JANUARY 12, 2004




Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.



No flu from Communion cup
In this season of giving, the greatest gift we have is the Body and Blood of Jesus. Now we are being deprived of His Precious Blood in the name of health. I do not believe for one instant that Our Lord would allow anyone to become ill as a result of drinking from His cup. I applaud our priests and laity who stand in faith and trust in opposition to this directive.

Evelyn Thude
San Leandro

New deacons are a blessing
Supper was late tonight because I was electrified by reading the stories of the 18 permanent deacon couples (Voice, Dec. 15). In the Nuptial Mass we hear “and sacrifice makes it a joy.” The sacrifice of these 36 good people will bring blessed joy to all in the diocese.

Mary McMahon

What’s the message?
I’m curious as to why the pictures of the men ordained to the diaconate in your Dec. 15 issue include their wives. Is it to show the wife’s support of her husband’s ministry? Is it to give a more positive, wholesome impression because these men are married?

The wives of deacons participate in much of the formation process, but the door is then shut that would lead to ordination or a position in a parish given to their husbands, even though the wife may be better qualified.
Maybe a follow-up article on these women might detail why they were included in the pictures, yet never mentioned beyond their names. How will they share their husbands’ ministry?

Mark Gotvald
Pleasant Hill

More than procreation
I never considered myself a feminist until I read the U.S. Catholic bishops commentary on marriage and same-sex unions. As a woman married for more than 30 years, I have never felt so dehumanized as now that the bishops have degraded my vocation to a duty “to the common good of society through the procreation and education of children.”

I, a child created in the likeness and image of God, have just become a common animal in Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

I was deeply saddened by the death of Father Bill O’Donnell, former pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Church. I couldn’t sleep the night after his funeral, so my husband rubbed my back as I wept into my pillow. That, my dear bishops, is the intimacy of marriage God has called us for.

Carmen Hartono

Claims of certitude
I am deeply saddened by Bishop Vigneron’s commentary on the U.S. bishops’ document, “Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same-Sex Unions”. The actual content of the document is not the issue, but rather the claims he makes for it in the preface.

These claims can be fairly paraphrased as saying that the content of this document is true because I, speaking for the Church, say it is. Furthermore, failure to wholeheartedly accept every word is sinful and such unbelief may well lead straight to hell.

In the light of such a claim, what is the point of a reasoned exposition of the ideas in question? The content of the article must be trivially true, because it is, supposedly, true by definition. The content could be replaced by a recipe for clam chowder and be, no less, absolutely true.

It follows that the essay is without internal contradiction and has the same status as the Holy Scriptures. In fact, it exceeds them in specificity, temporal relevance, and unambiguous moral teaching.

If Bishop Vigneron had presented the bishops’ statement without preceding it by an assertion of certitude, it would be a thoughtful, perhaps challenging, essay. But as it is, he substitutes certainty for truth, and thus abandons the use of “natural reason.” For when we start an exposition with the premise that our words are true, then reason is vain and pointless.

Stan Coppock
El Cerrito

Bishop Reilly got it right
I was sorry that the U.S. bishops did not grab Worcester Bishop Daniel Reilly’s genial “way out” of the domestic partner and gay marriage impasse: “If the goal,” he said to the legislative committee hearing on behalf of the Catholic bishops of Massachussetts, “is to look at individual benefits and determine who should be eligible beyond spouses, then we will join the discussion... but not to change the public institution of marriage and deny the unique public value of the spousal bond between a man and a woman.”

Touche’, Bishop Reilly!

Father Larry N. Lorenzoni, SDB
Salesian Provincial Office
San Francisco

According to God’s plan
Our good bishops provided a discerning commentary on marriage and same sex unions. Clearly our sexual instinct, if abandoned to itself wholly free from all moral restraint and left to our natural impulse, would then be reduced to nothing more than mere sensual pleasure for its own selfish satisfaction.

And there are folks who are attempting to equate these unions or behavior with marriage.

This is not about human failure or imperfection into which a just person falls daily, but a disorder rooted in one’s common lifestyle and made to look or appear quite normal to some, but for the rest of us it’s a bad plan.

I’ll stick with Bishop Vigneron’s advice – “to persevere in building a civilization on God’s plan for the human person.”

Jim Mulvaney
Castro Valley

Diversity is God’s gift
I think the bishops must be mistaken in asking us to vote against civil unions. In focusing on God’s basic plan for human living, they have neglected to consider all the wonderful diversity he creates among us.
What good would it do us to deny legal recognition to gay couples? If two gay men are forbidden to marry each other, they cannot just choose to marry women instead. And it is not appropriate for every gay man to become a priest or deacon.

