NOVEMBER 17, 2003
Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.






Quality or sanctity of life?
I am dismayed at the commentary by Father Gerald Coleman (Voice, Nov. 3) regarding Terri Schiavo. Should we reason out loopholes to the sanctity of life so that we can accept that some people are better off dead?
The issue is not the right-to-die, but the right-to-kill. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s “Declaration on Euthanasia” is irrelevant because Terri is not comatose. She is not dependent on “life support.” She has a chance of amelioration by rehabilitative therapy. She won’t die unassisted. Only her mental capacity is severely impaired and her husband says she wouldn’t want to continue to live like that.

The diagnosis of permanent vegetative state was made by a bare majority of the expert witnesses retained by Mr. Schiavo’s attorney, George Felos, a nationally prominent advocate for legalized euthanasia. Other distinguished specialists, independent of the court’s findings, have vehemently disputed that diagnosis.

Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has said: “The Schiavo situation is a terribly wrenching case wherein we see the clash of two very disparate civilizations — the Judeo-Christian civilization, which is based upon the sanctity of all human life, and the neo-pagan relativist quality-of-life civilization. When these two totally antagonistic worldviews come up against each other, it makes a real difference in people’s lives because real people die when the quality-of-life ethic usurps the sanctity-of-life ethic.”

The Nazis did not decriminalize murder. They declared some categories of human beings not legally people — Jews, homosexuals, the physically infirm, and “useless mouths.”

If the killing of Terri Schiavo because of her classification in permanent vegetative state is upheld as lawful, it will set a frightening precedent. The courts will have given to the guardians of brain-damaged people the authority to withhold sustenance by declaring that the latter wouldn’t want to live like that. Who will be made to follow next– quadriplegics, victims of cerebral palsy, AIDS dementia, the frail aged? Who would possibly want to continue to live like that?

Daryl Suzukawa

Twisted commentary
Father Gerald Coleman’s commentary (Voice, Nov. 3), “Catholic teaching examined in the case of Terri Schiavo,” should have been titled, “Catholic teaching twisted in the case of Terri Schiavo”

He might want to read the Holy Father’s Ad limina address to the bishops of California, Nevada and Hawaii, which states: “A great teaching effort is needed to clarify the substantive moral difference between discontinuing medical procedures that may be burdensome, dangerous or disproportionate to the expected outcome — what the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls “the refusal of ‘over-zealous’ treatment” (No. 2278; cf Evangelium Vitae, 65) — and taking away the ordinary means of preserving life, such as feeding, hydration and normal medical care.”

The statement of the United States Bishops’ Pro-Life Committee, “Nutrition and Hydration: Moral and Pastoral Considerations,” rightly emphasizes that the omission of nutrition and hydration intended to cause a patient’s death must be rejected and that, while giving careful consideration to all the factors involved, the presumption should be in favor of providing medically assisted nutrition and hydration to all patients who need them.

Far more than two doctors have testified that Terri is not in a persistent vegetative state(PVS).Please see

Regardless, I have yet to see one doctor claim that a PVS patient is dying and our Church certainly does not teach this. Terri has been in her condition for 13 years due to lack of rehabilitation. Father Coleman uses this argument to justify the killing of anyone who has a poor quality of life.

Joan Durling

Slippery slope of immorality
Father Gerald Coleman’s commentary (Voice, Nov. 3) on the Terri Schiavo case states that “artificial only prolonging the person’s dying, and adding nothing to a person’s qualitative living”.

If you think about it, nutrition is what is prolonging all of our lives, as without it, we would surely die. The same is true for Terri Schiavo.

No one would intentionally choose to remain in a compromised state such as Terri’s, but she is alive nevertheless and entitled to basic, ethical care. If Terri were actually dying, she would have already done so in spite of being fed and hydrated. Her condition has not suddenly deteriorated to the point where death is imminent. Her condition has remained consistent, or persistent, if you will.

Father Coleman states that a majority of medical experts judge a person in a persistent vegetative state as “indeed dying”, thereby justifying hastening death by starvation.

Are the “experts” basing this judgement on Catholic moral theology? Are we not obligated to follow the teachings of our faith?
According to “Questions about Medically Assisted Nutrition and Hydration” on the U.S. bishops’ website ( ):

Catholic teaching condemns as euthanasia “an action or an omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all suffering may in this way be eliminated.”

Thus “euthanasia includes not only active mercy killing but also the omission of treatment when the purpose of the omission is to kill the patient.”

“Omission” in Terri’s case is the withholding of nutrition/hydration which would cause her death, amounting to nothing less than euthanasia.
When we become the judge of another’s “quality of life” is when we have stepped firmly onto the slippery slope of immorality, regardless of intention.

Diana Palmon

Applause due
What a bright light! I applaud and appreciate the U.S. bishops’ appeal “to practice ‘faithful citizenship’ “ (Voice, Nov. 3.) We are invited to look at the set of principles drawn from Catholic social teachings and to have our “focus be directed by moral principles, not the latest polls.... on the needs of the poor and vulnerable, not the contributions of the rich and powerful.... on the pursuit of the common good, not the demands of special interests.”

Leanne Noe
Via e-mail

Gift of homosexuality
I want to add my experience to the range of views being expressed regarding domestic partnerships in particular and homosexuality in general.
The notion that the Church knows the absolute truth about any human experience and/or never changes is simply untrue. As a left-handed, manic-depressive lesbian, I know that had I lived during an earlier time I might well have been executed for being in league with the devil.

