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Advise and Dissent

Homily on same-sex marriage ruling
sparks many

'Supreme Court'
ultimately matters?

'New Normal' time
of moral incoherence

Be creative in the
ways we show generosity and welcome

Pope Francis shows what he calls the 'culture of encounter'

The stigma of suicide

placeholder October 26, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 18   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers
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Advise and Dissent

Just the beginning

Father Dan Danielson is right about one thing (Forum, Oct. 5), we have lost a battle in our fight against same-sex marriage. But the war is just heating up. We've seen reports on how bakers, florists and others are being sued, not because they refuse to serve gay customers who come into their shops, but because they did not want to participate in a gay wedding by providing services for it.

People are being fined for refusing to participate in gay weddings because of their sincerely held religious beliefs. Would an African-American baker be fined tens of thousands of dollars for refusing to bake a cake for a KKK event? To be clear, I am not equating gays and lesbians with the KKK. But our rights should not depend on where a judge or labor bureau falls on the political spectrum.

According to the National Review, churches are being threatened with the loss of their liability insurance if they refuse to perform gay weddings. A Christian pastor in Vermont, who owns and operates a for-profit wedding business, was sentenced to a year in jail because he refused to perform a gay wedding.

How long will it be before military chaplains are ordered to perform gay weddings or face punishment if they refuse to do so? How long before Catholic priests and local parishes are sued for refusing to perform same-sex marriages?

How long before all mainstream Christian churches face lawsuits seeking to take away their tax-exempt status?

I agree with Pope Francis who said, "You have to distinguish between the fact of a person being gay, and the fact of a lobby. The problem isn't the orientation. The problem is making a lobby." And there is a radical lobby in this country that wants to destroy the Catholic Church and it is using the court system to do it.

Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote, "Evil talks about tolerance only when it's weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it."

The issue of gay marriage may not be settled. The Supreme Court based its gay marriage ruling on the 14th Amendment. Congress could exercise its authority under Section 5 of the 14th Amendment (which gives Congress the authority to enforce the Amendment with appropriate legislation) and declare that the 14th Amendment does not apply to gay marriage. We only need a Congress and a president who are willing to stand up to the Supreme Court and say no to judicial activism.

Robert Burke

Points of agreement

I carefully read Father Dan Danielson's reflections on same-sex marriage (Forum, Oct. 5). I found many points of agreement. Certainly same-sex attracted persons should be welcomed in our parishes.

The condition of same-sex attraction is in itself not a sin. I also agree with his statement that all people, not just homosexuals, are called to chastity with the help of God.

Father Danielson went on to say: "we cannot set ourselves up to judge the stable relationships of homosexual couples." This is where things get a bit complicated, especially for our pastors. I agree we cannot judge the conscience of anyone. That is up to God.

However, a pastor regularly does have to judge volunteers and prospective employees for their suitability for ministries like faith formation. A pastor must judge an individual's suitability for such jobs based on a number of factors, including whether marital status or other publicly available information may place the candidate in open contradiction to Church teaching.

Our pastors (and bishop) must assure the Catholic faith is taught by individuals who are willing and able to share the faith in its fullness. Such pastoral decisions require wisdom ... and judgment.

Mike McDermott

Love, compassion

Thank you for printing Rev. Dan Danielson's homily on the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. His thoughtful, knowledgeable and compassionate article gives me hope that I am part of a church that can welcome all to the Beloved Community. A church that speaks with love and compassion, not judgment and hate.

Claire Broome

A blessing

This is another way to look at the problem of same-sex attraction. Maybe those people inflicted with this can see it as a blessing, a cross they have been given from the Lord; a call to be a follower of Christ to embrace the cross to share in the redemptive suffering Our Lord endured. Did not Our Lord say if you want to be a follower of mine you must take up your cross and follow me; yes not to indulge in our sinful tendencies but to deny ourselves. Those with strong attractions to the opposite sex are called to do the same.

Might not the church have been much better off if the clergy had been called to a life of heroic virtue; how much scandal would have been avoided? How many billions of dollars would have been saved?

We are not called to accommodate the principles of the world we are not called to make easy compromises with the world. We are called to follow Christ in season or out.

