MARCH 8, 2004





Put money into schools
In December 2003, Bishop Vigneron announced plans for building a $131 million cathedral by the end of 2007. In January, he said that after 2005, eight diocesan elementary schools might no longer receive subsidies ranging from $30,000 to $300,000 per year.

I am astounded by the Bishop’s decision to no longer fund struggling Catholic schools. It is strikingly inconsistent to claim on the one hand that there’s not enough money to fund eight struggling schools up to $300,000 per year, and on the other hand already to have raised $31.5 million to buy the land for the cathedral.

Bishop Vigneron’s inconsistency is embarrassing. To the wider community he sends a clear message that, while the leaders of the Catholic community easily will raise $131 million for a cathedral, those same leaders cannot continue to provide moderate subsidies for struggling diocesan elementary schools.

In the interest of the integrity of the Catholic community, and for the sake of the gospel values that guide the community, I urge the Bishop to reconsider his stance and to reinstate the school subsidies.

Christopher Cherney

Misplaced priorities
The lawsuits for clergy sexual abuse have cost the diocese millions of dollars. Each year we are asked to give our monetary support to the “Bishop’s Appeal.” Now our parish council is recommending that we have a tithing program of five percent to be given to select non-profit agencies outside of our parish. I ask you, “How long can we keep on giving?”
How can we afford the upkeep of a new cathedral? Where are the priests to staff it? Where is the adequate parking? Who will attend evening services in Oakland?

Our Lady of Lourdes Church is in close proximity to the proposed site. Why not designate this church as a cathedral? Make due with what we have; in other words – sacrifice. Christ was born in a stable, not in a palace.

I suggest that these funds collected for the cathedral be put to better use and build a high school in the Tri-Valley area. We need Catholic education for our youth, who are the future of our Church. We need to plan for this future, promote vocations and encourage the spread of our Catholic faith.

There are millions for the cathedral, but no more subsidies for our schools. With the thought of eight Catholic grammar schools on the verge of closing, how long before we are closing several of our parish churches? This is a definite case of misplaced priorities!

Mary Pacini
San Leandro

Why build new cathedral?
Do we need a cathedral? Yes. Do we need to build one? No.

When Bishop Begin became our first bishop, he needed a cathedral. But did he spend money to build one? No. He fixed up old St. Francis de Sales. Bishop Cummins did not build one either. One ideal location for a cathedral would be Our Lady of Lourdes.

We can use available funds on other good works. The new location could be used for much needed affordable housing.

J. Marquette

Waiting for cathedral
I guess we shouldn’t have a White House, a city hall, a museum, a theater, a Golden Gate Bridge, a Statue of Liberty, a Yosemite Park, and anything of beauty because it costs too much money. Discounting all the jobs it takes to build these things.

I want a cathedral, now. I’m 84 and I want it before I die.

Jennie M. Fuhs

Haitian article misleading
The Voice’s front page story on Haiti (Feb. 23) is the most amazing thing I’ve read in months. According to a “Haitian leader,” Pierre Labossiere, contact person for the diocesan Haitian Pastoral Center, U.S. newspapers are conspiring to print lies about the situation in Haiti. And not only American newspapers but those of “all the powerful countries of the world” oppose the “merciful and forgiving” Aristide, whom the people of Haiti “love,” according to Labossiere.

But, of course, Mr. Labossiere is telling us the truth. Barbara Erickson and The Catholic Voice tell us so; they believe him. His testimony is also corroborated by such leftist politicians as Rep. Maxine Waters of Los Angeles and Rep. Barbara Lee of Berkeley. The 1960’s radicalism is alive and well on the front page of The Catholic Voice.

Lynn D. Suer
Castro Valley

Archbishop’s timely reminder
Thank you, Archbishop Levada, for shedding light on the San Francisco gay marriage fiasco (Voice, Feb. 23). The archbishop got to the heart of the matter by stressing that procreation and the nurturing of the family are key elements in the definition of what marriage is.

Or, as the pope wrote in Gaudium et Spes (50), “By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory.”