It is certainly true that sexual promiscuity is bad for us. And, as the bishops remind us, lifetime relationships are good for people – for the partners, their families, their communities and society. So, should we not support such commitment?

Love is the greatest of the virtues, and if a loving relationship is blessed with the fruits of the Spirit, who are we to say that God disapproves?
I believe that loving, committed family unions are godly, whether gay or straight, fertile or infertile, blessed with children or not. And, therefore, in good conscience I must support such unions within my circle of family, friends and neighbors.

Penelope Potter

Chastity is for all
It was good to read a clear unequivocal statement on marriage and same sex unions (Voice, Dec. 15).

But it seems to me that the Church has been negligent in defining standards regarding sexual activity. We have seen in the last few decades countless abortions, inroads of the militant homosexual lobby, prevalence of premarital sex, single parents, unwed mothers, teenage pregnancies, a flourishing multibillion dollar pornography industry, widespread use of contraceptives, the morning after pill, decadent levels of TV entertainment and movies.

We seldom hear these things condemned from the pulpit. Why are we not urged, admonished and encouraged to live chaste lives? Why are we not organized to stand up and challenge the society that would allow this corruption and degradation to take place?

It seems to me this enemy within is of more danger than the terrorists and the enemy without.

Art Crosetti

The rightly formed conscience
Referring to a document developed by the U.S. bishops on the issue of same-sex marriages, my bishop writes that “integrity demands that all Catholics conform their conscience to these teachings and act in accordance with such a rightly formed conscience … “ (Voice, Dec. 15).
I do not wish to involve myself with the pros and cons of same sex. My concern is with the phrase “rightly formed conscience” which implies a moral judgment upon individuals.

This issue of the rightly formed conscience is extremely sensitive right now when the laity of the U.S. Church is reeling from the fallout of numerous bishops facilitating child abuse in serial pastoral appointments of known offenders. Where is their rightly formed conscience in this regard?

The Church is right to emphasize the idea of formation. But it would do well to spend a little more effort on analyzing what its methods have succeeded in forming. Many of the abusing priests are the products of careful Church-sponsored formation over a period of up to 12 years.

This record of the behaviors of too many cardinals, bishops and priests forces the laity to question the competency of the hierarchy to make judgments on anybody’s rightly formed consciences.

Recent calls by the bishop for the laity to repent do not resonate well while the laity waits for the hierarchy to repent its very public sins. Too many mothers and fathers, sons and daughters are today repenting their unquestioned trust in Church leadership.

The mindset and the theological foundations that enabled the terrible betrayal of the faithful by more than a few Church leaders must be investigated. Where does this behavior come from? It surely does not spring from the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ, in which I believe.
We now know that we must be very careful how the hierarchy form us and our children; and the Church must acknowledge that its counsels do not necessarily result in rightly formed consciences even at the highest levels.
It is my most fervent prayer that our Church leaders cease to distance themselves from the people they have been appointed to shepherd. They are wandering away from their flocks and do not seem to hear or comprehend our cries of distress.

Martin Bailey

Serve the poor, not real estate
How ironic that the Dec. 15 edition of The Catholic Voice, extolling the virtues of a new cathedral, arrived in the mail the same week our diocese and our community buried our beloved Father William O’Donnell.
Despite all the rationalizations and protestations from our financial consultants, leaders, accountants, etc., money for a new cathedral could and should be directed to the poor and marginalized in our midst – to programs encouraging the empowerment of people, to viable youth ministry programs in the inner city and parishes throughout the diocese, to our retreat centers which are closing their doors and/or cutting staff, to health clinics, to those working for affordable housing and health care for all, to peace and justice programs, to human rights advocates, and, of course, to the immediate emergency needs of the soup kitchens, shelters and rehabilitation centers.

With the money going to the cathedral, all these programs are impacted.
I even find the name of the cathedral problematic. Christ proclaimed to us that he was the Way, the Truth and the Life. We, his followers (not real estate holdings), are to be the light of the world. He gave the keys to Peter, “Thou are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church.” Peter was a human being, not a piece of concrete.

Our world does not need another cathedral. Our world cries out for more Bill O’Donnells.

Patricia Gallagher

Where is the tabernacle?
I always make it a point to peruse The Voice and I usually get ticked off every time I do. But I never respond to any of the articles because it’s like shoveling sand against the tide.
My reason for responding now is the Dec. 15 article on the new proposed cathedral in Oakland that goes on and on about all the little goodies it is going to have, but does not mention where the tabernacle is going to be located – six feet under the ground?
If this so-called building is going to be like all of the other barns I have encountered, you will never see me attending.

