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 March 30 , 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 6   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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Image out of context

The March 9 edition of The Voice carried two letters regarding the “troubling image” as well as the architectural format of the new cathedral. These, and other letters that have preceded them, demonstrate the problems that arise when things are taken out of context and not thoroughly explained.

People seem unaware that the source of the image of Christ is a six- or seven-foot sculpture over the central door of the west front of Chartres Cathedral that was removed from its context and enlarged 20-plus times.

This 21st-century transformation of a 12th-century sculpture is not completely successful as it removes The Lord in Majesty from his central position in the kingdom of heaven, surrounded by the apostles and saints, as portrayed on the facade of the French edifice.

If you stand in front of the doorway at Chartres, there is no “troubling image” but rather a Christ in glory, encircled with the citizens of heaven welcoming all the baptized to the earthly temple of the Savior.

As bleak as the new cathedral is, the best design work has been reserved for the dead in the lower level mausoleum accented with authentic Catholic-era stained glass depicting the saints. And as one friend has pointed out, the mausoleum can accommodate twice as many deceased as there is seating for the living in the church.

Phillip Faight

In cathedral’s defense

Larry Smith (Forum, March 9) deserves a commendation for his really wild imagination. What resembles a bishop’s miter at the front entrance to the Cathedral of Christ the Light is indeed a Gothic arch, while the architect designed the cathedral in the shape of a vesica pisces, a fish, one of the oldest symbols of Christianity.

The cathedral’s interior reliquary walls (“WWII German artillery bunkers”) carry the 14 Stations of the Cross, beautifully sculpted by Andrew Bonnette. These stations were deliberately placed at a level where children, people in wheel chairs and others could touch them.

These same concrete walls lead to six devotional chapels, two for reconciliation, one devoted to the suffering Christ and another that features the Holy Family, in which can be seen the paintings of the Cusco school, the Inca’s answer to stained glass windows.

True, Christ in Majesty, the subject of the Omega window does not correspond to the traditional picture of the Risen Christ. The technology involved in the display causes awe, admiration and praise to God for what can be done through 21st century technology.

All of these facts, as well as many others, can be ascertained by a docent-led tour of the cathedral, and I invite anyone whose curiosity has been peaked by Mr. Smith’s letter to come to the cathedral and take a tour.

Sister Ann Ronin, O.P.

Lacking cohesion

I am no longer a practicing Catholic but still receive and read The Catholic Voice as a matter of interest. I never supported the idea of building a new cathedral in Oakland; it seemed like a dated concept and a waste of money. I did have a passing curiosity in seeing what it finally did look like, and the opportunity came up when I was summoned for potential jury duty at the Superior Court downtown.

Since we have a two-hour lunch, I had plenty of time to walk there and back. I had great hopes for a modern, inspiring building. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations. I found it to be a cold, ultra modern, uneasy mix of concrete, wood, and glass without any particular cohesion — very disappointing.

I think the design looked good on paper, but something got lost in the building process. Maybe it will put to rest this silly idea of needing ridiculously large structures called cathedrals anymore, a very dated concept in today’s world.

Now both San Francisco and Oakland have ultra modern “cathedrals” for some reason, whatever it is, maybe symbolic of why I left the Church altogether — all show and no substance.

Richard Gregg
Via email

A student’s perspective

I was a student of the second class from the Diocese of Oakland to visit the Cathedral of Christ the Light. When I went on the field trip I saw many special sights.

I saw three columns that had fish that filled each one. Each fish was made by different students in the diocese.

My favorite was the baptismal font. Its clear water reminded me so much of purity and new life Jesus brings to us each day.

There was also a huge image of Jesus when you first walk into the cathedral. Wow, it was amazing. It’s only made out of little holes! Its light comes from the reflection of the sun.

Another part I enjoyed was the shape. Our guide told us that almost every other cathedral was shaped like a cross, but this cathedral was shaped like a fish, representing a sacred meaning in our Catholic beliefs. My class also attended Mass. I have never been to a Mass like it.

I hope others will visit the new cathedral because it is a wonderful site.

Samantha Maguire
(Samantha Maguire is in the third grade at St. Raymond School in Dublin.)

Rosary on an iPod

If you or your teen have an iPod, I want to share a prayerful idea. After downloading songs from CDs to my new iPod, I decided to download a recording of the rosary. This allows me to pray it anytime day or night, at the gym while on the treadmill or when taking a walk outside.

In my opinion, the easiest recording for an iPod is a simple version (without music) from the Mary Foundation. Their rosary CD is free with a $1 donation. I like this particular recording because only one playlist is necessary for all four mysteries and just one set of five decades. All four mysteries are announced at the beginning of each decade; you just need to know beforehand which mystery (Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, Glorious) is suggested for that particular day.

Other recordings of the rosary I’ve tried on my iPod required four playlists, one for each of the four mysteries and their five decades. The Apostles Creed, the five decades and the Hail Holy Queens in those four playlists needed to be carefully named or numbered so they played in correct order. The rosary recording from the Mary Foundation doesn’t require that detail.

To order a free rosary CD online from the Mary Foundation visit their website (www.catholicity.com). There are other free CDs available on other subjects for an additional donation of $1 each. You can also mail a personal check with a $1 donation for each CD to: Mary Foundation, P.O. Box 26101, Fairview Park, OH 44126.

Janis (McWilliams) Miller

Saved from abortion

About 32 years ago, one of the most delightful girls in my counseling group was the daughter and the granddaughter of the same man. In response to Frank Nieman’s letter, “Avoid absolutes,” (Forum, Feb. 23) if this baby had been aborted because her grandfather impregnated his daughter, her mother, I would not have had the pleasure of working with this intelligent, talented and born leader and many would have missed knowing her and her contributions to society.

