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 May 24, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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Holy, compassionate priests

The May 10 Reader’s Forum was full of letters critical of our priests, and it wounded me to think of the 95 percent of innocent, wonderful priests who might suffer for the sins of a few. I have met very few priests in my life to whom I would not happily entrust my soul. Most of our priests are holy, compassionate, hard working, humble and good humored. Most have wonderful senses of humor and are a joy to be around.

Our priests should never lose sight of their value. In their ability to consecrate and absolve, they are higher than the angels. Once Saint Faustina (in her Diary of Divine Mercy) asked her guardian angel to hear her confession because the priest was en route to bring her Communion. The angel replied, “No spirit in Heaven has the power to absolve your sins.” No . . . but our priests do.

I suspect most people in Heaven today are there because of the merciful absolution of a priest. And who is it that (as Graham Greene said) “brings Christ through the morning in the swift, white sacrament of His love” ? It is the priest and only the priest who makes Christ physically present to us and nourishes our souls.

How many of us would ever make it to Heaven without this bread of angels provided daily by our priests? I have often thought that without the sacrifice of the Mass being offered daily to appease God’s justice, the earth might long ago have stopped turning. Without our priests, would we even exist? From baptism through confirmation, Eucharist, marriage and even death, they stand with us and for us.

As the moon reflects the sun’s light, so do they reflect the Son’s light onto us. I am grateful and in awe of our priests. Let’s tell them that and let’s pray for them.

Mary Arnold

Ask for God’s mercy

The Holy Father has issued a call to penance. I think that is a good idea. Instead of pointing the finger at others, we can look at ourselves to see what we can do to make the Church better and to ask for God’s mercy for ourselves and the Church and the world.

Catherine Clark

Courageous commentary

Many thanks to Father Ron Schmit for his courageous and prophetic commentary (Voice, May 10) on the state of our Church. He definitely speaks for me.

Father Schmit tells us in the laity and lay ministry: “With you I am baptized; for you I am ordained.”

Conversely, I am baptized and live my vocation for Father Schmit and priests and deacons like him who are unafraid to speak truth to power and to so-called leaders who try to lead by being dictators instead of by allowing people to autonomously discover and competently use their God-given gifts.

It is ironic that Father Schmit’s points about an imperial clerical system “trying to resuscitate a dead liturgical style” are proven in the accompanying article about the new missal translation that is being foisted on us by the Vatican. Thanks again, Father Ron. You are in our prayers.

Ray Galka

Call for reforms

I was very impressed and grateful for the article by Father Ron Schmit (Voice, May 10). This is truly an act of courage.

I hope that more priests will come forward to speak the truth as he has, to call for the reforms and dialogue our Church so desperately needs.

I also hope that there will be a groundswell of support among the laity for Father Schmit and all of the priests in our diocese who are courageous and honest enough to speak out about transparency and transformation. Their words and witness joined with ours and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit will make healing and renewal a reality for our Church and our world.

As Father Schmit so aptly pointed out, this means that we must all be ready to take up our crosses and be willing to die to all that strangles, corrodes and stagnates the life of the Church. We must die to our illusions and delusions about the Church and welcome the truths that will set us free.

Virginia McCarthy

Church belongs to all

Thank-you so much for actually publishing Father Ron Schmit’s commentary (May 10). Frankly, given the atmosphere in the Oakland Diocese I was surprised that The Voice actually printed it.

Father Schmit simply stated what many, many Catholics (young and old) have been feeling for a long time — marginalized and cut off from their own Church.

The institutional Church seems focused on maintaining the same without considering that the Church belongs to all of us, not just those in the ministry. As Father Schmit stated, there is a hunger for people to become engaged. The laity are no longer passive recipients of ministry but with the clergy are mutually responsible for the mission of Christ. Perhaps someone needs to send this article to our pope for him to pray on.

