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SEPTEMBER 6, 2004

 

 

 

LETTERS

Welcome abuse victims
I have heard some say that survivors of clergy sexual abuse don’t go to church and that they know that there are no survivors in their parish. This is just not true.

I was asked by Father Neal Clemens, administrator of my parish, to talk at all the Masses on April 25 about my experiences of clergy sexual abuse. After I spoke at the 9 a.m. Mass, a returning Catholic came forward and said she was a survivor of clergy sexual abuse. One parishioner told a friend about my talk, and a few weeks later her friend came to the diocesan monthly apology service.

In August, I spoke to lay ecclesial ministers and met a woman who told me that she was sexually abused by a priest as a child and has never told anyone except her husband. I know there are many survivors out there.

I know by talking to survivors, and from my own experience, that we ache to belong to our church. We read the parish bulletin left on our parents’ bedside table. We go on line and read the Catholic Voice or the National Catholic Reporter. We talk to our siblings and friends, wanting to know if things have changed so we can even think about returning to the church we love.

We hold back because we are afraid. I was told when I was 7 years old that I was a liar and an enemy of the church. When I was a young adult and still going to church, if the subject came up, the survivor was ridiculed and made to be the guilty one. It is this social stigma, fear and unresolved trauma that keep many survivors away.

I have been fortunate to meet several key priests, deacons, one very special Sister and two bishops of our diocese who have been instrumental in my returning to the church I love. I want to thank all those who have helped me. You have shown me in very simple ways that you care, and because of this caring you have put me back on my path to spiritual growth. Thank you, for giving me back my church, my spiritual life, and my love of God. I have always loved God, but I often felt separated from Him/Her. It was the loss of my faith community, the God in you that I was separated from. Thank you for helping me return to you.

There are other survivors who are hurting and want to return. It is the every- day people in our churches who have the opportunity to help bring back our hurting children. Please open your hearts and show them how to get the help they need. There are survivors in your pews, in your RCIA groups, in your returning Catholic study groups, and many listening from afar. How you reach out to them will determine if they will be able to come forward to receive the help that they need. How you listen to them will determine how long they will be able to stay. Please welcome them home.

Judy Anguella
Martinez

Deeper than Da Vinci Code
In “Be Careful How You Read” (Forum, Aug. 9), an anonymous writer expressed concern over why “The Da Vinci Code” was part of the summer reading list for incoming seniors at Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward.

Although I am not an incoming senior, I have read “The Da Vinci Code” and found it to be an enjoyable, yet controversial, piece of fiction. Unlike the letter writer’s niece, though, I delved deeper into the idea that Jesus was ever married or involved in sexual relations with any of his followers. I developed a larger interest in my religion and researched the subject extensively. All I have ever heard was the divine aspect of Jesus, and the idea that He was ever with someone emphasized his humanity—an aspect I never thought about much before.

Name withheld upon request
Union City

Opus Dei – a way of life
In response to Sue Walsh’s letter (Forum, Aug. 9), the difference is that she went to a Mass in honor of St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, not to a meeting as she did for Voice of the Faithful. Any one of the people gathered at the Mass would have gladly given her further information on Opus Dei, besides the numerous free pamphlets available.

“Opus Dei – Doing God’s Work” begins at home by strengthening the family. It supports God’s teachings in our daily lives. With a strong family unit, you’ll find that this strength goes out to support the Church in many different organizations.

Opus Dei is a way of life; Voice of the Faithful is an organization. Please tak another look at Opus Dei by contacting them directly.

Donna Ramos
Livermore

(Editor’s note: The prelature of Opus Dei is located at 2710 College Ave., Berkeley 94705. Phone: 510-548-2819.)

The top priority
I recently attended Mass out of state. The priest talked about our moral obligation to vote and that our voting choices need to be founded on moral principles. He left it at that.