Unfortunately, we have largely lost sight of the procreative aspect of marriage. This may be why an Anglican homosexual priest once wrote that, if contracepting and sterilized couples can marry, why not gay couples? It is hard to fault his logic. However, our Church has always courageously required that marriage be open to the possibility of life and the archbishop reminded us of this.

Mary Arnold

Don’t rewrite Gospels
Father David O’Rourke (Voice, Feb. 23) would have us re-translate the entire New Testament with “Judeans” instead of “Jews”. His argument is a nice try, but it won’t work. A Judean is an inhabitant of Judea, or possibly a member of the tribe of Judah. St. Paul was neither, but he was a Jew (“Ioudaioi”) Acts 21:39).

The “Ioudaioi” of the New Testament were members of a religion that accepted converts, just like the Jews of today. They lived in cities throughout the Roman Empire and beyond, not just in Judea. Most tellingly, present-day Jews base their claims to the land of Palestine on the premise that they are the same people as the “Ioudaioi” who inhabited that territory in antiquity. We do not need an Orwellian re-write of the New Testament.

Sue Rattray
Via e-mail

Excommunicate Newsom
The Voice (Jan. 26) reported that Wisconsin Bishop Raymond Burke has directed his priests not to give Communion to politicians who openly support abortion rights. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, a so-called Catholic, should be excommunicated for fostering and making possible same sex marriages. He is a disgrace to the Roman Catholic Church.

Robert V. Beaudreau

Recognize civil unions
The fact that gay sex is non-procreative does not make gay families immoral. The Church has no problem marrying straight couples in their 80s and 90s and we know if those men and women are even able to consummate their marriage they will not be bearing children.

In fact many gay families are now raising children, and it is important for the state to provide the same protections for those children as it does for other children being raised by their natural or adoptive parents. Whether or not the Catholic Church is willing to bless those unions, it would be wrong to ask the state not to recognize them.

Naomi LeBlanc

Gospel according to Mel
Numb and exhausted. That’s what I felt after the ordeal finished. Mel Gibson has unfortunately given Christianity a fifth “Gospel” account of the Passion and it’s not born from above (cf. John 3:3).

So many details come only from Gibson’s imagination or borrowed visions from a 19th century nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich: the lurking Satan figure, possessed children hounding Judas to suicide, a chained Jesus dangling from a bridge, deranged Roman soldiers maniacally battering away at Jesus’ crippled body, the bad thief’s eye pecked out by a bird, blood, lots of blood, blood dripping everywhere.

Where’s the reality in all this? The portrayal of such brutal torture sabotages even the suspension of disbelief, let alone the Gospel accounts. No human being could probably survive even the cruelty of the Temple guards, let alone the gruesome scourging ordered by Pilate, a protracted scene of such savagery I shut my eyes.

I encountered the Gibson vision and I’m none the better for it despite the soothing flashbacks to Jesus as a young boy, a carpenter, preaching on the mount, and dining with his disciples.

What hurts the most is what this film may do to Christianity instead of for it. Some may reject or have confirmed that the Christian God is a cruel and punishing sadist even though the movie places the blame squarely on human behavior. Others may be so grossed out by an over-dramatized recreation of Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion that they may never get beyond it, remaining stuck in a depressed, self-absorbed paralysis incapable of embracing a world charged with God’s love. That’s not the Christian story!

In fact, Gibson has only dramatized half of that story and it isn’t even the better half. The other half is the Resurrection and it only receives a few moments of recognition in this film. Yes, Gibson set out to recreate the Passion that would seize me and place me right smack in the middle of a torture fest. That having been accomplished, I left realizing that the Resurrection was nothing more than a footnote to the Passion.

I look to the Resurrection, not to the Passion for my hope. It is the Resurrection that bids me go out into the world and be a person of compassion, healing, joy, and wholeness. Viewers beware! Gibson’s film is not the Christian message but a personal display of anguished piety that cost $25 million to produce and undoubtedly will net far more.

Raymond O’Connor
San Francisco

Horribly violent
I was able to attend the first San Francisco showing of “The Passion of the Christ” on Ash Wednesday. The movie is justly rated R; it is horribly violent. Don’t miss it: the scourging and the crucifixion of Christ were horribly violent.

