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placeholder  September 7, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 15   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers
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Climate change

Both the pope and letter writers to the Voice [Robert Anelli and Martin Leach, Forum, Aug. 10] repeat the phrase, "the science of global warming is settled." This phrase is an oxymoron because, by definition, science is never settled. It is always subject to change as new evidence is discovered.

For decades, scientists tried to model the atom. But the application of classical physics failed to explain the electromagnetic spectrum emitted by heated gases. Only after the introduction of quantum theory was a model developed that explained the observed spectra.

The second phrase is nothing but an attack on those who disagree with the Obama administration. It is intended to evoke references to deniers of the Nazi Holocaust.

The earth's climate is an enormously complex system with a very large number of inputs and outputs, many of which we don't understand. For example, the climate models contain a feedback loop for water vapor. All polyatomic gases are so-called "greenhouse gases," i.e. they absorb energy in the infra-red region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The list includes carbon dioxide, methane, ethane, propane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and water vapor.

Water vapor is a bit different because it condenses at high altitude. The theory is that as the temperature increases, the atmosphere can hold more water vapor. But a more important factor, which the models ignore, is probably the increases water vapor in arid regions of the planet caused by irrigation. In 2009, the last year for which data are available, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization reports that 645 million acres of land on the planet were irrigated. The evaporation and transpiration from this irrigated land totaled about 1.6 billion acre-feet. To put this into some perspective, this is equivalent to about 85 percent of the average annual discharge of the Mississippi River.

Carbon dioxide is a stable gas. Except for the predictable diurnal variation, its concentration doesn't fluctuate during the course of a year. It is extremely difficult to model transient phenomena such as water vapor from irrigated agriculture, the brown haze that envelopes Asia part of the year and cloud formation induced by jet contrails.

It is important to note that the earth's climate has been changing ever since the earth was formed some 4.6 billion years ago. Some 30 million years ago there was no ice present at all. In just the post 2,000 years, we had the Roman warm period, when the earth was warmer than today, followed by the cooler Dark Ages. Then came the medieval warm period, when the earth was at least as warm as today, followed by the little ice age. Most recently we are in a 300-year warming period.

Some 15,000 years ago, Yosemite Valley was filled with ice. During the subsequent warming period, all of the ice melted. Today, there are about 99 active glaciers in the Sierra Nevada, all of which are believed to have formed in the last 1,000 years. Human activity has nothing to do with any of this.

To say, as the Pope did, that the "science of climate change is settled" is both ludicrous and arrogant. Many prominent scientists from around the world tried to present a counter view to the pope before this encyclical was published, but the Vatican bureaucracy turned them all away. This is not the way science works.

Donald F. Anthrop

(Note: Anthrop is professor emeritus, Department of Environmental Studies, San Jose State University.)

New way of living

On behalf of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, we call the attention of the Oakland diocese to the tremendously thoughtful and powerful encyclical on the environment recently published by Pope Francis, www.laudatosi.com. In Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home, all are challenged to consider the observable changes to our air, water and biodiversity, and to reflect on the kind of world we want to leave for future generations. Can we appreciate that everything is fundamentally connected, and that a healthy natural world is not meant just for the few? Will we reconsider our thinking and choices, as individuals, as communities, and as countries that affect the environment for better or worse?

The Sisters have been studying and acting on these issues for some time. In 2006, rooted in our care for creation, and in solidarity with our sisters and brothers of the human-earth-global community, we formally endorsed the Earth Charter.

We committed to use it as a guide to changes in our lifestyle and congregational decision-making: www.earthcharterinaction.org.

For example, we have made significant changes to how we shop and what we eat, to our transportation, our use of water and our housing. We continue to look for ways to share the many blessings we have with those who need so much, as we believe that care for the earth is directly linked to the well-being of everyone on it.

We invite others to join us in reading and reflecting on the Pope's encyclical, reviewing the Earth Charter, and considering what you can do to adopt a new way of living, one that reflects responsibility and care for our common home.

The Dominican Sisters of San Rafael Leadership Team
Sister Maureen McInerney, OP, prioress general, and Councillors Sister Carla Kovack, OP, Sister Susan Allbritton, OP, Sister Abby Newton, OP, Sister Mary Kieffer, OP

Language confusion

Diana Prola (Forum, June 22) and I seem to have had different interviews of the pope in mind when reading Rev. Ron Rolheiser›s column (Forum, June 8). I thought Father Rolheiser was talking about the time the pope said "Who am I to judge?" when discussing a gay wanting to worship God. Prola seems to have been thinking of some occasion when the pope was discussing gay marriage.

