|June 10, 2013 • VOL. 51, NO. 11 • Oakland, CA|
| Challenging first decade confronted The Catholic Voice
1963 — what an exciting year to start a diocesan newspaper. Fifty years ago, The Catholic Voice published its first issue between the first and second sessions of Vatican Council II. In Rome, Bishop Floyd L. Begin, founding bishop of the Oakland Diocese, and 2,400 of his fellow bishops accepted the challenge from Blessed Pope John XXIII to lead the Church on a path of reform and renewal.
The Voice had to acquaint its readers with what appeared to be a new vocabulary. Catholics knew of personal sin, but teaching that governments or corporations could be guilty of offending God through "social or collective sin" seemed new, though the term had long been part of the church's social gospel. Similarly, the council defined the church as "People of God," signifying that all from pope to the last lay person have been called not only to holiness but also to mission — to spread the Gospel by the example of their lives. But "People of God" was not a new term; the council, in its usual practice, went "back to the sources," using the term that first appeared in Exodus 6:7 and repeated in First Corinthians 6:16.
The Voice reported how the diocese anticipated or moved easily into the directions endorsed by the Council in liturgy, social justice and ecumenism. St. Francis de Sales Cathedral was one of the first parishes in the country to effectively unite homily, music and worship in the new English Mass.
St. Elizabeth parish, under its pastor Franciscan Father Oliver Lynch, promoted community organization in East Oakland, so that minorities could develop a voice to demand social justice.
Even before the first session of the Council, Bishop Begin invited 150 Protestant ministers and their wives to dinner at the Claremont Hotel and explained his purpose in simple terms: "I love all of you very much." In a historic endeavor for a united Christian approach to higher theological education, Bishop Begin led the way for the Catholic Church's participation in the Graduate Theological Union.
In 1968, Cardinal Suenens, one of Vatican II's more dynamic leaders, came to Berkeley as principal speaker for a gathering of some 1,000 Protestant ministers. "I was deeply moved by the final ovation," the cardinal said, "because I could feel how powerful was their desire for unity."
As if the church scene was not enough, the Voice reported how the 1960s in the United States erupted as the most turbulent decade of the 20th century. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were slain in 1968. Riots broke out in Chicago when police removed protestors at the Democratic National Convention.
The Bay Area was an epicenter of much of the turbulence. The Hippie movement, challenging traditional morality, was centered in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district; the Black Panthers, the more violent arm of the Civil Rights Movement, were founded in Oakland, and the Free Speech Movement was alive in Berkeley. Without condoning violence as a means to an end, The Voice listened and reported the opinions of the angry young adults in these movements on the issues they were trying to address. Turbulence also shook the church when Paul VI, Pope John's successor, published "Humanae Vitae" ("Of Human Life"), maintaining the church's traditional ban on all forms of artificial birth control.
The Voice tried to be a mirror in those times, reflecting accurately what was happening in church and society. Excitement — and turbulence — followed into the next decade, and responsibility for reporting the news and guiding the diocese passed on to other capable hands. In 1972, Frank Maurovich passed the Voice's editorial baton to Father Richard Mangini, and Bishop John S. Cummins succeeded Bishop Begin in 1977. Both had the advantage of being native sons, Father Mangini from Concord and Bishop Cummins from Berkeley. Bishop Cummins came with the added experience of serving Bishop Begin from the beginning as the first chancellor of the diocese and accompanying him to Rome in 1963 for the second session of Vatican Council II. The People of God were in good hands.
(Frank Maurovich was the first editor of The Catholic Voice, from May 1963 until November 1972. He was later editor of Maryknoll magazine and is now affiliated with The Anthonian, the quarterly magazine of The St. Anthony's Guild.)
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