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Catholic Voice

 June 22, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 12   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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Defending Notre Dame

I have followed the many letters in this forum by Catholics, enraged by President Obama’s presence at Notre Dame’s commencement ceremonies. As an American, Notre Dame alumnus, and Roman Catholic, perhaps I can provide some needed guidance on this issue.

Firstly, respect the office of the President. These are men, not God, and so come with human faults and occasional lapses in judgement. I, too, believe that Obama is wrong about abortion; however, I also found Reagan wrong for funding Central American death squads, Clinton for sleeping with an intern, and George W. Bush for authorizing torture. President Obama’s foreign and domestic policies in general have more in common with Catholic principles and teachings than not.

Secondly, understand Notre Dame tradition. Notre Dame has always invited sitting presidents of each political party to visit the university. This has never been done to show support for a particular president’s policies; rather, this is a show of respect for the office, an opportunity to create dialogue on issues, and a chance to highlight Catholicism within America.

Finally, “one issue” Catholics are often truly unaware of their Church’s real teachings. Abortion is listed as the third item in a list of 16 examples of violence against human life — not as a single issue — by the Second Vatican Council.

The U.S. bishops regularly ask for adherence to sanctity of life principles, including economic welfare, housing, and hunger — not just abortion.

Let our outrage against the threats to human life encompass more than abortion and let’s let that outrage stretch to both sides of the political aisle. Then, from the outrage, let us offer solutions. I have been just as alarmed by the outrage without solutions as I have been by just the outrage.

For those who continue to denounce Notre Dame, rather than simply denouncing, let the visit serve the purpose that Notre Dame president Father Jenkins intended: to start a dialogue with pro-life Americans, to learn more about the Church’s stance on the sanctity of all life, and to work for solutions in line with the whole of our Catholic teachings.

While the letters to this forum will certainly continue to question my faith and Notre Dame’s standing as a premier Catholic university, I remain a proud American, Domer, and Roman Catholic.

Gregory Brown
Pleasant Hill

More Christ-like approach

I am a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a long-practicing Catholic. I am still astounded by the action of the many bishops and other protesters against President Obama’s visit. They’re so filled with anger and self-righteousness. These people are to the right of the Far Right and would probably approve of the Spanish Inquisition. They may even approve of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage.

Instead of their waste-of-time protests, why don’t they concentrate on helping the women who are prone to seek abortions. Obama said, “Let’s make adoption more available. Let’s provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term.”

Isn’t this a more Christ-like approach? I can hardly believe that he would condone the other harsh way.

Patrick Fleming
Pleasant Hill

Spectrum of life issues

I wonder if those who criticized President Obama’s visit to Notre Dame were equally outraged when former President Bush spoke at the university. While George Bush may be anti-abortion, he is certainly not pro-life as evidence by his record of executions while governor of Texas.

I urge people to look at the entire spectrum of what our Catholic faith teaches us: pro-life means conception to natural death.

Jan Conway

Clarifying identity

My name is Kate Doherty and I am the youth minister at Christ the King Parish in Pleasant Hill. I just want to clear up the fact that I am not the Kate Dougherty who often has letters published in The Catholic Voice’s Reader’s Forum.

Though I enjoy all the great dialogue her letters have opened up between me and many parishioners here at CTK both in conversation and email, I think it’s about time people understand that it is not I voicing these opinions.

I think it is wonderful that Ms. Dougherty has opened up such engaging and healthy dialogue in Voice readers, and I encourage everyone to keep up these interesting and important conversations about our rich faith! I do believe that the Spirit works to make our Church stronger and better through great conversations like the ones the Reader’s Forum seems to be generating!

Kate Doherty
Pleasant Hill

Setting the record straight

For some years now, The Voice has printed letters from a Jim Dempsey in Walnut Creek. Voice readers need to be award that there are two Jim Dempseys in Walnut Creek.

I am the Jim Dempsey who is a former managing editor of the Berkeley Daily Gazette, later a public relations manager for Pacific Telephone, and then for 13 years a member of the editorial staff of The Catholic Voice. One of my major jobs was to produce the Around the Diocese column.

Over the years I have had a number of phone calls and queries from friends commenting negatively about “my” letters appearing in The Voice. Most recently I got an anonymous letter bordering on hate mail, making negative references about me and my wife.

While the other Jim Dempsey certainly has the right to write anything he wants, it is obvious that we differ strongly on most any subject he writes about.

Not a big deal. But I would like to set the record straight and note that if and when I write another letter to Reader’s Forum, I will specifically note that I am the Dempsey who wrote for The Voice.

Jim Dempsey
Walnut Creek

A troubling focus

Justin Gagnon, Keith Cosbey and Ryan Mariotti are to be commended for re-directing their talents toward the interests of children rather than mere materialistic gain, “School Lunches shifts from cafeteria fare to healthy cuisine” (Voice, June 8). Their business plan appears to be generated by concern about the epidemic of presumed overweight and poorly exercised children. Their goal, they claim, is quality lunchtime meals that schools and parents can’t or won’t provide.

One aspect of this program is troubling. Is children’s health the primary concern or are the children and their eating habits merely tools to spread the gospel of the Mother earth first, people second movement?
The quote by Mariotti is: “My science and engineering studies opened my eyes to the larger-scale offenses to our planet.” He states, further, that “his work reflects his commitment to ecology.”