This unsettled me. What he said caused me to seriously look at the issues close to my heart. I was looking for the ideal world where my candidate would uphold the sanctity of life, of marriage, of work, of world peace, of fair distribution of goods, of education and health care for all, of justice…

Since that candidate does not exist, I decided to prioritize the issues. Upon deep reflection, prayer, discussion and marking reference to the teaching of the Catholic Church, I have come to see that without the sanctity of life being upheld and honored, all my other concerns are meaningless.

Angela Rui
Pleasant Hill

Greatest injustice
At their convention last month, the National Right to Life Committee shared poll data at one of the workshops I attended. While many of the polls indicated that more people than any time in the past couple of decades claim to be pro-life, the statistic for Catholics was not encouraging. Forty-seven percent of Catholics claim to be pro-choice—the same percent as the overall population.

As Catholics, we are doing a miserable job of teaching our own one of the most basic of all beliefs – the sanctity of life. It is sad that almost half of the Catholic population of this country must not understand the words from Jeremiah, that “before you were formed in the womb, I knew you.”

If we are failing to get Catholics to understand that ensoulment occurs at conception, that a human life begins at conception and that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of our Creator, then one must have serious concerns as to the status of Catholic teaching in general.

All other social injustices are secondary to the most basic of all injustices – the denial of human life.

George Pfautsch
Walnut Creek

Value of human touch
The measure of any society’s greatness may be found in its willingness to protect those who serve others. While the Church rightly continues to steer itself in the direction of making ethical guidelines for ministries abundantly clear, there is a frightening presumption of guilt and ill will.

The most recent diocesan “Policy of Expectations and Guidelines for Ministry to Minors” (Voice, Aug. 9) simply goes too far.

The essence of ministry is a trusting relationship. As a psychologist, I believe that without it, nothing of any lasting importance will occur between people. The new guidelines attempt in every way to remove the personal nature of healing relationships. I dissent.

The power of confidentiality and human touch when applied judiciously is well known and should be encouraged, not rooted out as an inherent evil.

It is always harder to question one’s judgment after it has been made. I call upon our Church leaders to reflect on this latest development in protecting our children. Do not let this become an old story of overly aggressive ideas born of turmoil. Turn around and head back the other way.

Donald Crowe, Ph.D.
Orinda

Be a blood donor
I am writing to make sure that all members of the Oakland Diocese read Pope John Paul II’s statement encouraging Catholics throughout the world to donate blood.

Allow me to share some examples of local lives saved, thanks to blood donors. San Jose resident Lisa Joffee needed more than seven gallons of blood to survive following the birth of her twins. Andy Pasmanter of El Cerrito received many units of blood during a kidney transplant. Ten-year-old Adriana Aboumrad of Fremont is battling leukemia and the community of blood donors is helping her get through surgery and recovery. One-year-old Morgan Keane of Alameda has survived three open heart surgeries. She will need additional surgery and, of course, more blood when she is older.

Our local American Red Cross provides blood to 450 people like this each day. Please contact us at 1-800-GIVE-LIFE or online at www.BeADonor.com to find the nearest location to make a donation. To donate blood, you must be at least 17 years old, weight 110 pounds or more and be in general good health.

Kay Crull
American Red Cross Blood Services
Oakland

Contrary to Church teaching
I agree with Dr. John Morris’ letter (Forum, Aug. 9) that embryonic stem cell research should not be controversial among practicing Catholics. It is contrary to Church teaching.

In California, a November ballot measure will propose that the State fund cloning human embryos for the purpose of harvesting their stem cells. The language of the measure disguises this truth by using scientific terminology such as “somatic cell nuclear transfer” without explanation to voters that this means “cloning.” The word “embryo” appears nowhere in the initiative; in its place is the degrading term “products.”

The Church condemns cloning and embryonic stem cell research.

Connie Taylor
Fremont

Call sinners to repentance
I believe it was St. Jerome who said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Jesus.”

