MARCH 29, 2004





Healing from abuse
For sexually victimized children growing up into adulthood, the road to wholeness is often long and painful. A survivor of priest sexual abuse, who has been with me for psychotherapy for many years, could testify to that horrendous trauma. She is scarred, leaving feelings of inadequacy to self-defeating behaviors. Her spiritual being is a vacuum, her trust in the Church is nil, and her social life is broken. She is fragmented; issues raised by childhood sexual abuse by a priest affect all parts of an adult life.
The recent apology services organized by the Oakland Diocese and conducted by Bishop Vigneron have the effect of exonerating the victims and implicate the priests in causing the abuse. During the service, the offending priest(s) is named in the parish where he ministered in the past, thus concretizing the reality of sexual abuse of children by priests and resisting further denial by the Church. An essential task in the journey to wholeness for the survivor is for the Church to absolve the victim of the responsibility he or she may feel for the sexual abuse.
For my client, going to the apology service was the first time in 10 years that she stepped into a church for a service. For many others like her, I presume this is a new beginning. For her, Bishop Vigneron has performed a brave and unforgettable pastoral intervention. It is possible to survive with her soul intact.

Name withheld upon request

New affordable housing
Thank you for the Catholic Voice article (Feb. 23) on the need for affordable housing in the East Bay, and the response of various groups within the Diocese of Oakland to address this issue.
The St. Columba Development Corporation, in conjunction with Christian Church Homes of Northern California, will be constructing 44 units of affordable senior housing, in response to the needs of elders within our North Oakland community. Funding will come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Section 202 grant program for low-income senior housing and from the City of Oakland Community and Economic Development Agency.

Groundbreaking for this project (Percy Abram, Jr., Senior Apartments) is scheduled for June 16, 2004. This project will be adjacent to the Sr. Thea Bowman Manor, the 56-unit apartment complex for low-income seniors owned by the St. Columba Development Corporation and operated by Christian Church Homes.

I ask for your continued prayers for our Percy Abram project, and for all those who are seeking affordable housing in our area. I challenge all of us in finding ways to alleviate the lack of affordable housing, and to support the efforts of Maurine Behrend of the Catholic Housing Initiative and others in bringing the Church’s mission and ministry to bear on this vital matter.

Father Jayson J. Landeza
St. Columba Parish

Redemptive suffering of Jesus
My wife and I saw “The Passion of the Christ” with two our adult children. As lifelong Catholics, we found it to be both a very powerful movie and very true to the Scriptures and Catholic traditions. The brutality and pain of the crucifixion brought home the redemptive suffering of Jesus for our sins. The depiction of the inner strength of Mary and the flashbacks to Jesus breaking bread in the first Eucharist were wonderfully done.
This movie has great potential for both ecumenism and evangelism. Christians will be brought into greater solidarity around our common experience of forgiveness and love through Christ. Non-Christians who watch this movie will have an opportunity to experience that love and forgiveness for the first time.

Although too intense for younger children, most teenagers and certainly most adults will be able to endure the more graphic scenes and will come out of the theater as we did – overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for the love that Jesus has for us. He is the Good Shepherd. He laid down his life for us.

Mike McDermott

Offensive review
Father Paul Schmidt’s commentary on Mel Gibson’s “The Passion” is a masterpiece of fault finding and political correctness (Voice, March 8).
He opines that it’s “unsuitable for children.” Over 10 years ago the American Medical Psychological Associate released statistics that by the end of grammar school, the average American child has seen 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on television. Maybe seeing this violence would put TV’s violence in perspective.

Father Schmidt further says that in the film Our Lord carried the cross “farther than anyone in that condition really could.” That’s quite an analysis in historical, theological and mystical reasoning. Does it apply to any other acts of Christ?

Father Schmidt even casts doubt on the motives of the viewers generally, to wit: “Questions may also be asked about an audience’s willingness to view a depiction of torture.” Psychiatrists, he says, may want to look at that issue. Noble gesture.

