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Catholic Voice

 May 19, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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Substantive action needed
I commend Bishop Vigneron for publicly addressing youth violence (Voice, May 5). Still, his action plan strikes me as somewhat thin.

Developmental psychiatrists would agree with the bishop that we must stand with those who grieve murdered children. The psychiatrists also know that grief work must extend to resolving the traumas that come with living enmeshed in what the bishop eloquently terms “the matrix that spawns the awful twins of poverty and violence.”

Resolving traumas takes time and persistence, and the involvement of trained professionals. As part of his action plan for youth violence, the bishop easily could funnel diocesan resources toward hiring 100 professional counselors experienced in helping others to relieve trauma.

It is somewhat confusing to me that as part of his plan for action the bishop calls for strengthening schools, even as the diocese over the past 10 years has moved to shutter or consolidate flatlands schools.

I do not fault the diocese for bowing to financial and societal pressures to shut schools in poor neighborhoods. It is surprising, though, if not hypocritical, that even as these schools have been shut down for lack of operating cash flows in the tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars, the diocese somehow has found more than $130 million to build a new cathedral in downtown Oakland. Which is not to knock the value of cathedrals.

It is, however, to call attention to the fact that when this diocese is motivated, the money flows like a torrent. Calling the diocese to spend $130 million to dramatically improve flatlands schools would likely be the defining moment of Bishop Vigneron’s Oakland tenure. To do so would strike at the heart of the causes of youth violence.

The bishop’s nascent plan for addressing youth violence appears heavy on symbolic gestures. As important as these gestures are, the diocese has the resources to take more substantive actions. The parable of the Good Samaritan, referenced by the bishop in his lecture on youth violence, calls us to share whatever resources we have to care for the wounded among us.

Christopher Cherney

Dialogue with Islam

Kudos to The Catholic Voice for the April 21 article, “A pope of historic vision is reshaping the dialogue with Islam” and the accompanying photo of former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami and Pope Benedict XVI greeting each other with joined hands.

Our Secular Franciscan satellite group of St. Elizabeth’s Fraternity in Oakland had a representative of the Muslim faith speak at our general meeting last month. As an introduction, she noted that the Arabic for “Peace on you” was “Salaam alaikum.” She outlined the doctrines and practices of Islam and demonstrated one of the five daily Muslim prayers on a prayer rug that she had brought.

We had this speaker as a means of peace between those of the Islamic faith and Christians in these times of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the dialogue with a Muslim was also in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi who visited Sultan Malik-al-Kamil in 1219 in Egypt during the Crusades. Francis hoped for martyrdom for presenting the Gospel to the Islamic Sultan. But the Sultan greatly respected him for his courage, and invited Francis to stay with him.

The spirit of St. Francis needs to exist and hopefully is spreading in these times.

Maureen Hartmann

Creative liturgy

I loved Betty Smith’s letter “A Joyful Sound” (Forum, May 5) about her liturgically creative priest breaking into impromptu singing and not reciting the Lord’s Prayer at Mass one day. It reminded me of one of my own former pastors one day jazzing up the Our Father during Mass by tap dancing it out in Morse code! Don’t you love it?!

I worship the new freedom to be creative with the Mass, so liberating! None of that old fuddy-duddy “stick to the script” stuff like in the boring old days . . . Tap, tap, tap!!! (That’s “Amen”!).

Oscar M. Ramirez

Unproven technology

I would like to respond to Karen Arntzen’s letter (Forum, April 21) on gun violence.

First, most school shootings are caused by mentally disturbed individuals, not by someone yielding to any angry impulse.

As for keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there are laws already on the books to deal with this. The technology referred to in AB2235 is unproven and unfeasible.

William Ellis
Walnut Creek

Fortress of gloom

Christ the Light Cathedral has evolved into a forbidden fortress of gloom. The 9- or 10-foot thick grey cement wall is uninviting. Looking up from the street level, you cannot see anything except the many steps leading to the cathedral. You cannot visualize or see the cathedral garden, the benches, flowers, shrubbery or trees.
The model presented at the time the cathedral was being proposed did not have a barrier or wall around it. It appeared as if you could walk into the garden off the street level. It seemed very attractive.