W. A. Brazil

(According to Lee Nordlund, spokesperson for the cathedral project, the design for the church’s interior is in its earliest stages. At present, the tabernacle will be in a Eucharistic chapel behind the main altar. However, since plans are still being developed, this location might change. Whatever the final design, said Nordlund, there will be “open access to the Blessed Sacrament.”)

Focus on needs of the poor
God does not need a cathedral. Why then does the hierarchy desire it?
The people of God cry out for justice and social services for the less fortunate in our society, and the number is growing. The grandeur of a cathedral is not what the majority of the people in the pews want or need.
How can a building “reflect hospitality, ethnic diversity and service to all” (Voice, Dec. 15)? A building is a structure that reflects its purpose. A cathedral is a place for prayer and liturgy, not social services, which is what is needed in the diocese. A housing structure with medical services would reflect the kind of outreach service the underprivileged and poor of all ethnic groups need.

We have more than enough churches for worship. We don’t need a beautiful monstrosity called cathedral. We need gospel values put into social services. We need to live the gospel values, not preach them. A cathedral symbolizes money. We need a symbol of mercy and compassion.

Edna Pucci

No need for a cathedral
Building a new cathedral is the wrong thing to do at this time. We all want the glorious and magnificent things in life, but one must also recognize the facts, which are that in today’s Church we are a dwindling membership that is made up mostly of older people on fixed incomes – not the high wage earners of the last generation.

Whether directly or indirectly, the money to build this structure will come from the parishes, which are, for the most part, in a negative cash flow already. To further this burden on the parishes is simply not right.
What this diocese needs is spiritual leadership. There are several existing parishes that have very adequate structures to be our cathedral.

Robert Zimmerman

Cathedral parking problem
The new Cathedral of Christ the Light sounds like it will be beautiful, magnificent and brilliantly designed, but what about parking? The planned underground parking will hold 225 cars for a cathedral with permanent seating for 1,500 people.

This situation might be OK for those within walking distance, but not for us in the boondocks. Forget taking mass transportation to attend evening services. Unless the diocese sends out a helicopter or organizes van rides, people will drive. If we are extremely lucky, we might just be able to get a precious parking space and pay the unjust forced donation in the underground parking lot.

I am a senior citizen who grew up in East Oakland without a car. I took buses, trains, streetcars or walked everywhere. However, I have been choked on the street, hit on the head in a train and terrorized by a pervert while I was walking home from an evening service at my parish. My Guardian Angel saved me many times, but he or she is getting tired.
If the Oakland Diocese wants a central place of worship, to build a strong diocese and a strong feeling of community, rethink parking.

Juanita McDonald

We love you, Father Bill
I first met Father Bill O’Donnell 17 years ago when he said a special Mass in remembrance of atomic veterans during the National Association of Radiation Survivors Convention in Berkeley.

Dr. Dorothy Legarreta, co-founder of NARS, introduced us. When she died unexpectedly two years later, Father Bill officiated at her funeral Mass, saying she died in a one-car crash. I called him the next day, noting that he had not used the word “accident.” He said, “That’s right. Dorothy was murdered. That was no accident.”

Dorothy had been very successful in getting federal legislation passed on behalf of radiation victims. Father Bill said Dorothy initiated him into the “life of crime” when she invited him to picket Safeway during Cesar Chavez’s grape boycott.

Father Bill was our Berrigan Brother, our Dalai Lama, our Thomas Merton, our Archbishop Romero, our Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Although the latter three were silenced, somehow Father Bill couldn’t be muzzled by either the Church hierarchy or government officials.

Some refer to Father Bill as a “saint,” but I think he’d find that appellation amusing. There was nothing pious, pompous, or pretentious about this person’s persona. I think “Giant” is more applicable. I believe Father Bill would concur with Dorothy Day’s retort: “Don’t dismiss me by calling me a saint.”

I can picture Father Bill regaling the angels with his Irish wit and with a twinkle in his eye. He took his labor, civil rights, peace, nuclear free, clergy abuse and gender discrimination causes very seriously, but not himself.
I hope the angelic choirs are greeting this larger than life, greatly beloved Catholic priest with the warm Gaelic words “Cead Mile Failte” (One Hundred Thousand Welcomes)! In the words of the ancient Irish Blessing: “May the good Lord hold him in the hollow of His hand.”

June Stark Casey
Hanford Nuclear Radiation Victims

Want to write?
Contributions to Reader’s Forum should be limited to 250 words.
Letters must be signed and must include the writer’s address and phone number for verification purposes. All letters are subject to editing.
Mail your letter to:
The Catholic Voice 3014 Lakeshore Ave.
Oakland, CA 94610.
Fax: (510) 893-4734.
Our e-mail address is:
Opinions expressed in letters to Reader's Forum are the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Catholic Voice or the Oakland Diocese.