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Vigil on My Knees

Pope Francis' reflections:
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placeholder May 5, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 9   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers
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Good coverage

I wish to compliment the staff of The Catholic Voice for the outstanding job you did on the articles on the two popes to be canonized, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II (Voice, April 21).

I sent copies of all your articles to Archbishop Alex J. Brunett in Seattle and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton in Detroit.

In 1959, my mother and I were privileged to have a semi-private audience with Pope John at Castel Gondolfo and to meet his sister and brothers in Bergamo, Italy, the province where the pope grew up. The last meeting was in the farm house the pope built for them. His sister confided to me that she used to sneak Bergamo sausage in her peasant skirt to the pope, as he wasn't supposed to have it.

I feel grateful to have found at an antiques shop a silver-embossed rosary case in the shape of a bible with Pope John XXIII's countenance on the front.

When Pope John Paul II came to San Francisco to say Mass in 1987 at Candlestick Park, my husband John Desmond Casey's paternal second cousin once removed, now Msgr. John J. Talesfore, rector of San Francisco's St. Mary's Cathedral, served at the Mass as a seminarian. You featured a photo of the event.

Thank you again for the fabulous coverage of both popes. It is an issue to save for those who love to read about the saints.

June Stark Casey

'Intrinsically evil'

Joe Maraccini says he can't understand how a public figure could be denied Communion for endorsing "the right to choose" (Forum, April 7). Let's try using plain language and see if it helps explain why denying Communion is wholly appropriate.

Abortion is the deliberate killing of a helpless child in its mother's womb. On April 11, 2014, Pope Francis described abortion as "an abominable crime." For nearly 2,000 years, the Church has definitively taught that abortion is intrinsically evil. When something is "intrinsically evil," that means it doesn't take an evaluation of circumstances to determine whether it's evil; rather, the thing is evil because of what it is in itself.

As such, a Catholic who endorses the so-called right of a mother to dismember a baby in her womb is endorsing something that is intrinsically evil. In doing so, that politician is not in communion with the Catholic Church. If a Catholic is not, in fact, in communion with the Church, he should not pretend he is in communion by presenting himself for Holy Communion, the sacrament that signifies and effects unity within the Body of Christ.

In short, it is a lie for a Catholic to present himself for Communion if he isn't in communion. In fact, it is sinful to do so, as St. Paul understood when he declared, "Anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord." (1 Cor. 11:27.)

Thus, if a Catholic politician openly and obstinately endorses and supports, as a matter of public policy, a mother's so-called right to dismember a baby in her womb, that Catholic politician ought to be told, as a matter of charity, to refrain from Holy Communion lest he bring further condemnation upon himself.

Maraccini suggests that bishops shouldn't deny Holy Communion to politicians who support abortion because, after all, there are "other life issues" people are neglecting. His laundry list of "other life issues" includes the usual non-intrinsically evil issues, such as war and the death penalty, but additionally extends to "immigration, the right to affordable health care, the right to own a submachine gun, distribution of wealth, climate change and nuclear weapons." Let's be honest: this hackneyed argument isn't a seamless garment—it's just a huge blanket some Catholics try to hide under while they support politicians who endorse the "right" of a mother to dismember a baby inside her womb.

Tom Hockel
Walnut Creek

Courage to speak the truth

It was disturbing to read Joe Maraccini's comments (Forum, April 7) regarding the reception of the sacraments (especially Holy Communion) by civil leaders who promote same sex unions and a women's right to kill her unborn baby in the guise of "her right to choose."

I was taught from my youth of the Spiritual Works of Mercy which are still relevant, that we are to instruct the ignorant, admonish the sinner and counsel the doubtful. In doing so, we are not judging but bringing to the attention of fellow Catholics what is right and what is wrong.

Sadly, I do not hear nearly enough from the pulpit about the sin of abortion or same sex unions. Because we do not, there are too many Catholics sitting in the pew believing that there must not be any sin in engaging in these practices or voting for elected officials who promote them.

