APRIL 26, 2004





Misplaced sympathy
I dissent to Barbara Erickson’s article (Voice, April 12) on immigration fraud. There seems to be a thought that someone can enter the U.S. by fraudulent means and by making friends or creating an emotional feeling somehow excuse the illegality of his presence.

This is usually compounded by filing a false application for asylum merely for the purpose of delaying removal from the U.S.

Every illegal alien who receives permanent residence means another request made by a citizen or a legal resident for a wife, a husband, a mother, a father, a child, a sister, a brother is delayed or denied. Congress allows only so many immigrants to be legally admitted every year.

I do not worry about those who prey upon liars and help them to commit more lies. They are two of a kind. Please do not ever complain about the slowness of receiving any immigration benefit for a legal alien because immigration officials must do extra work for the illegal person.

Misplaced sympathy for an illegal alien that we meet while ignoring the plight of the legal alien who we do not meet is a contradiction of our faith and our country’s laws.

Is the leper who did not meet Christ and receive a cure any less deserving than the one who did meet Him? A nation of laws helps both.

Our legal immigrants have been the wonder of this nation. Our immigrants have founded great companies. Immigrants have fought and died in all of our wars. We would be much the worse without our immigrants. Our legal immigrants.

William Cubley
San Leandro

A God-sent leader
There is a lot to fear about what Father Tom Lester wrote (Forum, April 12).

One does not have to be intellectual, nor educated like Father Lester, to see that to truly love our Catholic Holy Mother Church, all we have to do is to learn our faith with her and obey her teachings – every one of them.

Vatican II opened more windows for us Catholics. We then mistakenly took down the walls of our Church. It is now time to show our obedience to our Holy Mother Church. It is time to pay gratitude to our Church which gave us our faith.

I am grateful to have Bishop Vigneron as our shepherd. Bishop Vigneron is a God-sent leader.

Thank you, Bishop Vigneron, for being faithful to the teachings of Our Mother Church, for setting an excellent example for us, especially for standing up for the truth of our faith.

Lan Nguyen

Correcting inaccuracies
I am writing to correct some misinformation that appeared in the April 12 Reader’s Forum.

The writer from Orinda stated that VOTF seeks to undermine the authority of the Pope by questioning the validity of apostolic succession. Further, the writer said that members and advisors advocate for the ordination of women, same-sex marriage, and a radical social agenda.

VOTF does not claim or advocate any of the above. From the beginning, we have stated the following three goals: 1) to support those who have been sexually abused 2) to support priests of integrity and 3) to promote Vatican II’s vision of the structure of the Church. To confirm this, please check out the following websites: and

Peter Davey
Chair, VOTF, East Bay

A power grab
Since over half of the April 12 Reader’s Forum criticized Bishop Vigneron’s decision to ban Voice of the Faithful publicity in our diocese, I wish I had attended so I could make some firsthand comments on the conference. I’m sorry to see so many well-intentioned people get sucked into VOTF.

The day was sponsored by the remnants of the St. Ignatius Institute at USF, where four of my children received a “great books” education in the Jesuit tradition. Father Steven Privett, the controversial president of (what used to be Catholic) USF, managed the demise of the Institute, so it was appropriate for him to give the welcoming address at the conference.

VOTF doesn’t have a very good reputation in the Catholic Church primarily, as Bishop Vigneron said in his commentary, because they “seek to build up the Church while withholding assent from the Church’s teachings.” This pretty much says it all.

VOTF wants to democratize and subordinate the bishops to “lay participation.” Thus, it figures that The Voice letter writers would think they know better than the bishop about what should be in our paper. The supporters of VOTF’s power grab concept are, for the most part, against Catholic moral teaching and support Dignity, GLAAD and similar groups.

The Los Angeles Archdiocese has a reputation, under (controversial) Cardinal Mahony for sponsoring dissenters at their annual Religious Education Conference. We have a great leader in Oakland who won’t let that happen here! Thanks, Bishop Vigneron.

