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 February 23, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 4   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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More than 25 cents

I was recently conscripted outside my regular parish into manning the collection basket. It turned out to be great fun. Some folks suddenly find something in the missalette which absorbs their total attention. Others, having no missalette to hide behind, just glare and angrily motion me on. Yet others, dressed to the nines, pop in a whole quarter.

I find myself asking, “Where on earth do they think this parish gets the money to keep going?” I bet if the bishop were to decide he had to close the parish tomorrow they would all be out with their banners protesting.

I periodically attend a local synagogue. There is no passing of the plate at the Shabbat service. Members pay dues, just as I do at my health club. When I told the rabbi I am a lector, reading Scripture at Sunday Mass, he said: “Ach so. And how much do they pay you?”

A Baptist friend tells me that before the weekly plate is passed the minister reminds everybody: “I don’t want to hear no jingling. I want that quiet money.”
I realize few of us will rise to the generosity of tithing. But a quarter in 2009? My own tardy conversion came when it dawned on me what I was gladly paying for the convenience of a short cab ride. A good enough place to start, perhaps. Take a taxi to heaven — it’s not that far!

Damian B. Smyth

Avoid absolutes

Recent letters have castigated the new president for his abortion position. They are well-meaning, but go too far and are not helpful to the Church and its mission.

The Church admittedly knows no more than anyone else about when the soul is infused into the body. To be cautious, the Church teaches that abortion is always forbidden because the destroyed fetus might be human.

We are not allowed to “maybe” not kill a human being. I agree, but the “maybe” presents some interesting possibilities for nasty situations, like fathers impregnating daughters, that humans can get into.

History would suggest more caution in speech. St. Thomas, in his Summa Theologiae, dealing with his students about when Our Lord became a man, had to meet the objection that humans do not have their souls at the first moment of conception. If so, how could Christ, especially if he is human just like we are? In his answer, Thomas totally agrees with the fact that humans do not get souls at conception. Later he explains why we must make an exception for the Lord. This interesting material is in ST, III, q.33.

What is appropriate here, I think, is a need to drop all the talk about abortion being “baby-killing.” Some of it is, but most of it probably isn’t. I would not expect the Church to announce this to the world, but we members need to avoid absolutes lest we say something that very well might not be true.

Frank Nieman
Pleasant Hill

Both sides of the issue

There are two sides to the Israel/Palestinian conflicts. I’d like to see some support for Israel. Israel has a right to defend its citizens. Since Israel left Gaza hoping that this land-for-peace would assist in a two-state peace, Hamas has fired over 6,000 rockets, month after month, year after year into the civilian population of Israel.

Hamas states that its intention is to destroy Israel and has stated unequivocally that it has no desire for a peaceful two-state solution. Hamas has been identified by the United Statesand all of Europe as a terrorist organization. Recently these terrorists have turned on their own Palestinians who oppose them and mutilated and killed members of Fatah, a party ruling in the West Bank.

Any nation in the world would respond as Israel has done to protect its citizens. Israel, a member of the United Nations, has continuously been bombarded by terrorists and has shown extraordinary patience until forced to respond. The world was silent during the rocket attacks on Israel. Now we hear of Israel fighting back and the Arab world and some Leftists who hate America are screaming: unfair. I wonder why?

If Israel were a Christian nation, rather than Jewish, would we hear so much noise about Israel’s effort to protect its citizens? If Canada or Mexico were firing rockets into the United States, certainly we would be responding in order to protect our citizens.

More objective reporting on this situation would be greatly appreciated.

Barbara & Harry Lieberman

We are responsible

The critics of President Obama and his cabinet should be grateful that God has anointed such a young prince to be our leader; even more so that he was willing to accept the horrendous challenges set before him in leading our world out of the crisis we face.

The Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 recognized the right to abortion. We have had 6 presidents — four Republican and two Democratic, since then. There were no sermons or people being told that they “must” go to confession if they voted for certain public officials. Why blame this on President Obama now? He has enough on his agenda to solve for us.

We, the people, must take responsibility for overturning the Roe vs. Wade decision. In the meantime, the faithful must pray for God’s divine intervention in correcting the mistakes made by legalizing abortion. Our presidents, legislators and judges are bound by the laws that we make; they face impeachment if they operate outside of, or above the law.

So let’s not blame President Obama for the monster that we, the people created. We must do as King David did when he realized his transgressions; pray for God’s forgiveness and mercy.

