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 September 6, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 15   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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‘Judge not . . .’

I can only chuckle at Fran Ferlazzo’s letter (Forum, Aug. 9) in which she refers to inattentive churchgoers as “Sunday Catholics.” I find it amusing that daily communicants look down their noses at Sunday Catholics who in turn look down on Easter Catholics who in response look askance at Christmas Catholics who, lest they be at the bottom of the Christian food chain, feel superior to Catholics who never attend Mass at all.

Surely, looking at a “decoration” inside the church while waiting to receive Communion is not the behavior of a “lost soul;” I would submit you will find God wherever you look. Until one is able to peer into the thoughts of fellow parishioners to determine the real reason they attend Mass, one would do well instead to focus on one’s own worship and ministry.

Speaking personally, I would rather have a church overflowing with ordinary parishioners of varied attention spans than one with a half-dozen of the enraptured. In which might more souls be saved?

Matt Lovett
Pleasant Hill

A ‘Sunday Catholic’

Regarding the letter from Fran Ferlazzo (Forum, Aug. 9), I find myself hoping that I am not one of the “Sunday Catholics” of whom she speaks.

What is a Sunday Catholic and how does one discern who is and is not a Sunday Catholic? I attend Mass every Sunday, but some weeks I am not present within the church or its environs for the rest of the week. Does this make me a “Sunday Catholic”? Is there a log we are to record our prayers, deeds, and intercessions throughout the week which someone scrutinizes so that we are categorized correctly?

As a working mother of three, I have to admit to occasionally arriving at Mass and simply BEING. I don’t mean being present in a prayerful sense, necessarily. I mean simply sitting in a pew and giving my exhaustion, my sorrows, joys, worries and efforts over to God.

It isn’t easy to glide into a pew and suddenly be “present.” Sometimes I never get there. Sometimes I look at the decorations, the others in the community and simply exist. I am not necessarily thinking of other things, but more often bringing myself to God in my raw, unedited form.

I look forward to that hour, whatever form I am in! I am human. I know where my mind should be and I am struggling to get there, offering to God my efforts to do so. Sometimes I close my eyes. I may appear to be asleep, and I will confess to being so once or twice if I lost sleep waiting for my oldest to get home safely, or working on a project for work.

Sometimes I really am thinking of other things and asking God’s help to work through whatever those things may be. I frequently come to the table of the Lord without a lot of grace and dignity, but I am always there, and I am sad to hear that I am judged for that.

Sometimes I skid into Mass without a moment to spare, but I am rarely late and stay until the Closing Prayer ends. Am I a “lost soul”? You bet, and I venture to guess that I am in good company.

Let’s all remember that Jesus welcomed all to come to Him. He didn’t care what people wore. He didn’t only sit with the wealthy or the clergy or those who were more than “Sunday Catholics”, whatever that may be. I struggle with my humanness every day and come to Mass in all of that humanness, asking God to intervene on my behalf.

Please forgive me if I am in your line for Communion next week. I am doing the best that I can. I applaud those who have it all worked out and I ask for your prayers for those of us who are less fortunate.

Trish Brown
Pleasant Hill

A self-serving decision

The tragic situation of a Catholic hospital board approving an abortion within its own hospital is being compounded by groups grabbing headlines to support their own personal agendas.

Both the secular and religious media have used this occasion to bash bishops in general. Strident women’s groups are using it to demand access to the priesthood. Parish priests are using this occasion to urge their parishioners to dissent against Church teachings by arranging petition-signing drives supporting the board’s action.

Most people outside of the medical profession would not know the significance of pulmonary hypertension on the life and health of a woman (or of the baby) with an 11-week pregnancy. Nor be able to judge whether or not terminating the life of the baby would cure the mother’s condition.

The hospital has issued no information on the mother who initially refused the abortion. Nor do we know if her condition improved. The mother relied on the professionalism of the hospital board to make a proper treatment decision. But, it would seem that this board made a financially safe and self-serving decision.

What has become of the religious ethics in Catholic hospitals? Must patients now be concerned for their health and welfare in a Catholic hospital? Who notified the press of the decision made in Phoenix and why? What good purpose was served?

Sister Margaret McBride is not the first nun to dissent, but let’s pray she and her supporters will be the last.

Camille Giglio
Walnut Creek

Excommunication is earned

As I began to read Nancy Powers’ letter on the excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride(Forum, Aug. 9), I pondered her question, “What would Jesus do in this case?”

I know He would have been filled with compassion for all concerned. Yes, Jesus always invites us, draws us, to Himself. As I felt swayed to Ms. Powers way of thinking, I thought a little more. Our compassionate Jesus has given us commandments (rules)that He expects us who love Him to abide by. He gives us his Church to loose and bind on earth, but also in heaven. Christ endowed his Church with authority and power for our salvation.

Excommunication is an ugly word. It means one is cut off from this life-giving Church. But a person who is excommunicated has done this to him/herself by a personal decision. It is the consequence of an action done through one’s free will. It is analogous to a soul’s condemnation to hell. God does not condemn a soul to hell; the soul freely chooses the consequence of sin — hell.

Yes, Sister Margaret gave her life to the Church. She vowed obedience to God’s law. She broke that vow of obedience. The bishops did not “kick her out.” She kicked herself out. She is now free to acknowledge her sin, repent and return to the arms of Jesus and the Church.

