NOVEMBER 8, 2004





Extend spiritual adoptions
I recently attended Mass at St. Isidore Church in Danville. At the close of Mass, parishioners were asked to participate in a Spiritual Adoption Program – to “name” an unborn baby and pray for the next nine months so that the baby would not be aborted.

I did not fill out a card at that time and over the next few days became more troubled and confused by this call to action.

Respect Life is a wonderful program, one I support with my whole heart. But I wonder why the parishioners of St. Isidore’s were not asked to show their support (financial, emotional and spiritual) for the girls and women who become pregnant and feel they have limited options?

Praying for and defending the unborn is important and right, but surely it is at least as important to pray for and extend ourselves to help the women who are facing unplanned or unwanted pregnancies right now. (We could also include the girls and women who are at risk for unplanned pregnancy.)
Why weren’t parishioners asked to name a woman who right now could use counseling, pre-natal care, a place to stay, or financial assistance to care for a baby? Why not make sure that every parishioner knew exactly how to donate to and/or volunteer at Birthright or Casa Vincentia ?

According to the church bulletin, 392 families have pledged to pray for a spiritual baby. I wonder how many more babies would be born if, in addition to their prayers, each of those families donated $100 to help the organizations whose mission it is to support pregnant girls and women in need.

While I’m sure the Spiritual Adoption Program was initiated with the very best of intentions, in my opinion, creating, naming and praying for an as yet unconceived baby deflects attention and respect from the girls and women who most need our compassion, prayers and aid.

I have no doubt that, if asked, the wonderful community of parishioners at St. Isidore’s would certainly extend their generosity and prayers to girls and women in need – especially if they knew their names.

Julianne Fitzpatrick

Consider all life issues
In his column, “In voting, we need to return to basic moral principles” (Voice, Oct. 18), Bishop Vigneron speaks to only half of the respect life issue.

The unjust war in Iraq also takes lives.

And I suggest that there would be less abortion if the government spent more on education, housing for the poor, and better wages and health care.
When I vote, I shall consider the candidate who addresses these issues.

Mary Frances Draper

A matter of conscience
The questions Bishop Vigneron posed in his column (Voice, Oct. 18) were on target.

But the bishop’s narrow set of principles to guide my voting behavior was very disappointing.

Our Catholic moral theology doesn’t limit questions of life to the unborn or those who are terminally ill. Why does the bishop ignore the issue of life as it relates to those being killed by poverty, lack of access to health care, exposure to toxins in the water or the air, those on death row, and those who wake to the horror of unjust wars every day of their lives?

The “Faithful Citizenship” document to which the bishop refers says that we should measure “all candidates, policies, parties and platforms by how they protect or undermine the life, dignity and rights of the human person, whether they protect the poor and vulnerable and advance the common good.”

Bishop Vigneron, referring to a Vatican document, tells me that a Catholic politician’s conscience is not “well formed” if he or she votes for a program or law that contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. In other words, there really is no such thing as freedom of conscience for a “good” Catholic. I respectfully disagree.

The Second Vatican Council’s decree on Religious Freedom (a “Vatican document”) is still part of our Catholic “teaching.” Its words are instructive on the issue of conscience:

“On his part, man perceives and acknowledges the imperative of the divine law through the mediation of conscience. In all of his activity, man is bound to follow his conscience faithfully, in order that he may come to God for whom he was created. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious.”

As a Catholic I fully embrace my responsibility to listen to my Church and its leaders as I try my best to form my conscience and live my faith. But I cannot and will not abdicate my responsibility to listen to other voices of wisdom as well and then, humbly before my God, try to follow my conscience to the best of my ability.

James M. Purcell

Who pays?
In reading the diocesan financial report (Voice, Oct. 18), I noticed on Note Q -Guarantee that the diocese is responsible for up to $25 million on a line of credit. Who is going to pay this in the event that the cathedral is not built?

Jim Russi

(Editor’s note: According to the diocesan finance department, the $25 million line of credit referenced in Note Q of the Diocesan Financial Statements is secured by a First Deed of Trust on the property on which the Cathedral will be built. The value of the property far exceeds the amount advanced on the loan.)

