MAY 24, 2004





A model of civility and grace
In Forum (May 10) Philip Sevilla joins the expressions, “a sniper’s position” and “long-time dissenter” to the honored name of our revered Redemptorist confere, Father Bernard Haring. Perhaps this is a good moment to invoke Father Haring’s spirit of profound courtesy even when he felt conscience-bound to disagree with others.

While visiting his niece’s family here in our Oakland Diocese some years ago, he told the story of an elevator ride that he shared with Cardinal Ottaviani, the head of the then Holy Office, after a memorable exchange between the two of them during Vatican II. The personal caring that each expressed for the other made a tense moment into an example of respectful disagreement for all persons who believe that we share in the Communion of Saints.

It is true that Father Haring’s last days bore a remarkable similarity to those of another beloved German Catholic theologian, Jesuit Father Karl Rahner, who used the expression “wintry season” to describe them.
In our own times of tension, the devoted Bay Area Catholics who make up “The Voice of the Faithful” are trying to provide opportunities to discuss topics and issues with the civility and grace that Cardinal Ottaviani and Father Haring displayed on that elevator. Both the meetings at USF and at Berkeley’s Newman Center were examples of their efforts. Along with Haring and Rahner, VOTF should be applauded, not censured.

Father Donald MacKinnon, CSSR

No pro-choice Catholics
The bishops are waking up and calling it like it is: Catholic candidates who claim to be pro-choice cannot receive the Eucharist in the Church. This means that Catholics who vote for pro-choice candidates are committing a serious sin. Abortion takes the life of an unborn baby. Please think this over very seriously before you mark your ballot.

M. Rhys Wilson

Responsibility of free will
I am appalled that Bishop Michael Sheridan, the bishop of Colorado Springs, would deny the Eucharist to the faithful. Pro-choice politicians have not had an abortion, have not performed abortions and have not even advocated that any person have an abortion. What they have done is state that it is a choice women must make in consultation with their doctor and have declined to pass a law outlawing abortion.

Affirming free will, a gift of God, is not a sin. The right of choice, the right to make decisions in one’s life was a gift of God when he granted free will to humanity. We have choices in life and each individual must make choices based on an informed conscience. Each individual must also accept the responsibility for their choices in life when they face Christ in the afterlife.

There is no disagreement that life is a precious gift of God and that abortion is murder. But abortion will continue with or without a law outlawing it. Because a secular politician does not enact a law outlawing abortion or any other act doesn’t mean that an action is right and not sinful.

The Vatican and Church teaching have been very clear that the death penalty is wrong in contemporary society, yet I don’t see a refusal of Communion to those who support the death penalty. What about supporting politicians who lead their country into an unjustified war based on knowingly false allegations and causing the just as damning deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children? Or politicians who affirm greed in society and cause the loss of livelihood for millions of their citizens?

The role of a legislator in our nation is to pass laws for a diverse multicultural secular society, not to push Catholic teaching on to others of different faiths.

The hierarchy should be assuring that Catholic doctors, nurses and medical personnel understand the teachings of the Church, that those who counsel women would offer alternatives to women so that abortion is not carried out. Love, compassionate care and alternatives for women considering abortion are the answer and not threats.

Wayne Mortensen
via e-mail

A spectrum of views
Why are those who are labeled “archconservative” considered ill-informed, unthinking, illiterate, and undedicated as Catholics? This was clearly implied in a recent letter to the editor.

Do these charges justly apply to Catholics who are inspired by the Catechism of the Catholic Church or by Pope John Paul II, who has written so beautifully about the theology of the body, Christian compassion, and justice?

Many noble and fruitful organizations have been formed since Vatican II, including groups that differ in their vision and outlook for the Church compared to Voice of the Faithful and Future Church. Are their members truly any less informed or literate than VOTF or Future Church members? Is it charitable to imply so?

We live in divisive times; it is true for our Church and the secular world around us. Both sides in the debate within our Church often tend to use labels and prejudice others. I know I can do better in avoiding prejudgment and labeling of others.

Dan Tracy

Don’t sacrifice children
Our May 10 Catholic Voice contained quite a stomach punch. We read of school closings, a $130 million cathedral, and our bishop stating his desire to “live lives of evangelical simplicity.” The irony was both tragic and comical.

Although I do not think we need a new cathedral, it comes at a greater cost than $131 million. No one addresses how we are to pay for the maintenance of the building, gardens, courtyard, new bishop’s residence, social hall, etc. The cost may well be millions of dollars each year and will go on indefinitely.

All inner-city Oakland schools, ministering to poor children, may be sacrificed at this cathedral’s altar. Our schools are challenged to pay for themselves, but the rules are different for the cathedral and surrounding buildings. It will be second collections into perpetuity.

We need to look at southern California where their new cathedral caused Cardinal Mahony to terminate many services to the poor, the young, and the elderly. Constructing this building and forcing us to support it is morally wrong.

Mary Fadhl

A question of stewardship
When I started first grade in September 1960, the tuition was $10 a month and when I finished high school it was $45 a month. It’s my understanding that even now with financial aid it’s $450 a month. A family of five with an income of $65,000 a year is going to have a tough time paying that high tuition even with sacrifices.

So is it any wonder that enrollment is down, helping to close schools. It would have been far better Christian stewardship to spend money teaching kids about Jesus than on building another church.

Alan Roselius
Castro Valley

Hierarchy not the cause
It appears that Kate Dougherty (Forum, May 10) is advocating abandonment of obedience as solution to the clergy abuse problem. What she is having trouble seeing is that lack of obedience, not the exercise of obedience, is the underlying source of this problem.