Art Crosetti

Laudable approach

As pastoral practice, Father Dan Danielson's approach is highly laudable, strongly urging respect and charity toward our gay sisters and brothers (Forum, Oct. 5).

However, pastoral practice does not yet go to the heart of the matter ethically: is homosexual love and marriage "unnatural" and therefore, according to the Church's interpretation of natural law, something "disordered" and inherently sinful?

Or does the Church need to reinterpret its natural law tradition, staying true to its fundamental values while coming to honor the diversity of "nature," as well as its unity?

Jim Silva

Never give up

We must keep upholding Biblical marriage despite the Supreme Court ruling. The Supreme Court decided to impose on the nation a definition of marriage, lacking any warrant in the text or logic or structure or original understanding of the Constitution.

The 14th Amendment doesn't tell us what marriage is. Justice Anthony Kennedy simply came up with his own philosophy of marriage and then told all 50 states the U.S. Constitution somehow required recognition of his philosophy of marriage. This decision is an illegitimate decision.

We must not treat this decision as irreversible. The Supreme Court has reversed itself many times over the course of history. It certainly can do so again.

The First Amendment Defense Act, was introduced by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, in the Senate and by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, in the House. It has more than 100 co-sponsors in the House and 30 co-sponsors in the Senate. There are similar policies at the state level.

It says that the federal government will not discriminate against any individuals or institutions because they believe marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

Our political leaders need to be told in no uncertain terms that if they treat this decision as legitimate we will vote them out of office.

We must not allow ourselves to be demoralized. We're to fear God, not men. We're to be ever faithful, never giving up on marriage, on religious freedom or the principles of constitutional government.

Jim Crowley
Walnut Creek

Clear and caring

Thank you for publishing the thoughtful, clear and caring article (Forum, Oct. 5) by Father Dan Danielson on "What are we to make of the Supreme Court ruling and marriage?"

I appreciate your offering this fine written piece by one of our local wisdom figures. Father Danielson helps us understand Church teaching and at the same time reminds me of the opportunities I have had to work together with so many of our brothers and sisters toward the reign of God.

Nora Petersen

Government bondage

Many years ago religious leaders allowed social politicians to counter the First Amendment of the Constitution and make marriage a lawful act requiring license, and the resulting consequence of government to demean the wisdom, honor and virtue of marriage.

Fact: Marriage as presently practiced under government rule is a mandated lawful bondage, and a lawful judicial proceeding to break the bond of chattel. Government rule also creates a preferential, prejudicial and discriminatory class of marriage for taxing.

Upper or any class is not in the Constitution, but somewhere it states the individual has the dignity and responsibility to be independent and free.

Yet by freedom of choice, two or more individuals living together do not need a license and are not in bondage. A free woman does not need a license to bear a child. Under moral standards the mother is responsible for the child unless the chattel of child is put in bondage by the state, until emancipated.

As a voting member of the government of the people, I want my representative to vote to confirm the First Amendment of the Constitution and add to the confirmation, citizens be free from licensed bondage to government....

And vote to abolish all government bondage.

Philip Tribuzio

Point by point

Re: Rev. Dan Danielson's column (Forum, Oct. 5): "A homosexual orientation is born, not made." One could easily counter those with studies that show otherwise. If one is going to pull in the studies/research ploy, one must be prepared to delineate the perimeters of those studies, their strengths and weaknesses, and above all a clear definition of their targeted subjects along with definitions of terms.

I can understand why the "born gay" claim is assiduously made. If the claim is proclaimed and drummed into the populace often enough it's a nice slippery slide into saying that God made a person thus, that He called forth this condition, that it is (as some are wont to say) the premier vehicle by which God truly images Himself.

A very popular Christian notion in the Bay Area: "Being someone with a homosexual orientation, whether male or female, does not make one bad. It is not sinful or wrong. It is not a mental aberration. It simply is."

Even the catechism makes a distinction between the homosexual act and the homosexual condition: stating that only the first is a sin, the second a "disorder." But the catechism is focusing primarily on culpability, and what the individual is obliged to confess as sin — and "to do no more."

