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Catholic Voice

 June 9, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 11   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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Contributions to Reader's Forum should be limited to 250 words. Letters must be signed and must include the writer's address and phone number for verification purposes. All letters are subject to editing.

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The Catholic Voice
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Oakland, CA 94610

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Protect marriage
I would like to thank Bishop Vigneron for his pastoral message regarding the California Supreme Court’s outrageous decision to legalize same-sex “marriage.” It is very encouraging to see a swift and clear statement from our shepherd on such a critical issue. I hope he will write more on the subject soon, and I pray that he will be actively involved in the effort to protect marriage as it heats up in the coming months and beyond.

John Knutsen
Berkeley


Gay and straight

Some gay men are called to the priesthood, and we should offer them our love and support in that vocation as we do for all good priests.

Some gay men are called to family life, to live together and perhaps to raise children, and we should offer them our love and support in that vocation as we do for all good families.
God makes some of us straight and some of us gay and He loves us all alike.

Nancy LeBlanc
Livermore


Equal protection

I would like to remind the California Catholic Conference and Bishops that the May 15 California Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage is a matter of constitutional interpretation and in no way hinders any religious organization within California from establishing norms within which they choose to bless or sanctify marriages. In no way does the ruling “attack the sanctity of marriage” or the “stability of the family.”

This ruling is a clarification of the equal protection aspects of the California Constitution as it is currently written. It is the first high court to rule that the state’s Constitution forbids all discrimination based on sexual orientation with the same strict type of prohibition that applies to bias based on race, sex or religion. Chief Justice Ronald George indicated that he saw the fight for gay marriage as a civil rights case akin to the legal battle that ended laws banning interracial marriage.

This is a legal decision that will be played out at the ballot box and in the courts for a long time to come. Even if the advocates of same-sex marriage prevail, there is no way that result would or should result in religious entities having to change the norms for the ceremonies they choose to offer. If there was a subsequent attempt to force otherwise, I and other Californians would vigorously oppose this attempt.

However, as the law currently exists, religious proscriptions masquerading as cultural or traditions norms impose restrictions on a portion of society that does not agree with nor observe these proscriptions.

I have yet to hear a compelling argument why my 36-year relationship with my partner in any way diminishes the value of anyone’s marriage or family stability to the point of justifying the denial to us of equal protection under the law.

I second the solution that has been raised more than once: anyone who wants to get married must enter into a state-granted civil union that confers all of the legal rights and privileges that currently come with marriage. Thereafter, anyone who wants a religious ceremony or the equivalent can do so with the religious group of their choice. That has been done in most of Europe for many years and life as we know it has not ended.

Jim McCrea
Piedmont


Miscarriage of justice

The proceedings of the California Supreme Court which led to the May 15 decision to nullify the people’s initiative (Proposition 22) were a violation of the due process clauses not only of the California Constitution but also of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Supreme Court ignored a request to set aside the hearing in those proceedings as a “miscarriage of justice” and the California Attorney General’s office, which is duty bound to defend state law, and with full knowledge of said request and the basis therefore, did absolutely nothing with respect thereto. That request did not relate in any way to the merits of the matter on appeal.

Due process is ultimately a federal matter for its courts to decide.

Therefore, it behooves everyone in the interest of justice to demand that the court decision be set aside as a miscarriage of justice and a violation of due process of the law and demand that the office of the California Attorney General perform its duty by exhaustion of all judicial remedies in both federal and state courts in defense of Prop. 22. It has all the facts and laws needed to perform that duty.

Raymond Hawkins
Kensington


A sexist culture

When speaking about clergy sex abuse, Father Gerald Coleman (Voice, May 19) addresses the problem of clericalism creating a “’we’ versus ‘they’” environment that allows for a double standard.

Sexism also gives permission for one gender to overpower the other. A sexist culture gives the “superior” sex more credibility over the “inferior.” The vulnerable are then forced to keep crimes secret. The dominant male voice becomes more authoritative than that of the women and children.