Fran Thomas
Via email

A ‘kairos’ moment

Father Ron Schmit’s description (Voice, May 10) of the dry husk of Church that we seem to be is a reality for many of us.

I want to take his call for reform even further, though. We need a Reformation now more than ever. This time, however, it has to be a Reformation from within, conducted by an equal partnership of the lower clergy and laity. The current ecclesiastical power structure will not give up its hegemony over the Church easily or willingly.

In my 70 years of life in this Church, I have never seen average Church members so angry, so disgruntled, so willing to walk away and, even more troubling, so unconcerned about retaining their membership in or affinity to Catholicism.

If there ever was a “kairos moment for the Church” — an extremely significant moment in time — it is now. The current way of being Church (hierarchical, arrogant, top down clericalist, subservient laity) has proven to be a major contributor to the situation in which we find ourselves today.

However, before the laity places all of the blame on the obvious failings of a relatively few priests and a troubling number of higher order clerics who valued the preservation of the reputation of the Church over the protection of children, we need to take a good hard look at ourselves.

Way too many of us have been perfectly content to be unconcerned, disinterested and uninvolved sheep who get their weekly ticket punched and move on to what too many see as the more important things of life.

If the laity does not keep insisting on their right to accept accountability along with that of the clergy in an equal and collaborative manner, the needed Reformation will not happen.

Jim McCrea

Faulty new translation

The May 10 Catholic Voice includes two seemingly-disparate articles — one by Father Ron Schmit about reform in the Church, and another from Catholic News Service touting the benefits of the new English “translation” of the Roman Missal.

Unfortunately, the sad history of this so-called “translation” is a textbook example of the ills catalogued by Father Schmit. Fortunately, though, the sad history itself is well documented, and by very fair-minded and well respected writers.

John Wilkins, former editor of the respected English Catholic weekly The Tablet, chronicled most of it in the Dec. 2, 2005 Commonweal article. More recent history has been summarized by Father Michael Ryan of Seattle also in Commonweal, and by Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pennsylvania in U.S. Catholic. Links to all three articles can be found at www.whatifwejustsaidwait.org.

Our challenge as English-speaking Catholics is to find ways to address the problems posed by this faulty Missal in a manner which is both faithful to truth and loving to those who would foist this upon us.

Not an easy thing to do, but one which must be undertaken, not only for the good of today’s Church, but for the good of those yet to be evangelized and those in future generations.

One idea being put forward is to just say, “Wait”; and then institute an orderly, scientific process to test and revise the texts at a relatively few but representative test sites.

Our Protestant brethren have a lot of experience with such things; perhaps they would still be willing to help us.

Michael J. Cassidy

Collective dialog needed

In his commentary (Voice, May 10) Father Ron Schmidt states that the laity, with the clergy, is mutually responsible for the mission of Christ. I commend him for that.

He asks why there is no real structural reform of the Church—transparency in governance, nor involvement of the laity in governing, nor in the selection of bishops. He also asks, “Could we not reconsider who can be ordained?”

These are questions that could lead to a collective dialog about issues facing the whole Church. Such a dialogue would help restore the joy and hope the Second Vatican Council brought us. I want to thank Father Ron for asking these profound questions and for suggesting we become a poorer Church so we can stand more convincingly with the poor and marginalized.

Gwen Watson

History vs. assumptions

Thank you for publishing James Gilman’s “History of the organ puts perspective on church music” and Father Ron Schmit’s “The institutional church, again in a crucible, needs reform” (Voice, May 10).

The first gives some necessary historical context to the recent discussions about whether or not the piano is liturgically inferior to the organ, etc. Catholics often seem to assume things have always been one way,that this is obviously what God dictated, etc. Studying history is an antidote to such assumptions.

And if we use our energies arguing over less critical issues, we may lose sight of more critical issues. In that regard, Father Schmit’s commentary eloquently expressed the anxiety many Catholics are feeling as the institutional Church seemingly veers away from some of the ideals and practices which renewed the Church after the Second Vatican Council.

