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Recently we have been informed the Diocese of Oakland will be closing five of its schools. Reaction to the closures includes sadness, anger and even a feeling of betrayal, though upon further reflection most of us realize that under current circumstances, the diocese had no choice but to close some schools and consolidate resources to serve others in order to attempt to provide a high quality education to our students.
Many are asking: What can we do to help support the remaining schools and turn the ominous tide of Catholic school closures?
The answer to that is simple: Contact your local, state and federal representatives and tell them to support school vouchers.
Nothing would have as rapid an effect on flagging attendance at Catholic schools. Nothing would have as beneficial an effect on the quality of education in the communities surrounding our Catholic schools. Nothing would do more to raise the quality of education in the nearby public schools. See: "When Schools Compete: The Effects of Vouchers on Florida Public School Achievement" (Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, 2003).
There are many other studies that support these statements. Do your research, contact your representatives and say your prayers. Someday we may see a resurgence in our Catholic schools, and vouchers are a proven solution.
Nail on the head
Kudos to Kimberly Mikus (Forum, Feb. 6). You have "hit the nail on the head."
I, and many of my friends with children in Catholic schools, have expressed the same sentiments upon hearing of the closures.
While my child is in a school not on the closure list, I agree with her entire letter, particularly the second to last paragraph. As her last line says, please pray for them.
Except when watching a "Sister Act" or "Blues Brothers" movie, I had never thought about the impacts of closing one of the world's most vital institutions. But in 2004, when my son's school, St. Augustine in Oakland, closed, the impact was painful. I had difficulty immediately appreciating the importance of supporting the diocesan decision, made then, too, after wrenching consideration. We all should appreciate that we must help.
Violence, disrespect for authority, drugs and foolish sex are common in public schools; neither Christ nor morality are promoted there. You can't expect a good outcome under such conditions. However, we expect and consistently have received a good outcome from Catholic education. Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, understands: "The most powerful and reliable resource I can offer is Catholic education, so central to developing the faith and morals of our children. There is no more effective way to form the whole person — intellectually, morally and communally than to infuse a rigorous academic program with the timeless message of Jesus Christ, and deliver it in a safe, respectful atmosphere."
Better marketing and coordinated effort might save our schools. Alongside funding changes, improve their viability by facilitating more inclusion of other religious congregants, nearby residents and alumni families in school activities (graduations, fundraisers, scholastic awards and music programs, art and theater productions).
Trumpet the immediate and long-term benefits of attending Catholic schools; that our youth athletic, academic and community involvement programs are unsurpassed that we distinguish right from wrong. Encourage families that must sacrifice sleep, money and commutes.
Patrick Kevin McCullough
Those legally waiting?
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops seems to dwell almost exclusively on one aspect of our immigration dilemma, that of protecting from deportation those here illegally. This is not to denigrate that noble cause. But there are others, silently hopeful and terribly frustrated. As a first generation American, I can relate.
To wit: There are more than 11 million "undocumented," aka illegal, immigrants here. That's 3.5 percent of the population, a significant number.
But here is the rub: There are also 4.4 million others who have followed US immigration rules and are waiting, some for more than 30 years no less, to enter legally. Might many of them understandably opine, "Have any of these undocumented folks, however wonderful they might be, taken my place in line, thereby depriving me and my family an opportunity to improve our lives?"
Is this not a fair question? To borrow an NYC denizens' inelegant but descriptive query, "What are they, chopped liver?" Don't they deserve an equal sense of umbrage and attention from the bishops? If not, pray tell, why not? There is not an infinite amount of residency-room here.
This is not meant to impose my solutions (were I to have same) to this most intractable migration policy problem. It is to suggest that the bishops do more than damn the present, i.e., to be merely "against" and to offer "sanctuary" and help only to those who broke the rules and "butted" into line.
All agree that immigration needs a comprehensive redo. The Church's advocacy, unfortunately, seems narrowly focused on just one group, however deserving that group might be. No country has the resources to admit everyone. And lots of people want to come here.
We are in need of specific methods that would reasonably balance the needs and desires of all parties and would be in the best interest of our country. That is difficult. Where would the bishops draw our national policy-line were they to have the bully-pulpit?
Pro-life is whole life
I would like to add my voice to the abortion issue. I fully cherish the right to life of the unborn child. But there is a difference between being anti-abortion and pro-life.
Pro-life takes in the whole of life. It isn't limited to the unborn child, but embraces the child who goes hungry because of cuts to vital programs, the retirees to keep their hard earned benefits, the rights of people regardless of race, creed or sexual orientation, the rights of everyone to have access to affordable health insurance, the refugees who cannot come to this country for a better life in the name of security, and the protection of our air, land and water.
If a broader criteria isn't met, then the new administration of Donald Trump has clearly shown where it stands — it has nothing to do with pro-life!
Votes vs. money
In today's permissive society those who support abortion on demand have many government protections. Those who oppose abortion on demand for religious or moral reasons have none.
In California medical plans must provide benefits for abortion on demand, with no exceptions and there is danger that those medical practitioners who do not want to participate in performing abortions have none. It's time to treat both sides equally.
Our bishops have written Congress in support of the proposed Conscience Protection Act 2017.
Democrats, especially those financially dependent on donations from Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups, are expected to oppose it. It is sponsored by two Republicans.
