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 April 21, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 8   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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Reckless disparagement

The Contra Costa Times recently ran a four-part series on the diocesan molestation cases in which they included not only the names of the priests named in the allegations, but also their pictures. I was angered by what I feel was simply a rehash of old news previously seen or read in local media over the years.

The articles, in my opinion, served no real purpose other than to reopen old wounds of the victims and to recklessly disparage the reputation of all the fine priests and religious within the diocese who were not a part of this hideous and shameful ordeal.

Richard Nahm

Anti-Catholic reporting

I am upset by the muckraking anti-Catholic four-part series on abuse published in the Contra Costa Times and the Oakland Tribune. They reported, almost daily for months, when this scandal was first uncovered, investigated and prosecuted. Why are they reopening old wounds now? What has arisen that is new and newsworthy?

The writers have dug back in the mud all the way to the 1940s. They have crucified 24 men who are dead and cannot defend themselves. Many others, with photos, are reported as “accused” of “alleged abuses.” Their lives and the lives of their families have been severely affected by these accusations and/or allegations.

The writers readily identify the accused, but not the accuser. Which is the victim? Have they investigated the truth of the allegations or the believability of the accusers?

How many are alcoholics or drug addicts who have been pressured into suits by greedy lawyers looking to get on the gravy train? How many have claimed “inappropriate touching,” whatever that is. How many have waited to file a claim until they saw they could make money off a compliant Church, and how valid are those claims? Why won’t the editor allow us to know who they are? We will never know.

My objection is not that these men have been exposed, but that the authors and the editor did not care about their innocence or guilt but chose to try them in a kangaroo court of public opinion.

The authors did report that there have been no new incidents for six years. So why this series now?

It appears that the editor is upset because Bishop Allen Vigneron did not publicly apologize for actions which may or may not have occurred. Perhaps the editor would like him to wear a hair shirt. More likely they believe that anti-Catholic attacks sell newspapers and that the Church may be so cowed that it will not forcefully respond.

I always assumed that our cherished freedom of the press meant to protect a responsible press.

Clifford R. Wiesner

Amends have been made

Most people who read the recent MediaNews Group series on “Breach of Trust” were probably horrified, disgusted and confused. How and why could such things happen? Why has it taken so long for Church leaders to acknowledge criminal activity, implement new policies and begin to make amends?

The short answer is that the faith community of any church, including the leadership, consists of flawed human beings who often fail and sin. This is no different from our political and financial institutions and sometimes even our families. But what gives these crimes added horror is that the victims and their families looked to the clergy as representatives of God and were betrayed.

Many victims blocked the abuse from their minds, did not report it, or were not believed. Or they were induced to “keep things quiet” to protect themselves and the public image of the family or the Church.
In these abuse situations, Church bureaucracy acted in a corporate way, not a spiritual one. People expect better from the Church of Christ and so this scandal has shattered, challenged and undermined the religious faith of many.

Admitting the problem and beginning to make amends is a start. The Diocese of Oakland began this process in the late 1990s when Sister Barbara Flannery as chancellor was conducting dialogues with survivors of clergy sexual abuse. Bishop John Cummins made the first public apology in 2000, and Bishop Allen Vigneron continues.

On the legal front, cases are being settled, counseling is provided to victims, and policies are in place to prevent such abuse from happening again.

Throughout history, much evil has been done in the name of God, Church and religion. But let us not forget that much good has also been accomplished in those same names. Jesus called himself the truth and said that truth would set us free.

My hope is that the exposure of this issue has been liberating for the victims and that it opens the eyes of those who weren’t aware of the extent and seriousness of the problem. Jesus promised to be with us to the end of time. He is still here!

Marilynne Homitz

Reasons for sadness

The Oakland Diocese’s response (Voice, April 7) to the recent series of MediaNews Group articles which exposed the degree to which sexual abuse allegations against clergy have been kept quiet by the diocese and religious orders operating within it expressed sadness.

