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 September 20, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 16   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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Reach out to Muslims

Often I find it helpful to put our human struggles as a nation and as a Church in the context of history. Not only are we a nation of immigrants, but in a special way we are a Church of immigrant peoples who have come to this nation from a variety of countries and cultures.

Some of our ancestors had the experience of being targets of suspicion, rejection and harassment because, it was thought, they could not be American and Catholic.

A new chapter of that history is being played out before us in a debate stemming from the proposed Islamic center in New York City and other incidents around the country. Again in the face of fears people raise the question: can one be American and Muslim?

For me this question is personal because I have extended family members who are Islamic Americans. I know them to be people of faith, integrity and love of justice and peace.

As America has learned to respect and trust past generations who arrived on our shores, it is now our time and mission as Catholics to reach out and get to know and respect, rather than fear, fellow Americans who are Muslims. What we do will make the difference across the planet.

Father Jim Schexnayder

Beware of social media

Sadly, cyberbullying (Voice, Sept. 6) is only part of the problem with electronic media. Included in the latter category are the Internet, social networks, texting, cell phone use and electronic games.

A study we recently completed at Santa Clara University finds harmful effects of these media in the areas of safety, privacy, relationships, personal and professional effectiveness, brain functioning, individual psychology and aesthetics. And these effects are not limited to teenagers, but affect the adult population as well.

Perhaps most worrisome is the erosion of our ability to be “present” to those we love and to the beauty of God’s nature, as we are distracted by the constant barrage of electronic stimuli. In the process, our brains are engaged in beta wave mode.

Afraid of what philosophers describe as “loneliness anxiety,” our brains are spending less and less time in alpha wave mode, and thereby, losing the capacity for peaceful reflection and contemplation.

Technology has many benefits, but we have gone overboard in the amount of time we and our children spend on electronic media. The great philosopher, Aristotle, as the basis of his ethics argued, “Nothing in excess.”

Perhaps, it is time to begin to limit the excesses of electronic media.

Pete DeLisi

(Pete DeLisi is the Academic Dean of the Information Technology Leadership Program at Santa Clara University and the President of Organizational Synergies.)

Moral decision-making

Many thanks to the editor of The Catholic Voice, who follows a basic American principle of freedom of expression by printing letters from readers with divergent views.

Carl Biscevic (Forum, Sept. 6) would judge that I don’t know the faith or despise the teaching of the Church because I heartily disagree with Diane Dawes, who believes that a person excommunicates himself/herself or condemns himself/herself to hell.

My vow of obedience does not negate my conscience, a very strong determining factor in moral decisions. Perhaps a review of or a course in the documents of Vatican II would restore the vision of those who are so quick to condemn others.

Sister Ann Ronin, OP

Missal disposal

In the Catholic News Service story on the new Roman Missal (Voice, Sept. 6), Nancy Frazer O’Brien writes “no other edition of the Roman Missal may be used.” Should we expect a book burning? Are we to put our old missals in the garbage or recycling bin?

Bill Olmo
San Ramon

Please help Haitians

Part of the work I am doing in Haiti involves attempting to obtain “humanitarian parole” for individuals with compelling needs, especially vulnerable women and children, elders and the disabled.

Humanitarian parole is a temporary form of protection that enables someone outside of the United States to come here until the situation in their own country stabilizes.

I launched this project in Haiti shortly after the earthquake, have interviewed more than 150 women and children, and identified 52 individuals who I believe should qualify for humanitarian parole or some other form of immigration relief. Other lawyers on our teams have identified additional cases.

These individuals have suffered the loss of loved ones, become homeless, and are living at the edge of survival. They also have some “plus factor” that sets them apart from the millions of others who are suffering in Haiti. The common denominator is that they have experienced trauma that goes above and beyond the earthquake and places them at far greater risk than others, which is why we are trying to get them temporary protection in the U.S.

Typically, individuals who come to the U.S. on a non-immigrant basis must have a U.S. sponsor who pledges to support the individual (providing food, clothing and shelter) for the time that they are here. Individuals seeking emergency medical care in the U.S. typically must show that a doctor or hospital in the U.S. has agreed to provide that care.

I am seeking help finding sponsors and medical care for three families at grave risk of harm:

• A 40-year-old homeless woman, widowed by the quake, who is a double-amputee as a result of the quake;

• A young widow (now pregnant as the result of a rape) whose 10-year-old son witnessed a gruesome murder in 2004 and has been mute ever since and whose 9-year-old daughter stopped talking after the quake killed her father;

• A 50-year-old grandmother who suffered a politically-motivated rape in 2004 in which her husband was murdered and her teenage daughter raped. One of her sons died in the quake and her five-year-old granddaughter (result of the 2004) was raped in March of this year.

If you have ideas, contacts or the ability to help any of these families, please let me know. I am happy to provide more specific information about their needs and the expectations of sponsors and/or medical providers.

If you are not in a position to be a sponsor, but would like to offer financial support, please write to me at jfleming@reedsmith.com or call me at (415) 659-4779.

Jayne Fleming

(Jayne Fleming is an attorney with Reed Smith LLP and director of the Legal Justice Center at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland.)

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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