Michael Feit

Inaccurate portrayal

Father Ron Schmit painted a bleak picture of the Catholic Church (Voice, May 10). This portrait of our institutional Church bears little resemblance to the Church I know as a layperson.

In my parish (St. Agnes), there are plenty of committees and worthwhile ministries all parishioners can participate in. Our pastors have always encouraged lay involvement.

In the Church I experience, Eucharistic devotions and opportunities to serve the poor are increasing. People are discovering the beauty found in the teachings and traditions of the Church. Many devotions and ministries are flourishing. Catholic radio (AM 1260), television (EWTN), and numerous Catholic internet sites offer the laity rich resources for devotion, dialogue, and catechesis.

I feel there is reason for both hope and optimism.

I do agree with Father Schmit’s observation that polarization exists within our Church. Let’s not contribute to it by unfairly marginalizing groups or individuals with labels like “anti-Semitic, homophobic, or misogynistic.” Instead, let’s try to love and serve the whole Church — those we disagree with as well as those we agree with.

Mike McDermott

Attention to other concerns

Thank you for giving us Father Ron Schmit’s commentary in the May 10 Voice. It was a brilliant summation of the current problems facing our Church. I only wish every U.S. bishop and the Vatican could be sent it.

One specific problem I’ve never heard discussed or solutions proposed is where or how our aging priests (average age is nearly 70 in the U.S.) will have adequate replacements. Heaven forbid if we even discuss women being ordained.

Maybe if the Vatican and U.S. bishops could tear themselves away from discussion of the evils of abortion, they might even solve this and other problems. But I won’t hold my breath waiting.

Patrick Fleming
Pleasant Hill

Stop the divisiveness

I am deeply saddened to see so many attacks in Reader’s Forum on our pastoral leaders and on the Church itself, especially from those claiming to be Catholic. Those letters are not in a Catholic voice at all! Where is the mercy, where is the forgiveness, where is the unity? All these attacks are doing is crucifying our Lord, and the divisiveness is a direct assault by the Father of Lies and a murderer from the beginning. Please stop!

Instead, pray, be charitable, and be forgiving. Let’s heal our Church and stand together against the daily assaults on it. Don’t come to Mass without having forgiven your brother first. Remember the promises of the “Our Father” (about your own need for forgiveness) and the Apostles Creed (“one holy Catholic and apostolic Church”).

Repent and believe in the Gospel. If you are truly Catholics, you will abide by the Magisterium. Know your faith: the Catechism clearly states what is required of you, and attacking our pastoral leaders is not what Jesus had in mind for you.

James Neiman
Union City

Lack of decorum

Interesting letter from David Ross (Forum, April 26) in which he paints, in true if painful detail, the current lack of decorum and solemnity at Mass.

If someone is being told they are attending a holy sacrifice and someone else is being told they are attending a meal, their conduct and behavior may be quite different.

Perhaps if parishioners were taught more often what the Eucharist actually is, they might reconsider and behave in more appropriate ways. We might even see at the holy sacrifice of the Mass fewer plunging decolletages, spaghetti-string shoulder straps, blue plaid shorts and parrot-green polo shirts.

Most of us would not dream of dressing up and behaving like that at a formal business function because we were taught better. But attending the awe-inspiring sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross somehow calls for more casual conduct and attire. So why not have a real meal celebration with cocktails in the vestibule as we prance our way to the pew? And to some, even that would make sense.

Oscar M. Ramirez

Letters to the editor provide a forum for readers to engage in an open exchange of opinions and concerns in a climate of respect and civil discourse. The opinions expressed are those of the writers, and not necessarily of the Catholic Voice or the Diocese of Oakland. While a full spectrum of opinions will sometimes include those which dissent from Church teaching or contradict the natural moral law, it is hoped that this forum will help our readers to understand better others’ thinking on critical issues facing the Church at this time.

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