OCTOBER 4, 2004






A humble shepherd
Last Sunday morning as I glanced around I nudged Frank and whispered,
“Guess who is saying the Mass!” We stood and the cantor and choir led us in a gathering hymn, not “Ecce Sacerdos Magnus” which is usually sung when a bishop is coming down the aisle. It was the regular Sunday Mass at St. Joseph Church in Fremont, but our bishop was presiding.
Bishop Vigneron explained that he had spent the weekend in the parish and would do this for eight parishes every year. This is wonderful for the Oakland Diocese. Parishioners, especially children, can meet this humble man.

Mary McMahon

Cemetery employees praised
Catholic Cemetery employees at Holy Sepulchre cemetery in Hayward were recently put to the ultimate test. Taunts became arguments that turned to bottle throwing, and ultimately shots were fired during a burial ceremony. Our staff attempted to keep peace, but the momentum carried beyond their ability to gain control. By the grace of God no one was wounded by the gunfire.

Unfortunately the turmoil continued after leaving the cemetery and three people lost their lives in subsequent battles. We pray for the families who lost their loved ones.

As a result of this incident, Cemetery Director Robert Seelig has asked local police departments to meet with our employees in order to understand how to best deal with this type of incendiary situation. Training programs have already begun. Local mortuaries are also being asked to alert the cemetery whenever potential volatility is observed.

The goal is to maintain the sanctity and dignity of burial in a Catholic cemetery, and to insure the safety of all those who enter.

We are most grateful that none of our staff nor any innocent bystanders were hurt. The team at Catholic Cemeteries labors under stressful conditions every day. They are dedicated to assisting families at a most difficult time. We applaud the quick thinking of the employees during this crisis who took cover and alerted the police.

Robert G. Mallon
Catholic Cemeteries Advisory Board
Oakland Diocese

Not listening to Scripture
The readings of Sept. 19 caused me to think about the presidential election. The Old Testament and the letter to St. Paul tell us that honesty, integrity and concern for the poor are key words in God’s instructions to us. Can you see that President Bush has ignored these teachings?

How many lies are we to accept? What has happened to the promises of “No child left behind”? Why have the rich been the benefactors of the president’s actions, while the poor are left with empty promises? Why has the environment been plagued with poor judgment? Why has the U.S. lost the friendship of many countries? Why have we attacked a country that did us no harm? What can we do about terrorists when we don’t know who or where they are?

In an effort to seek the Christian vote, the president says he is in accord with the pope on abortion. He ignores the fact that the pope is also against war. I am against abortion as much as anyone. However, to use this moral issue to gain political power is wrong!

Instead of looking into the reason for terrorism, Bush waged war on innocent people. Don’t be fooled and vote for Bush, who is not listening to the Scriptures and teachings of Jesus. Bush’s actions show the love of money rather than his fellow man. He only wants to help his friends gain more money, and oil is the keyword.

Jean Rolf
Castro Valley

Pro-life issues
I am a life-long Catholic. I am also pro-life. In November, I plan to cast my vote for John Kerry, regardless of what some of our Church fathers may recommend to the contrary. Why? I have more reasons than I have space for in this letter, but I will restrict my comments here to the abortion issue.
Our Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade more than 30 years ago. We Catholics have been praying ever since then for an end to abortion. We have also been encouraged to support “pro-life” candidates, most of whom happen to be Republicans.

In all that time, we have had five “pro-life” presidencies, hundreds of “pro-life” Senators and Congressmen, and several “pro-life” justices appointed to the Supreme Court. And today, 31 years after Roe v. Wade, abortion is still every bit as legal and available as it was in 1973.

Am I the only Catholic who senses some incongruity here?

Ronald Reagan, the Republican pro-life president, signed the first abortion bill in the country as Governor of California. Incongruity? Does it not look fishy that this issue is conveniently still around and so useful to pull in the votes of idealistic religious people? The greater majority of Catholic bishops may see through this charade. This may be the reason they did not issue a unified directive in their June meeting in Denver this year.

Abortion is only one of many pro-life issues, and costs nothing as a political issue. The Republican Party is on the wrong side of all the other social justice issues that involve tax money. They do not want to spend money to help people through the many social programs in our country. Their mantra is “smaller government” except when it comes to corporate welfare.

A vote for Bush is a vote against life, both here and in his war zones.

Theresa Schmitt
Via e-mail

Stop pro-abortion judges
The voter guidelines offered by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recognized a diversity of opinions and issues that may affect our vote. But abortion constitutes such a grave moral danger that it trumps all others. The bishops follow the Vatican statement that prohibit us from voting for any policy or policy-maker that legalizes the deliberate killing of innocent human beings.

Some politicians deceptively get around this by voting pro-life on abortion bills but voting pro-abortion when it comes to confirming judges. They know that activist pro-abortion judges will rule pro-life legislation unconstitutional, just like they ruled against the ban on partial birth abortions.

We change this abortion policy by changing judges. We change judges by changing the politicians who would confirm them.

Michael McCarthy
San Lorenzo

The distinctions are clear
There is a clear distinction between the major party presidential candidates.

President George W. Bush has signed the ban on partial-birth abortions, which his administration has defended against court challenges. He signed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, reinstituted the “Mexico City policy” that bars the use of U.S. foreign aid to promote abortions in other countries, denied federal funds to the U.N. Population Fund, and nominated pro-life federal judges.

Senator John Kerry voted at least six times to keep partial-birth abortion legal. He voted against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. He was a co-sponsor of the Freedom of Choice Act, which would have prevented states from placing limits on abortion. He opposes parental involvement in minors’ abortion decisions. Kerry has vowed to keep pro-lifers out of judgeships and the Supreme Court and to reverse the Mexico City policy. He also voted at least 25 times in favor of using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions.