War also violates life
I was pleased that Phil Sevilla (Forum, Oct.18) quoted from the U.S. bishops’ 1989 statement on abortion: “For us abortion is of overriding concern because it negates two of our most fundamental moral imperatives: respect for innocent life and preferential concern for the weak and defenseless.”

In response to Mr. Sevilla, I wish to point out that the unjust, preemptive war on Iraq also negates these same two fundamental moral imperatives. This Administration planned the invasion of Iraq with “Shock and Awe” ferocity, supposedly to liberate these weak, defenseless, and innocent citizens from the “evil” dictates of Saddam Hussein. And who were the targets? The ones who were to be liberated —the Iraqi people — and they are still being killed daily. The estimate of Iraqi dead is well beyond 10,000 already.

Somehow, I just can’t agree that this war is less of an evil than abortion, especially since the thought to go after Hussein was set in motion prior to 9/11 by the White House Administration. This war was started on a false premise and over 1,000 of our own soldiers have given their lives for this lie.

I’d like to suggest that Mr. Sevilla read what the U.S. bishops have said since the 80’s, such as the current statement from the Conference on “Faithful Citizenship.” This speaks of the importance of “examining the position of the candidates on the full range of issues, as well as on their personal integrity, philosophy and performance...a consistent ethic of life should be the moral framework from which to address issues in the political arena.”

Margaret Loverde

No endorsement of war
In a letter in the Oct. 4 Voice, a reader gave the impression that the U.S. Catholic bishops gave some sort of endorsement to the war in Iraq. The bishops’ teaching on going to war was very clear: for months before going to war the bishops and the pope urged our government to pursue diplomacy, international cooperation, and inspections.

They condemned pre-emptive war as a solution to international problems and told President Bush in a letter in September 2002: “We respectfully urge you to step back from the brink of war and help lead the world to act together to fashion an effective global response to Iraq’s threats that conforms with traditional moral limits on the use of military force.”

In February 2003 Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. bishops conference, also wrote: “We believe that resort to war would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for the use of military force.”
Please consult for all the Church statements related to Iraq.

Mary Doyle
Social Justice Resources
Diocese of Oakland

In defense of Opus Dei
I was sad to read Andrew M. Kloak’s letter (Forum, Oct. 18) regarding his experience with Opus Dei. He labeled it a “conservative” group that was stuck in the 1950s. He claimed that Opus Dei’s beliefs are “illogical” and are based on fear and mistrust.

I attend two retreats a year led by an Opus Dei priest, and my son and my wife are active members in Opus Dei. Mr. Kloak’s view of Opus Dei is slanderous and wrong. His problem with Opus Dei is that it follows the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church, led by the pope and the bishops of the Church. The priest I know constantly teaches from the writings of Pope John Paul II. He uses the Catechism of the Catholic Church and, of course, the writings and teachings of St. Jose Maria Escriva.

This is not illogic; it’s the teaching of the Church. And as far as fear and mistrust go, I have met several Opus Dei priests and all of them have been, calm, “cool”, easy going priests, and they are open-minded. They love being priests; they love Jesus Christ, His mother, the pope, the Church, and their founder, St. Jose Maria Escriva.

The message of Opus Dei is simple: that all people are called to holiness through their work. In St. Escriva’s vision he saw a baker saint, an engineer saint, a plumber saint. It’s the baker, the plumber, and the engineer who will help with the conversion of the world. This vision was so radical, so “open-minded,” so “outside of the box” it opened the Church to Vatican II.

Mr. Kloak has a very closed-minded approach to the faith. He sticks to his progressive, free thinking belief without seriously considering Opus Dei and how it is a way to sanctification. He encouraged us to “follow our own path” and “open-minded choices.”

I don’t want to follow my own path; I want to follow the path of Jesus Christ and the way of that path is through the Church that He founded. I need to open my mind to the teaching of the Church. I hope Mr. Kloak will open his mind to Opus Dei and the teaching of the Church.

