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The last acceptable prejudice rides again

‘My God is NOT a bean-counter’

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placeholder April 25, 2011   •   VOL. 49, NO. 8   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers
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Column disingenuous

The column by Father William Saunders (Forum, April 11), “What the Church says about women becoming priests,” seemed less than a genuine exercise of academic inquiry. I had the feeling that Father Saunders was making facts to fit the pre-ordained answer.

In the new translation of the Roman Missal at the Orate Fratres (Pray brothers), we are told that “brethren” (a Middle English term for “brothers”) is the first choice for addressing a congregation that is presumably made up of both women and men. And in biblical times the use of “brothers” addressing both women and men would have been common. Yet when Peter uses the term “brothers” in the Acts of the Apostles (1:14) Father Saunders is able to extrapolate that it means only that the men who were present were being addressed? That seems to be a logical leap or ecclesial inconsistency.

As Father Saunders points out, women did exercise important roles in the early Church. Mary Magdalene, whom he mentions, was one of those leaders. She was called by the Archbishop Rabanus Maurus (d. 856), “the Apostle to the Apostles” because she is the first to see the risen Lord and “is sent” (which is what apostle means) by Him to announce the resurrection to the “other” apostles.

Historically, there is a lot of data to indicate that women were ordained deacons in the early Church of both East and West. Cippriano Vagaggini OSB, Cam. (d. 1999) was a member of the International Theological Commission. At the request of Pope Paul VI the ITC investigated the historical question: Were women ordained to the diaconate? Vagaggini published the results of his study in the prestigious “Orientalia Christiana Periodica” (Eastern Christian Periodical). He concludes that the Church once had ordained women deacons. They were ordained in the sanctuary by the bishop, in the presence of the presbyterate and through the imposition of hands.

To leave out such information is disingenuous. But another issue is that the Orthodox Churches whose sacraments we recognize as valid, and with whom Rome has great desire to reunite, have begun to ordain again women to the diaconate. Since the 1950s the Armenian Orthodox Church has ordained women to the diaconate and more recently the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church in Greece has also elected to again ordain women to the diaconate. Will that end our attempts at reunification?

The question of ordaining women as priests is an altogether different question for which here there is not space to explore. But the argument that Jesus only chose men seems weak. Jesus also only chose Jewish men, many of whom had wives. Why don’t we follow that part of the pattern?

The only argument on which Saunders can rely is the argument by authority, which for us as Catholics is presently binding. The authority at this time feels it does not have the competency to ordain women to orders.

If the Church says that women cannot be ordained, a question still remains and it is more fundamental. It is a question of authority within the Church. If women are truly equal do they have equal say in the governance of the Church? How many women are in powerful positions in the dicasteries of Rome? In August 2006 Pope Benedict spoke in positive terms of the presence of women in the departments of the Curia. He said he wanted to see more of them and would not stand in the way of them sharing their gifts (The Tablet, August 2006). That is a good first step.

How many women have positions of influence in our dioceses? In practical experience separate has never proven to be very equal. If we say women have separate roles (as some authorities suggest) what are we doing to ensure that they are equal? Is ordination the only real exercise of authority in the Church or is there a role for women and laity? These are the real questions when people raise the issue of women’s ordination and we must meet them honestly.

Father Ron Schmit, pastor
St. Anne, Byron


No gentiles among apostles


Despite Father Saunders believing the Church is faithful to the type of ordained ministry willed by Christ (Forum, April 11), it obviously is not. The early Catholic tradition was ordaining only Jewish men to the priesthood, based on the practice of Jesus. Jesus had many gentile disciples, and his openness to them and his recognition of their human dignity stands in contrast to his culture, in which gentiles were treated as outsiders.

He was not restricted by social customs, yet he only chose Jewish men to be his Apostles. No one can accuse Jesus of refusing to “ordain” gentiles because he was bound by the culture of his time in the way he related to them.

Father Saunders could say, “Clearly, Jesus did not omit calling ‘gentile men’ as Apostles because of social or political convention.” The fact is that in spite of the evident respect Jesus had for gentiles, he did not select one to be among his 12 Apostles. However, the Apostles and the early church did not follow his practice.

Peter realized that you did not have to first become a Jew to become a follower of Jesus (Acts 15:7-11). Because of this precedent for the eventual ordination of gentiles to the priesthood since the start of the Church, it disputes Pope John Paul II’s claim that the Church does not have the authority to ordain women as priests. If the rule against ordaining non-Jews could be changed so, too, can the one against ordaining women.

If the model for the role of priest is Jesus himself, then only Jewish men should have ever been allowed to be priests. Having male genitalia is not enough.