Let us have a clear definition: we call someone gay if the person has a sexually inverted eroticism and is willing to engage in simulated. We do not call a conscientious Courage member gay, nor do we call Bill and Monica gay.

No one is biologically gay; some people may be biologically sexually inverted, but simulated copulation in the present context is a choice. If someone thinks that simulated copulation is not a sin, he needs things explained to him — biological things, regardless of the sex of the person with whom he wants to simulate copulation.

Of course, a sexual invert has more of an "excuse" than the rest of us, because the rest of us have the option of copulation, but such deeds are still, objectively, unnaturally sinful.

Explaining this can take a long time because of confusion in language (I remember a gay friend who was, after some years of discussion, gradually beginning to use consistent language, at least with me, at the time he died; he had a deep devotion to the Eucharistic Jesus; requiescat in pace et resurgat in gloriam (rest in peace, and rise again in glory).

So perhaps lexicon rather than biology should come first — but it is a biological lexicon.

John A. Wills

In Sense

It makes sense that our true gift is presence.
As adults, since babyhood, childhood and through adolescence
our God-given magnificence is in our essence.
Within some is humanity's absence.
They display their disregard-for-others license.
Several radiate the light and beauty of being in the garden of pleasance.
To be calm, peaceful and loving costs zero cents.
Give others, yourself and mother earth
God's rising incense
of kindness' presence.

Patsy Paul

(Paul is a parishioner and liturgical dancer at Our Lady of Lourdes; the poem was inspired by Sister Kathleen, one of the 50 years of service Jubilarians.)

Planned Parenthood

I was privileged to attend the protest at the Planned Parenthood center located on Grant and Pacheco in Concord on Aug. 22. (Related stories on Page XX.) The event took place from 10 a.m.-noon on a Saturday. 273 people were there in witness to the sanctity of human life and in protest against the atrocities that have recently been revealed in a more public way through investigative journalism videos. Indeed the Concord center figured specifically in one of the videos and was mentioned clearly as the location where Holly O'Donnell, ex-employee of Stem Express, had done her first day of training, an initiation that literally made her pass out in shock and horror.

I was very grateful for the presence of the Dominican friars from St. Albert's Priory in Oakland, who were there in force. There was also one seminarian from the Oakland diocese and a deacon from Santa Maria in Orinda. I wondered why no other clergy were present from the four Concord parishes, Martinez, Pleasant Hill or the four Walnut Creek parishes. I'm sure that some weddings or funerals were taking place, but not one diocesan priest showed up from our area to protest this greatest human rights violation of our times.

I was disappointed. Priests travel to the Livermore lab and that's wonderful, but the Concord PP is right in our backyard. Thank goodness Pastor Walter Hoye of Oakland was there with his gentle and prayerful presence to pray with us. Next time I would like some leadership from our local priests!

Hannah Carter
Pleasant Hill

Knights aid relieft

OK, maybe neither the federal government nor the UN is helping. Perhaps Christians in the U.S. are simply complacent because it is not happening here. However, Christians are being slaughtered and persecuted in many areas of the world. Our president and politicians appear to ignore the facts and show little or no concern. The media is more sympathetic to the plight of one lion than the lives of thousands of Christians.

I am not asking for a new Holy War or crusade, but, if you care at all; please go to the Knights of Columbus Christian Relief — www.christiansatrisk.org and help as you can. They are our brothers and sisters with no one but us to help.

Cliff Wiesner

Come out of hiding

Don't be afraid. It's time to come out of hiding in gated communities and behind investment portfolios. Come into contact with the poor, the oppressed and the disadvantaged.

Come back to Mass and pray in public, because apathy and fear are allowing evil to educate your children and numb consciences. We need Jesus and our Catholic Church needs us!

John Schaffner

Little has changed

Some of the letters published by The Catholic Voice demonstrate that very little has changed between the time Jesus walked the earth and the present.

When another's lifestyle, behavior, life situation, etc., vary from their own, some people heap criticism on those who differ. Since I would not be able to say it any better, I will simply refer the reader to the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:3-5:

"Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove that splinter from your eye,' while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first, then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye."

Edward L. McCaskey

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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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