In my 64 years, I have seen only one brave deacon who had the courage to preach on the subject of the spiritual sin and danger of same sex unions and he received some undeserved chastisement. I applaud this man's courage.

We are living in a time when we have got to have the courage to speak the truth in love but with boldness. Those who hold positions of notoriety such as our political leaders must be held to a standard of godly example and if they are not, "we the people" have the responsibility to speak out against them.

It is sad enough that we have become a divided nation but to have that division within our Church is devastating.

Pam Brady
Pleasant Hill

Language confusion

Uganda report understated says Daniel J. Leer of Pleasant Hill (Forum, April 7). But Leer is making the same mistakes as those he condemns.

Consider. Homosexuality is a doubly misleading improper concept, conflating orthogonal categories and assuming an unwarranted parallelism. Anything we say about homosexuality is therefore, strictly speaking, nonsense, requiring transformation (principally by untangling of categories) to make sense.

It is a great pity that the Catechism uses this improper concept (items 2357, 2358, 2359 and 2396) when better language would have clarified the underlying issues in the minds of many. I have as an exercise transformed those texts into better language, and it was not very difficult, because I live in a culture with a tradition of linguistic analysis.

The bishops of Uganda guide a flock with different philosophical heritage and, without clarity in the documents of the universal Church, will find it difficult to criticize David Bahati's nonsensical law (I have read an early draft of the bill, though not the actual act, but reports indicate that it too is nonsensical) without being misunderstood one way or another.

We should emphasize the conscious mind. Homophobes and homosexualists in contrast exalt often ill-defined subconscious and even visceral functions. They will reject analysis, all this playing with words and definitions, logic and semantics, as a lot of meaningless hooey. But we can see some of the consequences of bad language all around us. And God is not a gut feeling.

John A. Wills

'Cosmos' review

The column about "Cosmos: One more telling of a tired myth," (Forum, April 7) is a well-intentioned review by an ardent Catholic booster that takes issue with the fact that the Cosmos TV series (being aired on Sunday nights this spring) is an anti-Catholic distortion of the historical record about the Church's unfortunate cruelties to Renaissance scientists like Bruno, Copernicus and Galileo.

The author cites the fact that these scientists were educated in church-sponsored universities which somehow evens out the Church's persecution of them and their groundbreaking scientific work. The author, Father Robert Barron, gives a weak, convoluted explanation of how the Cosmos' mention of the Church's ugly role is a "myth" promulgated by "well-known atheist and cartoonist" and executive Cosmos producer Seth MacFarlane.

One can be a good Catholic (and, yes, even a good atheist!), and cite well-established historical facts without being anti-Christian. Come on, Father Barron, lighten up!

The Catholic Church isn't perfect even though we all strive to do our best. The Cosmos series is a fantastically wonderful show detailing God's intricate designs which bring him even greater glory. Barron's use of the word "myth" is unjustified and debases a series every viewer should go out of the way to watch. It's amazing!

Daniel L. Anderson

Kudos to Christ the King

I wish to express my praise and gratitude to Christ the King Parish of Pleasant Hill for having recently co-hosted, with Northern California Friends of Sabeel, "Voices for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land."

The two-day conference was impeccably organized, and the speakers — who came from as far away as Palestine and England — were first rate. The plenary lectures and the workshops provided a variety of topics from a variety of perspectives, thereby offering subject matter of interest to all conference attendees.

As a graduate of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and as someone who has lived outside the U.S., I was particularly impressed by the sensitivity and depth with which the conference addressed the social, religious and political complexities of the region. And as an American Jew, I was gratified to learn that justice and peace may very well come to the Holy Land after all.

Alice D. Kisch

Too many add-ons

There are far too many little devotions being tacked on to the prayers of the Mass, such as the Hail Mary, occasionally a decade of the Rosary and at times a prayer to the saint whose feast happens to fall on that day.