To be fair, after many strictures, Father Schmidt closes happily with the suggestion that music is better. Bach leaves one with “fewer questions and more answers.” A-plus, Father. The world loves you. You made a lot of friends and only offended the Catholic traditionalists and the entire Christian right. But then, we’re used to it.

Lyle Arnold
Pleasant Hill

A sign of contradiction
Christ crucified is a “sign of contradiction” and a “stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles (Luke 2:34, 1 Cor. 2:23). Mel Gibson’s film seems to be a sign of contradiction, even among some Catholics. They are shocked by the brutality portrayed in the film and write it off as an anguished act of piety.

“Stern as death is love” says the Song of Songs. We tend to take Christ’s love for granted. Christ willed from the foundation of the world to die this horrible and shameful death for us. We owe Mel Gibson a debt of gratitude for shaking us out of our complacency.

Linda Cott

See for yourself
Although everyone has a right to their own opinion, I feel that Raymond O’Connor (Forum, March 8) missed the entire point of Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion,” -– God’s overflowing love for all.

While the movie left him “numb,” his review was slanted and left me questioning the intent of his letter. I too look to the Resurrection, not to the Passion, for my hope, but the Passion was something Christ himself undertook for all mankind.

Viewers, beware of one-sided reviews. Go see the movie for yourself and decide.

Lisa Ellingson

The Passion and sexuality
Each time I see the “The Passion of the Christ” I’m drawn deeper into the Passion. I pray during the bloody scenes, realizing I caused it.
One point that everyone seems to miss is where Jesus tells his mother “See, I make all things new.” Even Father Paul Schmidt in his long dissertation (Voice, March 8) missed it.

Bishop Vigneron told conference attendees on February 7 that Christ came to restore the order that God intended for human beings “from the beginning,” especially in regard to the spirituality and theology of our bodies and sex. The Church’s vision of, and teaching on, human sexuality is a direct result of Christ’s Passion; it wouldn1t have happened otherwise and this doctrine is the answer for many problems in our Culture of Death.

Jack Hockel
Walnut Creek

Disclose funding sources
Concerning Bishop Vigneron’s report to the people on clergy sexual abuse (Voice, Feb. 9, I found this report very informative, although not complete.
As I look at my Bishop’s Appeal envelope and contemplate the amount to enclose this year, I wonder how my donation is affected by the enormous costs of the past and of future abuse settlements. I am sure many other Catholics have had the same thoughts.

We have been told that none of the Appeal money has in the past been used to pay for settlements and none will be used in the future. But according to Bishop Vigneron’s report, the total cost to the diocese through Feb. 1 for settlements, legal fees, counseling and treatment of priests and children, and staff work was $4,140,200; the insurance company paid an additional $4,227,500. And there are still 40 lawsuits pending.

Surely the cost of insurance premiums has increased and will continue to do so as a result of the insurance company’s costs.

Just where did all that money come from, and where will the money for the future costs and settlements come from? It does make me wonder if there would even be a need for a Bishop’s Appeal if the clergy sexual abuse costs were not so high.

I think I’ll hold onto my envelope until I get some answers.

Charles Schneider

(Editor’s note: The operating expenses of the diocese are funded through both restricted and unrestricted sources. Donations to the Bishop’s Appeal are restricted to the programs listed. Unrestricted funds come from parish assessments, investment earnings, cemetery rent, interest income from parish deposits and loans, property sales, and department revenues. These funds pay for all diocesan expenses not covered by the restricted contributions and include insurance expenses, professional fees and sexual abuse claim settlement costs. The financial statements of the diocese’s Central Services are audited annually and published in The Voice. The 2002 financial report appeared in the Dec. 15, 2003 Voice and is available at Click on “Back Issues.”)

Questions about Haiti
I have a question for Lynn Suer (Forum, March 8) who didn’t believe Pierre Labossiere, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congresswoman Maxine Waters about the situation in Haiti (Voice, Feb. 23).Does she not believe that democratically elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide was kidnapped, spirited away against his will in a coup? If not, how does she explain that he was taken to the most remote and inaccessible country in Africa and held incommunicado?

Also, why was it necessary to take so many of his security guards on the plane? Was someone afraid that they might tell what happened before they had been programmed by the kidnappers?

