JANUARY 26, 2004




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



Build the cathedral
“The poor you will always have with you.” That’s what Jesus said to the Apostles regarding the poor. Was Jesus insensitive to the poor? No, he wanted the Apostles to come to him and enjoy their short time with him on earth. This is exactly why the Oakland Diocese needs a cathedral.
Yes, I can go to any Catholic church in the diocese and visit Jesus in the tabernacle, but with a cathedral I can make a pilgrimage. Just like the pope is the great unifier of our Catholic Church in the world, Bishop Vigneron is the unifier of faith in our Diocese of Oakland. The pope has the Basilica of St. Peter to draw pilgrims from all over the world; Bishop Vigneron needs a cathedral to draw pilgrims within our own diocese so that we can worship together in one faith.
The cathedral will unify the diocese. I am not implying that we should do nothing for the poor. We need to do both. Serve the poor and build the cathedral.

Joe Murray

What message are we sending?
The plans for the new cathedral sound amazingly beautiful. However, I am in no way enthusiastic about the project. In fact, I am disgusted. It sickens me to think of the poor, homeless, hungry, and other countless needy people who will see this complex being built. What will they think about the Church? Is this a good message to send not only to those in need, but also to those who do not yet know the truth of the Gospels?
In my opinion, the message is, “We can raise money to purchase land, hire an architect, and construct a gigantic place of worship, but we cannot feed you.”

I agree that the diocese desperately needs a large central place of worship, but does it have to be so elaborate? Is not simplicity in itself beautiful? Where in the Gospels does it say to raise millions of dollars to build a church? Christ himself, the Son of God, was born in a manger, not a palace.

Furthermore, I wonder where I will send my two children to high school. It would be such a relief to have a Catholic high school in the Tri-Valley area. The youth of the Church are our future, regardless of where, or in what kind of structure, we come together as a diocese to worship.
So, please, give me the information I need to gain understanding of (and to possibly accept) the cathedral project.

Kim Speranza

(The Cathedral Project can be contacted at (510)-271-1928. The address is: 180 Grand Ave. #350, Oakland 94612.)

Cathedral plans hurt
After reading about plans for the new Cathedral of Christ the Light, I feel a deep hurt in my heart. I say to myself, “How can they?”
God’s people are sick, hungry, cold, badly in need of so much care and there is no money for them. What is happening to us?

Nancy Powers
San Leandro

Discipline or gift?
Bishop Vigneron has piqued my interest by his Jan. 12 article regarding priestly celibacy and I can’t wait for his pastoral letter on it to the Oakland priests.

One point I imagine he will cover is how both a celibate and a married clergy have their roots in the first generation of the Church. The roots of a married clergy was obviously more prevalent than a celibate one and continued for more than a thousand years, until the gift of celibacy was mandated for all diocesan clergy.

Celibacy was imposed not for its positive values, but to end clerical corruption, such as simony and nepotism. I look forward to his tracing how a gift led to a discipline, yet is still a gift. I thought gifts were to be freely given and received, not mandated.

His article states many times that this gift of the Spirit will be given abundantly to those who pray for it. The vast number of priests who have left the active ministry over the last 40 years over celibacy must mean that they did not pray hard enough for the gift. The 350 priests recently dismissed in the sexual scandal also must not have prayed enough.

What would demonstrate the trust of the hierarchy that the Spirit abundantly gives the gift of celibacy is if they lift the mandatory requirement and let the gift be freely given. Such an act would powerfully show to me how Bishop Vigneron shares the Council’s trust in the Spirit - by his faith that celibate men would still come forth to be priests.

That’s what I will pray about to the Holy Spirit in the coming months.

Mark Gotvald
Pleasant Hill

Fear or faith
On two occasions in the last four weeks, priests at my church have directly asked that people who are sick not come to Mass.
The first time was during the explanation that the cup was being suspended due to the flu epidemic. In addition to recommending various practices such as not holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer, the priest stated that the bishop had suspended the obligation to attend Mass for those who are sick.

Then two weeks later, another of our priests informed us that the communion cup was no longer suspended; however, he asked that those who are sick not come to church and that we continue to not hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer.

I am very disappointed at these requests. Our faith is supposed to be one of inclusion, not exclusion. Our Savior purportedly associated with prostitutes and lepers, but I am not allowed to go to church if I have the sniffles?

Of course, we should all use common sense and try to protect our neighbors and fellow parishioners from any illness that might be contagious. But my church has gone too far.

When I am not feeling well, I would like to know that I can go and worship and be in a place that will bring me comfort. If my parish is having trouble dealing with complaints regarding sick people in church, perhaps the bishop should suspend the obligation to attend Mass for those who are so fearful of catching an illness that they cannot sit in a pew with someone who is sick.

Audrey Beaman
Castro Valley

Full participation desired
I am very saddened by the bishop’s restrictions placed on the Eucharist due to the flu epidemic. Bishop Vigneron, please give us back our full participation in the Eucharist. My parish is following the restrictions out of obedience, but we don’t like it. Please allow me to receive Jesus on my tongue and receive His Blood from the cup. Jesus will not fail me. Please do not fail him by denying his presence.

Brenda D.Dueas
Bay Point

Dissent is healthy
“In faith, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, love.” — St. Augustine.

Dissent in the Church is nothing new as St. Augustine’s wise words inform us. Catholicism, as its very name suggests, is a universal Church that has within its great family of believers, people of every race, language, culture, background, and opinions. Our Lord’s imagery of a “mustard seed” that became a large tree capable of housing the “birds of the sky” (Matt. 13:32) reflects the Church that has spread outward and upward with its multitude of branches and leaves. Each leaf is different, yet all belong to that one tree from that one seed.

