JANUARY 24, 2005





Criticism harms unity
I have been a priest for nearly 30 years, 20 of those years as a pastor in this diocese. I have gladly gotten up in the middle of the night or interrupted my work during the day to minister to the sick and dying at John Muir Medical Center.
I have gladly seen people who were troubled in any way or who just wanted to talk about their faith. And I have gladly cherished the privilege of preaching and
celebrating the sacraments with my fellow parishioners.

What has troubled me, and I know other priests feel the same, are criticism of one’s parish that are half true, mean in spirit and tone, and simply destructive to building up the Body of Christ. This is especially troublesome when such remarks come from people who are marginally affiliated with their parish at best.

I think it’s time to heed the words of St. Paul who said that we should make every effort to preserve the unity of the Body of Christ which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force (Ephesians 4:1-6).

Father Vincent J. Scott
San Leandro

(Father Scott is former pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Walnut Creek).

Similarities with Nazis
I agree with John K.C. Chen’s letter (“Truth vs propaganda,” Jan. 10) of the need to be vigilant against a creeping fascism in this country.

I am a second-generation convert to Catholicism from Judaism. My grandparents perished in the Nazi holocaust. My parents escaped to Italy where they were sheltered by a Catholic family opposed to Mussolini’s fascist regime. So it is with some trepidation that I view the attitudes of many Catholics and other Americans with respect to the right-wing takeover of the federal government and the courts, and the clear dominance of the right-wing media.

My grandfather refused to believe that “civilized” Germans would allow anything bad to happen to the Jews (He was a soldier during the First World War). His Christian neighbors assured him that Adolf Hitler was a “good Christian man” (the son of a Catholic Bavarian school teacher) who would never do what “unpatriotic” Germans and foreigners were accusing him of doing. I know he held on to that hope even as he was dragged off to Dachau with my grandmother.

The German right-wing (Nazis) used fear of external enemies and media propaganda (such as repeating a lie over and over so that it becomes the “truth”) to control the population. They also cultivated the personality of the Fuhrer as the benign father who knew what was best for all. To question him was treasonous.

They created an atmosphere of distrust for any criticism of the Fuhrer so that every charge was disbelieved or discredited, cutting off any avenue for independent thought and recourse.

Like Mr. Chen, I too am seeing disturbing similarities. Do not believe for a second that America cannot go that way. That was what my grandfather believed. It takes only an unquestioning population as in Germany of 1930 for history to repeat itself.

And remember, Germany then considered itself a Christian nation (more so than America today) with the population split evenly between Catholics and Protestants. Can everything be all right in America when right-wing media personalities openly spew racist and hateful remarks on national TV and retain their nationwide following?

Aaron Weinberg
Castro Valley

Uncover our monastic side
The Voice article on the Carmelites in Kensington (Jan. 10) served as a healthy reminder of monastic Catholic tradition. When we look to the ancient Holy Rule of St. Benedict and how it was later applied to the Camaldolese, the Carthusians, the Cistercians and other contemplative congregations of the Catholic Church, we see a dynamic history of people who devoted their lives to prayer, meditation and scholarship and the silent life of reflection upon God.

It is important to remember that contemplatives are not called upon to escape the world; rather, they are very much a part in the world, but not of the world. Their prayer life takes precedence over mundane, worldly matters. Prayer and meditation are their daily lives. That’s their job – prayer.

But this sends another message to us. While we were not meant to be cloistered monks, hermits or nuns, could we not make an effort to set aside a few days for retreats away from the maddening crowd and uncover our own personal monastic side of spirituality? If Jesus got away from time to time and prayed alone, couldn’t we too take time out and imitate Him.

James McConville Robbins

Believe — or else
Believe and be saved — the message of all major religions. The subtext? “Should you decline our message, we may have you (different religions seem to have preferences) burned, robbed, exiled, jailed, stoned, shunned, killed, mutilated, executed, or tortured - because we love you unreservedly, of course”.

