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 June 21, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 12   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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Public relations victory

Regarding the front page article about the continuing violence in the Middle East (Voice, June 7) I don’t understand why so many world leaders are criticizing Israel rather than criticizing the activists for what happened in the recent flotilla interception.

As of January 2009, over 8,600 rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israeli cities (BBC News: 1/18/09), and, in an attempt to halt the flow of weapons into Gaza, Israel imposed a blockade so that goods shipped into Gaza would be inspected and prohibited items removed. Israel maintains that needed items, including food and medicines, are transported daily into Gaza (NYT: 6/9/10).

On May 31, some activists attempted to break the Israeli blockade. To prevent weapons from being delivered to Gaza, Israel insisted on boarding those ships to inspect the cargo. On one of the six ships, activists armed with metal clubs, knives, body armor, and night vision goggles attacked and overwhelmed the first few Israelis who landed on their ship. Predictable deaths and injuries followed. Thus, the activists achieved their desired public relations victory at the cost of death and injury.

Why are most world leaders criticizing Israel rather than the activists who instigated the violence on one of the ships?

Patti Devlin

‘Reform’ creates division

I want to remind Tom Luce (Forum, June 7) that there are 1.6 billion Catholics worldwide, the great majority of whom love the Church and the pope. The Oakland Diocese and others who are calling for “reform” are a tiny minority.

If you thoroughly research the New Testa-ment and early Church history, you will find that Christ indeed gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter, and the following popes, so there would be authority in the Church. Also, each bishop has been ordained by the laying on of hands from the times of the apostles forward, so theirs is legitimate authority as well. So how would you advocate changing Christ’s plan?

The Protestant church has no authority and has split off so many times that there are reputed to be between 20,000 and 30,000 denominations instead of the One church Christ talked about in the Gospel of John. What Mr. Luce is suggesting is that there would be thousands of little “popes” running around saying their way is correct. What a horrible division.

As far as a married clergy, let’s look at this practically. My late husband was a Protestant minister; I have since converted to the Catholic faith. Being in the Protestant church, I know that their members are required to tithe 10 percent of their gross income to support the preacher and his family. These men have master’s degrees or doctorates, so they deserve a good rate of pay, plus most churches supply their pastor with a house and other benefits. Are Catholics willing to help pay for this, instead of our wonderful consecrated priests who live in modest quarters and are paid a small sum?

Plus, the married priest would have to neglect his family while caring for a large congregation and being on call 24/7. Would that be a good thing?

Anne Zadra

Know the truth

Tom Luce (Forum, June 7) asks us to dialogue about the American Catholic Council. Perhaps many of you know that the force behind this organization is the group, Voice of the Faithful (VOTF).

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we know that something inside us is attracted to the truth. That is the most wonderful thing about our faith, and its most basic teaching — there is truth, and we can know it. We should more accurately say, we can know Him — Christ. Our Lord has revealed himself, and continues to reveal himself through his Church, to whom he promised freedom from error in matters of faith and morals. Otherwise, we would have no way to know truth, no way to know good from evil.

Does Voice of the Faithful foster genuine dialogue or dissent ? We hear so many conflicting voices, from fellow Catholics, from Religious, from deacons, from priests, from theologians, and even some bishops. How can we know the truth? There is only one answer. We must turn to the authentic teaching of the one Church founded by Christ. Look to the official documents of the Church. And look to The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Alongside the Bible, that is the book that should be in every Catholic home. Like the Bible, it should be read, studied and prayed.

We are fortunate to also have truly orthodox resources such as EWTN (TV, radio, and Internet, including document library), and Catholics United For the Faith, where you can get answers to all your faith questions!

Learn about VOTF at www.cuf.org/faithfacts/details_view.asp?ffID=184.

In the essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity.

David Zarri

Heed Spirit in the laity

I have spent a goodly amount of time contemplating and praying on Father Ron Schmit’s commentary on the Church today (Voice, May 10) and the resultant pro and con letters which followed. There have been many appeals for Church reform but few have been as well, and as respectfully, presented as Father Schmit’s.

Differing opinions and views have been expressed within the Church as far back as its very beginnings (Acts of the Apostles, Letters of St. Paul, etc.). Jesus did not leave us with a detailed plan of growth, organization, or development.

However, he did send and bless us with the gift of the Holy Spirit which is poured forth onto all who have been baptized in his name. This gift was not given just to the hierarchy or a chosen few, but to all who believe and were baptized. The Holy Spirit was given to guide his Church, not just the hierarchy.

The history of the Church contains numerous instances where it was the laity which corrected and redirected the hierarchy to the truth. We may be at another such watershed.

The time of “We are the Church (Vatican) who receive the truth and know best, so shut up, listen, and do as you are told without discussion or question” is long gone. This no longer flies in a Church of educated and informed members. The more the Church hierarchy loses contact, trust, and the respect of the laity the more members move away from the Church.

Unless the hierarchy recognizes that the laity are blessed by the Holy Spirit and should be heeded, they are on a road of self destruction.

Clifford Wiesner

No place for intolerance

Doug Zeitz’s reaction (Forum, June 7) to Father Ron Schmit’s commentary (Voice, May 10) and Zeitz’s detailing of “attacks on the Mystical Body of Christ” were thinly veiled homophobia and misogyny.

Mr. Zeitz misconstrued clergy child abuse as “homosexual abuse of predominantly teenage young men.” He describes the preaching of parish priests as clergy “seducing into homosexuality” our youth. And the future for women in the priesthood is an impossibility in his worldview.

The Mystical Body of Christ embraces all men and women of faith. Intolerance is what again drives the nails into Christ’s hands and feet!

