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 January 7, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

Immigration and catechesis
California’s bishops have offered suggestions for our legislators concerning immigration reform (Voice, Dec. 17.) The resolutions seem reasonable to me: improved border security (this has already been legislated, but not yet implemented), temporary visas, streamlined processing of applications and reasonable requirements for becoming legal.

The good news is that most of the illegal immigrants in California are (nominally, but poorly catechized) Catholic. The bad news is the lack of enculturation.

Multiculturalism often seems to mean being a citizen of two cultures, without adopting the new one, like my grandparents did. The historical melting pot, where language, law and culture worked to make us one nation and one people is cracked and broken.

I wish our publications and priests would devote more space and time to catechesis. The U.S. bishops’ paper (Nov. 14, 2007), “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” would be a good place to start.

Conscience formation is a very pressing issue for Catholics, and one that would certainly influence the decision-making process for immigration reform, which is a minor issue in the right-to-life spectrum when compared to abortion.

In the paper, the bishops teach Catholics “to evaluate policy positions, party platforms, and candidates’ promises and actions in light of the Gospel and the moral and social teaching of the Church” (#5), and that “there are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are ‘intrinsically evil,’ and must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia.” (#22)

This “prime” consideration would definitely have an impact on the candidate selection process and elections.

Jack Hockel
Walnut Creek


Mexico’s responsibility
I agree totally with the California bishops on immigration reform (Voice, Dec. 17). However, I do have a couple of comments.

My resources define a criminal as “one who commits a crime” and a crime as “the act or commission . . . which is prohibited by public law . . . and the offender is liable to punishment by that law.” It seems to me that those who break the immigration laws are indeed criminals, regardless of the bishops’ pronouncements.

I know a number of wonderful “illegals” and count a few as friends. I am in awe of their willingness and bravery to risk their lives to sneak into the U.S. to provide a decent living for their families. I detest the “coyotes” who take advantage of their dilemma and many times abandon them to die in the desert.

Something must be done to help them. Blaming the U.S. government and irate citizens is unfair by itself. Nowhere do I hear any criticism of the government of Mexico. It encourages these desperate people to go to the U.S. while badly mistreating any Central Americans who come to Mexico to flee oppression in their countries.

The Mexican government is corrupt and groping for as much plunder as it can. It knows no one will speak up for its people. Instead it blames the U. S. The Mexican oligarchy, drug lords and government officials are interested in one thing — money. The best thing that could have happened is if we had totally wiped out the corrupt Mexican government and brought that country into our fold at the close of the Mexican War.

Why don’t the bishops look to the true cause of the suffering of these immigrants — their own government and oligarchy? It is time to reveal the true villains and bring them to heel. If the Catholic Church won’t do this, who will?

Clifford Wiesner
Concord


Focus on autocratic nations
Illegal Immigration is a political issue and should be resolved by the representatives of the people. Our elected representatives are not hard-hearted or inhuman individuals who would ignore the compassionate aspects trumpeted by the bishops, but the clergy should remember, that there are other salient factors that have also to be considered.

The constitution provides for separation of church and state, and it is hard to argue against the assertion that the bishops are crossing the line because they have their own interest in the matter. This school of thought contends that most of the illegal immigrants are Mexicans (many Catholics) and that failure to show support for the cause of these millions of people would result in great harm to the Church as an establishment.

If the U.S. bishops truly believe that our rich tradition is to love and help each other, why is the voice of the Universal Body of Christ silent when thousands of fellow believers continue to suffer and languish in many religious countries? The U.S. bishops would do well to devote time and money to the ending of the unjust and inhuman treatment of these people in autocratic nations rather than involving themselves in issues in a country where democracy reigns and varying opinions can be openly aired.

Robert P. Mendonca
Concord


Immaculate Conception
While I applaud our bishops’ leadership on the issue of immigration (Voice, Dec. 17), I am saddened that we chose December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, to take up the banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

As a graduate of both Immaculate Conception Elementary School and the Immaculate Conception Academy in San Francisco, I have always been haunted to find the meaning of this dogma. Recently, through the Society of Patricians in the Legion of Mary, I challenged our praesidium members with the question: Mary Immaculate: Dogma or Devotion? The answer, of course, is both.

The devotion of the Mexican people towards Our Lady of Guadalupe is to be celebrated. But our fundamental creed, “born of the Virgin Mary” points to a tradition that begins with the Apostles.

If we are to believe that Jesus is the Incarnation of God, so we must believe that Mary was conceived without sin. Only the Immaculate Conception can give herself fully to her Spouse, the Holy Spirit.