The most disturbing add-on to me is the so-called Prayer of the Faithful. All of the intentions in this add-on prayer are covered elsewhere in the Mass; we pray for the pope, bishops, priests and deacons, the faithful departed and the intentions of all the people attending the Sacrifice. In addition we pray for the intentions of those who have made a donation and are requesting our prayers.

The language used in the Prayer of the Faithful is enough to make even the most die-hard greeting card authors hang their heads in embarrassment. Most disturbing to me is the practice of praying that someone (other than the one praying) will come to the aid of the poor, the hungry and the homeless. God gave us the poor for us to help, and not to throw the problem back in God's lap, trusting that He will come to the aid of the unfortunate.

The Mass is a continuation of the sacrifice carried out by Jesus at the Last Supper and completed on Good Friday. It is not a forum or a contest to see who can come up with the most syrupy babble ever written for a religious service. I urge those attending Mass not to participate and to remain seated during its recitation.

John Kearney

Ugandan law

I would just like to thank Daniel J. Leer of Pleasant Hill (Forum, April 7) for writing the letter I wish I had written, in response to the Ugandan anti-homosexuality law. In addition, I would highly encourage everyone to view "Call Me Kuchu" (available on the Internet), the story of the murder of David Kato, the first openly gay man in Uganda, in 2011, to get an idea of what life is like for gay people in Uganda.

Episcopal Bishop Christopher Senyonjo is a true hero, as a straight man and a follower of Christ, who has spoken out repeatedly against the spoken and physical violence against gay people in Uganda.

Many conservative, evangelical pastors have repeatedly visited the county fomenting hate against homosexuals. I am greatly saddened by what can only be characterized as, at best, the most lukewarm of responses to this tragedy by Catholic bishops, especially those in Africa.

The example of Jesus, who was constantly reaching out to tax collectors and gentiles and all outcasts, apparently is being ignored.

Jim Blaine
San Leandro

Rev. Sullivan's book

In Mary McMahon's letter (Forum, April 21) regarding Father Jim Sullivan's book, the statement that his book "Seven Summers from the Shore" is available on Amazon.com is incorrect. His books are available only at the publisher's website, catholiccaliforniapress.com.

As Father Sullivan uses the proceeds from his book sales for his young adult ministry in South America, he prefers not to use Amazon as they take 55 percent of the sale.

Lisa Fisher
Catholic California Press, Dublin

Nurses part of team

As a nursing student at Cal State University East Bay, I believe the title of Ron Pollack's column (Voice, March 24), "Shared decisions: How to be a co-pilot with your doctor," ought to have read, "How to be a co-pilot with your health care team."

Pollock provides many great points for patients to become involved with their doctor to ensure better health, though he forgot to mention one of the patient's best advocates: the nurse.

Pollack mentioned patients should be well supported during the decision making process. As a nurse hearing patient concerns and witnessing anxiety, I encourage patients to seek further explanation. As a nurse present beside, I assess a patient's condition before I utilize my clinical judgment and select evidence-based interventions to ensure patient comfort and safety. As a nurse, I seek to learn a patient's preferences and values to provide better, individualized care. Let us give the patient as much support as possible, let the patient know as nurses, we too, are there for them.

Meg Conrad

Emulate Pope Francis

Carmelites find "corner" to pray…in Kensington? When I read this story (Voice, April 7) it was the morning after I attended a Mass in Oakland where a grandmother prayed for the soul of her murdered grandson and for all of the other young people of her neighborhood surrounded by violence.

Tears filled my eyes as the church resounded with, "Lord hear our prayer." Have these Carmelite nuns and priests supporting their move to a multimillion-dollar property in Kensington not been paying attention to the signs of the times?

Pope Francis now wears simple white robes in place of the opulent satins. He chose modest housing over the papal apartments and uses a Ford Focus instead of the papal Mercedes Benz?

Mother Sylvia Gemma, superior of the Carmel of Jesus Mary and Joseph said, "We don't usually need a lot of space, but we do need solitude." Can't this solitude be found in a "corner" of East Oakland among those who would welcome the witness of women of God praying constantly on their behalf?

Marcy Fox
Pleasant Hill

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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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