And the fear that Gibson’s film will foster anti-Semitism is as shallow-brained as the fear that all my friends will now turn anti-Italian because the Romans scourged and crucified Jesus.

Fr. Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B.
San Francisco

What causes housing lack?
I read with interest the three Voice articles about affordable housing (Feb. 23). I did not see, however, any reference to the root cause of the problem.

Since the cause must be well understood before finding a viable solution, I encourage those interested to read the truth about affordable housing in three excellent February ’04 columns by Thomas Sowell (see Housing Hurdles, Part 1-3 at and in a book Mr. Sowell references: “America’s Trillion-Dollar Housing Mistake” by Howard Husock of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Mark Quinn

The money factor
Of course, women are good. As one of that sex, I can vouch for that. But let’s be practical. Clergy of other faiths must hold jobs outside their church to support their families. The issue is not celibacy, but money. It is impossible for a family to survive on a stipend set aside for the clergy.

We as Catholics are very lucky that our priests are exclusive to their parishioners and don’t have the responsibility of family. They devote their time to us who are their family. If it takes a village to raise a child, a minister’s wife would certainly need that village.

Lillian Silver
Walnut Creek

Corrective action needed
I read The Catholic Voice paper “religiously” and would like to compliment the staff for doing what I believe is a great job of communicating the current status and issues within the Catholic Church today. I do not sense any bias and feel that all of the information, including the letters to the editor are very open and candid. Keep up the good work

There has been a lot of information regarding “sexual abuse” within the Catholic Church over the last few years. However most of it has been focused on the symptoms and results of these crimes rather than on the real cause.

Unfortunately, pedophiles exist in all professions, including doctors, lawyers, teachers, and even priests. I don’t believe that any one organization is more represented than another. Each group is obligated to police itself and I am very encouraged to see the Catholic Church finally stepping up to the plate on this issue after so many years of neglect and hiding it.

Herein lies my issue. The real problem is the organization that permits this type of abuse to exist without taking the necessary corrective actions. The actual priests who committed these crimes are really a symptom of a flawed process. I have not seen any information that convinces me that this is being fixed.

What is being done to ensure that the pope, cardinals and bishops really understand that they were/are the cause of this issue within the Catholic Church?

I guess if a class action suit were filed against all of the administration of the Church, including the pope, the light would come on regarding what is/was the real cause of the problem and what needs to be done to correct the situation (process) in the future.

David Brusiee

Living an adult faith
As a high school teacher, I have learned that we are all teachers and learners. In light of this, we have important things to learn from our bishop as he has to learn from us. All of us must be open to dialogue and change, living not as children, but as intelligent, loving and grace-filled adults.

Recently Bishop Vigneron has written that: “All Christians in the Catholic Church must shape their choices – choice in private matters and in public-policy matters – according to the doctrines she has received from Him.”

He also wrote: “An open discussion fostering a deeper understanding of the meaning of priestly celibacy is good while an open dialogue that questions our current practice is something I oppose.”

The ideas in the U.S. bishops’ document, “Between Man and Woman… Marriage and Same-Sex Unions” (Voice, Dec. 15) are essential teachings. In his introduction to that document, Bishop Vigneron wrote, “Accepting them without reservation is implied in any claim to belong to the Church.” … “Integrity demands that all Catholics conform their conscience to these teachings and act in accordance with such a rightly formed conscience.”

Accepting the above “without reservations” just cannot be a requirement for church membership nor can it help in forming a right conscience. It is pure child-like obedience, which is contrary to God’s plan for us to be responsible adults.

If discussion is to foster understanding, questions are essential; otherwise it is neither open nor rational and learning cannot take place. If honest commitment is expected, it must come freely.

Christ set the ultimate example. He matured from child to adult finding His way and forming His right conscience rather than simply conforming to existing authority. His gift was His Life upon which our Church was built. Vatican II teaches us that we are the Church and our call from Christ is that we must advocate for that Church.

Boyer P. August

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