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 June 23, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 12   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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Marriage not for gays
I am a very devout and committed Catholic. I am also the mother of a son who is homosexual. I have always been deeply devoted to my vocation as a wife and mother and I am being brutally honest in stating that having a child who is born homosexual is not what I as a mother ever imagined, and it is for me one of the challenges of my life.

When I learned that my son was gay, by the grace of God, I never waived in my love for him in any way. I see my son, not as homosexual, but as a precious creation of God and I am committed to being the very best mother to my son that I can be, regardless of his sexual persuasion.

That being said, I still cannot condone the union of two people of the same sex. God, in His wisdom, knew full well what He was doing when He created man and woman and he has sanctified that union through the sacrament of marriage.

Just as there are some people born into this world with the genetic predisposition to becoming alcoholics, there are those who are born with the predisposition for homosexuality. Because a person has the predisposition to alcohol does not mean we should condone that person’s drinking. As difficult as that cross is to bear, self-control is the grace required to overcome that urge.

The same principle applies to homosexuality. We cannot, as a society or as children of God, condone homosexual marriage even if we think by doing so we are being loving and devoted followers of Christ. God has a calling for every one of His children including those who are gay, but marriage is not that calling.

Pam Brady, Pleasant Hill

Love is a gift of God

Kudos to Jim McCrea for his eloquent letter in the June 9 issue regarding gay marriage. I would like to add that according to many recent polls, the younger generation throughout the country, i.e. those under the age of 40, has very little concern about the “threat” and the “evils” of civilly recognized gay marriage. In fact, they are very supportive of it.

I believe the outcome of this battle is inevitable. Time tends to all things.

Catholics who are fortunate enough to be in respectable, honorable gay and lesbian love relationships know that their love is a gift of God and that there is nothing — no institution and no decree — that can separate them from the love of Christ.

Tom Savignano, Lafayette

End all discrimination
Forty-one years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the case brought by Mildred and Richard Loving, a black woman and white man, who according to the State of Virginia had violated the natural and civil laws prohibiting intermarriage, cohabitation and sexual unions between races.

When the Lovings were married in 1958, their simple desire to express their love and commitment was viewed as criminal. In the 1967 Loving v. Virginia case, the Court declared that such state laws were unconstitutional and thus ended all legal marriage restrictions for persons like my white husband and me, a black woman.

We were married in 1998, but if we had been among our parents’ generation, we could not have gotten married in California (it was illegal for interracial couples to marry here before 1959).

There is no rightful place for the exclusionary remarks made by Bishop Vigneron in regards to the upcoming California ballot initiative to change the state’s Constitution on marriage. The bishop equated our baptismal promises with a position that can only be viewed as “anti-loving.”

When I affirmed my baptismal promises and renew them each year at Easter, each week at Mass, and every day that I live as a committed Catholic, not once do I include in that promise that I will perpetuate prejudice, exclude any persons from the total love that is God, or tolerate any form of explicit or implicit hatred or fear of differences.

LaVera Crawley, Oakland

Pass gay marriage ban

Hurrah for Bishop Allen Vigneron’s assertion, relying upon faith, tradition, and reason, that a legitimate “marriage relationship is only possible between one man and one woman”!

Jim McCrea disagrees, derogating such requirements as only “religious proscriptions masquerading as cultural or traditional norms” (Forum, June 9). McCrea cheers the California Supreme Court’s analogizing of “same-sex marriage” to interracial marriage, doubts “same-sex marriage” impacts upon conventional marriage, and cites European mores as supposedly instructive for Californians.

But most blacks themselves oppose “gay marriage.” Sixties-era civil rights marcher William Owens, for example, leading the Coalition of African-American Pastors, recognizes the stark disparity between innate, neutral characteristics such as race and the perverse activities celebrated by many homosexuals. “Gay marriage” promoters, says Owens, have “hijacked the civil-rights movement.”

Ultimately, “gay marriage” is a political contrivance, devised to normalize demonstrably harmful behaviors. Nineteen years ago, lesbian activist Paula Ettelbrick wrote that “Being queer means pushing the parameters of sex, sexuality, and family, . . . transforming the very fabric of society.” In 1994, homosexual Michelangelo Signorile endorsed “same-sex marriage” as a “subversive action” that would “radically alter an archaic institution.”

Canada already prosecutes clergymen who criticize homosexual acts.

And European chic? As researcher Stanley Kurtz reported to Congress: in Scandinavia and Holland, where unnatural arrangements are regressively further along, “gay marriage” already devalues and undermines conventional marriage, and helps normalize out-of-wedlock parenthood and polygamy, with damaging consequences for children.

Sensible California voters, particularly faithful Catholics, will support a constitutional “gay marriage” ban in November.

Michael Arata, Danville

Civil marriage for gays

I would never be so presumptive to challenge a bishop on any matter relating to canon law or the teachings of the Church, but having studied secular constitutional law and jurisprudence for several years at university I feel somewhat qualified to point out the glaring error in the central premise of Bishop Vigneron’s recent column on gay marriage (Voice, June 9).

The California Supreme Court was most definitely correct in its decision to allow gay marriage. We live in a country where discrimination of any class of person is unconstitutional, and denying gays the right to enter into a civil contract that the rest of us take for granted is clearly discriminatory.

Bishop Vigneron is confusing civil marriage, which is a right granted by our Constitution to all Californians, with Catholic marriage which is a sacrament of the Church. While I strongly disagree with the Catholic Church’s stance on gay marriage, I respect its right as a private institution to make its own rules and laws as it sees fit.