Mark Gotvald
Pleasant Hill


Think outside the box


Re: “What the Church says about women becoming priests” (Forum, April 11), Father Saunders presents a very well organized apologetic to support his thesis. He points out very clearly that Jesus was not constricted by social custom. Therefore, according to his theory, Jesus, if he wanted women to be his priests, would have ignored the social status of women at that time in choosing his apostles.

This of course is all very rational, as long as you stay in a very small box. However if one is willing to follow this thought outside the box, one can find another example that makes this thinking rather faulty. At the time of Jesus of Nazareth, slavery was totally accepted. Speaking out against it would have certainly been considered going against social custom. Does this mean that Jesus, in choosing to ignore this issue in his preaching, supports human slavery and trafficking today?

I don’t think so. The Beatitudes say it clearly, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice.”

Brenda Hepler
Lafayette


Squishy abuse audit results


The news item (Voice, April 11) pertaining to clerical sexual abuse, has the following statement by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York: “This painful issue continues to receive our careful attention.”

A recent Audit Report on Compliance with the U.S. Bishops Charter for the protection of Children and Young states: “Dioceses/eparchies that participated in the two thirds data collection audits were instructed to submit the completed audit documents to the auditor by August 31, 2010. As in prior periods, that deadline was not met by a significant number of dioceses/eparchies. To complicate matters, requests for clarification by the auditors were often not addressed by diocesan personnel in a timely manner.”

Archbishop Dolan’s “careful attention” would appear to be a matter of fiction in a number of dioceses/eparchies.

Peter Davey
Danville


Letters angry, negative


I just finished reading the April 11 issue of the Voice’s Letters to the Editor. I was struck by the general tone of the letters that seemed to me to be angry, fearful and filled with negative energy. I was greatly saddened by this. The Jesus of Nazareth I have come to know is a peaceful man who welcomed the marginalized and counseled love your enemy, even as the Temple guards came to arrest him. For me the Church is a place of peace where I am able to quiet the voices in my head and listen to my God. I fear the cacophony as spoken in the Voice may be drowning out Jesus’ intent as well as his voice.

As the father of a perfect daughter who happens to have been born lesbian, I was saddened to read these letters. I am a member of the Danville/San Ramon Valley Chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). We are the local chapter of a national organization that is not affiliated with any faith but exists in part to help parents and friends deal with the shock when their child or friend “comes out.” We meet from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. the third Monday of each month at the Danville Congregational Church. Any reader of the Voice who wishes is more than welcome to join us.

Peace be with you.

Stephen Mason
Alamo


Youth, not the first ‘day’


Pleased to hear about the Diocesan Youth Day (April 2) after reading my Catholic Voice on-line.

However, it was not the first Diocesan Youth Day, as I was in charge of that many years ago. It was a blast, as I am sure that this one will be as well.

Enjoy!

Maurine Behrend
San Ramon


Live and let live


I have no opinion of gay marriage. I try to adhere to the creed of live and let live. Michael Arata writes (Forum, April 11) that because President Obama changed his opinion he is a hypocrite, or because St. Paul said it 2,000 years ago he’s closer to when God the Son, Jesus, walked the earth, that we must take Paul’s word as gospel. I think not.

I get tired of hearing mother church. Mother church is you and me, not some mythical all knowing illusionist with an all knowing intellect. The cardinals and bishops don’t know everything and have been wrong about many issues, just look at the mess made by unscrupulous priests with young people and how it has been handled.

Get real, the church has many priests who are gay hiding behind the frock. When I attend Mass I come to give reverence to God and ask his forgiveness for my sins and ask God as it says in Psalm 51 to help me sin no more. God is my forgiver, not mother church.

Felix Guillory
Oakland


Let God be the judge


The homosexuals may be hurting themselves but, as I see it, no one else. Let God judge them. That goes for abortion and birth control. If it is wrong in God’s eyes, let him be the judge. They are only hurting themselves in God’s eyes, not society. I am a heterosexual, and I am not offended by any of my fellow human beings as far as their sex life is concerned.

I have been more offended by my fellow human beings in the ordinary day of living my life that is not connected with their sex. Child abuse is worse than any of the other acts that are so much the controversy I read in The Voice. Child abuse is worse than same sex marriage. Abortion and birth control is a matter of personal decision. Let God be the judge.

Sandra Mortimore
Walnut Creek


‘Go and sin no more’


The letter (Forum, March 21) titled: “Loving gay relationships” closed by asking what Jesus would say if he were to address an active gay or lesbian couple. He would say the same thing he told the woman caught in adultery: “Neither then do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” It is funny, but we seem to forget the go and sin no more portion of this command.

To further state an active gay or lesbian couple are devout Catholics is not correct. One cannot be a sexually active gay or lesbian and be considered a Catholic in proper standing. While one can go to confession and be absolved of sin, the intention is to be sorry for the sin and to not sin again/avoid sin. If we know, without question, we are going to sin again; the intention of the confession is called into question.

