JUNE 21, 2004







Cathedral for the 21st century
In the June 7 issue of the Catholic Voice, J. Hallett questions the catholicity of the design for the Cathedral of Christ the Light. The questions that are being asked are: Who is Church? and What is Church?

The vision of Church offered to us in the Book of Revelation is very rich and profound. The image of the Church is a communal image—a city. There are no temples (religious structures) because the Church, the Body of Christ, is the living temple of God: “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” (Rev. 21:22)

The First Letter of Peter speaks of the people as the place of God’s dwelling. We are being built up into a living temple of faith making us “a chosen race, a holy nation, a people of his own so that you might announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1Peter 2:9)

In the Rite of Dedication of a Church and an Altar (RDCA) this biblical vision is affirmed. “Through his death and resurrection, Christ became the true and perfect temple of the New Covenant and gathered a people to be his own. This holy people, made one as the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are one, is the Church, that is, the temple of God built of living stones, where the Father is worshiped in spirit and truth.” (Chapter 2)

Church is first of all a people, and by extension the gathering place for the Church as an icon of that people is called “church” because it is the place where the “Christian community gathers to hear the word of God, to pray together, to receive the sacraments and to celebrate the Eucharist.” (RDCA).

A Catholic architecture is one that allows for the Catholic people to gather and worship. Over the last two millennia the churches in which the Church gathers have reflected the time, cultures, technology and styles of the age in which the Church is incarnating the Paschal Mystery. The important thing is that they were places dedicated for the assembly’s worship and an image of that mystery.

The first churches were converted homes. As the Church grew and became a major force in the Roman Empire, it did not adapt pagan religious architecture to its use (there are a few exceptions). They were not practical. Pagan temples were built to house an image of the god and a treasury, not as a place for a people to gather. So the first large church buildings were adapted from Roman public buildings — basilicas, which were used as law courts and indoor shopping malls. These were of a size that could accommodate the worshippers.

Over the last two millennia there have been many developments in architecture and church architecture. Each era tries to incarnate the mystery of “Church” in the best architecture of the time. The Church that the pope and the Diocese of Rome had built to celebrate the New Millennia in Rome, “The Church of the Year 2000,” does not look like any church of the past. It was designed by Richard Meier (a modernist architect) and looks like a building built in our present age.

The Church has never canonized any one style of architecture. The challenge is to offer the best of who we are now. Can we embrace the best of who we are as people of the third Christian millennium, architecturally, technologically and artistically in the service of our worship? Or are we to reject the times in which we live and retreat to some idealized and romanticized era?

I believe that we need to be honest and celebrate our own times. We do not need to fear the modern world; we just need to bring Christ to it and allow Christ to incarnate in it.

I believe that the new cathedral design is both Catholic and incarnates the mystery of Christ the Light in an admittedly and unashamedly 21st century manner. Christ is ever ancient but is also ever new!

Father Ronald G. Schmit
Chair of the Sacred Art and Design Committee
Cathedral of Christ the Light

A focal point
On May 5, I attended the town hall meeting regarding the Cathedral of Christ the Light. I was surprised and disappointed to hear negative comments from all those who rose to speak.

While some speakers were very sincere and well intentioned, I felt their comments were naive and unrealistic. A few went so far as to get right in our Bishop’s face. If we call ourselves Christians, then I submit that we lighten up and cut the new kid on the block (so to speak) some slack.

This was my initial encounter with Bishop Vigneron and I was impressed. I observed that he was a patient listener who gave thoughtful responses. With our support I believe he will prove to be a capable leader.

It is regrettable and sad to learn that three elementary schools in Oakland are closing. Mine (St. Francis de Sales) has been gone for years. The financial reality is that the diocese is unable to justify carrying this deficit. We have to face the facts and accept them for what they are.

To the peaceful protestors who attended the cathedral site blessing liturgy on May 23, I suggest that they attempt to channel their efforts in a positive manner. The cathedral site is gorgeous, overlooking Lake Merritt. The location is actually adjacent to where Holy Names College was, prior to relocating in the hills.

I miss St. Francis de Sales where I spent my formative years and received four of the sacraments. Therefore, I embrace the concept of a new cathedral called Christ the Light which is necessary as a focal point for the Oakland Diocese.

Our Church is facing many problems currently, but it has weathered severe storms in the past and I’m positive it will weather the present ones as well.

John Collins

Vote one’s conscience
I was vacationing in Colorado in early May. The newpapers were full of stories and opinions on the subject of Communion and one’s political beliefs. I found the story in the June 7 Voice, “”Moderate bishops speak,” to be well-written, well-balanced and informative. I hope there will be more like it.

I consider myself to be a “real Catholic,” but, at the same time, I treasure my personal, individual right to vote as I see fit.

George Fulmore

Let’s have a dialogue
Some bishops refuse Communion to politicians who do not follow Church teaching in their public roles. Same for those who vote for them. Other bishops do the opposite.

San Francisco Archbishop William Levada and Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron said they presently restrict their comments to fellow bishops. Instructions from Rome say let the bishops explain. Sounds like we now have geographically-based sin, e.g. Colorado Springs – definite sin; Oakland - maybe; Boise – who knows.

On this issue we need a hierarchy fearless enough to have clergy-laity dialogue about church/state ramifications, which doctrinal deviations might trigger the Communion-sanction, why accept one bishop’s dicta over another, etc. Pointing to position papers and issuing proclamations is insufficient.

Our hierarchy seems dismayed by any communication save one-way monologue - parish bulletin, diocese newspaper, website, booklet, exhortation at Mass, homily, etc. These venues share one thing – no chance to discuss.

They might profitably take a cue from Jesus who as a boy thrived on verbal give-and-take with Jewish scholars alone in a public forum. Christ exchanged candid views with people and created a revolution. The boy had chutzpah.

