NOVEMBER 22, 2004





Account for lawsuit costs
Bishop Vigneron’s letter commenting on the diocesan financial report (Voice, Oct. 18) is puzzling. He wrote, “As you review the accompanying numbers you will find that we have experienced the happy results of another year of careful stewardship of the goods you have entrusted to your diocese.” How can this be?

One hundred-sixty court cases from eight northern California dioceses, including Oakland, will begin soon. Allegations of abuse, justified or not, many dating back four decades, are almost incapable of being defended and payouts will certainly be huge.

In rational times these claims would be summarily dismissed due to the statute of limitations. However, an unconscionable California law suspending those time constraints now allows the suits.

In truth, nationally more than 80 percent of abuse claims have never even been investigated - by anyone - bishops or lay authorities. Does anyone doubt the diocese will pay huge settlements without requiring proof of individual guilt? Presumption of innocence, anyone?

Strangely, no contingent liabilities are noted in the balance sheet. Simply mentioning lawsuits in Footnote O - Litigation with no numbers hardly meets the goal of displaying true financial condition.

Certainly no one can predict how much will be paid out, but prudent accounting would demand best-guess recognition. To include nothing on the balance sheet when payouts will probably reduce net assets of $55 million enormously seems irresponsible.

Considering payouts could well bankrupt the diocese, Bishop Vigneron’s “happy result” and “another year of good stewardship “ appear at best disingenuous.

Joseph Moran

More issues than abortion
I read the Catholic Voice with interest every month, even though I am not an active Catholic at this time. I could not help but smile at some of the articles in the Nov. 8 edition, in particular, “Moral Values topped voters concerns.”

How clever the Republicans are to have convinced a lot of Catholics not to vote for their own Catholic candidate. They did this by reducing all the major issues into one knee-jerk, feel good referendum on abortion.

Abortion is a moot issue at the moment for several reasons:
1. It has been the law of the land since the Supreme Court made its ruling in 1972.

2. Most liberated women, many highly intelligent and imminently successful in their careers, consider it their right to have one if they so choose. There would be a huge national protest if this right were ever taken away.

3. Men can feel free to express their opinion on this matter, but it is an empty one, since they will never have to deal with that decision with their own bodies.

4. Abortion, divorce, single parenthood, open homosexuality are all part of the moral decline that has affected this country for many years, and there is nothing that can be done now to reverse it.

5.The Catholic Church has already admitted to the divorce rate by granting annulments (which are nothing more than Catholic divorces in disguise. Just an exercise in semantics!).

So now Bush and the Republican Party are free to continue their own private policies which include:
1. Continued tax breaks for the wealthy and fat government contracts for their corporate pals. (Notice that everyone making our decisions now is a multi-millionaire. What could they possibly know about an average worker’s daily life?)

2. A non-energy plan that continues to mislead Americans into thinking that they can have (and waste) all the energy they want.

3. An illegitimate war in Iraq, based on lies, which will consume (and waste) a lot of our hard-earned tax dollars for many years to come.

Richard S. Gregg

Pre-emptive war is an issue
I am deeply concerned over the RNS report (Voice, Nov. 8) that 79 percent of the electorate voted for President Bush because of his “moral values.”

Months before the invasion of Iraq, Pope John Paul II, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the National Council of Churches, who represent the leadership of 115 million Christians in the U.S., all urged the Bush Administration to pursue diplomacy, international cooperation, and inspections in Iraq, condemning pre-emptive war as a solution to international problems.

But the Bush Administration has refused to listen to the moral authority of the churches and pursued a war that one report says has cost the lives of 100,000 civilians, most of them women and children.

Since the Church’s “moral values” differ from those of Bush, one would assume that Bush supporters do not frequently attend church. But the opposite is true. Sixty percent of weekly church goers voted for Bush, while 64 percent of non-church-goers voted for Kerry.

This means that the Bush campaign had more authority in forming moral conscience than did Church leadership. This is very disturbing.

But what is most upsetting is that the Bush campaign used the structure of the churches for its political gain. This is not only unethical, but unconstitutional. We need to remember that the separation of church and state not only guarantees religious freedom, but more importantly it protects the Body of Christ from political corruption.

Carmen Hartono
Via e-mail

Moral free-for-all
As Bishop Vigneron unequivocally stated: whenever politicians or political parties promote “acceptance and support of abortion and euthanasia, no matter how morally compelling their stands may seem on other issues, their stands on these crucial life issues must be judged as fundamentally flawed.” (Voice, Oct. 18)
James Purcell disagrees (Forum, Nov. 8). He then misrepresents conscience regarding “fundamental contents of faith and morals” as some personal free-for-all, selectively citing Vatican II’s “Declaration on Religious Freedom,” Section 3, for authority.

The same document’s Section 14 clears things up: “In the formation of their consciences, the Christian faithful ought carefully to attend to the sacred and certain doctrine of the Church,” which is “by the will of Christ, the teacher of the truth.”