While our leadership has taken action to hold clergy accountable to state law, programs like Safe Environment don’t even touch the fundamental problem of sexism and clericalism. Surely, the Catholic Church must not lower herself to only meet the standards set by the US government.

As a member of groups like Fellowship of Catholic Christian Women, I understand the need to celebrate my femininity within a sisterhood. Likewise, the priesthood should be a brotherhood. But God created us male and female to be in loving relationship, reflecting the perfect relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The love and respect between male, female, and child should reflect the bond and unity within our Trinitarian God. Let us begin with this reality to end violence and abuse of all kind.

Carmen Hartono
Oakland


Repeated injustices

I was pleased to read Nancy Oliveira’s commentary, “Italian Catholics changed my perspective on the death penalty” (Voice, May 19). I have been a volunteer at San Quentin for over three years and have been deeply moved by God’s work of grace in the men I meet there.

I would like to call attention to a situation that the incarcerated face — an injustice perpetrated on those serving “term to life” (e.g. 25 years to life) sentences who, having served their time assigned and often much more, qualify for parole, but are arbitrarily denied for reasons that are truly unjust.

Some have marvelous records of attending self-help groups, providing service in charity to others, participating in support groups and, most importantly, turning their lives over to God in a profound way.

I have seen firsthand how these men accept injustices over and over with patience and surrender to the will of God. However, that doesn’t make it right or mean these men should be pushed to the brink of despair by being denied parole over and over, especially after they have been judged suitable by qualified psychological and professional people.

There was one incident a few months ago where a prisoner was scheduled for his parole board hearing on a Friday. He was unexpectedly called the day before. He asked permission to go to his cell to get the supporting letters and papers he had prepared for his hearing. He was refused. The parole board was also unprepared and didn’t have necessary papers to hear his case. He was arbitrarily denied, and three years set for his next possible hearing. His state-appointed attorney didn’t so much as raise an “I object.”

These kinds of injustices happen repeatedly. Everyone knows people can change, especially when given the means and opportunity. Many men at San Quentin have proven this in ways that would boggle the minds of those willing to step out of their comfort zones and find out.

Volunteer for jail ministry. Your eyes will be forever opened and you will blessed in ways unknown. And I guarantee you will meet Jesus and see with your own eyes the work of God.

Diane Dawes
San Francisco


A sparkling, radiant crown

Recently a Reader’s Forum writer de--scribed the new Cathedral of Christ the Light as a “ fortress of gloom” (Voice, May 19).

I knew immediately within me the error in that person not wanting to support the Church with a much more positive outlook.

I want to allow myself to see the new cathedral with the eyes of Christ. What I see is a “sparkling, radiant crown” with many windows of blessings opening for the community and Catholics in the Oakland Diocese.

The concrete speaks to me of the sure and solid foundation our Church is founded on, that of the Apostles. The interior is elegantly and simply adorned, which speaks to me of the simplicity we are called to live as active witnesses to the Gospel. I am already experiencing more light in the varied teachings that I have been receiving on the Mass and other Catholic teachings.

I am very, very grateful that our Lord is giving the Catholic community much more awareness, teaching and equipping. These are all indications of his faithful and abundant love for his bride, the Church. Our Lord most certainly deserves our thanksgiving and praise for all that He gives us.

I am thankful to all the people who have put in a lot of hard work and effort to build a gem within the city of Oakland.

Susanna E. Sloboda
Livermore


A serious mistake

Father Brian Joyce’s analysis (Forum, May 19) of the Contra Costa Times series on sexual abuse was trenchant, well-balanced and perceptive. The only thing missing — and it has been missing for too long — is insight into why this tragedy came about.

It has nothing to do with confused and frantic bishops bent on cover-up. It has much to do with pushing kids into preparatory seminaries before puberty and convincing them that giving up sexual desire is the road to sainthood.

Wrong. Very wrong. And terribly expensive.