When engaging in the myth that one’s personal life choices don’t affect others, it is important to understand that there are two ways to fail in life. We can fail morally by doing things that directly hurt others, or we can also fail by lacking in virtue, by not being the best we could be. When we confess our sins at the start of liturgy we express sorrow for both “what we have done and what we have failed to do.” Thus our personal lives are not simply a private matter as they affect other people. When we fail to be the best we can be we have a negative impact on the people God has placed in our lives. Our spouse, children, friends, family, co-workers and parish will suffer from our lack of virtue.

Our lives should be focused on God, we must pray for everyone, we must avoid sin with all our strength rather than attempt to find an excuse/reason for it, or think we know better than the word of God and can therefore justify sin. We must love the sinner but hate the sin, and we must continually strive to “go and sin no more.”

Louis Renner
Antioch


Crime against nature


I would point out the Church teaching on homosexuality, which is that homosexual acts (sodomy) are “intrinsically evil.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2357). The fallacious idea that active homosexuals (with full knowledge of Church teaching) can be “devout Catholics” is purely anti-Catholic. This contravenes Church teaching. It is wrong to claim the “intrinsically evil” and contra naturam behavior of sodomy is natural and equal to marriage.

Byrne Sherwood (Forum, April 11) brings up the question, “What would Jesus do?” Well, what did Jesus tell Mary Magdalene? “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11) not “go and live your life and act on your temptations as long as it does not hurt anyone.”

As the greatest Church theologian St. Thomas Aquinas put it, sodomy is a crime against nature. There is no justification for it, not even the supposed love of those committing the action. Thus, a pro-sodomy Catholic is as contradictory as a pro-“choice” Catholic.

If accepting the Church’s infallible teaching on matters of morality is found to be difficult, then there are two options: learn why the Church teaches this and accept it, or leave. There is no in-between and there is no room for dissenters in the Church.

Giorgio Navarini
Pleasanton


Atrocities in Libya


Americans were horrified to learn that Col. Moammar Gadhafi, in his desperate wish to cling to power, resorted to bombing his own people. But how many realize that, if this ruthless dictator (and many others like him) have bombs at the ready, it is because the United States has supplied them?

The U.S. government is the world’s foremost exporter of armaments, and its preferred form of “aid” to developing countries is military aid — with the predictable consequence that, wherever conflict breaks out, weapons made in this country contribute to the killing and maiming of civilians.

This is a scandal. There is already so much suffering in our world: rampant poverty, hunger, sickness and illiteracy — to say nothing of unpredictable crises such as earthquakes, floods and fires. Our legislators need to hear from people of faith that it is time to “beat our swords into plowshares.” Rather than continuing to be the world’s biggest purveyor of engines of death and destruction, let us instead use our huge resources to alleviate suffering wherever and whenever it occurs. Our risen Lord demands no less of us.

Maureen Wesolowski
Berkeley


Better is expected


The rightward slide of the Catholic Voice has been notable and disturbing, not least in the current issue, April 11. To wit: An inadequate and misleading article on page 1 regarding the pending liturgical changes; a “fluff piece” on sexual abuse on page 2; a short article on page 4, discussed below; an article on page 6 promoting on-line contributions, without mentioning the dangers of doing so; a truly vapid piece about praying in Latin (!) on page 11; and a distressingly inaccurate article on page 18 regarding women and Holy Orders, about which I have written separately. (And BTW, I do read Latin and have prayed in it. The vernacular is a big improvement.)

The lack of journalistic standards is especially lamentable. Where is the research and independent judgment? In particular, to publish the small piece on page 4 regarding a book by Sister Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, is especially troubling. To raise this issue in this fashion — basically as a filler — is simply irresponsible. The wire service article does not even indicate from which source it came (which is also the case for every other item in the “News in Brief” section). As you ought to be aware, the bishops’ committee report has been widely criticized in theological circles as unfair and inaccurate. Further, some years ago the bishops adopted a formal policy for handling controversial topics of this sort; and (sadly, as is their current practice on many fronts) the bishops failed to follow their own policy. Sister Elizabeth Johnson has been deprived of due process. At the very least, all of this should have been discussed if the topic was to be brought up in print. This is hardly news reporting; it borders on character assassination.

Whether or not you are aware of the fact, you are standing on the shoulders of giants, in the person of past editors of The Catholic Voice — people like Frank Maurovich and Monica Clark. I am aware of your own extensive journalism background, but it is not currently evident in the paper. Also, you have a highly educated audience, including the faculties, staff, and student bodies of some of the best theological schools in the country, along with those of UC Berkeley. Those reasons alone (and there are others) ought to inspire you to greater efforts in the future. I’m looking forward to seeing them in print.

Michael J. Cassidy
Oakland

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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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