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 December 17, 2007   •   VOL. 45, NO. 21    •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

Iraq story needs balance
Two consecutive issues of The Voice included front page articles that were highly critical of U.S. military actions and foreign policy. One addressed our “failures in Iraq” (Nov. 19). The other was a pathetic resurrection of the Abu Ghraib story (Nov. 5).

Instead of focusing only on the occasional, scandalous mistake, it would be most appropriate for a balanced newspaper to also highlight the numerous, wonderful contributions that soldiers make every day. Returning soldiers can tell how they personally made things better in Iraq. Yet their stories are never told.

The Middle East is where hostages are beheaded on television for political gain, where Christian visitors are kidnapped and killed because of their faith, where conversion to Christianity is punishable by death, where children are blown up for taking gifts from soldiers, where women lack fundamental rights, where religious leaders encourage violence, and where vengeance lingers for centuries. Evil pervades in this region, and it wasn’t brought there by America. Instead, we have striven, at great cost, to make things better.

The bishops criticize America about the morality of this conflict, yet they overlook the fact that America is the only country morally committed to restoring Iraq following the coalition’s military campaign. We continually try to rebuild while Islamic fascists and terrorists relentlessly kill and destroy without regard for the bishops’ list of moral issues.

I am disappointed that The Voice and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are trying to focus public ire on the military and our lawfully elected officials. Their efforts would be better spent on cleaning up the severely damaged image of the clergy in this country.

Thomas McCaffrey

Incomplete picture
I have been reading The Voice for many years and normally enjoy and learn many things from it. However, the Nov. 19 issue has an article about a statement made by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding a “transition” in Iraq. The statement really has me, and I have to believe many other readers, very confused and the Catholic News Service article doesn’t seem to help the reader put things in context.

The statement also fails to give a complete picture of what has been going on in Iraq since the U.S. started supplying troops and civilian workers to help its people. No one knows how many innocent lives have been spared by the deaths of thousands of radical Muslims who profess a belief that killing all infidels (non-Muslims) will be rewarded by God.

The statement first highlights a moral concern about “the ethics of exit” which I don’t have a problem with. But then it states that the current situation in Iraq is unacceptable, but provides no basis for this view.

The statement seems to focus more on the “ethics of exit” and the political stalemate in the U.S. I don’t know why this is the case when it may be many years before the U.S. can pull out its troops.

After reading the full statement, I have a much better idea of what was said. It can be found at www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/2007-11%20Iraq%20Statement%20FINAL.pdf

David Brusiee

Portrayal in Pleasanton
Having lived in Pleasanton twice as long as Father Dan Danielson, I would like to comment on his portrayal of my neighbors as “self-focused” and “selfish.” (Voice, Nov. 10). Just look around and see that year after year our city is becoming more diverse with residents working together for the common good.

These “self-focused” and “selfish” people have coughed up enough money to build a church, the architecture of which is pretty much self-focused. Is it beneath them to kneel in their church or were they led to think they didn’t have to kneel in the Eucharistic presence of God?

We have a generation of Catholics poorly educated in their religion though often highly educated in other areas. Could some of us be too smart for our own good?

Where are the large families at St. Augustine’s? Isn’t it in a large family that people often learn to be unselfish?

With the focus on God, Pleasanton would become a more generous and wise city.

Patricia Werner

On family planning
George Fulmore notes that women in poverty-stricken countries “seek help in controlling their fertility” (Forum, Nov. 19). Although it’s lovely to see a picture of a new-born infant, creating too many infants contributes to poverty, pollution, crime, and despair. Sensible people know that; the obvious needs no proof (check Aristotle).

Therefore, family planning on a worldwide basis is so necessary that to ignore its importance is unwise, irresponsible, and inhumane. And people who ask for guidance deserve our attention.

Family planning requires both knowledge of and discussion of sex, human nature, and love. Catholics are much more comfortable talking about sin, even though Vatican II tried to shift the focus to love. As a result, we’re told that the solution to global poverty is to have rich countries (with low birth rates) take care of those poor, ignorant over-populated poor countries.

They will continue producing too many children because they don’t know any better, and we’ll keep them ignorant while scoring points for being charitable.
Mr. Fulmore says the Vatican should support the United Nations Population Fund. An editor’s note followed Mr. Fulmore’s letter, saying that “The United Nations Population Fund supports methods of family planning that are not approved by the Catholic Church.”

