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MAY 10, 2004

 

 

 

LETTERS

Let Vatican II flourish
It is very sad, yet interesting, to watch the pendulum of the post Vatican II era attempt to swing back to a conservative and reactionary mentality 40 years into the movement. Hopefully it will be short-lived as most laity and priests will not go back to the old Church.

John XXIII opened the windows and let the fresh air in after nearly 2,000 years of sometimes unscrupulous, corrupt and secretive church history. He saw that the Roman Catholic Church needed a vast overhaul, and that’s just what he set out to do.

So now the powers that be are not so sure that they like an empowered well- informed laity and priesthood who ask hard questions. And the priest abuse scandal has only exacerbated our need for accountability from church leadership.

An autocratic dogmatic church worked when the majority of its members were illiterate peasants. This is no longer the case.

The Voice of the Faithful and Future Church are both grass-roots organizations that have spontaneously emerged, and flourished (thanks to the Internet), by thinking, literate and dedicated Catholics. John would be proud.

I believe it is high time to further perfect the principles of Vatican II, and the clergy abuse scandal has created a flash point for accelerated change. The need for accountability is real, as I do not want my hard-earned dollars financing lawyers, insurance deductibles and cover-ups.

I would ask our archconservative brothers and sisters to answer this question honestly: If you, your child or your grandchild were a victim of clergy abuse, how would you feel about obedience to an arcane hierarchy?

Kate Dougherty
Concord

Spend tax dollars on peace
Why such surprise at the revelations of abuse by our soldiers in Iraq?

We know that war and violence brutalize perpetrators and victims alike.

Our beloved Father Bill O’Donnell tried to alert us to the atrocities being committed in our name with our tax dollars by soldiers who were trained here in the U.S. at The School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. Graduates of this school have been involved in the torture and murder of thousands of people in Central and South America including Archbishop Romero and the four U.S. Catholic Sisters.

We did not heed the warnings of Father O’Donnell, a 73-year-old priest with heart trouble, but instead sent him to Federal prison for six months. He was released last year but died in December. His spirit lives on in all who work for peace with justice and against war and violence. When will we demand that our tax dollars be spent to promote life and health instead of killing and war?

Sarah Barry/Fike
Berkeley

Final decision is mine
It’s interesting to contrast a number of letters in the April 26 Reader’s Forum. One writer says, “The supporters of [Voice of the Faithful]’s power grab concept are, for the most part, against Catholic moral teaching and support Dignity, GLAAD and similar groups.”

Another writer, who is gay, says that his partner and he have “long since given up on the Church to provide anything except an ever-increasing negative approach to our lives.” Yet he says, “We will continue to remain Catholic. There is no way that the institution will take that away from us.”
And yet another writer says, “It is now time to show our obedience to our
Holy Mother Church.”

The first and third letters imply that to be Catholic is to accept the interpretation of morality the Church (read: the hierarchy) dictates. No questions asked, no dissent permitted, no revisions possible. On the one hand, this attitude implies admirable devotion to the Church. On the other hand, it demands a suspension of thoughtful analysis that is, frankly, frightening.

The second writer distinguishes between the Church and what it means to be Catholic. While this may seem contradictory, the distinction informs the lives of a good many churchgoing Catholics, Catholics who consider birth control, contraception, and the gay lifestyle as moral. Their belief is that the interpretation of Catholic moral principles is open to discussion and debate, the result being reasonable guides to good conduct.

Yes, listen to theologians and knowledgeable priests, but the final decision must be a personal one; otherwise, conscience is superfluous.

Thomas F. Mader
Walnut Creek

Discredited research
Psychologist Rosemary Bower says there’s “no research that shows that children of homosexual parents are more likely to become homosexuals than are children of heterosexuals” (Forum, April 26).

But two researchers, though endorsing “lesbigay parenthood” themselves, have admitted that substantial evidence documenting the effects of such arrangements on children has been misreported for political purposes (Stacey and Biblarz, American Sociological Review, April 2001).

The two noted a misrepresented study, for example, that actually showed 24 percent of surveyed adults raised by lesbians reporting homoerotic relationships — vs. none of those from normal, heterosexual households — and a separate finding that 64 percent of surveyed adults with lesbian parents (contrasting with 17 percent of those with heterosexual parents) said they’d consider same-sex relationships.

