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 March 24, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 6   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

Words or intention?
I was appalled and astonished at the article in the March 10 Voice entitled “Vatican: baptisms using wrong words must be redone.”

Am I to believe that God is so limited that my expressions of prayer and love of my Creator are bound by my ability to speak exactly the right words?

Msgr. Antonio Miralles (a consultant to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) notwithstanding, this is reducing faith and its practice to the superficial expression of the right words and moves. It is interesting how many practices clearly present in the early Church are disallowed by the teaching hierarchy in our time.

What is saddening about this is that we struggle in a world staggering under the weight of global poverty and violence, and our hierarchy focuses on the “right” words we use to speak to our God, no matter our intentions.

Patricia Moix

Open to the Spirit

Once again, the Holy Roman Empire (aka Vatican) wants to silence the creative voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through the people of God. It has declared “invalid” all baptisms that do not use the approved patriarchal magic words (Voice, March 10). Anticipating objection, the Doctrine-Congregation denies that the “problem” with references to God as Creator or Redeemer is that they “do not identify God as male.” Instead, it argues, the words dangerously “subvert faith in the Trinity” because “they do not make clear the relationship among the three distinct persons” — an argument so truly disingenuous and absurd as to insult our intelligence. Faith is flourishing and not weakened.

The Trinity, being a matter of faith and not one of semantic clarity, is not “blurred” in any way by using more gender-neutral nomenclature in referring to the Divine. If anything, such nomenclature is arguably more clearly Trinitarian precisely because it does not focus on “maleness” but rather identifies God, in Three Persons, concomitantly acting in salvation history — as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifying Spirit.

To support the tradition is one thing, but to say that “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” is the only valid sacramental wording because Jesus said so is unfounded; the Aramaic words of Jesus passed through many translations. Perhaps Aramaic should be used. To be sure, anyone who has read the beautiful translations in the books by Neil Douglas-Klotz knows what beautiful potential there is in that language … a potential that the Holy Spirit has been trying to convey to our Church and its leaders for many years and in many ways. If only we had ears to hear.

Paula Dodd Aiello
San Ramon

Spring and resurrection
When I came to the United State many years ago, the roadsides, the parks and the forest all were blooming with beautiful wild flowers. The variegated colors were awesome, especially to a newcomer. It was springtime, it was beautiful, and it was peaceful.

This experience and feeling could be likened to the newness of life when you move from one locale and another time in your lifespan. A new life and a new hope spring forth from one who is reborn and offered a new way of life. A different way of dealing with family and friends based on the present realities dawns on you.

An encounter with Christ in our faith journey evokes almost the same experience and response as we continue to seek Him. In wonder and amazement, we move on in life based on this revelation of His presence in our own with a Christ-like attitude towards the poor and marginalized, a loving response to those who do not like us, a sense of peace and serenity in the face of storms in our life, an unexplainable obedience to God’s law, and a blind trust in His will in our lives.

This, my friends, is a most beautiful season of our life, regardless of age, race, gender, and social status, when you experience His resurrection in a personal way in the springtime of your life. Truly, heaven can be experienced while here on earth.

Jay de la Cruz
San Pablo

Regret for abortion
This year was my first March for Life. I was astounded by the number of young people in attendance. When asked why they were there, many answered that “it could have been I that was aborted.” How tragic that life is now a matter of choice and not gift.

I had an abortion many years ago. I now realize the horror of that act, not only in terms of myself and the child whose life I took but also in terms of the wrong that I did the child’s father, my child, my family, the world. Never before have I been so aware of the communal nature of sin. My decision not to accept this gift of life has deprived the world of all that this child could have given. For this I am most sorry.

As a result of my participation in the Walk for Life, I decided to do something that I have never done before. I read Humanae Vitae, the encyclical of Pope Paul VI’s which was delivered in July of 1968, the year that I graduated from high school. I read this short piece with sadness that I had never read it and thus never thought about the ramifications of the use of birth control and with some anger in that not once in these past 40 years have I ever heard the wisdom of this encyclical addressed, let alone preached.

It was not until I read these wise words of Paul VI that I ever even thought of birth control as anything other than the norm. Now looking back over my own life, I see his prophetical words borne out in my own life.

At age 19 or 20, when without thought I began to use birth control pills, my journey away from God, from Church, from life began as I slowly began to embrace the culture of death. I ceased to make reference to God or to moral law and used my body as a commodity hoping to find peace and security and a sense of belonging through sex in a world that was confusing.

By this stance, I became the arbitrator of what was right and wrong at the age of 20 when I had no real understanding of anything and no one was giving me guidance. I was at a Catholic college and never was the topic broached. I unwittingly removed love and procreation from the sexual equation. I also removed God from my life. There was no need to look to Him for comfort or guidance nor to trust in Him and His providence. I had a little pill that made me independent and self-determining.

It did not take long for multiple partners to come into play and for pornography to flavor the sex act….love really had no part in it. Then in time, a marriage not built on mutual trust or God but rather on sex as a pastime took place. It was within the context of the marriage that the abortion took place. Why not? We weren’t wanting a child at that time. There was no connect between the act and the gift of life. Needless to say, a marriage based on self as arbitrator and which had no real basis of love deteriorated with an affair within 10 or so years.

Pope Paul VI spoke of all these things in his encyclical. If only someone had spoken these truths to me.

I am thankful that I recently found my way back into the Church and for the gift of the Eucharist and the grace of Reconciliation and the forgiveness of a loving God who continues to guide and teach us through the Church.