Why is the diocese “saddened?” Are they sad because a fuller measure of the truth than they wished told has been told? Are they sad, in the sense of contrition, because they did not speak the whole truth themselves in spite of many times being called upon to do so?

Are they sad because they have allowed some high schools to squander their own moral authority by refusing to reach out to alumni who may have been harmed? Are they sad because the ineffectual response of multiple bishops of Oakland has now been revealed?

There is, indeed, much to be sad about, not just about the abuse itself but also about how the Diocese of Oakland, its institutions, and indeed some of its clergy, continue to treat abuse survivors.

The series proves the irony of the name of the diocese’s survivor support group: “No More Secrets.”

Greg Bullough
Moreau Catholic High School ‘77

Clericalism is the problem

While the stories of clerical sexual abuse have abated, they are far from over. Further, we are now seeing stories of financial mismanagement appearing in various dioceses across the country.
The problem continues to be clericalism: placing the reputation of the priesthood above all other values. Only when we have true shared responsibility, transparency, and accountability will we see change. The People of God must demand it. Are we up to the task?

Peter Davey

Change gun ownership

I was saddened to read the story “St. Anthony Parish Counters Church Shooting” (Voice, April 7), but not surprised. The incidents of gun violence at schools, churches, and in the streets of the Bay Area have become a daily occurrence.

Gun violence destroys lives, families, and communities. The randomness of this senseless carnage means no one is immune from it and there is no place safe from it — not in your home, the classroom, the mall, a piano lesson, an Amish schoolhouse, and not at St. Anthony Church.

Besides the terrible toll on the victims and survivors, gun violence is an economic drain on local governments, our health care systems and the economy. It is estimated that with all the indirect costs, including lost productivity, gun violence costs the U.S. at least $100 billion annually.

There are many contributing factors to the rise of violence in our society — everything from violent video games and movies, gangs, bullying, hate crimes, mental illness, kids without parental supervision, and our own American culture, which generally glorifies violence. All of these factors must be addressed in a holistic approach.

However, there is one common denominator with gun violence — and that is the use of guns. Guns escalate a schoolyard fistfight into a campus massacre. They leave a trail of death and paralysis for innocent by-standers from stray bullets and drive-by shootings.

We must ask our elected officials: “What can we do to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people?”

A new bill in the legislature, AB 2235 (DeSaulnier), is attempting to do just that. AB 2235 seeks to safeguard our communities by requiring newly manufactured or imported handguns in California to be “owner-authorized,” or personalized in a way that would allow them to be fired only by authorized persons.

In keeping with the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Firearms Policy (Handgun Violence — A Threat to Life, USCCB Committee on Social Development and World Peace, 1975), the California Catholic Bishops’ Conference should make gun violence prevention a legislative priority for 2008 and beyond.

I would ask the California bishops to support AB 2235 and all who read this letter to send a letter of support as well.

Karen Arntzen
Pleasant Hill

Focus on God, not state

Father Jesus Nieto-Ruiz, pastor of St. Anthony Parish, obviously upset over the violence in his church and community, has opened himself to the pleadings of community organizations to enter his parish and save the people from themselves.

Saying that “it takes a village to raise a child,” as he has in his Voice commentary (April 7) is to suggest that salvation comes from the government and not from God. In admitting that, he becomes a channel through which special interests such as the Oakland Community Organization enter and take possession of the soul of the community.

Already Father Nieto-Ruiz is adopting and recommending the ideology of political progressives like Stanley Oden of Speak Out California to save his parishioners rather than Church teachings and leaders.

He was right to urge parents to take greater initiative in raising their children, but I suggest that Father Nieto-Ruiz lead those families and children toward God rather than the state.

Father Nieto-Ruiz must save his people both from their destructive behavior and from the community organizers who would use the moment to capture the minds and hearts of the parishioners.

