APRIL 12, 2004





What is there to fear?
Forty years ago, one of the reassuring clarifications of Vatican Council II was the reminder that the Church is not the exclusive possession of the hierarchy (bishops), nor even the lower-archy (priests). The baptized lay people are truly and fully Church – the Body of Christ. The laity share responsibility for the welfare and the mission of the Church.

So it is understandable that in the wake of the failure of some bishops to deal with the scandal of abuse by some clergy and religious, responsible lay people who love the Church have organized themselves under the title, Voice of the Faithful (VOTF). This is not the first group of responsible lay people who have assembled to look out for the good of God’s holy people.
It was a painful scandal to read that The Voice was admonished not to advertise a VOTF seminar held at USF. What is there to fear? Have we too soon lost sight of the Council’s teaching that the Holy Spirit is in the Church and speaks through lay people, too?

We, Church, would be most grateful to see our ordained leaders remember that their first claim to fame is their baptism, their call to be Christi Fideles (Christ’s Faithful). We, ordained, are called to be faithful with all the baptized, not their censors. In searching into our fidelity, we do well to examine how deep are the layers of Gospel teaching to which we remain faithful.

Father Tom Lester
St. Leander Parish
San Leandro

Dialog and understanding
It was sad to learn that Bishop Vigneron exercised heavy-handed pressure to restrict access in The Catholic Voice for publicity for the conference, Imaging the Future Church, hosted by the University of San Francisco.
Had Bishop Vigneron been among the overflow crowd who attended, he would have heard clearly the voices of the people of God struggling to call into existence the future Church which will be distinguished by accountability, inclusivity, transparency and democracy.

Rather than embrace and encourage the conference as any good pastor would, Bishop Vigneron’s actions reveal a certain disrespect for the rights of the laity to learn and be informed regarding the life of the Church. Bishop Vigneron should eschew uses of power which only serve to marginalize and divide the faithful; and, he should embrace a pastoral ministry that seeks to enliven all the people of God with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, especially “Lumen Gentium” (Light of the World).

How can Bishop Vigneron hope to minister to the faithful of the diocese if he doesn’t encourage dialogue, learning, and understanding, let alone listen to us, the faithful?

Jim Jenkins

A Voice for all
In a few weeks I will be privileged to sponsor a young man as he is confirmed. As part of my duty as his sponsor I have counseled him (and his brother who was confirmed two years ago, and both of my sons as they were confirmed) about what my faith means to me.

I have shared that a faith without questioning, doubts, and/or action towards justice is a “dead faith”. I have shared that I have learned that fear and lack of education about an issue lead to rigidity and divisiveness.

My husband and I have learned that we must be responsible to our sons, not for them. We must listen to their concerns and bring those concerns “to the table” for dialogue, not monologue.

As an adult, I turn to my Church and leaders to be responsible to God and to me. I do not need my leaders to be responsible for me. I trust that with prayer and education God will guide me and all of us, as to what is best for our Church.

In all due respect, The Catholic Voice should be just that: The Voice of and for all Catholics of the diocese, not just the Voice of and for those the bishop deems to be the “right” voice.

As Jesus proclaimed to the deaf man, “Ephphatha! Be opened!”

Meg Bowerman

Restriction not warranted
My husband and I, parishioners at Santa Maria Church in Orinda, are distressed that Bishop Vigneron restricted The Voice from covering the conference at USF, which was a forum for open discussions of topics relating to Catholics and the Catholic Church. We can’t comprehend his reasoning for censoring the event.

During these frustrating times we would like to feel that the Church is open and welcoming instead of controlling. We, as mature adults, that must receive and financially support the Voice feel strongly that it should be more open and trusting of its parishioners. We would like to be able to cancel our subscription.

Mari and George Fisher
Via e-mail

VOTF — a voice of dissent
My thanks to Bishop Vigneron for standing up to Voice of the Faithful (VOTF). Despite the name, VOTF does not speak for, or represent, significant numbers of American Catholics.

Born out of the sincere efforts of Boston-area Catholics to support the victims of priestly abuse, VOTF now aims to undermine the authority of the Pope by questioning the validity of apostolic succession. Influential members and advisors advocate for the ordination of women, same-sex marriage, and a radical social agenda.

Organzations such as VOTF (and the similar Call to Action) have orchestrated carefully calculated campaigns masked by good intentions. If VOTF were honest, it would change its name to Voices of the Dissenters. Then I could applaud their transparent efforts to get their messages out and Catholic laity could hear them without the propaganda and deception.
Until that happens, Bishop Vigneron did the right thing by rejecting their advertisement.

With the depressing evidence of cowardice and deceit among a small percentage of our clergy, I pray for, honor, and support the bishop for the brave and honorable stand he has taken.

Claire Ehrman

Opportunity to learn
It is lamentable that Bishop Vigneron prohibited The Voice from accepting an announcement about the wonderful conference at University of San Francisco just because it was co-hosted by the Voice of the Faithful. There were approximately 400 in attendance to hear the welcoming address of Father Stephen Privett, president of USF; M. Shawn Copeland, president of the Catholic Theological Society of America; and other notable theologians and authors presenting their thoughts on the future of the Catholic Church and dialoguing with those in attendance.

All Catholics should have been afforded the opportunity to be informed of this unique opportunity to participate, learn, and share their concerns and hopes for their own Church.