I was born and raised a Catholic in Northern Ireland. I know from painful firsthand experience what state-sponsored discrimination looks like and I know what it feels like to be an oppressed minority. It saddens me to see that, in the country where I came to escape discrimination, my Church is encouraging just that sort of practice.

The tyranny of the majority can work both ways, and should Catholics at some point in the future fall victim to a populist ballot initiative seeking to ban the sacrament of the Eucharist, for example, can we justly claim any constitutional protection given the Church’s stance on discrimination against gays and lesbians?

I don’t know if Jesus had gay marriage and the separation of church and state in mind when he said “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” but it certainly fits nicely.

Matt Regan, Pleasant Hill

Stop food crisis, not gays

Since the issue is controversial, it seems likely that the debate about the legalization of gay marriage will continue for quite some time. I find it troubling, however, that The Voice dedicated more than a full page, including an article on the first page, to this question, while the current world food crisis received approximately 70 words, buried in the middle of News in Brief.

As Bishop Tomasi told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the current global food crisis threatens the lives of a billion people. Many of these are, inevitably, our brother and sister Catholics. But here in California, we are organizing to oppose what really threatens us, the possibility of gay people marrying and adopting children.

Regardless of one’s political or theo-ethical position on this question, a simple fact needs to be faced about the legalization of gay marriage: the younger Americans are, the less likely it is that they are opposed to it. Even evangelical Christian teenagers are more and more open to the legalization of gay marriage, in large part because gays and lesbians are coming out at earlier ages, and so, in high school, become friends with Christians (and Catholics).

This means that even if the California anti-gay marriage initiative passes in November, eventually, gay marriage will be legalized. But here in California, we will have spent millions to pass the initiative, and then be forced to spend millions more to repeal it.

It would be a far more ethical use of our money to send it to Catholic Relief Services and other groups fighting against the global food crisis than to waste it on a campaign to delay the inevitable legalization of gay marriage.

Marian Ronan, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Contemporary Theology and Religion
American Baptist Seminary of the West/GTU, Berkeley

Focus on people’s needs
I have just learned that there will be a collection taken up for the new cathedral in September. I thought the people of the diocese were not going to have to bear any burden for the cathedral’s construction.

I have heard that the costs for the church are now approximately $200 million. Given that price tag, the cathedral should not have been built in the first place. There should have been more of an effort given to finding one of the existing churches that could have been used.

Also, since the people of this diocese have been asked for years now to give to the Bishop’s Appeal because there have not been enough funds to support all of the needed programs that support so many, that money could have been used for those purposes instead.

As we say at Mass, we are called “to love and serve the Lord and each other.” We need to support each other, not a building. The Church is the people, not any building that we occupy on Sunday or any other day.

I cannot support contributing to this collection when we have so many people and programs in our diocese that need our support. I know the church will be completed one way or another. I just pray that when it is done all those who put so much effort into getting this accomplished will refocus their efforts on serving those truly in need.

Patrick Embody, Pittsburg

(A special collection for the new Cathedral of Christ the Light will be taken up in parishes on Sept. 13-14.)

Goodbye to St. Alphonsus
To the beloved People of God at St. Alphonsus Parish as you prepare to close your parish:

I share with you many memories of your journey of faith. That first team of Redemptorist priests who formed you as a parish were my elder confreres whom I admired and looked up to for example. They dedicated you under the patronage of St. Alphonsus Liguori.

Father Ray Troik, the story goes, used to play the electric organ and lead in song during the intermissions on bingo nights. Father Tony Slane formed the parish St. Vincent de Paul Society for your works of service and assistance. Father Bernie Tobin ministered to the sick and staff at Fairmont Hospital.

The priests’ first action was to invite the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to establish a Catholic elementary school. For them you built a convent as well as the school.

Through the years other Redemptorists lived among you for service and ministry. St. Alphonsus Parish was one of the early centers in the Oakland Diocese where the Charismatic Renewal Movement gathered and grew for prayer of praise and petition.

I was with you as pastor in 1980 when Bishop John Cummins helped us celebrate your silver jubilee as a parish. Father Terry Tompkins invited me to join you in celebrating your golden jubilee in 2005.

Above all, it has been your faith, hope and charity that have been an illustrious example for your neighborhood and for the diocese. Now you are called to be a leaven in neighboring parishes out of which St. Alphonsus Parish had been carved over 50 years ago. I am sure there are many mixed feelings of joy and sorrow in your hearts. I share them with you.

Be of good cheer. The Lord loves you and sustains you no less now than he always has. Praise the Lord, whom you serve.

Father Tom Lester, St. Leander Parish, San Leandro

(The final liturgy at St. Alphonsus Church will be celebrated on June 29 at 11 a.m.)

Care for Iraqi refugees
I first met Sister Wardeh when she asked me to help carry a hospital bed to the tiny house of an elderly, disabled woman. That night, with my back aching, I dined with Sister and her Franciscan community in Amman, Jordan.

That’s when I heard and saw her community’s unity (and ingenuity) in assisting Iraqi refugees. No schools available for Iraqis? The Sisters teach them in the living room of their small convent and when the numbers grew, they added their basement and kitchen. No room for the homeless and unemployed? The Sisters turn their community room (the largest room) into a safe place for overnight guests. Stacks of mattresses were piled in readiness for the evening.

No employment available? Sister Wardeh is a professional social worker and she can turn the slightest possibility into a reality…slim as it may be. The Franciscan Sisters have given themselves, but they have also transformed their entire living accommodations into a safe shelter and school for Iraqi refugees.

Women like Sister Wardeh assure that “no room at the inn” is not the excuse offered in this millennium!

Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.
Catholic Near East Welfare Association, New York, N.Y.

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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