I see one of the "pastoral" outcomes of the Family Synod in Rome this month is to soft pedal (if not eliminate) the designation of the condition of homosexuality as a disorder. That would be a very helpful "pastoral" result coming from Rome. If that's the case than it will only be a very happy slippery slide into saying that neither are homosexual acts. If homosexuality loses its "disorder" tag what point is there in saying homosexual acts should also lose their negative (that is, sinful) descriptors?

Stephen Golay
San Francisco


Vaccine miracle

In her letter (Forum, Sept. 21), Sharyn Obrigewitsch finds herself surprised that the Catholic Church did not oppose the recently approved vaccine bill, SB 277.

Of course it didn't. Our church, more than most, understands the historic scourge of infectious disease. Over the past millennia, these diseases have sickened, crippled and killed millions of God's people across the globe. Of course, living as we do in this country, it's easy to forget what it was like before the medical miracle that are vaccines. We take our health for granted because we are blind to the alternative. But travel to a third-world country and watch an infant battling for her very life against pertussis, and you will never again question the need for immunizations.

Those who argue against vaccines are, on the whole, well-meaning people who allow themselves to be duped into believing that vaccines are dangerous or immoral and that the laws to ensure that children receive them are duplicitous at best and conspiratorial at worst.

The fact is that vaccines continue to be proven safe, time and time again, and no amount of blog-driven hysteria will change that simple fact. Visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines for the facts about immunizations.

Are vaccines a religious issue? You bet. Jesus commands us to "love thy neighbor as thyself' (Mark 12:21).

Vaccines only work properly when enough of the population has been vaccinated; that way, the most vulnerable among us who, for legitimate reasons, cannot be vaccinated are nevertheless protected by "herd immunity."

Refusing to have your child vaccinated not only increases the chance that he or she will get sick, but that the disease will pass to others who can't protect themselves. When we refuse to vaccinate, we literally put others at risk. What would Jesus do? Not that.

Our church has a rich history of embracing modern medicine not only through its many hospitals, but also with its medical ministries throughout the world. Those priests, doctors and women religious in the poor, forgotten clinics of the world fight every day to obtain the vaccines that some of us so blithely disregard.

Catholics, indeed Christians of all stripes, should be at the forefront of encouraging parents to have their children vaccinated.

Matt Lovett
Pleasant Hill

Work for the poor

Nurse Janet Waring started a free clinic with doctors at St. Vincent de Paul. Now she is working at the Order of Malta clinic at the cathedral complex in Oakland. Thanks to the Order of Malta for its work.

Pope Francis has it correct. Work for the underserved poor and our brothers and sisters.

Thomas Schmitz, MD

Spirit's afoot

In reading the letter "Losing Influence" by Peter DeLisi (Forum, Sept. 21), the words of Bob Dylan were singing in my mind, "Something is happening here but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones."

DeLisi was decrying the effects the shift from an authority-centered society to a person-centered society is having on the Church. Sadly, the wheels fell off of an autocratic Church with the sex-abuse scandal and the ineptitude of authority to respond to it. At the same time, the individualistic relativism to which he refers weakens the hold of doctrine.

A third movement is beginning in the Church with the election of a charismatic Latin-American pope: the emergence of social-centered religion with a focus on mercy and compassion.

The difference can be seen contrasting the encyclicals "Humanae Vitae" and "Laudato Si."

Mr. Jones, the Holy Spirit is afoot!

James A. Erickson

Bad Voice

One of the front page articles (Voice, Oct. 5) is "Where do we go from here?" I would ask instead, "What's wrong with this picture?" The four pictured members of the diocese are identified as "Bishop" Barber, "Rev." Matthews, last-name-only Collyer, and "Rev." McAleenan. Would you consider identifying them as Barber, Matthews, Collyer and McAleenan? I didn't think so.

Was it your intent to disparage lay people? Women? Lay women? Or was it just too much bother to ask the non-clerical member of the quartet whether she prefers Mrs., Ms. or Miss?