The Annuciation then becomes the turning point in salvation history when Mary, in perfect obedience, ends humanity’s disobedience marked by Adam and Eve. So for each of us, the way to salvation is to imitate Mary in her perfect love for her creator, her Son, and her spouse.

Next, our Legion of Mary praesidium takes up the question: God the Father and Mary the Mother of God. There is a lot to ponder in our faith.

Carmen Hartono
Oakland


Value of NFP
Tom Mader (Forum, Dec.17) recommends methods of family planning not approved by the Catholic Church (artificial contraception, abortion, infanticide?) and alleges that the “creation of too many infants” contributes to pollution and other ills. In the name of fighting pollution, fallen man has yet another excuse to do what he has always desired to do, namely, eradicate his brothers and sisters.

Our holy Mother Church teaches love, including the theology of the body and natural family planning (NFP), which don’t involve killing the least of our brothers and sisters, and don’t dehumanize women by making them into objects for men.

In each marital act, according to John Paul II, “there is renewed, in a way, the mystery of creation in all its original depth and vital power.” Studies have shown that NFP can be more effective than artificial contraception in allowing couples to determine the size of their families.

I agree with Mr. Mader that NFP is not as effective as abortion or infanticide. With Father Cormac Burke, I ask, “Is there any real difference, as a means to an end, between abortifacient contraceptives, the abortionist’s scalpel and a machine gun?”

Lynn Suer
Castro Valley


Make men responsible
I found the recently reported research on abortion’s impact on men (Voice, Dec. 17) skewed to the point of absolving the men who agreed to or knew of their pregnant girlfriends’ abortions.

In the stories presented by these involved men, the common thread is the pregnant woman was not their wife, the abortion not their decision and not their responsibility. They presented the abortion as a relief for a single guy to remove the life-long responsibility of having a child when they didn’t want one.

The reported excuse that men have no reproductive rights whatsoever is lame and hypocritical. Birth control is a reproductive right and responsibility of each person. Although shotgun weddings are out of style, condoms are always in vogue.

Barbara Wright
Concord


Donate gift cards
I recently read that The National Retail Federation predicted that an amazing $26 billion in gift cards would be purchased during the Christmas season by U.S. consumers.

I would like to share with your readers a strategy. I have received gift cards in recent years for which I have had no use. Last Christmas I received a $50 gift card for a retail chain store whose business practices I do not necessarily like. Thinking that this gift card would be useless to me, I donated it to a local home for unwed mothers and was told by an appreciative staff member that it would go a long way to help a young mother who has made the courageous decision to have her baby in the abortion-saturated culture in which we live.

Afterwards, I donated two other gift cards that were hanging around from past years, which were also put to good use.

Sometimes these “useless” gift cards go lost or unused. I would like to encourage your readers to consider donating such gift cards to a local home for unwed mothers. Such gift cards can make the difference for a brave young mother who has courageously chosen life and has a rocky road ahead of her.

John Nguyen
Niantic, CT


CCHD says ‘Thanks’
I wish to acknowledge with deep gratitude the receipt of $111,539.73 from the Diocese of Oakland’s 2006 Catholic Campaign for Human Development collection. This will make a real difference in our efforts to break the cycle of poverty in America.

Last year, CCHD was able to grant nearly $9 million to community organizing and economic development projects in 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The projects are planned and managed by local groups who are working for affordable housing, living wages, accessible hearth care, improved schools and access to social services.

Thank you very much for your generous support of these efforts.

John Carr
Interim Executive Director, CCHD
Washington D.C.


Protest at Ft. Benning
On Nov. 18, as a member of the School of the Americas Watch East Bay and the late Father Bill O’Donnell’s sister, I had the privilege of attending the 18th annual vigil to close SOA, now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, at the gate of Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia.

Twenty-five thousand people from across the United States and from all walks of life met to protest the teaching of torture at the school. The procession was led by Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch, and U.S. presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

Eleven SOA Watch activists were arrested for trespassing as they entered the grounds of the school.

I wrote the following poem in protest of the school.

In the fading light of fall
       afternoon sun glistens on
       chain link fences
that guard Fort Benning from
peaceful citizens protesting
       torture taught here.
Here, taught at Fort Benning,
in the land of the free and
the home of the brave
Civilian police
       patrol and watch us
as military eye in the sky
       monitors us while we sing
       in a sacred circle.
       We sing as the
sun glistens on the chain link
       fences at Fort Benning.
And we sing, No más No more and
       Not in Our Name
in this land of the free and
the home of the brave.

Mary O’Donnell
Emeryville 


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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