Please contact your Congressional representatives, both Senate and House, and encourage them to support the proposed bill. Many Catholics are registered Democrats, the Congresspeople will listen if they receive enough pressure; votes can be as effective as money.
Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ's, column (Voice, Feb. 6) seemed to endorse the Republican Party because it is "pro life." Actually, the Republican Party is "pro birth."
If it was "pro life," the GOP would support sensible gun control laws, food stamps for truly needy people, elimination of the death penalty, nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, sanctuary for refugees and respect for the environment. It does not.
I was further distressed after reading a New York Times article outlining Steve Bannon's attempts to curry favor with arch conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke, recently demoted by Pope Francis, the most popular pope the Catholic Church has had since St. John XXIII.
We (Catholics) have barely crawled out from under the crushing disgrace (and financial burden) of the clergy sex abuse scandals. We can ill afford to now be identified, however remotely, with an individual who supports the hateful ideals of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. Bannon is chief strategist for Donald Trump, and he appears to promote white superiority. Thomas Williams, a former priest, is the Roman correspondent for Breitbart News, a website associated with Bannon.
Even more terrifying is Stephen Miller, a 31-year-old Trump hardliner whose pronouncements sound suspiciously like edicts from Der Fuhrer.
We need to be vigilant and honest in our assessment of the government. There must be separation of church and state, with justice and equal protection for all.
In reference to Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ's, column (Voice, Feb. 6), titled "Christ and His teaching must come before our political party."
I want to ask, does not The Vatican have a wall to protect itself from outsiders?
Does The Vatican let the people fleeing religious, political persecution, war, poverty or violence live in Vatican City?
Do the Catholic clergy and religious let these people live in their homes?
I am sure we all know the answers to these questions.
I, like the rest of my fellow Catholics, have been disheartened and enraged by the un-American and un-Christian attitudes and actions of the new administration toward refugees, immigrants and migrants.
That is why I was personally encouraged by the column from Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ (Voice, Feb. 6). The bishop said that in these divisive times we must be Christ-centered, not politician-centered. "Christ and his teachings must come before our favorite political party not the other way around."
The bishop quotes and endorses a powerful statement from Catholic Charities of the East Bay. This statement says that we as Catholics must "stand with the immigrant, refugee and migrant community. We oppose actions that promote fear and hostility toward people of all faiths and nationalities."
The statement points out that our Church has always been an immigrant Church, a place providing a haven and home for those seeking assistance, help and a path to citizenship. It urges us that now more than any other time in recent memory we must remain in solidarity with one another.
Just last year CCEB helped 1,000 people enter the pathway to citizenship and has settled 63 families — a very impressive accomplishment for which we all can be proud.
Thank you, Bishop Barber and thank you, Catholic Charities of the East Bay for your leadership and for highlighting the Christian response to this issue. Please continue to be beacons of hope.
As a former Scout, I'm always impressed with the large number of both boys and girls who earn a variety of religious Scout awards each year (Voice, Feb. 6). Blending of Scout and Christian values and practices will hopefully provide life-long anchors for them.
Appreciation is due also to their parents who enable and support them.
Stick with 'faith, morals'
A letter from Fred Piazza (Forum, Jan. 23) contained some misinformation about Planned Parenthood and asked you to stop discussing abortion "and stick with matters of faith and morals." But abortion is a matter of faith and morals.
There is the quite clear injunction in Dt 5:17, repeated several places elsewhere in Scripture. The Code of Canon Law prescribes (c. 1398) broad-sentence excommunication for those who procure abortion? Of course, one could quote Jn 18:14 in defense of this "view," but we usually reject Caiaphas' argument.
I have yet to find in Sacred Scripture a specification of the purpose of civil government (Ps 72 gives a partial list of functions), so let us take that of Locke and his followers: the purpose of government is to secure such God-given rights as those to life, to bodily integrity, to liberty and to property, and in that order of priority.
The first condition of good government is therefore that government itself not violate those rights. It follows that the defunding of Planned Parenthood, a firm involved principally in the violation of the right to life, the pre-eminent right, must have a high priority for those who follow Locke — a higher priority than providing any service, however worthy: it were better that government disappear than that it fund PP, though those are not the alternatives. I admit that Locke's doctrines are not of faith, but they seem eminently of morals.
There are three justifications for abortion: non-modern biology, non-hylomorphic metaphysics and Caiaphasian morality. Which is Piazza's?
John A. Wills
Melinda Erickson (Voice, Feb. 6) repeats the false statistic that only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood services are abortion-related and the rest are education and "reproductive health services," meaning contraception. PP's claim to provide mammograms has proven to be false; and its claim to provide prenatal services has recently been shown to be mythical. The way PP records services is that each emergency contraceptive pill ($45) or urine test ($10) is one service as is an abortion ($400-$1,500).
These services are not all comparable and it becomes obvious that abortions are PP's primary source of income (http://bit.ly/2kvfFXi).
PP is the world's largest abortion provider, performing one in three abortions. More than $500 million of taxpayer money goes to PP. With a $1 billion budget, abortions won't go away if PP is defunded. Our tax dollars and Catholic sensibilities can be put to much better use.
[Editor's note: The Voice received eight other letters pointing out the misleading "3 percent" number from Planned Parenthood.]
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