Name withheld upon request

Clear teaching needed
George Fulmore’s letter (Forum, March 10) address discrimination against women in the Vatican and in the Catholic Church. It seems he must be alluding to the ordination of women.

This brings to mind an event about two years ago at my parish. A well-known priest, a respected speaker and author, was asked a similar question. He gave a very incomplete and misleading answer.

In a subsequent discussion with a fellow parishioner, I discovered that this gentleman, though a serious student of the faith who even taught CCD for many years, did not know the Church’s teaching on this very important issue. Truly a sad state of affairs. We so desperately need clear teaching.

Is it the most important duty of our bishops to be sure that the faith is passed on, whole and entire? Absolutely. Do we need to hear about important issues, including morality from the pulpit? Without a doubt. Our bishop, our priests and our Religious need to hear from us. Let us pray for them and encourage them.

But this does not absolve us from learning the faith on our own. In this age of communication, we have many opportunities. Let’s support and listen to Catholic radio (1260 AM in the Bay Area), and Catholic TV (EWTN) which is available from cable providers and even less expensively from satellite dish companies.

On the Internet, at www.ewtn.com, we can read beautiful encyclical letters such as “On the Dignity of Women.” At www.priestsforlife.org, we can discover, “Voting With a Clear Conscience,” learning the all-important distinction between issues of prudential judgment and those of intrinsic moral evil.

Ambiguity leads to confusion, confusion to doubt, and doubt to loss of Faith. Though we all are very busy, what could be more important?

David Zarri

Church doesn’t discriminate
Since George Fulmore so generously phrased his comment (Forum, March 10) as a question, I will answer it for him. No. There is no discrimination against women in the Vatican nor is there in the Catholic Church in general.

Though I am a man, I can confidently say this after speaking with quite a few women who share this belief, many of whom consider themselves to be liberal.

Perhaps we are selectively forgetting our Catholic veneration of the Virgin Mary or our veneration of all other female saints. It is not at all difficult to point out women who hold positions of power in the Vatican. Sister Enrica Rosanna, for example, is the under-secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life as well as a university professor.

Now, it is expected that people will ask the question: Why is she only an under-secretary? A potential answer: Maybe there was someone more qualified for that particular position who simply happened to be male. Not enough?

How about the president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Mary Ann Glendon, J.D., LL.M.? Not only is she a woman but a laywoman. The list continues.

Unless one can concretely prove discrimination, it is best not to make blanket statements and accusations, especially regarding our Holy Mother Church.

John-Paul Deol

(Editor’s note: Late last month, Mary Ann Glendon became U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.)

A sexist Church
So the Pope decries chauvinism (Voice, Feb. 18). Doesn’t that seem just a bit disingenuous, as he is the head of the biggest and most sexist organization on the planet?

“Or how can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.’” (Luke 6:42)

Where is the pope going with this pronouncement for our Mother Church, which only recognizes the male gender in the hierarchy, and where ordination of women cannot even be discussed? How long can this be tolerated when even our Jewish forbears now train and ordain women rabbis. Unconscionable!

Kate Dougherty

Film warrants praise

The Diocese of Oakland put together a pre-screening of the movie, “The Human Experience” at the Orinda Theater on March 6. The theater was filled with people from all over the diocese, young and old, to see this movie and what an experience it was.

This film is about two brothers who try to discover the meaning of the human person and the purpose of suffering in the world. To do this they spend a week with the homeless in New York City, begging and living in cardboard boxes during one of the coldest weeks of the year.

They travel to Peru to help out and spend time with the “lost children of Peru” who have suffered from unimaginable birth defects or severe abuse. Finally they travel to Ghana to be with the people suffering from AIDS and to visit a leper colony.

It is an extraordinary movie that reveals so much hope to a world that has no answer to suffering. When you see these people, you encounter a human person and despite the suffering, you see how happy they are and how they help others who are less fortunate than they are. Keep in mind, these are people suffering from AIDS, leprosy and serious birth defects.

At the film preview, the producer and those who were in the movie took questions and shared their experiences in making the movie. A big thank you must go out to the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Catechesis, especially Colleen Knutsen, Melissa Hyatt, Tom Hollcraft, John Watkins and Keith Borchers for bringing this film to the diocese with little time and resources to complete this project. But they had prayer and it certainly paid off.

We appreciate their tremendous effort and hope for another event such as this that brings the face of Christ to the Oakland Diocese.

Peggy Murray

Defending the Knights

Donald King wrote a letter to The Voice (Forum, March 10) and believes that the Knights of Columbus need to be reformed because people don’t want secrecy anymore, they want transparency. He also wrote about how Father Michael McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus and patterned its order around the Freemasons and that the Knights need to turn away from a bygone era and step into the 21st century.

This is very timely for me because I just became a 1st degree Knight on March 4 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Concord. I can’t tell you what a moving experience it was for me. I witnessed the brilliant tradition of Father McGivney.

On the surface, it may appear to look like it’s set up like the Freemasons, and the practices might seem similar, but deep within the roots of this organization is the Church. All the values of the Church are interwoven in this tremendous organization and through the guidance of the Church come charity and brotherhood.

This is the fundamental difference between Freemasons and the Knights of Columbus, and this is why the core values of the organization cannot change. Freemasonry is not focused on Christ and has a very long anti-Catholic history.

I don’t think the issue is secrecy; I think the issue is authority, making vows of obedience and keeping them. I know this will be a struggle for me, but I trust the Knights of Columbus and its focus on Christ. I am a proud 1st degree Knight.

Joe Murray
Knights of Columbus
Council #7164
Bay Point

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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