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 November 8, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 19   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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Teach the faith

The front page of the Oct. 18 Voice addressed a survey by Pew Research indicating Catholics on average know less about their faith and the faith of others than do atheists and agnostics.

Early last year, I wrote a letter to The Voice on this same subject, in response to some who suggested our catechetical efforts in our schools and faith formation programs where “just fine.” This survey convincingly points out that we do have a serious problem. Too many of our young people are completing their Catholic formation and entering adult life without knowing what Catholics believe or why we believe it.

Our diocese should make effective formation a top priority. A good start would be to determine the extent of the knowledge gap by annually administering a standardized assessment in all parishes and schools. Each parish and school would then evaluate the results to improve curriculum and train staff as appropriate.

No need to test every grade. Start with eighth grade and then develop more advanced tests for adults who may wish to better understand their faith.

Knowledge of doctrine and dogma is not the end of our journey as Catholics; it is just the beginning. However, without a solid understanding of the basics of our faith, we are leaving our children defenseless against a hostile secular culture.

Mike McDermott

Christian emigration

After reading “Alarm over loss of Christians” (Voice, Oct. 19, I have a few questions.

Is it a surprise that Christians are emigrating from Islamic countries, given the discrimination and hostility aimed at them by the majority populations and their governments?

Will Christians’ telling Muslims “’what our fears are’” lead to more tolerance of Christians by Muslims? History tells us it will not.

Lastly, to view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a significant factor in Muslim intolerance and Christian emigration in the region as a whole is fallacious. If Israel were 100 percent Christian or 100 percent Muslim, would the number of Christians in Iraq or Iran increase? Not likely.

David Donovan
Via email

Retiring editor acknowledged

As a long-time reader and the former coordinator of social justice for the Oakland Diocese, I want to thank Monica Clark, the esteemed editor of The Catholic Voice, as she moves into retirement. While appreciative of both her vision and dedication, I am especially grateful for the paper’s coverage of the local, national and global social justice landscape.

Monica has always raised up the great work of our parishes, schools, and wider community, whether it was a food collection in an elementary school or a community organizing project serving a whole county.

She covered the range of stories on peace, life and dignity, immigration, faithful citizenship and the economy while drawing in the various viewpoints and reminding us of our roots in Catholic Social Teaching.

The paper also lifted us beyond our local concerns to strengthen our relationship with the global community. Coverage of global emergencies and development, the environment, and the international Church always connected to some action we could take to build solidarity. She has truly been a friend of the poor, and a prophetic voice for the Church.

Mary Doyle

Clarification from bishops

In the letter from Christine Wise (Forum, Oct. 18), the claim is made that the California bishops “have a misguided objectionable education list.” Apparently Ms. Wise did not read the brochure from which the list was obtained. If she had, she would have noted that the list did not originate with the bishops—but is verbatim from the California Education Codes. The brochure states:

“According to California law (Education Code Sections 51240, 51513, and 51938) a parent or guardian may request that his or her child be excused from any class, assembly, presentation, discussion, project, survey, extracurricular activity or program presented by the school district and/or by its agents which involve any of the following.”

What follows is a list that includes witchcraft; showing of R, NC-17 or X-rated films; yoga — and a plethora of other possible topics that could be the subject of “classes, assemblies, presentations, discussions, projects, surveys, activities or programs.”

Our lawmakers saw fit to list all of those subjects in the codebooks because they had at one time been objected to in a public school classroom.

Likewise, in another letter on the same subject, Father Ronald Schmit, takes issue with the “list,” criticizing the bishops for “creating fear and sensationalism rather than inviting rational conversation.” Repeating what I mentioned above — the list came directly from the California Education codes, not from the bishops.

The bishops know that most of California’s Catholic families have their children in the state’s public schools rather than in Catholic or other private schools. The bishops support public schools and laud the many dedicated public school teachers who serve our children. The brochure was an information piece which sought to remind parents that they are the first and foremost educators of their children and that they need to be carefully monitoring their children’s activities.

We thank both Christine Wise and Father Schmit for raising the issue of how the “list” was perceived. We did not intend to imply that the Catholic bishops find everything on the list objectionable. I believe we have clarified that.