Mary K. LeBlanc

[Editor's note: To provide consistency and accuracy, all media outlets adhere to a "style," rules governing grammar, spelling and usage that take precedence over other considerations. The Catholic Voice strictly follows the rules of "The Catholic News Service Stylebook," and as a supplementary guide, "The Associated Press Stylebook."]

Logical argument

Professor Donald F. Anthrop's letter (Forum, Sept. 7), while articulate and well researched, misses the mark. Since I am a lawyer and not a scientist, I will argue with logic and not "unsettled scientific facts."

As with most climate change deniers, their main point is that the Earth goes through climate warming and cooling cycles and has since time began. Next, the Earth renews itself and absorbs all the damage that occurs in nature. Then they argue human activity is part of the world we live in, so it is a natural by-product of life.

However, climate change deniers always fail to address the issue of the human population, which has grown a million fold since the last ice age. So you have a whole different animal (pun intended), that doesn't figure into computer models. Also, if I'm not mistaken, our ancestors didn't drive SUVs that got less than 20 miles to the gallon.

For our purposes, however, the good professor's theory fails with his last paragraph. While he believes that this scientific issue is "unsettled," a Catholic, who is in Communion with the Holy See, knows that it is. Pope Francis has told us that the Church's position on climate change is that it is real and a sin, hence, we have a duty to correct it.

Since a logical argument has to apply to similar circumstances, for the reader, who questions my reasoning, please answer this question: when does life begin?

Xavier R. Baeza

Choir kudos

Periodically at the 5 p.m. Saturday Mass at St Agnes Church in Concord, I have had the privilege of hearing the most beautiful choir I have heard in a long time.

They don't try to overwhelm the Mass, just be part of it. The Mass is not entertainment or a social hour, but a sacrifice.

This choir understands that simple truth. I only wish other choirs would emulate them.

Nancy Hudson

Real presence

I too share Rich Peterson's concern about many practicing Catholics' lack of understanding of Communion and failure to appreciate all the dimensions of the Eucharist. He should note, however, that the source of the problem is the Church's failure to come to grips with Secularism and to provide an adequate education about the faith, not its adoption of Protestant practices. Martin Luther, contrary to Mr. Peterson's assertions, did believe in the "real presence" in the Host after Consecration. Luther's "Small Catechism" specifically states the following in answer to the question, "What is the Sacrament of the Altar?": "It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself." Modern Lutheran churches and all Protestant churches which today share table fellowship with the Lutheran churches share this belief. So people who fail to believe in the "real presence" are not only not in line with Catholic teachings, they are not in line with Lutherans' and many other Protestants' teachings too.

Carl Brodt

Earliest tradition

In response to the letter from Rich Peterson (Forum, Oct. 5) I would like to point out that Communion in the hand was the tradition in the Church from the earliest centuries. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who died in 386, gave the following instructions to the newly Baptized Christians. "Approaching do not come with thy palms stretched flat nor with fingers separated. But making thy left hand a seat for thy right, and hollowing thy palm, receive the Body of Christ, responding Amen." St. Cyril is not only a Doctor of the Church, an official teacher, but was the Bishop of Jerusalem. Surely if any Church retained the earliest tradition it would be Jerusalem, where the Last Supper took place.

In fairness to Luther, though he broke with the Roman Catholic Church, he continued to believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. I quote him: "It is the Word (Sacred Scripture) which makes and distinguishes this Sacrament so that it is not mere bread and wine, but is, and is called, the Body and Blood of Christ."

And in the Augsburg Confession (1530) he states: "Of the Supper of the Lord, they (our churches) teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed to those who eat the Supper of the Lord, and they (our churches) reject those who teach otherwise."

The truth may at times be inconvenient but should be followed wherever it leads.

Rev. Brian Timoney
Pleasant Hill

The old way

I don't know where writer Rich Peterson (Forum, Oct. 5) is getting his information, but here is a quote from St. Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) written in the city of the Last Supper and part of an instruction to new Christian converts:

"Therefore, as you approach, do not come forward with your wrists extended nor with your fingers spread. Make your left hand a throne for your right, because your right is going to receive the King; make a hollow of your palm and receive the body of Christ, saying after it: 'Amen.' After you have carefully sanctified your eyes by touching them with the holy body, receive it and be careful not to lose any of it. … Then, after you have partaken of the body of Christ, come forward to the chalice of His blood, not with upstretched hands but bending forward in the manner of one who worships and reverences; sanctify yourself by partaking also of the blood of Christ and answer: 'Amen.' While the moisture from His blood is still on your lips, touch it with your hands and sanctify your eyes, forehead, and other senses."