Jim Erickson
Via email

Homilies should teach

Studies show the dismal state of knowledge and appreciation among Catholics of the great treasure of faith that they hold. The need for catechesis and Pope John Paul’s New Evangelization is overwhelmingly apparent.

Since Vatican II, many homilies have been based on the readings of the day. We have been subjected to way too many lectures on how to be a better person, love of neighbor and social justice. Not to demean this, but I contend it is part of the problem.

Before the Council, most homilies were designed to teach the Catholic faith and morals. I remember many sermons on heaven, hell contraception, confession, the Real Presence, etc. How often today do you hear a homilist explain the fundamentals of Catholicism, the Mass, the Creed, the sacraments? Where else can Catholics be catechized other than Sunday Mass?

We alone have Tradition, the Magisterium and accurate biblical interpretations to rely on. Non-Catholics have only personal opinions and private interpretations of the bible, no Tradition (unwritten teachings of Jesus) or Magisterial teaching authority.

Father Ron Schmit (Voice, May 10) blames the “imperial” Church structure, feels “sad and empty” and wants to change it, feeling that the Council has been sidelined. Maybe he needs some “catechization.”

Or maybe false interpretations of the Council are the problem. I applaud Bishop Cordileone for promulgating guidelines for catechist formation in our diocese (Voice, May 24). Now it’s time to focus on homilies and make more of them catechetical.

John Lewis

Answer Vatican II call

Father Ron Schmit’s excellent commentary, “The institutional Church, again in a crucible, needs reform” (Voice, May 10) bears further comment.

While Father Schmit states that the “laity has taken seriously the call of Vatican II to be Church and that lay movements are mushrooming all over the Church,” all Catholics should be asking why a deaf ear is being given to the call.

So what is the laity to do? Let’s follow the exhortation of the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen: “It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church.”

Thus instructed, check out the American Catholic Council (http://americancatholiccouncil.org), “a movement bringing together a network of individuals, organizations and communities to consider the state and future of our Church. We believe our Church is at a turning point in its history. We recall the promise of the Second Vatican Council for a renaissance of the roles and responsibilities of all the baptized through a radically inclusive and engaged relationship between the Church and the world.”

The American Catholic Council is currently preparing for a national gathering which is to take place in Detroit in June 2011. Start or join a local assembly community network. It is our Church.

Rodger Powers, SFO
Jerry Fried
Via email

An ethical decision

The May 24th issue of The Voice picked up an article from Catholic News Service about Sister Margaret Mc Bride, a nurse and senior hospital administrator at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, who was “automatically excommunicated” by the bishop.

She was on-call for the hospital Ethics Committee when a 27-year-old woman was admitted. The patient was 11 weeks pregnant and so gravely ill with pulmonary hypertension that she couldn’t be moved to another hospital. The Ethics Committee met and concluded there was no way to keep the mother from declining long enough for the fetus to be viable and that if they did not allow the pregnancy to be terminated, the mother would almost certainly die. Sister Margaret concurred in that decision. She was excommunicated because “The mother’s life cannot be preferred over the child’s,” according to the bishop’s communication office.

People are not excommunicated for killing in self-defense, for killing in wartime, sometimes for killing the innocent. There are other instances as well where the principle of double-effect comes into play. This is not the same as “the end justifies the means.”

The intention here was to save the mother’s life. To achieve that, the pregnancy was terminated. Was this an easy decision; a simple moral dilemma? No, of course not! Would a more ethical choice have been to allow the pregnancy to continue and result in the deaths of mother and child? I doubt it.

The way this incident has been handled by the bishop seems completely heavy-handed and punitive. The medical ethics director of the Diocese of Phoenix suggests further that Sister. Margaret should be expelled from her order.

This is a woman who has spent her life in service to others (She was one of my students at Mercy High School in San Francisco years ago) and showed courage in a difficult circumstance. Religious women and women in general are subject often to decisions and judgments of a paternalistic hierarchy, many of whom are far removed from the vineyard and grass roots of the People of God.

We don’t hear that pedophile priests have been excommunicated and few have been ousted from their communities. Sister Margaret has been reassigned at the bishop’s request. It’s a sad story

Marilynne Homitz

Stop focus on nuns

When will the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops or individual bishops remove their magnifying glasses focused on nuns on ethics committees (Voice, May 24) and instead issue proclamations of excommunication on any Catholics involved in such things as torture and especially modern warfare tactics such as drone attacks?

Have you ever heard them do so? Not only are there fetuses inside their murdered mothers’ wombs killed in these attacks, but scores of children and other innocents.

Eartha Newsong

Excommunication hurts all

Let us stop excommunicating each other. Our Church is wounded and all we do is inflict more hurt.
Sister Margaret Mary McBride in Arizona made a courageous decision to save a mother’s life (Voice, May 24). She was one of many brave people on a panel who make hard medical and ethical decisions every day.

I happen to think she made the right decision; the bishop who excommunicated her thinks she made the wrong decision. He is much more powerful than a thousand people who think like I do—but our voices must be heard.

What is wrong here is that a moral principle that the bishop quoted “. . . the end does not justify the means” did not respect the life and love of the woman’s family in the brutal choice that had to be made.

The voice, intellect, and understanding of women must have the respect and the power to make decisions at all levels in our Church.

Lauren Rettagliata

Error corrected

A letter from me (Forum, May 24) under the heading “Faulty new translation” contains an error. Father Michael Ryan’s article cited there appeared in America magazine for Dec. 14, 2009, not Commonweal as I incorrectly stated. It later appeared in a slightly different form in The Tablet. I regret the error.

Michael J. Cassidy

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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