Diane Dawes
San Francisco

Murderous Catholics

Concerning the excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride, I found it appalling that so many Catholics would verbally attack Bishop Olmsted for his just decision. Truly, they should not aim their anger at the bishop but at Christ who teaches to do just that by means of his Church.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes: Formal cooperation in an operation in an abortion constitutes a grave offence. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life (#2272).

These Catholics seem to show much pity towards Sister McBride but not on the pre-born child who she gave consent to be brutally slaughtered. Where is the righteous anger for the poor child whose body is now lying somewhere in a dumpster? Where is the just anger at the murderous Catholics who participated in this act and defamed the name of Christ and his Church?

Giorgio Navarini

Too black and white

The article explaining the difference between direct and indirect abortion (Voice, July 5) did not explain much, but left me with many questions. Technically, the U.S. bishops are correct that abortion is wrong, but I’m curious why Mercy Sister Margaret Mary McBride was singled out for excommunication. Why not the doctors who performed the abortion? Why not the health system that did not offer to pay for medical care in this special case?

It is not clear if the mother had the option to try to carry the baby to term through hospitalized bed rest. Or was Bishop Thomas J. Olsted suggesting to let the mother die, which would invariably cause the death of the baby? I believe the bishop is being too black and white on a grey issue.

And why use punitive actions? Like abortion, child sexual molestation—to use the bishops’ words—“is always immoral, no matter the circumstances.” But is excommunication the proper response for those involved directly or indirectly with immorality? Aren’t we all sinners, including the bishops?

Carmen Hartono

Illegal and dangerous

I am pro SB1070 (Arizona’s immigration law) because it will hopefully discourage the flow of the migrants who are coming to the U.S. in a very dangerous way. I happened to work in a Martinez hospital last fall and one of the victims of multiple rapes was a 27-year-old woman who had been taken to different locations by the coyotes. She and most of her companions were either raped or murdered. This is after she paid $10,000 just to cross over the state line.

How many more victims do we need in order to discourage migrants from taking the illegal process? Their main reason for entering illegally is that it takes too long for Immigration and Custom Enforcement to process their papers. But I say it is better to wait than be killed.

Illegal immigration should definitely be stopped. All illegals must go through the proper process, no matter how long it takes.

Evangeline Clendenning
Via email

Different rule for laity?

In recent issues of the Catholic Voice, we have read much about the relics of saints being brought to the Oakland Diocese — St. John Vianney’s heart in July and St. John Bosco’s arm bone and tissue in September. Much has been made about having these body parts available for prayer services, vigils, and Masses.

However, according to the Catholic Funeral & Cemetery Services on-line information about Catholic burials: “In the blessed grounds of a Catholic cemetery there are safeguards — mandated by the Church’s Canon Law — which guarantee permanence, reverence and respect for the remains of the deceased.”

Also: “The Church teaches that the cremated remains of the body be buried or entombed and receive the Rite of Committal. Scattering the remains, keeping them at home, or dividing them among various family members is not the reverent disposition that the Church requires.”

Why it is OK for the Church to take a saint’s relic (body part) and travel around the world with it, yet the rest of us must be permanently interred? Nor can we bury our loved one’s cremated remains in the ocean, or keep a loved one’s urn at home.

According to the Diocesan Catholic Cemeteries, we cannot have a husband and wife’s cremated remains in the same urn unless they are kept in 2 separate bags? In marriage, “the two shall become one flesh” yet in death, we must be kept separate?

It seems that the Church has a very different set of standards for themselves than they require for the lay population.

Susan Gahan

A God of forgiveness

In the Gospel read at the Aug. 12 Mass, we heard the familiar parable of a master’s forgiving one of his servants a very large debt (Mt 18:21-35). That servant then had a fellow servant put into prison until a much smaller debt be paid to the now forgiven servant. When the master heard of the plight of the second servant and the lack of mercy shown to him, he summoned the forgiven servant and demanded immediate payment of the once forgiven debt. The result was that the forgiven servant was now sent to debtor’s prison until the previously forgiven debt is paid.

Jesus then likens his Father to the master; unless we forgive our brother we can not expect to be forgiven. However, are we to believe that the Father, who forgives us as many times as we fall, will rescind His pardon for sins already forgiven because we sin again?

Will God condemn me for sins that He has forgiven? I don’t believe He will. Reneging on a promise is a characteristic of imperfect man but not of our perfect Father who is infinite love and compassion.

John Kearney

Moral relativism

It greatly disturbs me to see so many Catholics falling into moral relativism. It seems that a majority of letters printed in The Catholic Voice are from folks that really do not know their faith or who outwardly despise the teachings of the Church because it does not fit into modern society’s lifestyles or views.

It seems very dangerous to print some of these opinions because they are seeds that can be planted in others’ minds. It is especially disturbing that many new converts and people trying to reach deeper into their faith read these articles.

I believe the disclosure (“...this forum will help our readers to understand better others’ thinking on critical issues facing the Church at this time.”) is not enough and just causes confusion.

It would be nice to see The Voice print more articles on true teachings of The Church (using the Bible and the Catechism) in response to these opinions rather than printing them. People who feel so strongly as to “vent” or “push” rebellious opinions to other Catholics by writing into The Voice will have a lot to answer for, but the editors will have to answer for more by publishing them.

Carl Biscevic

Opposite indication

The website for the Manhattan Declaration tells me that “By signing the Manhattan Declaration you are adding your voice to hundreds of thousands of others in taking a biblical stand and speaking out on the vital moral issues of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty.”

Does this mean that by not signing it, I am adding my voice to those who promote love, equality, toleration and freedom from oppression? If so, I chose the latter. It’s not even close.

George Fulmore

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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