Joe Murray

Real Catholic health care
An “Open letter to politicians” (Voice, Oct. 18) purports to promote “quality” health care for every child. I would be all for this if it were not used to promote promiscuous sex for all children, selling them condoms and pumping them full of poisonous contraceptives which disable their healthy body functions. This is what universal health care means today, where nearly half the pregnancies in Alameda County end in abortion (the abortionists’ desired back-up for failed contraception). This is a true holocaust, and an unfathomable tragedy...too enormous for anyone to grasp.

Until contraception and abortion stop being regarded as “health care,” our families, especially our poorest families — most targeted by abortionists — can literally live without it.

If we truly care about health care as Catholics, we’ll stop relying on the government, which has been obligated by court order and by legislation to pay for the killing. We’ll talk more in the pulpits about holiness, and we’ll open our own clinics to promote life. Any administrators, doctors and nurses out there who want to be real medical missionaries? We also need real Catholics to open up our wallets in support of real Catholic health care.

Catherine Norman

Flu season policies
Considering the real threat of a flu epidemic in the near future, is it not time for a no-hand-holding, no drinking from the Eucharistic cup policy to be implemented throughout the diocese once again?
It is admirable that the celebrant’s rubric of (soapless) washing of his hands (the Lavabo) has returned to Saturday Vigil and Sunday Liturgy. When Father distributes the Eucharist at Communion time at least his hands are a bit disinfected.

According to traditional practice, there is no opportunity for cleansing of lay-ministerial-hands during liturgy, however. I have noticed a terrible lack of even elementary hygienic practice amongst lay ministers of the Eucharist, especially after they have circulated extensively among the congregation offering their handshake of peace immediately before distributing Communion.

Some of us have stood in long lines and are fortunate to have received the flu vaccine. However, the common cold can still be devastating, especially to senior parishioners.

Rubrics and traditional practices certainly add to the drama of liturgy. However, considering the consequences, shouldn’t parishioners’ health and well-being be taken into consideration? I don’t think Jesus wants any members of His congregations to become deathly ill with the flu.

Come to think of it we, His ordinary pew-sitting faithful followers, are possibly more important to Him and the building of His Kingdom in the secular world than are His appointed/ordained ministers. Hopefully, a diocesan non-hand-holding edict will be forthcoming soon – for our benefit and our well-being!

Thelma Lawrence

A time to speak out
I was very distressed to read the Voice article “Supreme Court refuses appeal on birth control insurance coverage” (Oct. 18). When is the Church going to wake up and admit that we are under constant attack by materialists. Are we to be like sheep and quietly taken off into the darkness?

The assistant to State Senator Burton, in an article in the Contra Costa Times, admitted that in 2002 Burton pushed for a law to suspend the statue of limitations for one year for molestation claims because of the actions of the Catholic bishops to cover up. This is blatantly anti-Catholic. Yet, no one protested. I think the bishops were afraid that if they fought back they would “look bad”.

Now, the state and courts hold that Catholic Charities does not qualify as a religious organization because it serves and employs non-Catholics. This is the height of sophistry.

The Voice article states that “Catholic Charities could have avoided the force of the law by declining to offer prescription drug insurance to employees, but the organization refused to take this step, saying it was a matter of social justice and a religious duty to provide such coverage.”

An easier route would have been to self- insure the prescription drug coverage and remove it from the control of the state. Is providing abortifacients a matter of social justice and a religious duty?

Our bishops fail us in these matters. The archbishop of San Francisco rolled over and allowed their Catholic Charities to provide “significant other” coverage under pressure from the city of San Francisco. We do not seem to have among us a St. Paul who will stand up to the authorities without fear of the consequences, and say “You are wrong!”

What will these bishops do when the state tells them to cover abortion on demand, including late term abortions, or when suicide and euthanasia are approved by state law (as in Oregon). Do we continue to roll over? There comes a time to say this far and no further; that time is now for the Catholic Church.

Clifford R. Wiesner



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