Regina Wilkerson

Anti-slavery history

Mark Gotvald (Forum, Jan. 5) writes that since the Church has approved of slavery in the past, Catholics need not follow the Church’s teaching since she can clearly err. May I refer him to Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Catholicae Ecclesiae, dated Nov. 20, 1890, and addressed to Catholic missionaries in Africa.
Some relevant excerpts:

“The maternal love of the Catholic Church embraces all people. As you know, venerable brother, the Church from the beginning sought to completely eliminate slavery, whose wretched yoke has oppressed many people. It is the industrious guardian of the teachings of its Founder who, by His words and those of the apostles, taught men the fraternal necessity which unites the whole world.

“This zeal of the Church for liberating the slaves has not languished with the passage of time; on the contrary, the more it bore fruit, the more eagerly it glowed. There are incontestable historical documents which attest to that fact, documents which commended to posterity the names of many of our predecessors.

“Among them St. Gregory the Great, Hadrian I, Alexander III, Innocent III, Gregory IX, Pius II, Leo X, Paul III, Urban VIII, Benedict XIV, Pius VII, and Gregory XVI stand out. They applied every effort to eliminate the institution of slavery wherever it existed. They also took care way.”

Personally, I have great confidence in the teaching authority of the Church to preserve the teachings of Jesus, not because of the men who currently hold the apostolic offices but because I trust Christ to guide the Church He himself established.

I especially like the very first sentence in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is by John Paul II: “Guarding the deposit of faith is the mission which the Lord has entrusted to His Church, and which she fulfills in every age.”

Eric Wilmurt

Facing the facts

In his message, “Fighting Poverty to Build Peace,” Pope Benedict was quoted as saying, “Population is proving to be an asset, not a factor that contributes to poverty” [Voice, Jan. 5].

The six poorest countries in the world ranked by per capita gross national income in purchasing power parity [GNIPPP] are: Congo Democratic Republic, Liberia, Burundi, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, and Niger. All six are located in Africa and all have a natural rate of population increase [births minus deaths] of 3 percent per year or greater.

The average GNIPPP for the 101 million inhabitants of these six countries is a meager $352 per year. For comparison, the average GNIPPP for the U.S. is $45,850.

In his message, the pope was quoted as stating that “...some nations that have emerged as new economic powers have experienced rapid development specifically because of the large number of their inhabitants.” Presumably the pope was referring to China.

Two observations are in order here. The economic development in China has been possible in no small measure because of China’s efforts to reduce population growth, which has slowed from 0.9 percent annually in 2000 to 0.5 percent in 2008. Twenty years ago, China’s annual rate of population growth was 1.4 percent.

Secondly, this economic development of which the pope speaks so fondly is not sustainable. Let me cite just two examples.

World proved recoverable crude oil reserves total about 1,300 billion barrels. Per capita petroleum consumption in the U.S. is about 25 barrels per year. If the world’s 6.7 billion inhabitants consumed oil at this rate, we would need to produce 460 million barrels/day [b/d] instead of the 73 million b/d we now produce, and the world’s oil supply would be exhausted in 8 years.

Yes, more oil will be found, but these new discoveries would not significantly prolong the life of oil reserves or the accompanying price escalation, and it is highly unlikely conventional world crude production will ever exceed 110 million b/d.

In September 2007, Msgr. Pietro Parolin, Vatican undersecretary of state, addressed the U.N. General Assembly. The Vatican, he said, believes protecting the environment is a “moral imperative”. He said that climate change demands a new cooperative international strategy in order to avoid a “bleak future”.

If the pope shares this view, he has a huge problem. In just six years, between 2000 and 2006, China’s carbon dioxide emissions increased from 2,970 to 6,018 million metric tons—an increase of 103 percent—and now exceed those of the U.S. During this same time period, world carbon dioxide emissions increased by 22 percent.

The real problem is not carbon emissions, or oil consumption, or food supplies. The fundamental problem is that there are more people on the planet than the planet can support in the manner in which these people would like to be supported. This problem is only being exacerbated by the Vatican’s arcane policy on contraception and such ludicrous comments from the pope.

Donald F. Anthrop

(Donald Anthrop is professor emeritus of environmental studies at San Jose State University.)

Purifying the vessels

I would like to bring this information to the attention of everyone involved with assisting priests and deacons at Mass. It seems that there are many people in the Oakland Diocese who are not familiar with a change to the procedure for the initial purification of the sacred vessels used for the consecration and distribution of Holy Communion.

There was a three-year indult granted in 2002 for the United States bishops to allow Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to perform this function. When the indult expired in 2005, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops applied for an extension. In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI denied the extension. This was so the Roman Catholic Church in the United States would conform to the rest of the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world.

So as of 2006, only priests, deacons and instituted acolytes are authorized to perform the initial purification of the sacred vessels. The Oakland diocesan website was updated in June 2008 to reflect this change.

Matthew Sandner

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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