Several years ago I discovered a comforting book published by Pauline Books & Media, “When A Pope Asks Forgiveness” by Luigi Accattoli (English translation by Jordan Aumann, OP). This book contains 21 articles that identify specific times when Pope John Paul II apologized for errors and excesses committed by the Church in the past, beginning with the Crusades.

When I read this book I felt hopeful for the first time that the Church outgrows erroneous beliefs although extreme growing pains occur along the way.

After years of prayer and soul searching (including membership in Courage for a time), I have come to believe that my lesbian orientation is like my left-handedness rather than my manic-depressive illness. The gift of homosexuality teaches me that I am capable of giving and receiving love and affection. I cannot believe that God has given me this gift with the stipulation that I not use it to its fullest potential.

Maggie Cockrell

Celibacy is a gift
I would like to respectfully respond to Jim Crowley’s missive (Forum, Nov. 3) regarding my initial letter of Oct. 20. His contention that same sex marriages would cause societies to “abandon” heterosexual marriage or “allow it to collapse” is spurious and ridiculous.

Denmark, Holland, and Belgium already have same-sex marriages, some for over a decade, with no such abandonment or collapse of heterosexual marriages. Canada and Taiwan might soon follow suit.

I respect the authority of the Church but I cannot, in conscience, reprise the role of Galileo Galilei and “recant” what I believe to be flawed. The reality is that the Church has been wrong before in matters that belonged in the purview of other authorities. As late as 1866, the Church still insisted that “slavery itself… is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law…”

It seems that many people are willing to impose something on gay people that they would not willingly impose on themselves (or seminaries and convents would be flourishing!). Jesus said regarding celibacy that “Not everyone can accept this teaching but only those to whom it is given.” (Matthew 19:11) The Collegeville Bible Commentary on page 889, in reference to this verse, says that Jesus is clearly stating that “celibacy is a gift from God and is not for all”.

Celibacy should be a gift freely offered to God out of love not forced by fear, prejudice or imposed self-hatred. As an American committed to the truly American ideals of justice, equality, and fairness for all, it is I who do not have a choice but to seek justice, equality, and fairness.

If sex outside of marriage is sinful and I believe it is, then we should give gays the same choices we give ourselves and allow them to marry. Every time we strengthen the rights of others, the health of our own rights become stronger. Ask the German people who lived under Hitler.

Jonathan Tan

Congress not to blame
It is obvious that Rick Mockler, executive director of Catholic Charities of California, (Voice, Nov. 3) hasn’t heard any stories about what it was like living during the Great Depression. As bad as it was, those children who were living in cold-water flats, in roach-infested tenements, in rural slums or projects eventually grew up to be productive American citizens.
We didn’t see big-eyed, rib-showing children lying in the streets. And we don’t today. Mr. Mockler states that our children are in danger today, but they all have televisions and cars.

Is today’s poverty to be blamed only on Congress and the lack of Americans’ generosity? Are the parents today struggling as much as my parents did during the Great Depression? Do today’s parents need to be educated about how and where to spend their money?

Lillian Silver
Walnut Creek

No Christian agenda
When I read letters (Forum, Nov. 3) citing George Bush’s accomplishments and his stand on promoting Christianity, I reel in dismay at how gullible our good citizens really are.

First of all, Bush follows no Christian agenda in regards to world peace and even discounted the Pontiff’s stand on the Iraq invasion as well as other Christian churches with the exception of the Southern Baptist organization.
The death and destruction he has wrought upon the Iraqi people, not to mention our own losses, has only served to further his own agenda of Middle East domination as well as to fill the pockets of Bechtel and Halliburton, his staunch supporters.

Only The Christ will bring peace to the Middle East, not some charlatan masquerading as a champion of justice, peace and freedom. Good citizens of this country, vote him out in 2004.

John Valdez

Another lay institute
Thank you for the Oct. 20 article on church-sanctioned lay institutes. It would nice to see an article on the different institutes available to the laity. The Holy Family Institute is the one with which I am most familiar; it is the only one dedicated to the married and widowed.

If Catholic Voice readers want more information, it is available at or merely search for “Holy Family Institute.”

A. Zegura
Via –email

Fair Trade, not free trade
Americans are dying in Iraq to ensure the Iraqis have basic freedoms. The people in Central America will not have these opportunities for freedom if and when the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) becomes a reality.

We must join the 44 archbishops and bishops of Central America in their concern about the effects of CAFTA on their people. We must stand with them in choosing human rights first.

CAFTA negotiations are going on behind closed doors with a timeline in place. The people being affected by this agreement have no input. Labor rights are not part of the agreement so workers will be made to work in subhuman conditions for slave wages and no union representation

These countries are agrarian with people making their living by farming. This will end as produce from America can be sold at a lower price due to subsidies which American farmers receive, hence we will see a migration to the urban centers.

Expansive corporate privilege is afforded the large companies from the U.S. who move their factories south in order to enjoy the low outlay in salaries and high profits for themselves, avoiding tariffs and taxes. These effects will also be felt here because free trade causes work displacement, job loss and exploitation everywhere.

This agreement will undermine public services and with privatization comes high costs of health and education, denying the poor these basis rights.
We must take a stand with the people from Central America and say “no” to free trade and “yes” to Fair Trade.

Henrietta Griffitts


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