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 June 18, 2007 • VOL. 45, NO. 12 • Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

Heroes in our midst

Sincere thanks for the recent features (Voice, May 21) on two unsung heroes of the Oakland Diocese who have tilled and enriched the soil of our vineyard for so many years.

Sister Maureen Duignan’s stalwart dedication to the immigrant community embodies the true response to the often shrill rhetoric that accompanies the immigration issue.

And Corpus Christi Parish’s gesture of signing the names of fallen soldiers and civilians in their Book of the Dead is a simple yet very moving reminder of the legacy of the Iraq war, and one that all parishes would do well to emulate. Thanks to Father Basil DePinto and his exhortation to put faces on the statistic. For a complete list, check out www.washingtonpost.com/ faces of the fallen.

Both Sister Maureen and Father Basil, by their example, encourage us to do the same.

Bill Joyce

Gun control increases crime

Tom McMahon (Forum, June 4) would solve the problem of violence in society by “gun control,” taking guns away from private citizens. He disbelieves the statistics that show countries with gun control have increased crime. Here are some examples:

Japan, with its ethic of social control and conformity, has seen a 51.3 percent increase in murder, rape and armed robbery (PBS Nightline Business Report, 1997) and the numbers have been rising.

In England, handgun crime rose by 40 percent after the handgun ban in 1997, up 53 percent in 2001 and has continued to rise (Reason, 2002).
Australia started gun control in 1996 and today has the highest proportion of violent crime, increasing 6 percent per year. (Sydney Morning Herald, March 2001).

The U.S. has recorded a fall in victimization rates, as 36 states have issued concealed carry permits. Private citizens with guns ended a rampaging killer at a law school in Grundy, Virginia; the same at a high school in Pearl, Mississippi; and in Blacksburg, VA an armed 82-year-old woman stopped a criminal. These stories are repeated daily across the country.

The bottom line is that eliminating violence in society isn’t accomplished with gun control. It will involve understanding its causes and developing a greater respect for human life at all stages.

Matt Lopez
Via e-mail

Microstamp all new guns

Gun crime is on the rise in the U.S. and the Bay Area suffers from it every day. The latest report from the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based organization of law enforcement leaders, shows a 24-month trend of steady increases in violent crime (See www.policeforum.org.)

The recent shootings at Virginia Tech show once again that our elected leaders have let us down by avoiding the obvious need for stricter gun laws and oversight of the gun and ammunition manufacturing industries.

We need the faith community and specifically our Catholic Church to speak out more forcefully on the issue of gun control. In keeping with the Church’s reverence for life policies, the Church could help stem the tide of senseless killings and help bring justice to the victims’ families.

We don’t have to ban all guns to make our communities safer, but we do have to pass sensible gun legislation. The California legislature has the opportunity to provide law enforcement with a new tool for solving handgun crime and reducing gun trafficking.

The Crime Gun Identification Act of 2007 (AB 1471) would require that new models of semiautomatic handguns sold after Jan. 1, 2010 be equipped with “microstamping” technology. This technology would substantially enhance law enforcement’s ability to quickly identify and link shell casings found at a crime scene to the individual semi-automatic handgun from which it was fired.

Please ask your state representatives to support AB 1471. For more information contact 1ofamillion@comcast.net or go to www.bradycampaign.org/chapters/california.

Karen Arntzen
Pleasant Hill

(Karen Arntzen is vice president of the California chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.)

A theologian responds

In his June 4 letter, Jack Hockel expresses concern about Rosemary Haughton’s lack of an earned degree in theology and an academic affiliation. I draw on my own earned doctorate in religious studies and my appointment in theology here at the Graduate Theological Union to respond.

Rosemary Haughton’s reference to experience is entirely consistent with the mainstream tradition of Catholic theology, going back to Augustine and Aquinas, and expressed eloquently by revered 20th century theologians Karl Rahner and Bernard Lonergan.

Unlike many liberal Protestant theologians, Haughton is clearly concerned with experience, as she says, “in the light of faith,” that is to say, faith in God.
On the other hand, the “old adage” that Hockel quotes, with its reference to God and God only, is clearly situated in the Reformed Protestant theological tradition, extending from Luther through the 20th century theologian Karl Barth to contemporary Evangelicals.

Though post-Vatican II Catholics have much to learn from this “God alone” theology, it contrasts markedly with our own Catholic emphasis on God’s revelation mediated by creation, in the Incarnation, for example, as well as in the sacraments, and yes, in human experience.

Marian Ronan
Associate Professor of Contemporary Theology
American Baptist Seminary

Immigrants aren’t commodities

As people of faith, we cannot accept immigration reform that views immigrants as commodities, valued only for their labor skills without acknowledging their humanity. Congressional proposals to separate immigrant families and to exploit workers are simply wrong.

Current immigration debates often pit groups of people against each other: U.S. citizens against undocumented immigrants; U.S.-born workers against immigrant workers; and skilled workers against unskilled workers. Some argue that immigrants “are here to take our jobs!” Others view immigrants as commodities that should be used to boost U.S. wealth.

Meanwhile, many politicians ignore major issues like poorly paid workers, exploitation, and trade agreements that have stunted job and wage growth in both the U.S. and other countries.

Congress has been considering immigration proposals that lead to the commoditization of the very individuals who do much of the hard work in our communities -- people whose only desire is to provide for their families and participate in the American dream.

If Congress chooses to replace family immigration with a point system and to vote for other harmful proposals, the winners will be corporations that perpetuate cheap-labor systems and the wealthy of the world who profit from them. The losers will be hardworking immigrant families and the global common good.

Elena Lacayo
Washington, D.C.

(Elena Lacayo, originally from Nicaragua, works at NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby in Washington DC.)

Not an imposition

This letter is in response to Pennie Opal Plant (Forum, June 4) in which she expressed shock at Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on how the Church had not imposed itself on the indigenous people of the Americas.

It was in the mid-1980s at Sonoma State University that I learned of the evils of the Catholic Church and its whipping and beating of the indigenous people of California and Mexico. After doing some research, however, I discovered that what I learned at Sonoma State was a great distortion of the truth.

When King Charles V sent the first Franciscans to the “New World” in the early 1520s, he gave them orders to protect the native population from the Spanish governors who were filled with greed and expanded their own wealth, enslaving the Native Americans.

It is well-documented that several Franciscan priests and brothers were imprisoned, beaten and killed for protecting the indigenous people of the New World.

If Miss Plant did her research, she would find that all was not “just fine” in the region of Mexico before the Spanish arrived. Neighboring tribes were enslaved by the Aztecs and several thousand people each year were sacrificed to the Humming Bird Wizard, Huitzilopochtli, as well as several other gods and goddesses. In 1487, over 80,000 people were sacrificed in four days.

After Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared, there were over 9 million conversions, none of them forced.

There were some bad priests and other Catholics who were poor examples of the faith and who failed to pass on the message of the Gospel and thought only of their own selfish interests. John Paul II apologized for them.

But the Catholic Church should be proud of its track record in the Americas.
The Church did not impose her faith; she proposed her faith to the new people of God.

I recommend that Miss Plant read “Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness” by Warren H. Carroll.

Joe Murray








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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