On another key issue, Present Bush supports a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Senator Kerry voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in the Senate and wouldn’t vote to even allow a debate on the federal marriage amendment.

When it comes to the key battles and judicial appointments over the next four years, only President Bush can be trusted to advance the cause of life.

Jim Crowley
Walnut Creek

A so-called Catholic
Senator John Kerry, a so-called Catholic, states that life begins at conception, yet he believes in late term abortion. He also believes in same-sex marriage, which according to the Bible is a sin. And he has the nerve to receive Communion.

Strange that the above subjects were not brought up at the Democratic National Convention.

Pope John Paul II, where are you?

They can criticize President Bush all they want, but he is a good, decent, honest person.

Dolores Madden
Walnut Creek

Still a ‘moral’ war?
On March 19, 2003, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published a “Statement on War with Iraq.” The primary reason justifying war was the “weapons of mass destruction” — that Saddam was developing them and refusing to destroy them. The bishops gave a fuzzy approval to the morality of the war.

Now that we know that the Administration knew then that that was not true but used that as the rationale for war, is it not a time for the bishops to reevaluate and make a flat-out condemnation of this immoral war.
If it is not an immoral war, then I would like to know how to finish the following sentence. It is morally acceptable to kill 20,600 Iraqis because .

Francis C. Mansell, Jr.
Santa Rosa

Cardinal’s false impression
We are very upset at New York’s Cardinal Egan’s appearance and blessing at the end of the Republican Convention. It undoubtedly gave the impression to many of an official Catholic Church endorsement of the Bush presidency. How foolish for him to have allowed himself to be politically used to appeal to moderate Catholics. This was ingenious and no-doubt engineered by Karl Rove and Co.
We appeal to all Catholics to let their Church officials know not only how inappropriate and offensive Cardinal Egan’s appearance was, but also that the Church now has an immediate obligation to speak up loudly and clearly to correct the false impressions created by Cardinal Egan’s apparent implicit endorsement of candidate Bush.

Laura Monin
Lawrence Monin

Not a single issue election
I object strenuously to the Knights of Columbus for having invited President Bush to proselytize on one issue at their annual meeting. I also object because when the President visited the Pope in July, he lobbied him to encourage American bishops to speak out on the same issue.

In my opinion, Catholics who cast single issue votes are mistaken, especially when the issue is a law about which most elected officials – local or national – can do little or nothing.

Politicians who propose gutting Social Security and Medicare because they want people to provide for their medical expenses and retirement by managing their money in the private sector are “whistling in Dixie.” Consider this: $300,000 today invested in insured CDs or Treasury notes at the recent low interest rate of 1.5 percent will yield only $375 per month. Who can live on that, let alone who can save that kind of money?

Social Security disability and Medicare helped sustain our family when long-term illness struck in 1975. Social Security and Medicare continue to help. And recently the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation became another benefactor.

Since business contributes to PBGC, it’s possibly another candidate for assault by some politicians along with the FCC, EPA, National Park Service, Department of Labor, Interior Department, etc. – all of which have already been hit.

Molly Pettinger
San Leandro

Send Kerry to Rome
There is much concern being expressed by many Catholics about the candidacy of John Kerry for president.

John Kerry says he is a practicing Catholic. But he also supports publicly the life styles and philosophies of other people that may, in part, be contrary to the teachings of the Church and Bible.

This discrepancy poses a moral dilemma for many Christians and also a big problem for John Kerry.

My opinion is that John Kerry is a fallible human like all of us and in his stressful circumstances he is confused about his faith. What he should do, if he is sincere about being a Catholic, is to seek out an audience with Pope John Paul II. He should go as a pilgrim, as a wayward son of the Church, to be open to being a more responsible Catholic than he has been in the past.

President Bush saw the pope last June. Mr. Kerry needs to visit the pope as soon as possible.

Joe Trevors

Extraordinary Mass for Peace
An extraordinary, heart-filled music event took place on Sept. 12 at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Berkeley. Six hundred people attended a Concert for Peace that celebrated the parish’s 125th anniversary and also served to honor the late Father Bill O’Donnell, peace and justice advocate.
Included in the concert were works for both solo piano and chamber orchestra, and then after intermission the 90-voice “Chorus for Peace” and orchestra shocked the audience with the premier performance of composer John Vitz’s “Mass for Peace.”

The Mass is a compilation of many Latin texts of the Ordinary of the Mass, including the opening greeting “Pax Vobiscum,” the “Orate, Frates” and the most solemn and triumphant harmonies set to the actual words of consecration.

From the very first moment the haunting melodies, interweaving chords and unique dissonance called the audience into rapt attention. There was an awesome spiritual presence in the church as the listeners were stunned by the sounds of grand chorus and orchestra, side by side with musical surprise such as the addition of bells, guitar and synthesize.

In this beautiful work, composer John Vitz shared his deep spirituality and his mission to share the solemnity of the sacred music within the realm of both traditional harmony and contemporary musical style.

One immediately sensed the composer’s understanding of the sacred in liturgy – from the majesty of the “Gloria” to the imploring strains of the “Pater Noster.” Then in the final movement of this one-hour long work, the chorus and orchestra challenged the audience with the compelling urgency of the Gospel message, that we “… go out and tell the Good News.”

Audience attenders were immediately on their feet with an ovation that reflected a sense of awe and privilege, experiencing sacred music that, in the words of many present, touched their hearts with renewed spiritual meaning.

Our gratitude to John Vitz and to the chorus and orchestra for the sharing of this beautiful musical prayer.

Kathleen Flemming
Walnut Creek

(Kathleen Flemming is choral director at St. Stephen Parish in Walnut Creek.)


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