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 April 13, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 7   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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Being alive involves soul

Yvonne Estrada (Forum, March 9) addresses questions about the arrival of the soul into the body. Neither life nor soul can arrive in the body because states or conditions of existence previous to life are logically impossible.

There is, therefore, no place for the soul to exist before the human becomes alive. To be alive, therefore, is to exist and to exist is to be alive. The scientific proof for this is in vitro fertilization. If the human organism in the laboratory were not wholly, completely and essentially alive, from the earliest moment of its existence, there would be nothing to put in the human reproductive tract to become alive and there would be no pre-born baby in the womb.

Frederick A. Arend

Embryology lends clarity

In his letter to the editor, Frank Nieman (“Avoid Rash Judgment,” Voice, March 30) reiterates his position that Catholics should refrain from calling abortionists what they are: “baby killers.” In support, he suggests that St. Thomas Aquinas “. . . was well aware that life began at conception; he just did not think truly human life did.”

It amazes me that, from the Speaker of the House to a lay reader of The Catholic Voice, Catholics continue to cite St. Thomas Aquinas for a scientific proposition while misrepresenting his philosophy and theology. There is no such thing as “partially human life” and “truly human” life in Thomistic thought. Essences do not change. If a being is human, it is human; it cannot “become” anything other than its nature.

Following Aristotle, Aquinas believed that semen had an “animal soul” that provided the principal active cause of generation, while the female “menstrual blood” provided the matter to be organized by the semen. Aquinas concluded that the rational soul was directly infused by God into the body after the sperm had organized the matter sufficiently to enable it to receive the rational soul. At that moment, the generative principal of the semen ceased to exist and human life began.

Modern embryology affords us an understanding of cellular creation and division in conception that was beyond Aquinas’ wildest imagination. Today, there is no dispute that, at a scientifically well-defined “moment of conception” (i.e., the sperm-egg fusion, which occurs in less than a second), a new human organism comes into existence. The genetically distinct zygote immediately begins organizing and acting in a way that is entirely different from the sperm or the egg. Aquinas’ biological assumptions were incorrect, but his philosophical conclusions remain instructive: human life begins directly and immediately. Aquinas just didn’t have the benefit of knowing when and how matter is biologically organized at conception.

We must assume that today’s doctors who perform abortions know their embryology. They know what they are doing. They know that every abortion terminates a human life. So let’s stop misconstruing Aquinas and by all means continue calling abortion exactly what it is.

Thomas K. Hockel, Esq.
San Francisco

Abortion is murder

In response to Frank Nieman (Forum, March 30), I would like to correct him. He seems to think that calling abortion “baby killing” is rash judgment. He states that we do not all agree on what a soul is, or when this soul is given to a baby. Does that mean we do not kill a baby when we abort because of this nebulous question about a soul?

Mr. Nieman needs to be informed that permission for abortion is now being extended to the legal murder of fully developed babies who are almost out of the birth canal. This has happened. It will happen again if the FOCA bill is passed by Congress and signed by President Obama.

I would like to ask Mr. Nieman, with his scientific approach to ethics, if this discarded human being has a soul? Maybe the real question is, do you have a heart or are you too busy trying to define when life actually begins?

Sorry if I am using rash judgment, but I know what murder is, and what a real baby is. I can hear it crying.

Marylee Nurrenbern
San Ramon

Respect, remember police

The week of March 22 brought together not only the City of Oakland and our state, but also the entire country here and people abroad to mourn the loss of four Oakland policeman who died so cruelly and viciously. Thousands of hearts were broken and grieving over the loss of these police officers they didn’t even know.

These officers could have chosen to become accountants, salesmen, truck drivers or any other job that didn’t entail putting their life on the line the minute they went to work that day, but instead they chose to be police officers to dedicate their lives to protect the citizens of the city they worked for. Day and night, they were always there at the public’s beck and call for help.

Unfortunately, their job description for the most part is protecting the innocent and dealing with the criminals who create the problems that put innocent people in harm’s way. They were sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers, dedicating their lives to protect people they don’t even know.

If there was ever a time to stop and rethink how much you should appreciate and respect the very people who you can rely on to come to your aid when you are in need of help, now is the time.

Police officers are not looking for trouble; they are there to respond to your call for help because you are in trouble. They deserve the highest respect and appreciation from us all.

Diane Rinetti

Another ‘fish’ church

Samantha Maguire (Forum, March 30) has rightly pointed out that the Oakland cathedral is not the usual shape. It is one of the few churches in America to be built in the shape of a fish. Another church in America in the shape of a fish is the First Presbyterian Church of Stamford, Conn., built in 1958.

This “fish church” was designed by Wallace K. Harrison, the chief architect of the United Nations buildings in New York City, opened in 1958. The fish shape is not just the exterior, but the floor plan too is fish-shaped. The stained glass windows in the sanctuary contain more than 20,000 pieces of faceted glass. See www.fishchurch.org.

Mani Francis

Prudent silence requested

The pope’s recent incredible statement that condoms worsen the African AIDS crisis has, unfortunately, made him a laughingstock among health-care professionals. They know that the unavailability of condoms and contraceptive information has cost many lives. Although the papacy from Paul VI has insisted that artificial contraception is illicit, neither Catholics, by their continued use of birth control measures, nor non-Catholics have agreed.

I suggest that Pope Benedict should recognize this and help solve the AIDS crisis by keeping a prudent silence about condoms.

Robert Zanger

Make a cyber pilgrimage

We read a good deal in the news about various pilgrimages and shrines and sacred places. But in these difficult financial times, travel is out of the question for most of us.

Why not try a cyber pilgrimage? We can enjoy the blessings and pleasure of a pilgrimage by sitting at a computer and visiting a different kind of shrine. Simply call up The Mary Page, a website of the Marian Library and its International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton. Then embark on a cyber pilgrimage in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I was flabbergasted by what I found. Acknowledged as the premier Marian website, The Mary Page is a fascinating and valuable resource about everything concerning the Mother of the Redeemer. Encyclopedic in scope, it treats an extensive range of topics that will both inform and inspire. This website in a veritable treasure trove of matters Marian.

Your ticket is www.themarypage.org. Or enter The Mary Page on Google or another search engine.

Sadie Kafoury
Walnut Creek

Refute readers comments

I enjoy the content of The Catholic Voice in general, but the Reader’s Forum seems to be a haven for the negative and misguided. Many readers don’t have the answers or the time to attempt to refute many of these derogatory comments about our Church and diocese, but I do wish that someone from The Voice or the Diocese of Oakland would take the time to comment on those posts that demean the view of the Church.

Every page of The Catholic Voice should be a channel of evangelization. An inside cover filled with unrefuted posts against the Church is not something that should be found in our diocesan newspaper.

Richard Green

Stop supporting Obama

If the University of Notre Dame wants to have President Obama at the university, then it is time for the Notre Dame alumni to remove their support of the university.

Catholics around this country are getting a raw deal from this president. Catholics are also getting poor support from many members of Congress who call themselves Catholic but don’t act the part.

It’s time to put the president in his place by not supporting him any longer.

William Beiriger

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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