Dissent is not schism or heresy, although some choose to see it that way. Even St. Paul dissented from St. Peter and the Jerusalem Church over the issue of circumcision for Gentile converts. (Galatians 2:11) I believe that dissent is healthy because it shows that we are not a cult where members are either incapable of forming their own ideas and opinions or are being forced to believe on pain of some penalty. Contrary to what some people believe about Catholics, we do not check in our brains at the doorsteps of the church.

Many Catholics today question the Church on issues ranging from abortion and contraception to the sex abuse scandals and same-sex unions. We know, for instance, that the current sex abuse scandals were a consequence of bishops dealing with the problem of abusive clerics by covering up and hoping that the problem would just go away. Maintaining the facade of “unity,” “discipline,” and “holiness” was all important. Less important were the victims, the accused, and the faithful. The scandals, of course, merely went underground to fester because these bishops were afraid of damaging the facade.

Reactionary, knee-jerk “solutions” have not solved the problem. Hopefully, we now know that such solutions are like locking the barn door each time the horses ran away. Church leaders must find truly Christ-centered solutions that challenge old ways of thinking and dealing with these problems. Hiding behind authority only postpones but does not solve anything.

Until the day brave leaders emerge who are willing to do and see things differently, the Body of Christ will continue to suffer from a repeat of the same problems. Dissent may be the only way thoughtful (and yes, faithful) Catholics can hold on to their sanity and their faith.

Jonathan Tan

Pray for Terri
Does Dr. Ronald Connolly (Voice, Jan. 12) really think that anyone would prefer the pangs of starvation to the discomfort of a feeding tube?
St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for Terri Schiavo, and pray for us all!

Sue Rattray

(In his article, Dr. Connolly states that “most dying people do not experience hunger; most have an aversion to food. This is why weight loss and wasting are often present in dying patients.”)

A case of murder
Dr. Ronald Connolly (Voice, Jan. 12) informs us that the cerebral cortex dies after four to six minutes without oxygen, whereas the brainstem dies only after 15-20 minutes without oxygen. He also contends that after three months, if the cerebral cortex has not recovered, it will not, but the reticular activating system (RAS) can partially recover.

What is implied, but carefully not stated, is that Terri Schiavo is performing certain actions that emanate from her partially recovered RAS and that she is, therefore, in an awake coma. What we need to know before we pull her feeding tube, however, is not whether she is in such a coma nor do we need to know if her cerebral cortex is fully covered. We need to know whether she is dead or alive.

We know that her eyes blink and that, therefore, she is responding to the stimulus of light. We also know that she absorbs nutrients and gives off waste materials. These are basic signs of life. If the tube is pulled when the patient is alive, then a living human being has been killed, and according to legal definition we have a homicide. If homicide is performed with malice aforethought, then we have murder.

Frederick Arend

Purpose of marriage
As a former feminist, among my regrets is that I did not realize earlier the dignity of the call that God gives to us in marriage to have children and educate them and thereby contribute to the common good of society. What a calling...and so I am in accord with Bishop Vigneron’s comments (Voice, Dec. 15) and am grateful for his reminders of the dignity and sanctity of marriage.

A. Zegura
Via e-mail

Moral questions remain
The column by George Weigel on Genetically Modified Organisms (Voice, Jan. 12) in the food supply and ecosystem illustrates the growing polarization of the debate within the scientific, political, and religious communities. This is a very complex issue that involves social ethics, environmental health, development, sustainable agriculture, global trade, and politics.

Clearly the voice of the poor, especially in developing nations, needs to be heard in this debate. While some feel this technology may eliminate hunger, others feel it ignores the causes of poverty. Some feel it threatens long-term food security and forces small farmers to depend on corporations for seed stock.

The bishops of the Philippines, South Africa, Brazil, and the United States have shared their concerns about this technology and how it affects the lives of small and family farms. The Vatican is hearing from many sources before making final statements about the technology.

Last November the U.S. bishops published their document “For I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food: Catholic Reflections on Food, Farmers, and Farmworkers.” In the section on emerging technologies, they say: “Debate about genetically modified food aid reflects two key moral questions: Who will decide about the use and availability of these new technologies? And who will benefit from them?”

This document includes relevant Catholic Social Teaching and is online at:

Mary Doyle
Social Justice Resources
Diocese of Oakland

Faith-filled column
I have often read George Weigel’s columns in other Catholic newspapers. His ideas are very intelligent, original and faith-filled. I think we would benefit very much if his column in the Jan. 12 Voice is the first of many in the paper.

Catherine Clark

Remember St. Joseph
The Catholic Church pays great attention and homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and rightly so. However, I do not believe that enough attention and homage is given to another important member of Jesus’ earthly family, St. Joseph, his foster father.

Like Mary, he was compassionate and caring. He did not condemn nor judge when he found his betrothed was pregnant. He decided to protect her from shame and stoning, even before he knew that she was carrying the Son of God.

He, like Mary, was a person of great faith and obedient to the will of God. In response to God, he took the pregnant Mary for his wife, ignoring the gossip this would have caused. Upon learning that his family was in danger, he immediately, without any hesitation, left his home, his friends, his business, and took them to safety in a foreign land where he cared for them until the danger passed. He then again uprooted the family to return to their homeland.

He was so humble that, although he was chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus, the Evangelists hardly took note of him, not even the manner or time of his death.

It is well past time that this saint, the patron of the Universal Church, receive more attention by and within the Church. His feast day is March 19. It would be nice if our priests brought him to the attention of our people and plan a special celebration for that day. Acknowledging him as a model father on Father’s Day is not a bad idea either.

Clifford R. Wiesner


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