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Catholic Voice

 August 4, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 14   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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Remembering Rita Billeci
We were saddened to hear about the passing of Rita Billeci. During our 28 years of knowing her, first through the Marriage Encounter Movement, and then during our 20 plus years as a Marriage Preparation Team, we always felt loved by Rita. She challenged us to love more deeply, grow deeper in our faith, and reach out to one another and others.

Her guidance not only enriched us as individuals and a couple, but also touched the lives and enriched so many couples. Rita was genuine. Her love and passion were contagious. She inspired so many with her gentleness and strength. Her dedication to family and faith was a beautiful gift she passed on to others.

The many nights we spent together preparing for Marriage Preparation Week-ends, laughing and praying together will never be forgotten. She called out the best in everyone she met. The work Rita did is a blessing to everyone in the diocese and will live on forever. God Bless you, Rita, until we meet again.

Jim and Joyce Kohl

(Rita Billeci, who recently retired after more than 25 years as diocesan director of Family Life ministry, died on July 3. A memorial Mass was celebrated at Church of the Good Shepherd in Pittsburg on July 9.)

Defective catechesis
Pam Brady’s June 23 letter (“Marriage Not for Gays”) beautifully encapsulated Catholic teaching regarding homosexually afflicted children: they need unwavering parental love and an understanding that grace can overcome urges toward sinful homosexual activity.

Brady recognized that among children of God, condoning homosexualism (including homosexual “marriage”) represents false compassion, comparable to approving an alcoholic’s self-destructive drinking.

Unfortunately, Michael Harmuth — officially representing the Oakland Diocese as chair of its “Outreach Ministry with GLBT Catholics” — puts “Gay marriage issues aside…,” and denies that homosexuality is “an undesirable condition that needs to be suppressed or overcome” (Forum, July 7).

Thereby, Harmuth at least indirectly opposes Bishop Vigneron and directly contradicts the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, which identifies homosexual inclinations as “objectively disordered,” and “homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity” which can never be approved.

The homosexually inclined, facing “a trial,” must “be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” But meanwhile, they “are called to chastity,” as Mrs. Brady reminded.

With such defective catechesis and moral/religious illiteracy as Harmuth’s broadcasted from diocesan offices (and in many parishes), it’s perhaps not surprising that Bill Luty reviles Bishop Vigneron’s opposition to “gay marriage” as “fear mongering” — or that Luty confuses the Catholic Church with some free-for-all gaggle in which “no one person is more qualified to speak than anyone else” (Forum,July 7).

Luty derides “the notion that God laid out a uniform plan for everyone to follow” as “foolish.” In fact, it’s failing to build one’s house on immovable foundations that is foolish (Matthew 7:26-27).

Sharon Arata

Marriage society’s foundation
I want to respond to Bill Luty’s letter (Forum, July 7). He accuses Bishop Vigneron of “fear mongering” and claims the bishop was intolerant and that his June 9 column was shameful. Incredibly, he states that the bishop does not speak for everyone in his diocese.

The bishop is the chief teacher and guardian of Catholic truth as well as the shepherd of his diocese. Bishops are the successors of the apostles, who make present in the Church the headship of Christ the Good Shepherd.

Bishop Vigneron should be commended for defending Church teaching that a legitimate marriage relationship is only possible between one man and one woman.

Marriage is the very foundation of society. It is the institution that provides for procreation, a mother and a father, and a stable family structure, which are so important to the development of children. The family with a mother and a father is where the next generation is nurtured and formed. Without these conditions it simply cannot be marriage. A legal relationship that is not life-giving and excludes the possibility of a mother or a father can never be marriage.

History has shown that there cannot be a strong nation without marriage and strong families. This is a significant reason that societies have laws to encourage and protect marriage.

Activist judges should not override common sense and the will of the California voters. They don’t have a right to redefine marriage.

Jim Crowley
Walnut Creek

Civil and church law
I was very disappointed in Bishop Vigneron’s June 8 pastoral letter urging us to vote for the amendment to prohibit same-sex civil marriages, since his arguments stated only a religious belief (i.e. God’s plan doesn’t allow for same-sex marriages). But since this amendment would impact all Californians (straight, gay, religious, non-religious,) his arguments should have demonstrated that such an amendment is needed to safeguard or improve the common good.

No such reasons were given and therefore his letter is attempting to have a Catholic religious belief embedded into California law. And not all religions agree with him on this issue — certainly not Episcopalians, for one.

Of course, Church leaders certainly should try to influence government policy where social justice issues are at stake. However, it is far from clear that same-sex civil marriages fall into this category.

Robert Zanger

The bulwark for truth
Some letters of the July 7 Voice are a sad reminder of a serious lack of understanding of our faith. Not to believe in objective truth is not to believe in God. Being Catholic means believing that Christ founded a Church, and that he keeps his promise to preserve His Church free from error in matters of faith and morals.
We should all be familiar with the many beautiful Scripture passages which tell us that the Church is the pillar and bulwark of truth. This infallible Teaching Authority we call the Magisterium —- the pope and those bishops in union with him.

Catholics who believe they can pick and choose which teachings they’ll believe, fail to see the absurdity of their position. They are basically saying, “Look, Jesus, I know you’re God and all, but you’re wrong on this.”
Together with abortion, the homosexual condition is the issue of our times. Myths and lies have been repeated so often. There has been such a lack of teaching by our leaders. Is it any wonder that we have mass confusion?