Tom Kirk
Via e-mail

Hope for the laity
On March 27 I had the privilege of being in the company of a few hundred informed Catholics at the Lone Mountain campus of the University of San Francisco for the conference,“Imaging the Future Church,” sponsored by the USF Department of Theology, the St. Ignatius Institute, the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good, and the Northern California Voice of the Faithful.

After a full day’s events were over I was left with the impression that the spirit of John XXIII’s Second Vatican Council has finally diffused into a mature and responsible laity.

Gene Moloney
Walnut Creek

Is openness disappearing?
As a lifelong Catholic and as one who experienced the health crisis of two strokes two years ago, I think about certain issues differently than before these events. I look at life and our challenges and I value life and independence more than ever.

I am now faced with a challenge reading about the bishop’s decision not to advertise a conference in The Voice. In the past several years I have been hopeful as I have seen the Church be open in many ways — liturgy, laity in ministries, etc. However, the bishop’s ban seems to be starting to take away that openness I so welcomed.

We are adults who can think and decide for ourselves what to read and what not to read. As I read The Voice twice a month, I often come across meetings and announcements about events I would probably not attend. Yet they still deserve to be published. I can make up my own mind to participate or not.

George Balsbaugh
San Leandro

Assumption against women
The March 29 Catholic Voice had many fine articles: the Bishop’s Easter message, the work of Kathleen McChesney for the U.S. Bishops’ Office for Child and Youth Protection, the St. Andrew/St. Joseph Parish efforts of to minister to prostitutes, and several other features.

Then there is a Religious News Service story about new Vatican guidelines for bishops. According to the article, bishops are to teach priests caution in relations with women and to deal firmly with any “scandalous comportment.” Indeed, priests are to be discrete and reserved with women, because naturalness could degenerate into a “sentimental attachment.”

It seems there is an assumption that women are an imminent threat to be protected against, rather than a positive and productive part of the laity. The thrust of this report does not appear to be respectful of women or for that matter, clergy, and I am hopeful that this was a very preliminary review of a 301-page report and that further perusal will provide a much more respectful approach to both women and the clergy.

I hope The Voice might do a further perusal of the “Directory for Pastoral Ministry,” and soon.

Joan Leslie

God-given emotions
It seems to me that if our priests were allowed to marry, they could exercise their God-given natural emotions by developing “sentimental attachments” to women. I never heard of Jesus saying to his disciples, “Do not be human in loving the women in your life.”

Nancy Powers
San Leandro

More careful reporting
I am writing to advise a small correction regarding the “Relief Agencies Ready to Aid Haitians” article in the March 8 Voice.

The first paragraph ends with the implication that President Jean Bertrand Aristide fled into exile. The truth is less clear. By his own words, he was forced into exile by U.S. forces. Any historical review of our rather racist policies toward Haiti over the last 50 years would seem to put the truth on his side.

I don’t suggest The Voice take sides…or even if The Voice was totally responsible for the facts. But President Aristide’s situation might be reported in a more cautious language.

I think it is important to say this in light of the movements of our military everywhere, especially through the School of the Americas.

Father Ken Hamilton, SVD

What about gay parenthood?
I’m against gay marriage but more concerned about gay parenthood. Why, during this recent discussion of gay marriage, is gay parenthood being ignored? It’s the bigger issue because it affects how children are being prepared to enter society as adults — affecting society much further into the future than just the lifetime of the parents. Improper preparation of children now could extend generations into the future.

The way that children learn how to love — so that they form lasting loving relationships as adults — is through example. That is why children growing up in stable households with demonstrably loving heterosexual parents tend to turn out well. On the other hand, abuse and other problems with relationships get passed down to the next generation. Girls without a loving father and boys without a loving mother typically have extra challenges.

If the parents are two loving men or two women, and they demonstrate a loving man-man relationship or woman-woman relationship — that’s great if the child is one of 5 percent that match up, i(a lesbian child with lesbian parents, or gay child with gay parents). But it is not good if the child is one of the 95 percent who are heterosexual.

Are heterosexual parents perfect? Absolutely not. But at least they start off with a relationship that matches with 95 percent of the children who are being born heterosexual. Why purposefully put these children at risk by placing them in an improper learning situation with gay parents — handicapping them for life? Especially when so many heterosexual couples wanting to adopt children are being denied that opportunity.

I hope that appropriate credible and neutral research will be done soon to assess gay parenting. Ideally, research should have been done long before gay adoption became, at least in Bay Area, mainstream.

John O’Reilly

The offering
Christ, I offer You
The hunger of my mouth.
Yes – let it be
The living symbol of my hunger for You.
Let me rejoice,
That I can bring You fullness and desire –
No lean beggar, I,
To cast dry bones at Your feet –
Rejoice, unwanted fruit,
That your hurting ripeness
Fall not on the dust of the road, for any traveler
That your beauty waits for Him alone.
Christ, I offer You
My unsought love,
Yet forever sought by You
The full chalice,
Sparkling under the mid-day sun,
For which no parched lips thirst.

Rejoice, heart,
To offer it full upon His altar!
Christ, I offer You
The living flame which cannot burst
The unquickened bud
The silent song
The fallen wings of each day’s twilight
That lie in the garden, wet and still
That my small leaping flame
Be kindled and consumed
In the shadow of the cross!

I extend my arms across the wood with You
My mouth contorted with Your Own
With You, my dreams pierced by the thorns
With You, the unsought chalice of my heart
Spilling its wine on the sand,
With You, my youth, my body whole,
The living flame, the uncared loneliness
For You, O Christ!

Lorna De Sosa


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