Bower cites the discredited Kinseyan refrain that “about 10 percent of humans, worldwide… develop homosexual orientation.” Even a Lawrence v. Texas brief from a coalition of radical homosexual organizations affirmed that only “2.8 percent of the male, and 1.4 percent of the female, population identify themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual,” in turn citing the 1994 National Health and Social Life Survey.

As an AIDS-infected ex-homosexual once said to my husband and me at lunch, the last thing kids need is to see homosexuality normalized — or worse, celebrated. Instead, homosexually inclined youngsters need to be shown the prayerful way out of same-sex-attraction disorder and (especially) its associated self-destructive behaviors. That’s the approach consistent with Catholic teaching, not the dissident outlook often exhibited on this page.

Sharon Arata
Danville

Kudos to Bishop Vigneron
I wish to commend Bishop Vigneron and the others who organized the April 3 march in San Francisco opposing same-sex marriage as well as those who took the time to attend. It was a successful, bold, and effective message proclaiming that the Catholic Church does not (nor should it) bend to whatever whims modern society feels are valid. In fact, I believe that is one of the Church’s strongest anchors; it gives us pause to reflect on the wisdom and blessed guidance of Pope John Paul II.

Naturally, and in typical fashion, the gay/lesbian/transgendered and their sympathizers responded by claiming that those not in agreement with their lifestyle were nothing more than proponents of anti-gay violence, perpetrators of hatred, and bigots.

The sanctity of heterosexual marriage is falsely debased by stating skewed, one-sided divorce statistics as if relationship length was somehow a metric of validity. Finally, in a letter (Forum, April 26) a reader uses research data on children of same-sex couples that has been publicly acknowledged as statistically flawed and insignificant to claim that there are no ill-effects.

Other writers threaten to withhold contributions and assert that those in opposition to their lifestyle had “better get used to the fact that they are here and will be here forever”.

Beneath all this acerbic prattle lies little more than an insidious misuse of terminology that attempts to equate those opposing their agenda to racism, genocide, and crimes against humanity. They twist the philosophy of “love and tolerance” to equal forgoing one’s beliefs.

I am a legally married heterosexual male who staunchly views the gay/lesbian/transgendered lifestyle as unnatural and perverse. I am adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage, gay adoption, and artificial procreation for same-sex couples. This is my moral conviction to which I am entitled. I do not hate gay/lesbian/transgendered people. What I do hate is having my Church and its beliefs incorrectly labeled and attacked by malformed logic.

David Hartman
San Ramon

No death penalty in S.F.
I am writing to express my outrage that Senator Feinstein chose to express a political view on the death penalty at the funeral of San Francisco Police Officer Isaac Espinoza. To do this in a church which is founded on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ is blasphemous.
Jesus calls us to a new way of being in the world, against violence and retaliation of any kind. There is nothing in our Christian tradition that says that the violence of revenge is redemptive.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of Officer Espinoza. His was a tragic and senseless death and I believe that the desire for revenge is an understandable emotional response. However, to kill another person to show that killing is wrong is no more effective at stopping violence in San Francisco than anywhere else.

States, like Texas and Oklahoma, who vigorously pursue capital punishment have higher murder rates than states that do not kill such as Minnesota and Michigan. Life without the possibility of parole, as District Attorney Harris has called for, should be the ultimate punishment.

Faye Butler
Fremont

Why so little investigation?
The March 8 issue of The Voice reported “Catholic Church leaders said 4,392 priests have abused 10,667 minors in the past half-century…”. On the same page we read “The bishops’ commissioned a report released Feb. 27 that found 4,392 priests were accused of abuse from 1950 to 2002.”
Not to be picky but “accused” clearly does not mean “have abused.” The report stated “Among the major findings – 56 percent of accused clergy molested one child while 44 percent abused between 2 and 10 children”. Why is “allegedly” omitted? Is proof irrelevant?

Continuing: “The report showed the vast majority of cases were not investigated by either church or civil authorities. Only 14 percent of cases were investigated…”. Thus, of 10,667 allegations, almost 9,200 were never investigated — by anybody. Bishops ruined all 4,392 priests, hundreds of long-dead ones included, proclaiming all “credibly accused,” AKA guilty, sans any semblance of moral due-process.