One of the Children’s Choice’s goals is mov[ing] “beyond cooking and delivering food, into educating children and teachers about the environment and recycling.”

The closed environment of the classroom has become the prized ground of every conceivable public/private partnership seeking to “save” the world by changing our children’s values, preparing them to meet the humanistic goals of supporting the sustainable society.

If it’s the earth first, then it’s not really children’s choice, is it?

Camille Giglio
Walnut Creek

A cold cathedral

As a child, I could sit for hours in St. Francis de Sales Cathedral. I attended my school years at St. Francis, made my First Communion there, attended Mass and was involved in May processions to the Virgin Mary.
I was in awe of the beauty of the cathedral with the light beaming through the stain glass windows. The music from the organ sounded angelic. The statue of Jesus in the arms of Mary made me feel safe and comforted.

In my child’s eyes, the cathedral was huge but felt warm and safe from the world outside. I felt all the beauty of heaven was in this place for it was where God lived.

Many years later, I visited the new Cathedral of Christ the Light and my heart was broken. The place of warmth and comfort was replaced by a symbol of stone, a gray, cold, lifeless stone. I feel no amount of peace and light can warm the walls of the new cathedral.

Delilah Castaneda

Gratitude and a request

We are overwhelmed with the generosity of Catholic Voice readers. Jacquie Landry’s recent article (Voice, April 27) on St. Vincent de Paul’s sewing class brought us nine donated sewing machines — one was brand new and purchased specifically for the program. Readers have also donated four boxes of fabric, patterns, and assorted sundries.

We are now able to expand the class and offer each participant hands-on use of a sewing machine. We are so grateful for the spirit of generosity that moves people to help others build a better life.

St. Vincent de Paul’s website features a wish list of items for those who are looking to clean out their cupboards (www.svdp-alameda.org). Our Champion Guidance Center for Men is starting a chess class to help men develop concentration and critical thinking skills. If any readers have chess sets — or other board games — that they no longer use, we would be happy to receive them.

Thank you so much for helping us help others.

Carmen Reyes-Edstrom, Manager
St. Vincent de Paul Center
for Women and Children, Oakland

Self-destructive activities

Keli Piper believes “social justice” legitimizes same-sex “marriage” — and that Miss California’s mild objection requires “education in Christian morality” (June 8).

Piper, a self-proclaimed “25-year-old Catholic woman with an advanced degree, knowledge of Christ’s teachings, and a brain,” needs to travel the road to Damascus.

She should recollect that St. Paul, 2000 years closer to Christ’s teachings than she, warned of “degrading passions” — “females exchanging natural relations for unnatural” and “males doing shameful things with males, receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity” (Romans 1: 26-27).

Sounds like Someone discouraged the tragically self-destructive activities implicated in most U.S. AIDS cases, elevated breast-cancer rates among lesbians, and widespread homosexual incidence of other deadly diseases.

As an AIDS-infected ex-homosexual said at lunch with my wife and me, it’s at best false compassion to encourage, or even blandly to tolerate, behaviors which harm their participants.

And as Dr. Robert Spitzer — who helped lead political maneuvers which removed homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s manual of mental disorders in 1973 — has more recently found, reparative therapy can help those seeking to reorient homosexual inclinations.

Genetic predispositions are sometimes claimed for both alcoholism and homosexuality. Both are actuarially unhealthy. But political and (allegedly) religious liberals, while reasonably discouraging one compulsion, irrationally celebrate and seek to normalize the other.

In contrast, the Church is consistent, prescribing temperate alcohol consumption (Catechism, n. 2290), and reserving marriage for the “conjugal love of man and woman” (nn. 1601, 2360-2363).

Michael Arata

Implied death penalty

The State of California has a relatively new style of death penalty — an implied death penalty. The Board of Parole Hearings has targeted term-to-life prisoners during the past 20 years through a de facto “no parole” policy directed by three recent governors, Wilson, Davis and Schwarzenegger, for political expediency.
Little has been stated honestly and truthfully about the more than 8,000 term-to-life prisoners who have responsibly reclaimed and renewed their lives despite the impediments imposed by the parole board and the prison system.

These prisoners have expressed remorse and sorrow and in most cases atoned and apologized for their offenses. They have attended more than 40,000 parole hearings during the past 19 years only to be denied parole time and time again.

Prison officials have determined these prisoners do not pose a danger to the prison system and would not pose a danger to the community when paroled. Yet, these prisoners are serving sentences beyond the rule of law, the sentencing matrix of the Board of Parole Hearings.

Out of these more than 40,000 parole hearings, approximately 390 term-to-life prisoners have been paroled. Another 853 eligible for parole died in prison. The rest of the 8,000 term-to-life prisoners are subjected to the implied death penalty.

Yes, term to life prisoners made serious mistakes by taking the life of or injuring other people. They were given sentences for their offenses with the possibility of parole.

These prisoners through responsibility and accountability fulfilled their sentences under the rule of law, not by the rule of man, but by the grace of God.

The present cost of housing a term-to-life prisoners is approximately $49,000 plus at least $14,000 for medical expenses and more if the prisoner is advanced in age. Billions of dollars have been wasted over the past many years. One thing is certain, the prison system in California has been in a perpetual state of reformation, a state of dysfunction, a redemption is doubtful.

Robert Kaser
San Quentin

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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