMahon

A wealth of resources

The article on Catholics for the Common Good and the visit of Ambassador Ray Flynn (Voice, May 21) might leave the reader with the impression that there is no source of formation on Catholic Social Teaching (CST) in the Oakland Diocese and that there are no opportunities for legislative action.
In fact, our diocese has a wealth of resources on CST, employing two full-time staff in social justice and respect life who provide outreach, formation, and advocacy.

We integrate CST into religious education in our schools, youth programs, high schools, adult education programs, and liturgies. Our diocesan staff, parish staffs and social ministry groups, religious communities, and Catholic Charities provide leadership on issues including the dignity of the human person, rights to health care and housing, immigration, economic justice, global solidarity, and stewardship of creation.

There are JustFaith groups in many parishes that commit to studying Catholic Social Teaching, praying, and serving for eight months. We have graduates of our School for Pastoral Ministry who specialize in CST. All our deacons receive formation in this area. We maintain websites and communicate regularly with leaders in our parishes.

Our people are also involved as “faithful citizens” who register others to vote, study the issues, pray, and vote. They keep up on the myriad social issues and write letters, call, and visit legislators. Our community organizing groups, including four PICO groups, mobilize local communities to visit local legislators and advocate for community issues.

Over 80 people from the Oakland Diocese attended the Global Poverty gathering in San Francisco in October. Close to a 1000 attended the Walk for Life in January. Two teams recently visited all our legislators in Sacramento for Catholic Lobby Day. Thousands signed cards on immigration reform that were recently delivered to Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Some 400 people receive regular updates on events and legislative action from my office on a full range of life issues.

These legislative alerts come from the U.S. bishops’ conference in Washington, D.C., Catholic Charities USA, and the Catholic Conference in Sacramento. Network Catholic Lobby and Catholic Relief Services also have legislative networks.

The purpose of Catholic Social Teaching, already central to our life in this diocese, is to bring our faith into dialogue with the pressing issues of our day, and inspire us to action, not as “soldiers in the army of Jesus Christ” as Ambassador Flynn stated, but as disciples, friends, brothers and sisters of Jesus.

Mary Doyle
Social Justice Resource Specialist
Diocese of Oakland

Preparation key for homily

I agree with both letter writers who stated that most homilies are boring and uninspiring (Forum, May 21).

For many years in my parish, we had a priest who for the homily essentially repeated the Gospel he had just read. He would add a few more sentences, but that was about it.

I know that you don’t have to be a great orator to be a good priest, but at least an effort can be made. I would assume that there has to be a homily preparation service that can be subscribed to. If so, all it would take would be a little time to make that homily one’s own rather than just read it (I have seen that also.). The parishioners would be grateful.

In this regard, Father James Driscoll is a very impressive homilist. He is learned, a great speaker, and inspirational. If you have never heard him deliver a homily you have really missed something.

Dick Olsen

Amends needed

Last month Pope Benedict said the Church had not imposed itself on the indigenous peoples of the Americas. He made comments that the Church had purified them (us) and a revival of their (our) religions would be a backward step.

I, along with many other indigenous people of the Americas, was shocked and horrified to hear this, given the history of the Church’s involvement in genocide, torture and abuse of our people. It is even more absurd in light of the fact that the Church, under the previous Pope John Paul, spoke in 1992 of mistakes in the evangelization of native peoples of the Americas.
What the current pope has said is arrogant and historically inaccurate. How dare he attempt to rewrite history in favor of the Church that kept us as slaves, tortured us and killed those of us who would not convert to Catholicism. Does he not know his own history?

We lived in the Americas just fine before the European invaders got lost and stumbled on to our shores. There were millions of us here from the Arctic Circle to the tip of Patagonia. We had trade routes that extended for thousands of miles.

We invented the concept of zero before any other group on Mother Earth, had immense cities and learning centers, highly advanced civilizations and agriculture techniques that are still used today.

We were and are a spiritual people with highly evolved concepts that are only now beginning to be understood by quantum mechanics and physics. We have a culture of sharing and generosity that takes care of the old people, the sick and the weak.

Europeans brought us the concepts of selfishness and greed, as well as venereal disease, small pox, malaria, mass genocide, torture, death and suffering. The invaders continue to steal our land and resources.

The pope would do well to make amends and restitution rather than promote a false history of the Church’s relationship to Native Americans.

Jesus Christ was a holy person who was loving and kind. It seems to me that the current pope would do well to emulate him. It might even do him some good to explore some of the literature written by Native Americans so that he might understand what actually happened here.

Pennie Opal Plant
San Pablo

(Editor’s note: Catholic News Service filed a story on the pope’s comments and the subsequent controversy. The story appears on page 5.)

Advice to graduates

In response to the Voice’s request for advice to graduating seniors, I offer these words, not based on scholastics but on the formation of lifelong friendships.

Stay close to your school-day friends; they will, in future years, become dearer. You share memories, precious only to you and your classmates of the Class of 2007.

Have reunions; keep those memories alive. To this day, I keep in touch with dear friends of the Class of 1938 from St. Joseph’s Presentation Academy in Berkeley.

Gladys Bartolomei Rossi
Walnut Creek

What makes a theologian?

The announcement (Voice, May 21) of Rosemary Luling Haughton’s lecture for the Bishop John S. Cummins Institute lists her as a theologian. In fact, she is a lay theologian without academic affiliation or any but honorary degrees.

She has been quoted as saying that “All good theology is, and always has been, a theology of experience, not a system invented by religious people, and then applied to existing human concerns ... but simply a reflection, in the light of faith, on what actually happens to people - to individual people and to groups and nations and cultures.”

I like the old adage that theology teaches of God, is taught by God, and leads to God. I don’t think I’ll be attending Rosemary’s lecture.

Jack Hockel
Walnut Creek









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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