First, there was the failure to obey God’s Law governing the proper use of the reproductive faculties. Then, there was the failure to obey the vow of chastity to which the priests involved had voluntarily committed themselves.

She also seems to imply that the problem is caused by “an arcane hierarchy.” If that is the case, why have Protestant denominations that have little or no hierarchy also had the same scandal to at least the same extent? And why is the problem substantially worse among public school teachers who are not governed by our hierarchy at all?

Sorry, madam, but your argument doesn’t hold water.

Arthur W. Peterson

Apology and forgiveness
Bishop Allen Vigneron has taken over our diocese at a particularly difficult time. The clergy sexual abuse scandal has raised doubts about the credibility of our Church. Many faithful people want to just get past the scandal, and they either don’t believe allegations or want to ignore them; others want to use the scandal to bring up everything that they feel is wrong with the Church.

It would be beneficial if these two factions would get together and support the plan that our bishop has to heal and minister to the Diocese of Oakland — to apologize to victims and their families at the church where abuse occurred and to the parish community for the failings of the diocese.

The clergy sexual abuse scandal has wounded many people and there is a need for all of us to seek out healing. It is our personal responsibility to search for our own healing, for no one can be healed unless they look for and recognize their pain. Bishop Vigneron is addressing the pain of our Church on as personal a level as is possible within a pastoral setting. We are all being called to pray and reflect on forgiving our Church’s failings.

Have you looked at your feelings on the clergy sexual abuse scandal? Appropriate anger would be the most common reaction. Are you willing to accept as fact that abuse has occurred? Then you are ready for the call to thoughtful forgiveness and healing.

I am a member of the Clergy Sexual Abuse Ministry with the Diocese of Oakland, and a survivor of clergy sexual abuse. To have a bishop of my church apologize at such a personal level has touched my heart. Even though I was not sexually abused in the Oakland Diocese, I feel our bishop is also ministering to me and helping me heal. Bishop Vigneron is a dedicated man and a true shepherd of our Church.

Judy Anguella

No vote for Kerry
I recently celebrated my 18th birthday and fulfilled my first adult responsibility by registering to vote. Although I couldn’t vote in the primaries, I’ll be able to vote in the November election.

I chose to register as a Republican because of their beliefs, especially their pro-life stand. As a practicing Catholic, this is important to me because as my faith teaches, all life is sacred.

I find it hard to understand the recent Georgetown University poll (Voice, April 26) showing Catholics almost equally divided between Bush and Kerry. How can any Catholic who follows their faith vote for a candidate who claims to be Catholic yet supports the pro-choice agenda?

I’m sorry, Sen. Kerry, but to me you are not a follower of your faith. You aren’t supposed to pick and choose what parts of your faith to accept and follow. Will you also pick and choose which section of the Constitution you will uphold or which laws of our country you will defend?

While feelings have changed since the election of John F. Kennedy, and people are more accepting of a Catholic candidate, Sen. Kerry is a poor example of what it means to be a Catholic.

Rebecca McLeod
Walnut Creek

Guns are not un-Catholic
Regarding the May 10 Voice article on melting guns for peace use, I find the concept of blaming inanimate objects for society’s ills entirely flawed and disturbing. A gun is simply a tool that can be used for either good or evil depending on the motivations of the person using it.

A firearm is no more inherently violent than the hammers that were used to hit them, both of which can be used constructively or for harm. This story hints that responsible gun ownership for recreation or having the means and ability to protect yourself and your family is somehow un-Catholic which could not be farther from the truth.

I understand your intentions, but your imagery plays right into the hands of those who despise the traditional values that the Church stands for.

Cory Lewis

Guns help preserve life
I’ve been involved with firearms my entire life from serving as a US Marine to working in law enforcement as a SWAT trainer to working as a gunsmith and even now as an NRA safety instructor.

I’m appalled that a publication from my Church would put out such a misleading article about guns (Voice, May 10). Firearms are used over 12 million times a year to stop violent crime. Firearms are still used as recreation and as a means of getting food for many people worldwide.

Since when are inanimate objects to blame for the evil in men’s hearts and souls? Automobiles kill far more people in this country than firearms on a daily basis, yet this is an acceptable loss because the majority of urban liberals love their vehicles and those of us who own firearms are considered “uncultured, rednecks.”

The liberals like to laugh at some of us for being “pro-life” and “pro-gun.” It all comes down to the same values. We are pro-gun to help preserve the life of the innocent, to protect the weak from the brutal. We cherish life and take it only as a last resort.

The issue of guns is not a Church issue. Rather, it is a political one. The root of the social problems is not is the breakdown in the family and the lack of respect for life.

Name withheld upon request

People, not guns, kill
I’m extremely disappointed in the obviously anti-gun piece that was written by Sharon Abercrombie (Voice, May 10). John Horan’s quote: “It’s nice to smash one of these things instead of having it shoot at you” displayed an ignorance to the fact that “it” does not shoot at anybody. There is a person behind the trigger.

That this even took place in Oakland is another ironic occurrence since California has the most strict gun control laws in the nation. Murder and assault with guns, or any type of violence, have always been illegal, yet this issue tends to focus on the surface, and not the core issue that people are prone to commit these acts.

As a further irony, my rifle club has just participated in a peaceful activity instructing an all-female church group in the proper and safe use of handling firearms.

Ernest S.
Union City


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