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January 5, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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Give proper credit

Regarding The Voice story on the “Growing parish dedicates new center in Pleasanton” (Voice, Dec. 15), it is hard for us to imagine why no credit was given to Father Dan Danielson, the former pastor, whose vision brought not only the John Paul II facility but both phases of the St. Elizabeth Seton parish facilities.

Father Danielson struggled with the city for years to get the plans approved and then agreed to oversee the construction to its fulfillment during his retirement.

Some of us remember. Thank you, Father Dan.

MaryAnn and Bob Butler
Via email

Church can err

I must object to Bishop Vigneron’s statement (Voice, Dec. 15) that said when people join the Church they must submit their private judgment to the judgment of the Church, for the Church knows better what God has said. I am not sure how he can state that this is a meaning of what it is to be Catholic.

Here are a few reasons for my stance. My personal judgment is that slavery is wrong, despite the Church supporting it until the late 1800s. In 1866 Pope Pius IX declared, “It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given.”

If I judge that secular priests should be celibate, I am in disagreement with the Church that allowed it until the year 1139. As I believe diocesan priests should be allowed to marry, I am conversely in disagreement with the Church since 1139.

I judge that it is right to charge interest on a loan, but that is against Church teachings that condemned usury at the Second Lateran Council in 1139, the Third Lateran Council in 1179, and the Council of Vienne in 1311.

I am also against the Inquisition and the Crusades, despite the Church judging that these were according to God’s will and teachings.

If all these things are part of the “mind of the Church,” the bishop is right in saying I “might not understand the reasons for what she teaches.”

The Church is not as perfect in its thinking as the bishop presumes, and I imagine the bishop’s sense of “the gospel truth” is not as black and white as he believes it to be. The Church has a sinful side, as shown in the recent pedophile scandal.

As Jesus questioned his Jewish religion so, too, do the people of our Church need to critique it to bring it closer to being the Reign of God on earth. We, too, are Christ’s representatives, not just the institutional Church.

Mark Gotvald
Pleasant Hill

Flawed understanding

Kate Dougherty thanks The Catholic Voice (Forum, Dec. 15) for being willing “to publish conflicting points of view.” She says that enables us to “think and discern” and to “form our own conscience and opinions” about Catholic doctrine.

That, in the mindset and “blind faith” of this pre-Vatican II Catholic, is precisely the problem facing the Catholic Church today. It is primarily the flawed individual understanding of the teachings of the Church of self-anointed theologians that makes cafeteria Catholics of those who think they know what they can believe and what they would reject.

I do not exculpate our bishops for us finding ourselves and our Church in that condition. But as David Zarri has written (Forum, Dec. 15), let’s be thankful that our bishops are finally beginning to break their silence and end their ambiguity.

And with that, let’s also pray that, in the next national elections, fewer than 54 percent of misguided Catholic voters will vote for a pro-abortion candidate for president, as happened this time around.

Horatio F. Ozorio

Rationalizing support

Moral values are not up for sale to the highest bidder. Abortion trumps all other issues. To say otherwise is to place a monetary and materialistic value on human life.

The priest in South Carolina who told his parishioners they should not receive Holy Communion before doing penance if they voted for Obama is correct. Barack Obama and Joseph Biden have conscientiously and freely taken the side of the pro-abortionists, plain and simple. In addition, both opposed Proposition 8.

Father Gerald Coleman (Voice, Dec 15) attempts to rationalize support for Obama under the guise of forming consciences. Under the criteria that Father Coleman uses, any candidate who supports abortion and embryonic stem cell testing deserves Roman Catholic support so long as that candidate also vigorously supports the expansion of the welfare state, illegal aliens and any socialist economic policy agenda. This is placing monetary and material rewards on this earth before human life.

He cannot be further from the truth. The priest in South Carolina, whom Father Coleman refuses to name, correctly told his parishioners that “voting for a pro-abortion politician when a substitute pro-life alternative exists constitutes cooperation with intrinsic evil.”