The divine nature of God did not change when Jesus was incarnated. To know the divine will of God, one must read the Old Testament and the New Testament. God Almighty is a sovereign God. He will judge us and He expects our Holy Church to guide us and chide us.

When was the last time you heard sin and its dire consequences preached from the pulpit? Today some Catholics are under the false hope that we serve a Jesus who only punishes those who commit those sins that we don’t like. There are people sitting in church on Sundays steeped in sin, with no intention of repenting, and they’re comforted by the homily that says Jesus loves you and you do not have to change.

Our beloved Church has every right and also a divine duty to rescue those who are on the road to destruction. If withholding Communion causes a brother or sister to take note of their lifestyle and change their ways, it’s a small price to pay compared to eternity in hell.

John Malaspina
Newark

Include married priests
Please let me express my praise and gratitude publicly to Father Timothy Stier, former pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Fremont, who recently reflected on his silver jubilee in the priesthood (Voice, June 18).

To me, Father Stier truly reads the “signs of the times” in our Church. In a recent Sunday reading from St. Paul to the Galatians, we heard, “There is neither slave nor free person,” but it took our Church 1800 years to realize that slavery was immoral and to implement changes. Paul also said, “There is not male and female…” How long, O Lord, will this take?

One of my greatest hopes in our Church today is that so many women are studying theology. How long before we recognize the faith, intelligence and commitment of these women and grant them leadership positions?

As a mother and grandmother, I would never prepare a magnificent banquet for others and exclude my own sons. As a Church we are doing this. We welcome married Episcopalian priests to the table, but do not invite our own married priests, our own sons, to the altar. How painful this exclusion must be for our married priests. And what a loss for our Church.

At this sorrowful time in our scandal-ridden Church, we must pause and give thanks to the many priests who labor in the field and who give their hearts and souls to their parishioners, our community, and our world. These are our Good Shepherds. They show us the tender heart of Jesus. Father Stier is one of these priests.

Patricia Gallagher
Fremont

Find a need and fill it
More than 20 years ago I pulled up to a stoplight beside a large cement truck and saw a message printed in large letters on its side – “Find a Need and Fill It.” I couldn’t help but think of how clever that message was as it turned round and round.

At the time, the needs I was filling had to do with my family, my job, and putting our sons through school. I remember thinking that at some point I would find a special need and fill it. The opportunity wouldn’t show up for a very long time. After retirement I found myself with some extra time and a nagging sense that I wasn’t really contributing to much outside myself. My church offered many opportunities to volunteer, but I found they were fairly well staffed in many of the areas I wished to pursue.

Then I approached Catholic Charities in Concord, offering my help as a former legal secretary and administrative assistant. Their immediate need was for an intake coordinator on Fridays.

What I found there was a welcoming, extremely appreciative, and very overworked staff. For the better part of two months I was overwhelmed at the variety and multitude of needs being meet just in our office. The main office in Oakland and offices in Brentwood and Richmond are just as busy.

The staff at Charities’ Concord office has been wonderful to me, immediately treating me like one of their own and expressing their appreciation often. I have been truly rewarded by being in their presence and seeing the great work they do.

Carol Vogl
Walnut Creek

Grateful for retirement funds
Sister Rose Marie Hennessy, prioress general, and the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose express our deep appreciation to the National Religious Retirement Office for its perennially successful Retirement Fund Drive to help secure the future of our elderly and retired men and women religious in the United States. NRRO’s excellent coordination of the whole program has always yielded amazing results, especially if one considers the recent downturn in the economy.

We are indeed blessed to receive our grant from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops of $59,461.31. This amount will shore up our funds which are particularly reserved for the needs of our retired Sisters.
We also express our deep appreciation to all Voice readers who have contributed, in one way or another, to the continued success of this annual appeal. May the Lord reward them a handredfold for their goodness to retired women and men religious in the country.

Sister Charlotte Shea, OP
Congregational liaison
Fremont

 

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