Cynical? Consider Lutheranism, Islam, Calvinism, the Baptists, Church of England, Catholicism, Shintoism, Puritanism, Hinduism, etc. Has even one of them not considered it their prerogative to harm non-followers or even their own?
Religions appear not to care if people really believe, only that they say they do and follow external manifestations. They readily enlist state power, e.g. France, Germany, Spain, Japan, India, to punish recalcitrants.

Imagine a world if all religious leaders really did preach love while disavowing violence if people do not agree.

Why not, as a controlling policy, simply try to convince, to proclaim the message, to warn of damnation. Then let people be. Don’t hurt them.

Would a just God be unhappy with such refusal to harm? Let God decide. S/he needs no zealous minister, priest, or mullah to administer pain. Exercise of one’s God-given free will should also mean freedom from religious brutishness.

Suggestion: Make the policy of our Catholic Church a permanent renunciation of all coercion in conversion attempts and advocate such a position to other religions. Free will, a gift from God, should be the basis for one’s belief. Surely God cannot be fooled by converts who express hosannas simply to avoid torture.

Joe Moran

More perfect, more human
The commentary (Voice, Jan. 10) by psychology professor Eugene Kennedy states correctly that “The Catholic Church has always been a combination of the good, the bad and the wonderful.” I agree that we must love and accept each other, imperfections and all.

But in saying that “men and women are lovable precisely because they are imperfect. What need for love - or for faith or hope, for that matter - if we are [perfect]?” Mr. Kennedy is way off base.

I suppose he may be exaggerating for the purpose of encouraging us sinners not to lose hope. And it is very true that Jesus came, in infinite love, to save us because we are sinners in need of a Savior. But it is because we are created in the image and likeness of God that we are lovable, not because of our sin, which has corrupted that beautiful image.

I fear Professor Kennedy’s approach is such that it may discourage those who are striving for perfection to turn back and embrace sin. I say this because that’s the effect such a message had on me when I was young and even more foolish than I am today.

Several years ago, thankfully, I was encouraged to strive toward holiness by a priest who pointed out that Jesus is the perfect example of humanity; that the more perfect, loving, wise and humble we become, the more human we become. I want to become more human. Jesus shows me how.

He’s also blessed me with His mother as an example of one who is perfectly, lovingly human. She is our perfect example in a merely human person of faith and hope and love. And God pours out His love to her and through her to us.

The more human we become, the more capable we become of acting as channels of God’s love and healing for our brothers and sisters in the Church and beyond.

Catherine Norman

Danger of deceptive semantics
Joyce Mitchell (Forum, Jan. 10) says that “civilized discourse must be the order of the day in a church publication.” But she alleges a violation of “standards of common courtesy” — indeed, a supposed cause for rejecting an ad supporting the new Parents’ Right to Know initiative — because the paid political advertisement refers to abortionists as abortionists instead of physicians.

As Orwell showed so dramatically, deceptive semantic alterations always accompany destructive social and moral re-engineering schemes: war is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength — so murdering unborn babies is to be known as “choice” or “reproductive freedom,” and those who perform such brutal killings for profit are to be respected as “physicians.”

In fact, “First, do no harm” remains the prime directive for legitimate physicians. And once upon a time, before coarsened political correctness infested much of the medical profession, the Hippocratic Oath included its original promise not to provide women “any pessary to produce an abortion.”

The Church has its own would-be falsifiers. But in fact, it provides the unchangeable teaching applicable here: “abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes,” and “the inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislators” (Catechism, nn. 2270-2275, 2322,2323).

Genuine Catholics will champion the effort to require that parents be notified when a minor daughter seeks an abortion. Please visit, or call (toll free, se habla Español) 1- 866-828-8355.

Sharon Arata

Prayer works
On the first Saturday of each month the Legion of Mary at St. Jarlath Church in Oakland sponsors a rosary praying for peace in Oakland and the world. This has been going on for about a year.

Statistics were just released concerning the number of homicides in our city last year. The number has dropped by 30 percent. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Mary has asked us to pray for peace; she tells us that it is the only way. We invite Voice readers to come join us in our rosary for peace at 4 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month and/or urge each parish in the diocese to initiate a rosary-for-peace each first Saturday in their parish.

Allaire Zegura
Via e-mail


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