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, even if those responsible have failed to teach, now as adults we have an obligation to learn the truth. I call on all people of good will to read the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1986 letter, “The Pastoral Care of Homosexuals”; the wonderful work of Father John Harvey’s “Courage” for those afflicted with same-sex attraction, and “Encourage” for their families and friends. See also the Catholic Medical Association and National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.

David Zarri

Gay marriage, straight divorce
I urge all Catholics to remember the difference between Church law and civil law. Sometimes they coincide; often they don’t. Church law considers divorce and remarriage a serious sin and prohibits it; civil law permits it. I doubt many Catholics would vote to make it illegal for opposite-sex married couples to divorce and remarry based on Church law.

I hope those same Catholics will not vote to prohibit two men or two women who love each other from joining in a civil marriage, just because the Church would not permit them the sacrament of marriage. That isn’t fair to the many Californians who aren’t Catholic. The Catholic Church is free to restrict the sacrament of marriage in any way it chooses; civil marriage, however, should remain constitutional for same-sex couples. Please vote “no” on Proposition 8 in November.

Scott McElhinney

Mockery of marriage
We are so blessed to have Bishop Allen as our shepherd in the Diocese of Oakland. His column in The Voice speaks truth based on Catholic teaching. It is sad and hurtful to read in Reader’s Forum the many letters of our “Catholic” brothers and sisters who criticize and put down our bishop. There is no respect that this person has a prayerful life and has sacrificed and dedicated it in service to our Lord.

They think their views are the right views, especially when it comes to gay unions and abortion. This may be in the majority of the secular world, but not in the Catholic Church and 2000 years of teaching.
Gay “marriages” mock our sacred sacrament of matrimony, and abortion is the outright genocide of the innocents of over 48 million, 4000 daily! Both are intrinsically evil and promote the culture of death.

The Catholic Voice should print these letters; however, it is irresponsible of the editor to not admonish and gently correct errant viewpoints immediately following. When allowing venting without correction based on truth, this Catholic newspaper loses a valuable teaching moment and thereby endangers the state of the soul and the many who read it to achieve holiness.

Cathy Critchfield

A diversity of views

I am writing to thank Monica Clark, Voice editor, and her staff for the wide variety of letters to Reader’s Forum that are printed. I am so grateful that The Voice prints letters from both sides of issues, and ones that may not be in direct accord with the bishop’s opinion. It is good to know that there are people of faith who feel on different sides of issues.

I also like that often a thread keeps going from issue to issue so that arguments from both sides are continued.

Please continue to keep up the good work. I know I am not the only one who reads the letters first, and who appreciates the variety of opinions expressed.

Mary Jo Kochly

Heart and soul
How many times and what more assurance must the opponents of the new Cathedral of Christ the Light have to hear in order to convince them that the funding of Catholic education and the building of the new cathedral are, have been, and ever will be entirely separate.

The people of the Diocese of Oakland need a fitting place to come together to worship their God. Catholics of ages past built edifices that stand today as a testament to their faith and love. Our cathedral does this and much more.

It not only provides a place of worship, but it also stands in the midst of a city in desperate need of many services. The cathedral has more than a soul; it has a heart.

Sister Ann Ronin, O.P.

Why revive the Latin Mass?

In my 77 years I have seen the reign of six Popes — Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and now Benedict XVI. They were all different from each other in spirituality and style. I read in The Voice that the present pope is asking for a Latin Mass in every parish. I wonder why.

Growing up in a Catholic school, I was taught the Latin responses and sang in the school choir. Not many have that opportunity now. I learned all those phrases phonetically and much of the time didn’t know what they meant. Mass attendance was a time of private prayer, rosary or meditation. I just put the sounds in the background as there was difficulty getting the meaning out of the Latin.

I never paid much attention to the other people in church. We were in a parish with lots of priests so there were “side altar” Masses going on during the “main Mass.” Priests were required to offer Mass every day at that time. The Mass was most important, but much of its meaning was lost to me due to the foreign language.

When Pope John XXIII, through the Second Vatican Council, brought in the change to the vernacular in the Mass, it was like a light went on. All of a sudden God was talking to me in my own language and I was able to be part of the Mass. It was a wonderful change.

I just wonder what will happen if every parish is required to have a Latin Mass now. How many priests will be able to oblige? Will our new converts understand what is happening? Will people be more involved in the prayers of the Mass? What would the benefit be for a return to the old Latin Mass?

Theresa Schexnayder
Via email

External trappings
In his ongoing effort to bring back Latin and Gregorian chant and other external trappings of our Faith, the Holy Father might keep in mind the words of Jesus: “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders....They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.” (Matthew 23:4-5); of the Prophets: “...it is steadfast love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6); and of Shakespeare: “...’tis mad idolatry to make the service greater than the god.” (Troilus and Cressida, Act II, scene 2, line 56).

Gene Moloney
Walnut Creek

Put embryonic cells to use
I read with some regret but with little or no surprise the article regarding the U.S. bishops statement on stem-cell research (Voice, June 23). I’m a bit bemused by the notion that leftover zygotes not be put to use. The argument “Ultimately each of us will die, but that gives no one the right to kill us” is a bit thin in these circumstances since that is exactly what happens to unused embryonic cells, chromosomes and all — they get killed.

Of course, there is a third alternative. If you can find enough surrogate mothers you can plant each zygote in a womb and bring it to term, which would end up making the Catholic Church the biggest promoter of test tube babies and/or the greatest un-wed mothers the world has ever seen. Far, far better than a cure for the diabetes I suffer.

Rick Thorne

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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