I'm copying this from the critical edition of St. John Chrysostom: Baptismal Instructions in the Ancient Christian Writers, No. 31, The Newman Press: Westminster, Maryland, 1963, p.330. The edition was produced by one of my Greek professors, Paul W. Harkins, from an ancient manuscript recovered in an old monastery in 1929.

Frank Nieman
Pleasant Hill


As a Faith Formation teacher and vocational advocate for Queen of All Saints Parish in Concord, I have had the honor and blessing to know well three spiritual young men, among them being William Tressel, Andrew Moore and Stephen Cox, OSB. My own heart was pierced approximately three years ago when the angelic Andrew Moore's life was tragically taken during a pro-life walk across the nation. Again, my heart was hurt about a year ago when the very young, innocent and spiritual man Stephen Cox passed away in his sleep. His death was due to epilepsy.

St. Agnes at 13 years of age, St. Therese of Lisieux at 24 years of age, and Bernadette of Lourdes at 35 years of age, all died so incredibly young, but they still made the world a better place, regardless of their youthful age. Andrew and Stephen immediately come to mind. Both of these young men were very dedicated to pro-life issues and spent their early teen years praying the rosary outside of Planned Parenthood. I can still envision Andrew standing outside the facility after school hours praying and offering literature in his kind and gentle way. Stephen as well, a warm, quiet and talented young man who could sing like a warbler and dance like a warm wind in October, persevered through horrible insults and expressions outside of the Planned Parenthood facility by many pro-choice advocates.

Stephen mentioned many times how he attempted to join several religious monasteries over the course of time, but he was turned down. Because Stephen had epilepsy, he was considered too great a risk factor in their eyes. Others are told they are young and need to be better educated and to grow.

It seems many pastors have forgotten how they felt when they wanted to be ordained or to join a religious order. Many parishes do not have a vocational advocate.

Sadly, Stephen passed away at the Mount Angel Abbey last September three-days before he was to begin the novitiate after having a seizure in his sleep. He was buried as a monk at Mount Angel Abbey. Stephen made the world a better place. He was both my friend and my teacher. He taught me to persevere and that there should be no age limit to serve God.

God does not make people of greatness simple, but he makes those who are special with simplicity great.

James Crabtree

In the hand

In his letter (Forum, Oct.5) Rich Peterson states, "Our church leaders have copied the Lutheran church and accepted Communion in the hand."

Whether it was "copied" or was an "inspiration," I appreciate receiving Communion in the hand for several reasons. I also suspect that the extraordinary Eucharistic ministers appreciate it ... some people do not open their mouths far enough, etc. Most of us also commit fewer sins with our hands than we do with our tongues!

Sister Mary Christopher, OP

Teachings in sync

A recent letter penned that the contrast between "Humanae Vitae" and "Laudato Si" highlights a shift within our Church, though this overlooks the complementary teachings of these two treasures.

In both "Evangelii Gaudium" and "Laudato Si," Pope Francis speaks anew of the afflictions caused by the relativism and the unbridled consumerism in our culture, and how both fundamentally distort our relationships with others: "The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects ..." and "our relation with the environment can never be isolated from our relationships with others and with God."

At the heart of "Humanae Vitae" is a parallel awareness: how we treat and respond to others in our relationships. The contrast is not between the two encyclicals, but between relativism and profound approaches concerning human dignity and relationships. Decades ago proponents of birth control argued that access to contraception would strengthen marriages, result in more respect toward women and bring an end to prostitution. We now realize these broad-minded promises are sadly untrue.

In reading both "Evangelii Gaudium" and "Laudato Si," one knows that Pope Francis cites extensively the writings and teachings of Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Instead of contrast, we read and hear consistency — a seamless garment — for us to grasp and to consider.

Daniel Tracy

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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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