There was a pro-life alternative in John McCain and Sarah Palin. The economic policies advocated by John McCain were aimed at helping the poor gain dignity, self-respect, a sense of worth and self-esteem while Barack Obama’s policies will lead to increased dependency on secular institutions.

There was no better example to Roman Catholic women than Sarah Palin — successful marriage, successful career, large family, giving birth to a handicapped child at age 43.

Barack Obama has sided with Planned Parenthood, an organization that was formed by that eugenicist Margaret Sanger who advocated “thinning the population.” Contrary to what Father Coleman wants to propagandize, there is a very real threat that the incoming Congress will pass the Freedom of Choice Act. With huge electoral gains of pro-abortionists in this election, there is a chance it will become law and Barack Obama will sign it.

No increased amount of welfare is worth giving Planned Parenthood that victory. No unborn child should be cast aside for a few pieces of silver.

Paul G. Vargas
San Leandro

Cooperation in grave sin

In his commentary (Voice, Dec. 15), Father Gerald Coleman addresses the position of Father Jay Scott Newman in South Carolina. Father Newman stated that his parishioners should not receive Communion if they voted for Barak Obama because he supports abortion.

Father Coleman did not have to go as far as South Carolina because not a few right here in California have made the same point. I am one of them, although I did not specify Barak Obama. I don’t see how we can interpret Church teaching in any other way than that a vote for any candidate who promises to support legal abortion is a cooperation in grave sin.

Father Coleman concludes: “The South Carolina priest was wrong. . . . To assume that Catholics who voted for Obama did so to support a liberal pro-choice agenda is naïve at best, and misleading in the extreme.”

Two points must be made. First, Father Newman did not assume that those voting for Obama did so “to support a liberal pro-choice agenda.” He knows that many Catholics voted for Obama despite his deplorable stand on abortion. But Father Newman’s point, and that of many Catholic priests and bishops, is that because abortion outweighs any other life issue, a Catholic in good conscience can never vote for a candidate who supports it. I realize that the Magisterium has not drawn this conclusion specifically, but I think it is an inescapable conclusion.

Second, the U.S. bishops have clearly stated that abortion and euthanasia indeed outweigh other human life issues: “The elderly, poor, disabled and politically marginalized . . . at least have a presence. They at least have the possibility of organizing to be heard. Those who are unborn, infirm and terminally ill have no such advantage. They have no “utility,” and worse, they have no voice” (Living the Gospel of Life, 4 [1998]).

And again, “abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others” (ibid, 5).

The U.S. bishops have declared that an official’s correct position on secondary life issues such as war, capital punishment, and poverty does not validate his or her incorrect position on abortion or euthanasia: “Being ‘right’ in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life” (ibid, 23).

In the light of these statements by the nation’s bishops, it is hard to imagine how Father Newman’s position could be described as “naïve and misleading in the extreme.” It seems rather a self-evident conclusion.
The bishops conclude in “Living the Gospel of Life” that “our nation cannot countenance the continued existence in our society of such fundamental violations of human rights [abortion and euthanasia]” (no. 33).

How indeed can we reverse the growing tide of pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia legislation? If Catholics are not taught clearly that a promise to support abortion disqualifies a candidate, Catholics will continue to give our officials an implicit mandate to destroy the most vulnerable of all people—those waiting to be born. Clearly, the time has come to draw the necessary conclusions from a “consistent ethic of life” and to act on it.

Father Joseph Illo
Pastor, St. Joseph Church

Thoughtful and balanced

I always find Father Gerald Coleman to be thoughtful and interesting to read. I agree with him often. I think that his reflections on voting in the recent election (Voice, Dec. 15) 2008) were thoughtful and balanced.

I think that for some persons who react strongly to one or two issues it might come as a shock that Catholic Thought requires some thinking. Thank you for publishing Father Coleman’s column.

Thomas Weston, S.J.

‘The change we need’

Father Gerald Coleman’s commentary (Voice, Dec. 15) defended Catholics who voted for President-elect Obama. With all due respect to Father Coleman, his commentary omitted several important facts. The most serious omission is the matter of proportionality. He correctly names abortion, along with genocide, torture, slavery, and human trafficking as intrinsic evils.