Jack Hockel
Walnut Creek

Good communication tool
I was born and raised in San Francisco and grew up on The Monitor and, after it took a rest, read the San Francisco Catholic. I usually attend Holy Spirit Parish, Berkeley, as that community is a believing, teaching, caring community.

I began receiving The Voice here where I work, San Francisco Adult Probation Department. I read each issue during my lunch and seriously enjoy, am challenged, and grow because of the communication that is contained in the paper. It is a quiet daily retreat from dealing with my gang caseload, including murders, drugs, and all the companion tragedies and pain involved.

I attended St. Joseph’s and St. Patrick’s seminaries, but God called me to my present vocation. I’ve rejoiced in my pilgrimage so far, tough at times, but I accept and love it. I say all of this to thank all of the folks at The Catholic Voice and the bishop for sharing the Truth, agreeing to disagree, and being open to the Spirit as he speaks through all of us.

Stephen Fitzpatrick
Via e-mail

Non-violent witness
On Good Friday, April 9, I participated in the religious vigil at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories against the designing and testing of nuclear weapons by the laboratories. I would estimate there were 150 to 200 people there.

In recent years I have remained in the legal area while acts of non-violent witness were happening. I felt that the civil disobedience tied up police forces that could be dealing with violent crime and other emergency calls.

This year I decided that the amount of time and money spent by the law on non-violent protestors was minimal compared with the resources diverted to nuclear weapons while people both in the nation and abroad go hungry. I broke the federal law against trespassing on government property in favor of international law against the United States’ testing and stockpiling of nuclear weapons.

St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of my community, the Secular Franciscan Order, was a man of peace, and would not let his followers bear arms.

The highlight of the Good Friday experience was kneeling next to Franciscan Father Louis Vitali in the protest line directly facing the police line and hearing him say that we came in peace. Those remaining on the legal side of the demonstration led us in singing “We Shall Overcome,” “This Land Is Holy Ground,” and “Dona Nobis Pacem.”

Altogether, it was a very inspiring and challenging experience.

Maureen Hartmann

The power of Reconciliation
I read with thankfulness Bishop Vigneron’s affirmation of Pope John Paul II’s ad limina address to the bishops. As one who lived for 45 years without benefit of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (I joined the Church at age 45), I want to encourage priests to vigorously promote regular reception by the faithful of this wonderful blessing.

I am hoping my 86-year-old mother will be receiving her first Reconciliation and first Holy Communion soon. She was baptized two years ago, at her request, but she is mostly confined to bed, and her mental illness has also complicated matters.

Knowing how much frequent reception of both sacraments is helping to heal my own spiritual and emotional ailments, I am very hopeful that my mother will also experience relief from our Lord through the ministry of His beloved priests.

Catherine Norman

Anti-gay acts
I want to briefly respond to the recent demonstration in San Francisco condemning the rights of gay and lesbian people to enjoy the same civil rights as every other American.

As a gay, recently married, cradle Catholic who has spent most of my life trying to live my faith authentically and meaningfully, I can only say that this recent demonstration is the straw that broke my back.

This demonstration was little more than an act of anti-gay violence.

Proclaiming “Love and Tolerance” on their signs, these demonstrators and the bishop of this diocese have shown the exact opposite in their actions. Where is the love and tolerance in this Church for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people?

It is not coming from Rome and the bishops who portray us as monsters, perverts, child molesters and the sole destroyers of civilization. It is not coming from a largely gay priesthood that remains in closets of shame and loathing, and it is not coming from a laity that all too often lacks the courage to defend their own friends and family.

Perhaps the only language that this “church” will understand is if lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics withhold our money, time and lives from an institution that seeks little more than to perpetuate hatred. At this rate I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pope issued an encyclical proclaiming that “Catholic” is a Greek term for “heterosexual bigots.”

Kevin Fitzsimmons

Gay, faithful and Catholic
I am writing in opposition to the march against same-sex marriage in San Francisco on April 3.