Retired public school teacher/counselor
Name withheld upon request

Oppose abortion now

In the Feb. 23 issue of The Catholic Voice, I noticed two letters questioning the Church’s position on abortion, and implying that the Church’s abortion position was obscure. I strongly feel that The Voice missed a teaching opportunity. Why would you not rebuke this thinking?

If our Church does not stand for life, what do we stand for? I would like to tell those “Catholics du jour” to keep their ignorance to themselves.

I know we live in an area where liberalism is the norm. I feel our Church had better speak up — and loudly — before it is too late. If FOCA gets passed (as this president is aiming) we can put a lot of blame directly in the laps of Catholics and Catholic leaders who do not state that abortion is murder.

Mary Smiderle
Via email

Avoid rash judgment

I want to thank those persons who wrote in response to my in The Voice letter (Forum, Feb. 23) asking for an end to saying “baby killing” for abortion. Aside from some rather reckless use of Scripture and some misunderstanding of St. Thomas Aquinas, they were obviously heartfelt.

Questions about the human, unifying principle are scientific ones. To solve questions of science by the Scriptures is always a misuse. Also, St. Thomas was well aware that life began at conception; he just did not think truly human life did. He, like many of his time, rather favored the moment the mother first felt life.

Today’s scientists would prefer St. Thomas. They say, “Ontogeny usually recapitulates phylogeny” — we probably start in the womb with fish-souls first.

For the record, I hate all artificial abortions, even when they are said to save a life. For the record also, however, souls are not God; they are created. Whether the human soul is developed from the material in the ovum and sperm, or when, are scientific, unanswered questions. Maybe God creates them whole later.

To call abortionists “baby-killers” is to pretend to know those answers and, however well-meaning, to make a rash judgment. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that’s a sin.

Frank Nieman
Pleasant Hill

Hold Obama accountable

I want to take exception with the conclusions reached by Regina Wilkerson (Forum, Feb. 23) regarding the responsibility for the continuation of abortion in our society. Ms Wilkerson seeks to indemnify the Obama administration because the laws permitting the deed preceded him to Washington D.C.

When Ms. Wilkerson states that Obama “has enough on his agenda to solve for us,” she would have us believe that the priority we as Catholics and Americans give to abortion must be lower than the saving of 401Ks, bailing out disingenuous mortgage holders, and protecting habitats for polar bears. Abortion is a grave evil that diminishes our society and everyone it touches.

It is not OK for a president or any leader to merely float along with the status quo, absolved and content with history. All political leaders draw their authority from God. We owe no leader any consideration, submission, cooperation, support or gratitude in the pursuit of grave evil. In fact, we have the duty to change bad laws and resist grave evil in our public life, both by our words and our nonviolent actions.

The truest respect we can show to civil authority is the witness of our Catholic faith and our moral convictions, without excuses or apologies.

So, as Ms. Wilkerson says, let’s not blame President Obama for the past abortions, but let’s hold him personally accountable for every life deprived going forward.

Thomas Templeton

Counter overpopulation

Donald Anthrop makes some good points in his letter (Forum, Feb. 23) in reference to the pope’s position on population proving to be an asset, not a factor that contributes to poverty. But maybe he didn’t go far enough.

I believe the greatest problem in the world today is overpopulation. I can think of no political problem that is made better by adding more people to earth’s population.

There are an estimated 6.5 billion people in this world. During the time of Christ, it is estimated there were approximately 0.3 billion, and that number remained fairly steady until the time of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. That is when many of the vaccines and drugs were invented or discovered and advancements made in nutrition and health, raising survival rates and longevity.

Up until that time, the Church’s position on birth control (no contraceptives) made sense because of the high mortality rates, but it makes absolutely no sense today. The Church tell us that abstaining from intercourse during a women’s fertile period is the only way to go, and that may work for some. But I find that somewhat akin to telling an alcoholic to simply stop drinking so much, or an obese person to simply stop eating so much. It simply doesn’t work for most people.

The Church says that using contraceptives is contrary to the natural order of things. Well, virtually all procedures that go on in a hospital with the possible exception of natural child birth and most of the drugs that people use are not natural. So let’s be consistent — either go all natural (no contraceptives, operations, life supports or drugs), or go with helping nature where it is for the good of the planet, and therefore the good of mankind. (By the way, I believe abortion is wrong and should not be a part of this discussion.)

The bottom line is that the Church should have joined the 20th century and most definitely should join the 21st century, by not just allowing contraceptives, but actually encouraging their use, particularly in third world countries that chronically suffer because of overpopulation. The Church has many times in the past changed her position because of changing times. Now she should do it on birth control.

Chuck Schneider

Maintain union ballots

Mark Pattison’s article (Voice, March 9) on wage theft was both interesting and moving. However, the suggestion by Kim Bobo that the Employee Free Choice Act would solve this problem is most troubling. The act would eliminate the secret ballot in union representation elections.

Sacrificing the secret ballot in order to stop wage theft is foolhardy especially when laws already exist to punish those who do not respect U.S. labor laws. Just look at the $640 million that Wal-Mart must pay for making employees work off the clock.

Anthony Izzi
Walnut Creek

Shift focus from ashes

The distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday is better attended than weekday Mass, rivaling attendance at Sunday Mass. The church is crowded when something of limited consequence (ashes or palm) is given, but is less well attended when the act of our redemption and body and blood of our Redeemer are made available.

Further, the wearing of ashes to display repentance and Catholicity is contrary to the instructions of Jesus as stated in the Gospel of Ash Wednesday (Matt. 6: 16-18). We are told not to disfigure our face, but to wash our face so that only our Father can see in secret that we are fasting.

This is only one of several inconsistencies in the practice of our religion and requires a change of attitude by the faithful and clergy.

John Kearney

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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