However, abortion is the only intrinsic evil that is killing over a million people a year in America.
Father Coleman also fails to mention the impact a president has on Supreme Court decisions. Roe vs. Wade was decided on a 5 to 4 vote. Over 40 million lives have been lost as a result of that one vote. When it comes to the numbers of abortions committed in this country, the actions of the president really do matter.

That said, I do agree with Father Coleman’s central premise that Catholics who voted for Obama in spite of his pro-abortion position should not be denied Communion. A vote for a candidate is not an endorsement of all of that candidate’s positions. Many Catholics voted for Obama not based on his past votes but based on his promises of hope and change for the future.

My hope is that all faithful Catholics, regardless of political viewpoint, can find common ground by praying for our new president. We certainly can all pray that he has a conversion of heart and starts to hear the cries of the unborn. That will truly be “the change we need.”

Mike McDermott

Too much silence

In response to his role in getting Proposition 8 passed last November, Archbishop George Niederauer pointed out that “Catholic bishops . . . have a responsibility to teach the faith.” (“S.F. archbishop defends role in Prop.8 passage”, S.F. Chronicle, Dec. 4).

Indeed, that is the case. However, one could wish that he, and the majority of Catholic bishops, were just as outspoken on certain other tenets of their faith. As far as we can tell, Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, still less about gay marriage. But he was absolutely clear that he wanted his followers to be peacemakers, and to take care of the needs of the poor. It is surely the responsibility of religious leaders to promulgate these twin precepts.

Our government has spent billions invading and occupying Iraq, and continues to pursue its reckless and criminal path of acquiring more and more sophisticated weapons of war. It hands over colossal sums to arms manufacturers and closes its eyes when the money is squandered.

Meanwhile, efforts to improve the lives of the poor, whether in this country or in the third world, never receive adequate funding.

This reversal of priorities should be the top concern of anyone who claims to be upholding the teachings of Jesus. But sadly, with a few notable exceptions (e.g., Jesuit Father John Dear and Franciscan Father Louie Vitale, both of whom have been jailed multiple times for civil disobedience), Catholic clergy are silent on the two most glaring sins of our time: militarism and corporate greed.

Maureen Wesolowski

Good Catholic schools

I am responding to David Zarri’s unwarranted attack on our Catholic schools (Forum, Dec. 15).
I have been teaching parish Confirmation classes for 20 years. Most of my students go to Catholic high schools. In addition, I have put three of my children through Catholic schools and was acquainted with all their teenage friends.

I have never met a young person with 12 years of Catholic schooling who is not familiar with Church doctrine, Scripture, and social justice. If Mr. Zarri wants to know how 54 percent of Catholic voters could vote for a pro-choice candidate he should educate himself by reading Father Gerald Coleman’s article in the same issue of the Catholic Voice.

There was no reason for Mr. Zarri to attack our perfectly good Catholic schools.

Barbara Cortese
El Cerrito

Natural law is unchangeable

Thank you, Dr. Ronald Connolly, M.D., for giving us the facts of life on the impossibility of same sex marriage (Forum, Dec. 15). Yes, Virginia, you have a mommy and a daddy, and they cannot be of the same sex. The idea of asking the state to make men mommies is equivalent to asking Congress to change the law of gravity. Modern technology allows space travel, as it also allows for loveless fertilization. But the basic physical laws of gravity and sexuality remain unchanged.

By not defining the separation between church and state, The Catholic Voice has caused a lot of confusion. With all the press, one would think that state law has the power to change natural law.

All the emotions expressed by letters and articles tell me that some Catholics fear state law can change natural law and divine law, when in reality God’s law is even more powerful than natural law. By God’s will, saints can levitate and Our Lord was born of a virgin.

Instead of politics, I would prefer our religious journals speak to the emotional, psychological and spiritual aspect of human sexuality.

Carmen Hartono

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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