The size of the grey cement conveys darkness and heaviness. There is no warmth, there is no invitation to come see. It seems exclusive rather than inclusive. It has the feel of a gated community that implies stay out rather than that of a beloved community where all are welcomed and invited to come see and spend time.

Edna Pucci

Shock and disappointment

The primary reaction I heard in response to the recent newspaper series on sex abuse in the Oakland Diocese was shock and disappointment, but for a variety of very different reasons.

The first question was “Why now?” While very sad and tragic, most of the information is already well-known, thoroughly reported and a matter of public and legal record. And important safeguards, procedures and protocols are now long in place and being carefully followed.

The articles did stand as a painful reminder that we must say “never again” and recognize there still are some survivors suffering and quite unable to be named or to step forward.

There was shock and disappointment at the large number of abusers, and that some of them were personally known and well respected and that in many cases appropriate action was taken too little and too late.

There was shock and disappointment because some whose innocence has been established or who died with no chance to defend themselves were included in the list of abusers because they were once accused or their name once appeared in a legal brief. Also, a large number of those listed were never under the authority, responsibility or supervision of the diocese at any time.

There was shock and disappointment because it was not made clear that in most, but sadly not all, cases, those accused were referred to competent professionals whose advice was closely followed, and the professionals were wrong.

And finally, it is keenly disappointing that the articles did not mention that despite tragic mistakes and failures, the Diocese of Oakland was among the first in the nation, well over 10 years ago, to conduct public apology services, to publicly encourage victims to step forward, and to organize support groups for survivors of clergy abuse.

Still, the series represented an opportunity for us to acknowledge the pain still prevalent, not only with the survivors but also with the Church community as a whole, an opportunity to revisit our commitment to our children and to be vigilant in our decision for “no more secrets” and to say “never again,” an opportunity to admit that we should have been more observant and could have done more, and an opportunity to recognize those survivors who stepped forward as real heroes. We must be grateful for their courage.

Father Brian Joyce, Pastor
Christ the King Parish, Pleasant Hill

Placement of tabernacle

I have to take issue with Mark Gotvald’s letter on the placement of the tabernacle (Forum, April 21). The paragraph he quotes is not from the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”, but from “Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery (Eucharisticum Mysterium), a post-conciliar document published in 1967.

The “Instruction on the Proper Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” (Inter Oecumenici)), published in 1964, states that the Blessed Sacrament should “. . . be reserved in a solid, inviolable tabernacle in the middle of the main altar or on a side altar, but in a truly prominent place.” (para. 95).

Paragraph 53 of Eucharisticum Mysterium, cited by Mr. Gotvald, does state the tabernacle should be “. . . placed in a chapel distinct from the middle or central part of the church . . .” But he neglected to cite the rest of the paragraph which states “. . . above all in churches where marriages and funerals take place frequently, and (emphasis added) in places which are much visited for their artistic or historical treasures.”

The qualification about places visited for their “artistic or historical treasures” would indicate that the paragraph is referring to cathedrals and basilicas, not ordinary parish churches.

This interpretation is supported by the fact that the Eucharisticum Mysterium goes on to repeat the language from Inter Oecumenici, that the tabernacle should be “in the middle of the main altar” (Eucharisticum Mysterium, section 54).

There are several other post-conciliar documents which mention the tabernacle. From these, we can put together a list of requirements for the proper placement of the tabernacle:

1) The tabernacle must be located in a prominent (e.g. readily noticeable) place in the church.

2) The tabernacle must be located in a truly noble position in the church.

3) The tabernacle must be located in a conspicuous (i.e. obvious) position in the church.

4) The tabernacle must be located in a most worthy place with the greatest honor.

Based on these requirements, we have to ask ourselves if locating the tabernacle on a side altar, or in a separate room often out of the sight of Catholics sitting in the pew, really qualifies as a “noble, conspicuous place of the greatest honor.”

I think that the only way of being faithful to the Church’s teaching about the tabernacle is to have it in the front of the church, visible to all, which usually means locating it in the center of the sanctuary. After all, we are talking about the Real Presence of Our Lord. Doesn’t He deserve the best we can offer?

Robert Burke

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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