When what’s left of U.S. garment industry jobs are exported to Haiti at subhuman wages with inhuman working conditions similar to the maquiladores of Juarez, will she connect the dots? Does she know who owns the media she relies upon?

Vivian Zelaya

Voice puff piece
Regarding the March 8 Voice article about soldiers saying thanks, it seems history does repeat itself when we don’t learn the lessons we need to learn. When one reads Gordon C. Zahn’s book “German Catholics and Hitler’s wars” one is stunned to realize how much the Catholic press in Nazi Germany supported Hitler’s wars. The puff press piece in the March 8 Voice about the returning veterans reminded me too much of what Zahn described in his book.

Are we to promote unknowing or willfully blind service people as “heroes” in a time of enormous moral questioning and soul searching?

Are we promoting an ethic of life or death?

Nearly 40 years I came across my first copy of the Catholic Worker asking in bold letters: Which shall we perform — the works of mercy or the works of war?

Before you dismiss me as a politically correct left wing Catholic, bear in mind that I was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam war, but my older brother was a casualty during that war and I have a nephew in Iraq at the present time. Who better to ask those questions than those closest to the fire?

Paul Quinlan
Via e-mail

Sloppy scholarship
I found Father David O’Rourke O.P.’s article “Was Jesus King of the Jews or King of the Judeans?” (Feb. 23) both sloppy in scholarship and incorrect.
The use of the word “Jew” in English comes from Old English (not 400 years ago, but 700 years ago). It entered Old English from Old French (“gyu”) where it was borrowed from Latin Judaeus which borrowed from Greek “Ioudaios” which borrowed from Hebrew “Yehudhi.”

In fact, the German word for Jew is “Juden” (pronounced “yuden”). The Germans were just as prejudiced as their English cousins towards Jews, but they didn’t use the word “Jew”, but their language kept the “d” sound, where French lost it. None of this has anything to do with prejudice; it has much to do with the way language develops due to vowel changes, contractions and loss of consonants.

For example, the Greek word “presbyteros” became presbyter became priester became priest. Now is that due to prejudice or language development?

Furthermore, there was a distinction in ancient records between the people of “Judea” (the kingdom of Judah, the Persian, the Greek and then the Roman provinces of similar names) who consisted of more than those who followed Judaism.

In fact, the word “Judaism” (joudaismos) is found in Jewish writings of the time and in the Bible (as is the word “ioudaizo” = Judaize). The word “Judean” is a political word that refers to a people that existed in a few brief periods of history. However, Judaism is a much larger subject.

The word “Jew” is a religious, cultural and social word that refers to those who practiced Judaism from the time of the Exile until the present day. Even after Judea ceased to exist, there were Jews, and not all the Jews were born in Judea or even traced their ancestry to Judea. In fact, the largest city of Jews at the time of Jesus was in Egypt at Alexandria — hardly Judeans (pre-dating the Hasmonean state of Judea).

In the New Testament period, the Jews referred to themselves usually as Israelites or less often as Hebrews, e.g. Paul in Phil 3.5 “I am a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents.” In the usage of the New Testament, the term has a number of distinct meanings depending upon the author.

John, for example, uses the word “Ioudaios” to refer to the chief priests and other leaders of the temple and Sanhedrin, as well as their followers who opposed Jesus. Paul uses this same term “the Jews (Ioudaioi) who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets” (1 Thess. 2.14; 2 Cor. 11.24). Yet he also uses the term with pride to refer to himself (Phil. 3.4, and to the people of God in Rom. 11).

Other uses of the term “Judean” are: one who is not a Gentile, a Samaritan, or a proselyte. And it is used to refer to Christians (Acts 21.39, Gal. 2.13). Also, one can be a Judean by faith, without having been born one by race, nationality, or religion (Rom. 2.28; Rev. 2.9; 3.9). So, there was in fact no one meaning or use of the term.

It is wrong to invent prejudice where it is not. And there is no reason to ascribe prejudice to the invention of the word “Jew” or to its use in English, either in the past or present.

Father Clifford A. Martin
San Francisco

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