Tom Mader
Walnut Creek


In defense of handguns

Contrary to Karen Arntzen’s misguided plea (Forum, April 21) supporting AB2235 (requiring that handguns be “owner-authorized”), readers should apply reason and realize that this is just another foolish attempt to reduce crime that only results in more of the same.

Instead of these fanciful ideas of making a gun “owner-authorized,” Ms. Arntzen should be advocating the only two solutions that have been empirically proven to work: An increase in gun ownership by responsible citizens, complemented with consistent punishment (i.e. enforcement of existing laws) for criminals who use guns.

If California’s bishops want to do something useful for a change, they can advocate for the above as part of a return to orthodox Catholic teaching. I’m sure with a little research, they and Ms. Arntzen will find that self-defense is a God-given, fundamental right, and defense of others (e.g., the Crusades) a great virtue.

A good place to start is St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Gabriel Possenti, who used a handgun to defend a village against marauders and is up for patron saint of handgun owners. Check also Professor John Lott’s excellent “More Guns, Less Crime.”

Our Church does not advocate pacifism, but acknowledges that violence can be an appropriate response to protect these rights against those who would infringe on them. It is these rights that are enshrined in our criminal justice system today.

Those who advocate for laws that interfere with citizens’ ability to defend these rights are, I submit, anti-Catholic and therefore irrational and dangerous to society.

James A. Smith, Esq.
Walnut Creek


Stop illicit practices

We have all observed questionable actions, gestures or responses during Mass — holding hands during the Our Father even by the priest and altar servers; parishioners walking around to shake hands during the Sign of Peace and priests leaving the sanctuary for the Sign of Peace; extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion performing functions expressly reserved for a priest or deacon; and normal parish announcements being read from the ambo.

There are numerous sources for us to research the validity of these types of actions. The General Instruction for the Roman Missal, the USCCB website, and the Oakland Diocese’s website are just a few good sources. But these sources don’t completely eliminate the confusion and stop any illicit practices.

I think we need to hear directly from Bishop Vigneron. I would like to suggest a column in The Voice or a forum on the diocesan website that can be used to respond to questions about actions that many feel are questionable at best.

We are all entitled to a faithful liturgy. We are also responsible to protect the same liturgy. It would be a great help for the bishop or an official representative to address these issues for us. Then, hopefully some of us will stop performing illicit actions and others will stop complaining about licit actions.

An official platform like this would not only help eliminate confusion but also spread the word to the entire diocese in one communication. It seems to me that this would also fit nicely with the new five-year diocesan pastoral plan.

Matthew Sandner
Concord


‘Stick to the script’ liturgy

I applaud Oscar M. Ramirez’s use of sarcasm in his letter “Creative Liturgy” (Forum, May 19). His “story” of the priest who tap-danced the Our Father in Morse code during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was the perfect exaggeration to point out the absurdity of “jazzing up” the liturgy. It points to the fact that being “creative” with the liturgy serves to distract the congregation rather than direct them to God.

His letter also points to the beauty of the Church’s liturgy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “The celebration of the liturgy . . . should correspond to the genius of the different peoples” (1204). The Mass should “redeem and fulfill” the culture, wherever it may be celebrated, all over the world.

However, it also says that “no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community” (1125). Thus, using Ramirez’s story, no matter how much a priest might be itching to break out into dance during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, he should carry out the liturgy according to the Roman Missal, in union with the rest of the whole Church.

In my own experience, I witnessed the “old fuddy-duddy ‘stick to the script’ stuff “ in full force at the ordination of my godfather, Father James Moore, at St. Dominic’s Church in San Francisco. Bishop Allen Vigneron celebrated the Mass beautifully, fully articulating all of the prayers, well aware that all of them have meaning and over 2000 years of tradition.

The beauty of the Church’s liturgy, with all of its prayers and gestures, is meant to direct us towards God and unite us with the Catholics all over the world who celebrate the Mass using the same words.

Matthew Murray
Antioch


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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