The larger Catholic Church continues to take positions inimical to the well-being of the Catholic lesbian and gay community. The march that Archbishop Levada and Bishop Vigneron sponsored is just one more slap in our face.

They are free to do so, and we are free to exercise the most powerful vote we have in this non-democratic church: the power of the pocketbook. I will continue to support my parish community as I have done for many years, but I will not contribute one red cent to anything that will result in money going to the Oakland Diocese.

If the sacrament of matrimony is in such delicate condition, blame it on the unwillingness of Catholic men and women to make it more than the hypocritical case of serial monogamy that about 50 percent of them do when they get married.

If bishops want to strengthen this sacrament, they should devote their time to dealing effectively with rampant spousal abuse, divorce and family sexual abuse. The only marriages I know that have been broken by gays or lesbians are those that were a sham and a lie to begin with, and honesty finally prevailed.

I have landed firmly in the camp that says that the state should not deputize religious personnel to perform weddings on its behalf. Rather, all marriages between man and woman, man and man or woman and woman should take place in an office of the state. Then, any religious organization can decide for whom, when and how it will perform religious wedding ceremonies.

The Church should be pleased that so many of us want to get married. This heavy response to what San Francisco did flies in the face of the common misconception that gay men are only interested in a life of promiscuity.

My partner of 32 years and I have a track record better than most of the heterosexual couples we have known. We have lasted in our relationship without support of church or country.

It would be nice if the greater Catholic Church would help, but we have long since given up on the Church to provide anything except an ever-increasing negative approach to our lives.

We will continue to remain Catholic. There is no way that the institution will take that away from us. I’m sure that members of the hierarchy would love for us all to simply leave and let you be. Well, you’d better get used to the fact that we are here and will be forever.

Jim McCrea

Biblical-based diet
The advent of Easter and the phenomenal popularity of “The Passion of the Christ” bring to the fore the Christ’s powerful message of love and compassion. One wonders how Christians reconcile this message with subsidizing the agony of billions of animals in factory farms and slaughterhouses.

Cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens, and other animals raised for food are sentient beings who share many of our own feelings of joy, love, sadness, and pain. Yet, from birth, they are caged, crowded, deprived, drugged, mutilated, and manhandled in today’s factory farms. They are trucked to the slaughterhouse for days without food or water, under extreme weather conditions. There, they are frequently scalded, bled, skinned, and dismembered while still conscious.

Each of us has a personal choice to make. We can continue to subsidize these atrocities at our favorite supermarket and restaurant. Or we can show respect for the Christ’s message of love and compassion by adopting a wholesome nonviolent diet of vegetables, fruits, and grains – a diet first mandated in Genesis I:29 and now recommended by leading health authorities.

This Easter season provides a splendid starting date.

Ken Bentino

Children of gay parents
John O’Reilly’s concerns that heterosexual children growing up in gay or lesbian households will be harmed (Forum, April 12) is misplaced. He asks about research on this issue. This topic has been extensively investigated by mental health specialists in North America and Europe. There is no research that shows that children of homosexual parents are more likely to become homosexual than are children of heterosexuals.
Also, don’t forget most lesbian and gay adults have two heterosexual parents.

We do not know what causes about 10 percent of humans, worldwide, to develop homosexual orientation. We cannot cause someone to become gay and we cannot change someone from gay to straight. Any couple can have a gay child.

O’Reilly’s comparison is illogical. He bemoans the fate of a heterosexual child growing up with lesbian or gay parent, but ignores the much more troublesome situation of a homosexual or transgendered child growing up with straight parents. At least this child is supported by the community at large, whereas we know from the recent killing of a transgendered Hispanic youth that growing up homosexual is lonely and dangerous for any such youth.

I have provided child psychotherapy and parent guidance for Bay Area heterosexual and homosexual parents for 25 years and I have worked with adopted children, children raised by their grandparents and by foster parents. The issues are to love, to guide, to teach about God, to understand and to help each child develop her/his God-given potential.

Rosemary Bower, PhD
El Cerrito
(Dr. Bower is a licensed child clinical psychologist.)

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