Edward E. Dolejsi
Executive Director
California Catholic Conference

In defense of public schools

I was delighted to see Father Ronald G. Schmit (Forum, Oct. 18) stand up for the public school system. I am a cradle Catholic and a product of public education. Like Father Schmit, I am a proud supporter of public education. My husband, myself and our two children have all attended public school and “witchcraft” or “teaching sex acts” was never offered as part of the curriculum.

As the laity, our mission is to bring Christ to those in our work or school environment. How can we fulfill this mission in a positive way when the Church asks us to “attack windmills, thinking they are ferocious giants.”?
I applaud Father Schmit for his willingness to say what others may only think. The Church needs more free-thinking priests like Father Schmit.

Sali Carty
Via email

Parents are primary teachers

The many letters in defense of public schools appear defensive in nature, in disproportion, and unnecessary given the parent’s rights to be informed and involved in their children’s education.

The Sept. 20 Voice article clarifies that parents and guardians have the right to “opt out of many influences and classes that contradict their family values.” The California bishops are shepherding their flock when they empower parents to fulfill their duties as primary educators of the faith. “The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitution.” (Gaudeum et Spes 3)

The Voice article and bishops are not attempting to “misguide and misrepresent the schools,” rather they are fulfilling their primary role as successors to the apostles.

Therefore, the parents should be closely connected with their bishop as the Church is attached to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ is to the Father.

The primary goal of the California bishops is not to discredit the public school system; rather it is to empower parents to play an active and informed role in educating their children. Parents know their children best: parents are equipped with the grace conferred from God to lead and protect their children. To deny this fundamental gift and right is to separate the beautiful purpose and meaning of parenting.

I want to acknowledge and affirm the California bishops for taking a leadership role in order to aid parents. This will ultimately strengthen families and lead us to our salvation.

Peggy Murray

Relative morality taught

As the primary educators for their children, parents need to be aware of what their children are being taught in the schools. Unfortunately, my experience as a parent of six children attending public schools was not as pleasant as the experience of the reader (Forum, Oct. 4) who had concerns about irresponsible reporting by The Voice.

While public schools have merits in teaching math, science, and the arts, I had to “opt out” my children in several public school programs. Critical thinking sessions taught relative morals. Although the primary purpose of public schools is to teach morals, there were no absolute moral standards.

For example, in discussions about suicide, if a student expressed the idea that suicide was acceptable, that opinion was fine with the teacher. The teacher did not teach the students that life is precious and that suicide would hurt your friends and family.

Another classroom exercise was to discuss a scenario with 10 people in a boat and only food for nine. The question was, “Who would you throw overboard?” Again, there was no absolute correct answer. Many students thought that the old man should be sacrificed. The correct moral answer to share the food and try to keep everyone alive as long as possible was not even considered.

In sex education classes, sex outside of marriage was OK if you felt ready and used condoms. Responsible sex was not necessarily waiting for marriage, but simply using contraceptives. Teachers did not teach students that sex was sacred and intended for marriage.

If you believe that moral relativity, fornication, homosexual acts, contraception and abortion are not serious matter for sin, than a parent would have no reason to “opt out” their children from these classroom activities. Your child may be regarded by the secular world as an ideal citizen and outstanding students, but he/she would fall short of Catholic moral standards.

Thomas Lenz, MD

Cup not contaminated

I was very saddened to read the letter (Forum, Oct. 18) questioning receiving the Holy Eucharist under both species. The Bible is very clear on Jesus’ words at the Last Supper when He offered His Body and His Blood and then tells us to take them.

Vatican II served to reinforce this understanding but respects that not everyone is comfortable with this option. Making the Cup available is especially important for those who are medically unable to receive the Host. Regarding children, the Eucharist is available to all, regardless of age.

Jan Conway

Purifying the Cup

I have distributed the Blood of Christ for 15 years in my church. Communicants come week after week. I hope that they are responsible enough not to receive if they are sick. (Forum, Oct. 18).

First, hygiene is practiced in all places of meeting by sufficiently ventilating the premises. All priests wash their hands in the lavabo before Communion.

All Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion can wash their hands in the sacristy before Mass as well as using a purifier before distribution. The materials are of metal, usually 14kt gold. Metal is not porous, therefore avoiding contamination.

All vessels are purified by priest or instituted acolyte. Alone the alcohol in the wine kills germs.

Lillian Silver
Walnut Creek

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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