These methods apparently are sinful, but effective. There are other methods that are not sinful, but are they effective? If sinful methods are effective in solving an obvious problem, should we examine what we mean by “sin”? If approved methods have no practical effect, should we seriously consider whether we Catholics know what we’re talking about?

Tom Mader
Walnut Creek

Not ‘hate speech’
Greg Bullough (Forum. Nov. 19) accuses me of “thinly-veiled hate speech” and “gay bashing.” But my letter, “Defending Marriage” (Forum, Oct. 8) did not defame or disparage anyone.

Today whenever a person defends the Ten Commandments, natural law or traditional marriage the modern world calls this person an intolerant oppressor of sexual freedom. Or they are called hateful.

I am not moved by personal hatred against any individual. In intellectually opposing individuals or organizations promoting the homosexual agenda, my only intent is the defense of marriage, the family, and the precious remnants of Christian civilization in society.

As a practicing Catholic, I am filled with compassion and pray for those who struggle against unrelenting temptation to sin, be it toward homosexual sin or otherwise. In short, “we are to hate the sin but love the sinner.”

Scripture also cautions, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.”
It’s common sense! When we are talking about marriage, we are talking about the foundation of civilization itself. The most obvious definition of family is one man, one woman in marriage, raising children.

Marriage is for children. Destroying the definition of marriage will have devastating effects on our children and grandchildren. Kids raised in a home without a mother and a father are many times more likely to suffer from depression, drug abuse and low educational achievement. They are also more likely to commit crimes and experience poverty.

Homosexuals are free to live as they choose, but they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for our entire society.

Jim Crowley
Walnut Creek

Speaking truth with love
Greg Bullough (Forum, Nov. 19) reviles Jim Crowley’s observation that “homosexuals suffer higher rates of depression, drug and alcohol addictions, and suicide than the general public” (Forum, Oct. 8).

Reprising similar comments of two years ago, and suggesting that societal rejection aggravates homosexual psychoses, Bullough accuses “Crowley and his ilk” of “thinly-veiled hate speech,” “diatribe,” and “homophobic rant.” Bullough wants Crowley’s alleged “gay bashing” banished from The Catholic Voice — so that all can “Love one another”!

But Crowley, a retired San Francisco Police investigator of homicides and sex crimes, does speak truth with love. Entire constellations of self-destructive pathologies do plague many homosexuals — i.e., tragic co-factor indicators of generalized family or personal dysfunction.

And San Francisco, as perhaps nowhere else, provides affirmation of the sort that homosexual activists routinely demand. From outrageous condom promotions to obscene “gay pride” parades, homosexuality is not merely tolerated, but celebrated there.

Yet researchers, seemingly confounded, periodically report San Francisco homosexuals’ alarming rates of deadly “unsafe sex,” STD infection, depression, drug use, and suicide ideation.

That doesn’t bother “gay” activists who proclaim a perverse orthodoxy at odds with Natural Law, common sense and accumulated medical wisdom about sexual hygiene, and the prohibitions of a Church concerned about the health of body and soul.

As an AIDS-infected ex-homosexual once said to my husband and me at lunch: normalizing homosexuality won’t help. Instead, genuine compassion requires showing homosexually inclined individuals the prayerful way out of same-sex-attraction disorders and associated harmful behaviors.

Sharon Arata

Pastoral priorities
Tom Lehmkuhl (Forum, Nov. 19) questions why social justice was not specifically identified as a priority in the diocese pastoral plan. I was able to participate in one of the pastoral plan input sessions. From what I could tell, those in attendance at the sessions were active in a broad spectrum of social justice activities, as well as other parish ministries.

The five top priorities identified at these sessions were sacramental renewal, faith formation/catechesis, pastoral leadership, youth/young adult formation, and stewardship.

Social justice was not identified as a top priority in the pastoral plan. Why not? Because those attending understood that desirable outcomes like vibrant social justice ministries, growing Mass attendance, and increasing plate collections are the signs and effects of parish renewal. They are not the cause of parish renewal.

The new pastoral plan is correctly focusing on priorities that stimulate parish renewal by improving parish spiritual health, parish leadership, and parish outreach to youth. If we make progress in these areas, our Mass attendance will grow, our parish social justice ministries will flourish, and our plate collections will rise.

One final thought about social justice ministries. I believe these ministries are most effective when they grow organically within each parish. Our diocesan social justice ministry should not duplicate what parishes are doing, nor should it have its own social justice agenda. The diocesan social justice ministry should simply seek to understand and serve the needs of local parish social justice ministries.

Mike McDermott

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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