Today’s clergy hides behind the altar rail and lobs written edicts that brook no questioning. They act somehow like the fearful disciples huddled in the Upper Room awaiting the Holy Ghost to gave them the backbone to actually engage people.

So, bishops, nuns, and priests – don’t be afraid. Talk with us, not just to us. Discuss and explain, don’t simply proclaim.

Joseph Moran

Another kind of pro-life vote
While bishops decide who gets to go to Communion, my vote goes to the candidate who did not lead us into a war condemned by the pope, a war in which thousands of men, women, children and fetuses have been, and continue to be, killed.

Patty Kahn

Conscience is the norm
The October surprise President Bush warned us about came in April. A missile, fired from the sovereign Vatican State, was lobbed smack in the middle of the U.S. presidential election campaign, an insidious intrusion by the Roman Catholic Church into the political affairs of our nation, a virtual endorsement of the incumbent president.

How far the Church has devolved since 1960. Then, beloved son John Kennedy, only the second Catholic in history to have been nominated for president, was treated with filial, but hands-off, respect in the breathless hope that one of our own might, wonder of wonders, be elected president of the United States.

Both the Vatican and JFK performed double somersaults into their own navels to avoid even the faintest scintilla of interference, one with the other.
Now, another beloved son, John Kerry, only the third Catholic in history to be an apparent presidential nominee, is being not only outrageously inferred with but also condemned as unworthy by the Vatican. The arrogance of the cardinals in Rome who set off this sinister and judgmental bomb is monumentally harmful.

The hypocrisy of reactionary bishops in this country who speak of excommunicating politicians and voters whose consciences differ from theirs is similarly judgmental and disgusting. It also contradicts longstanding Church doctrine that the conscience of the communicant, not the minister, governs worthiness to receive the sacrament.

I am ashamed again of the un-Christ-like hierarchy of my Church. They need to sit down, shut up and keep their political views private; their vocation is to serve the people of God, not to judge them.

James Brennan

Correction, please
I was delighted to learn that Father Paul Minnihan has been named as pastor of St Monica Parish. That community is doubly blest in their leadership, first with Cath McGee and now with him. I was very pleased to read his tribute to his late pastor, Msgr. Julius Bensen.

However, your proofreaders missed the spelling error. Msgr. Bensen’s father was a native of Denmark; his name is spelled with an “en” instead of “on.” My mother was Msgr. Bensen’s sister, so I notice things like that.

Anne Marie Fourre

Grads disappoint
Am I the only one who noticed that of the 18 graduates featured in the special Salute to Grads (Voice, June 7), only two are attending Catholic college? And not one of the graduates mentioned that he or she would like to meet a Catholic saint. A few names come readily to mind — Aquinas, Catherine of Siena, Therese, Peter.

And if you do not have a sense of history, how about Mother Teresa —-surely she has more in common with the graduates than that fellow from India?

But I guess I am not surprised, considering the secularization of the “catholic” school system.

Of course, the ultimate person to meet would be Christ, but that would probably be too religious for them.

Harold Verdun
Via e-mail

A slap in the face
I have been a Catholic for over 58 years and have lived in Fremont for 25 years. I have been following the sexual abuses by Catholic priests with utter disgust and horror. Even more troubling is the fact that four of the priests charged (and proven to be guilty or deceased without meeting their accusers) have served in Fremont.

This horror also occurred in Boston and has caused many churches in Boston to close their doors due to the settlement of monetary suits.

I am not mad about this. What I am mad about is that Pope John Paul II has totally discounted what has happened here in the United States with these sick priests (and those who covered up for these disgusting actions, including Cardinal Bernard Law) and has selected Cardinal Law for the ceremonial post of archpriest of the Rome Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Is this a slap in the face for American Catholics or does it mean that Pope John Paul II has totally denied what has happened here and could care less about how American Catholics feel about this tragic abuse problem?

I will remain a Catholic, but my pocket book will be just that – in my pocket. I refuse to donate any monetary funds to any diocesan request for donations or those from Pope John Paul.

Bill Leake

Stand or kneel?
In the May 10 Voice some features of liturgical norms under the recently published General Instruction of the Roman Missal are described.

One provision that I find particularly disturbing calls for all those who have just received Communion, upon returning to their seat, to remain standing until all who are receiving have done so.

This requirement interrupts what, to my mind, is the most solemn and meaningful part of the Mass. While the Eucharistic wafer is in the process of being dissolved in my mouth, I am experiencing that moment when the Body and Blood of Our Lord is becoming a part of my physical being.

It is a time to meditate upon this fact, preferably on one’s knees. If there are no kneelers, then the next best thing is to be in a sitting posture, with eyes closed. It’s for certain that the time spent standing is wasted. One cannot close one’s eyes and meditate while in the standing mode. This is precious time spent in intimate communion with Our Lord. It calls for a prayerful posture.

In my parish there was no explanation for this directive and parishioners seem to be going along with it. Am I simply out of step?

Donald King

Compassion, not condemnation
For a very long time I have been wanting to write to this section of The Voice. At times I have felt sadness at the heavy judgments placed on women who abort their unborn and on their supporters.

Women who have experienced the heartbreaking pain of choosing abortion are very worthy of compassion, love, understanding, forgiveness from themselves and from all of us. They do not need condemnation.

| Remember the story of the woman taken in adultery. While she was about to be stoned by the people, what did Jesus say to them? Did he join them in the stoning?

The same goes for same-sex marriages. These people are also worthy of love, compassion, understanding and forgiveness because they are also children of the same God who does not judge or condemn his own children.

Beloved readers, we are all in need of deep healing, healing the enemies withinso we can embrace ourselves and embrace others with the soothing blanket of love.

Sonia Todd
San Francisco



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