Report conclusion: “They (Bishops) failed to hold themselves … accountable for mistakes” and “the problem was indeed widespread and affected more than 95 percent of the dioceses and approximately 60 percent of religious communities for the entire 52-year period”.

However much bishops belatedly cry “mea maxima culpa” while dismissively declaring “Hey, we just made some mistakes,” remember—they either knew about the child abuses or knowingly facilitated this clergy-based immorality culture for decades and did little until forced by outsiders. Organizational protection and unhealthy collegiality seem endemic within this hierarchy.

And Rome fired nobody.

Joseph Moran
Orinda

Belief in equality
I am profoundly sad to be called a Roman Catholic as I read the Voice’s article (April 12) about Catholics rallying for marriage and a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. I find very little I can identify with in this Catholic Church of today.

We are becoming ever more intolerant of others in so many areas, especially civil rights. I had thought our mission included a belief in equality for all God’s children. How sacred is marriage today with divorce rates skyrocketing among “men and women” and yes, among Catholics, too.

I talked to my gay friend who had the most beautiful picture taken with her partner of more than 10 years, holding a marriage license in San Francisco. How deserving they are to have the same rights and benefits as we all should.

I was so proud of our Irish Catholic Mayor Gavin Newsom. What a wonderful role model we have for tolerance and acceptance. I look to “my bishop” and his “rightly formed conscience” and I am distraught. The American bishops have lost my respect due to their handling of the sexual abuse scandal and now with their intolerant attitude towards our gay brethren. They will never have moral authority over me or my children again.

Paula Hart
Orinda

Voice of dissent
I believe Bishop Vigneron was totally justified in rejecting Voice of the Faithful’s advertisement in the Voice. VOTF’s website claims the group’s goals are: To support those who have been abused, to support priests of integrity, to shape structural change within Church. The American bishops as a whole are responding and taking action to correct the clerical abuse problem. (See www.usccb.org/nrb/index.htm)

I attended VOTF’s meeting at Holy Spirit/Newman Center on Jan. 12. The special speaker was Robert Blair Kaiser, who from his elevated perch as Newsweek correspondent in Rome during the ‘60s took a sniper’s position alongside long-time dissenter Bernard Haring to loudly decry and attack the Pope’s decision to reaffirm the Church’s ban on artificial contraception.

Kaiser, at this VOTF meeting, began a monologue to disparage the current Pope, dissent from Church teaching on conscience, apostolic succession, women priests, lay-led Eucharists, denying Christ’s institutionalizing of the Church and priesthood, accused Bishop Vigneron of taking the Church back to pre-Vatican II times, attacked the bishops for “bullying and getting away with murder,” admitted to being a Church dissenter, calling for revolution.

VOTF appears to be nothing more than a reconstituted “Call to Action,” seeking to put a “kinder, gentler” face on CTA’s more abrasive methods, their mission ultimately to engineer a takeover, replacing the hierarchy with a protestantized lay-run American church. Caveat emptor - beware of another protest group, like sharks circling a wounded body, pretending to speak for all Catholics.

Philip Sevilla
Concord

Squandering moral authority
It is heartbreaking to see our local bishops squander the moral authority of the Church by protesting gay marriage. The fact that the state issues a legal document prescribing rights and obligations between two people is no threat whatsoever to the Catholic sacrament of matrimony. If the bishops feel compelled to protest secular documents, it would make more sense, say, to oppose the lax issuing of driver’s licenses or gun-owner permissions. In these cases, documents actually do kill, whereas gay marriage will not cost a single life.

What is most disturbing about the bishops’ stance is that it will help recruit Catholic votes for George Bush and his fellow right-wing Republicans, who are trying to make gay marriage into a major issue. This is especially unfortunate because Bush and these Republicans have shown nothing but contempt for the Church’s teachings on almost all other questions.

It would have been inspiring to see the bishops boldly speaking out at numerous local protests addressing these serious issues, but apparently they were too busy strategizing for the crusade against the menace of gay marriage.

Bob Schildgen
Berkeley

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BISHOP
VIGNERON