Camille Giglio
Walnut Creek

True signs of hope

A philosopher once said that hope is to see all things as unnecessary. The theme of the Holy Father’s visit to the U.S. is “Hope.” Pope Benedict’s encyclical “Spe Salvi” was a profound message of hope for the modern world, but not in the framework of “Gaudium et Spes” (the Vatican II document on hope touted as the crowning work of the Council) that has been misapplied in order to cast off many traditions and “build the City of God” here on earth, as the modern hymn voices.

This thing is unnecessary false hope that promotes the immanence of the present world and not the transcendence of the next.

By throwing out the rich traditions and history of the Catholic Church, Vatican II revisionists changed the focus of worship from the altar to the pews. It’s no coincidence, therefore, that Pope Benedict made no references to “Gaudium et Spes,” or Vatican II for that matter, in his encyclical. The break with the past is over, and innovation, experimentation and reinterpretation have come to an end with this pope.

The hymns we sing should take the focus off of us and back to God. The same for the liturgy and homilies. We hear too much about social justice and not enough about what the Church teaches about morality, especially contraception.

As Pope John Paul II said, “The nation that kills its own children is a nation without hope.” The philosopher Ray Dennehy, in his new book, “Soldier Boy,” elaborates the connection between contraception and abortion.

Pope Benedict’s trilogies on faith, hope and charity are his attempts to help us refocus with a trust in God’s mercy and the true City of God. Renewal of Eucharistic Adoration and the Rosary, lost after Vatican II, are great signs of hope. Now we need to bring the true renewal into the Sunday pews.

Jack Hockel
Walnut Creek

Confront sexism

I don’t understand why Kathy Ramirez (Forum, April 7) wrote that Kate Doughtery (Forum, March 24) does not have pride in our gender just because she wrote the obvious truth that our Church is sexist.

Ms. Doughtery wrote the letter because she does have pride in our gender. She didn’t say she desired “everything” the opposite sex has, only that women should also be able to be ordained as priests. Why does Ms. Ramirez not want equality?

Are we still living in the era “. . . that women should know their place”? We won’t see it our lifetime, but hopefully the day will come when our Church leader could be a “Pope Teresa.”

Marilyn Harguth
Pleasant Hill

Tabernacle’s rightful place

I was puzzled by Rich Peterson’s laments (Forum, April 7) regarding how the tabernacle can now be placed on a side altar and how it’s an error. I pulled out my copy of the Documents of Vatican II and in The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, par. 53, I read, “It is recommended that, as far as possible, the tabernacle be placed in a chapel distinct from the middle or central part of the church....”

Churches that have made such arrangements are actually following Catholic Church teachings that are from 1963. The Revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal says, “Consequently, it is preferable that the tabernacle be located, according to the judgment of the Diocesan bishop, (1) either in the sanctuary, apart from the altar of celebration, in a form and place more appropriate, not excluding on an old altar no
longer used for celebration; (2) or even in some chapel suitable for the faithful’s private adorationand prayer and which is organically connected to the church and readily visible to the Christian faithful.”

I suggest Mr. Peterson add the Documents of Vatican II to his reading list of Catholic Church teachings so he doesn’t make further errors.

Mark Gotvald
Pleasant Hill

A logical deduction

The News in Briefs (Voice, April 7) informs us that “Maryland’s fetal homicide law allows charges to be brought for murder or manslaughter of a viable fetus — one that could live outside of the womb.”

During the process of in vitro fertilization, the human egg is fused with the sperm and a viable human organism is formed, one capable of living outside of the womb. A process of scientific observation informs the scientist that the organism can ingest nutrients, expel waste materials and respond to stimuli.

Having concluded that the organism is indeed alive and capable of living inside the human body, implantation takes place.

It would seem, therefore, that a doctor in Maryland who destroys this organism inside the woman’s body could be prosecuted for murder or manslaughter.

Frederick Arend

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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