Once, when contending with a homosexual activist — who’s incidentally a diocesan Catholic priest — I heard half-truth evasions similar to Purcell’s. I reminded the wayward priest that when an individual “takes little trouble to find out what is good and true, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin…, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.” I added that “assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience” and “rejection of the Church and her teaching… can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct” (“Catechism of the Catholic Church,” n. 1791, 1792).

The dissident priest then walked out of his own meeting. No wonder many Oakland diocesan Catholics became confused over the years. And thank God for Bishop Vigneron’s restorative leadership!

Michael Arata

Bush’s biblical values
First, let me thank Bishop Vigneron for his beautiful column (Voice, Nov. 8) about the souls in purgatory and why purgatory is necessary. I know a lot of people prayed to the souls in purgatory on election day which was also their feast day.

Secondly, in the article on the election, John Green of the University of Akron is quoted as saying, “The challenge for Kerry’s party is to develop a language of faith that appeals to values-minded voters.”

It seems the Democrats will never learn. To “develop a language of faith” is a phony ploy. Does the pope “develop a language of faith”? No, he speaks the truth, pure and simple. Most of the people who voted moral values were voting against gay marriage and abortion. Unless the Democrats oppose these things (and I doubt they will), developing some holy sounding language is not going to help them.

In the same article, the Rev Jim Wallis says he “pushed Kerry to talk more openly about how his faith affects his policies, but it came as too little too late.” Wrong again. When Kerry voted six times in favor of partial birth abortion (infanticide) he showed very openly how his faith affects his policies. It doesn’t. Not at all.

Bush, on the other hand, takes his biblical values with him through life and that resonated with voters.

Mary Arnold

A political landmine
Thank you so much for the article on the Haitian priest, Father Gerard Jean-Juste (Nov. 8). His arrest is a direct assault on the progress of human rights and dignity, the social causes of education and feeding the poor and the freedom to celebrate religious beliefs.

While the political complexities of Haiti are not new, the ability to provide these services is becoming more of a political landmine based on the perception of the provider’s political views.

Former President Aristide allowed the provision of services and those that continue to provide these services are now considered Aristide supporters and a threat to the current government. The Voice article states “that no judge will hear his (Father Jean-Juste) case because it is ‘too political.’ ”

This statement reflects the fear of political retaliation. The presiding judge’s decision would put him at risk of being dubbed an Aristide supporter and possible imprisonment or denying the needs of his fellow Haitians whose existence depend on the services rendered by Father Jean-Juste.

I had the opportunity to accompany a medical team to a rural area in Haiti in early October and one thing become blatantly clear: The desire to provide for the poor transcends party affiliations —something the new administration does not realize.

Aileen Hayes

Bush stopped terror
In the Oct. 18 Voice, there is a letter from Katherine Avila from San Leandro that I must take notice of. She says “People who value the sanctity of life do not start wars….”

All wars are not started by saints, but by many leaders, like President Bush, who do what they have to do to stop terror. He did go to war based on facts and has stopped much of the terror such as Saddam cutting out the tongues of those he didn’t like.

War always affects innocent people. Wake up, Katherine.

Ruth Keller
San Leandro

In defense of Opus Dei
Andrew Kloak (Forum, Oct. 18) relates a negative personal encounter with members of Opus Dei. I am sorry that he felt dismissed by them based on his theological ideas. Christian charity is a hallmark that all Christian are called to live in dealing with one another.

The thought that Opus Dei (which means Work of God in Latin) portrays Christ as promoting exclusion or conservatism is far from reality. The founder of Opus Dei, St. Josemaria Escriva, insisted on freedom not only in joining Opus Dei, but that members exercise freedom in theological and political thought within the bounds of Church doctrine and moral imperatives, and always faithful to the deposit of the faith, namely Scripture, tradition and the Magisterium.

Opus Dei members make it a point to read from the New Testament every day to get to know Our Lord better. Precisely because Christ lived “an exceptional ordinary life of work,” members try to imitate Him by striving to convert their work and study into a constant dialogue with God (prayer) and real service to others.

The author of the article writes some words that, without realizing it, would aptly apply to anyone accepting a vocation to Opus Dei: “Catholics need courage to follow their own path of prayerful living….” Yes, the Work of God needs Catholics who live a life of constant prayer and intimacy with God, which is at the root of Opus Dei.

Many, many Catholic men and women understand this and they is why Opus Dei is not only growing in the United States and Canada, but all over the world.

Henry Fasquella

Consider stem cell research
In her article on stem cell research (Voice, Oct. 4), Barbara Erickson brings up many valid issues concerning such research and does much to shed light on the science. Having done a great service in educating the reader, she ends her commentary by quoting the California bishops who lament the costs attributed to Prop. 71, should it pass.

While I do not agree that funding embryonic stem cell research is appropriate, other types of stem cells are certainly worthy of consideration. The biggest problem the bishops seemed to have was evident by their concern for “who would benefit.”

Are we to stop all medical research because of the cost and the realization that new procedures won’t be affordable to all? This is the type of egalitarian thinking that would prevent anyone form benefiting including the poor when lower costs of charity make new procedures more widely available.

The only possible way to achieve a truly equal society is to spread poverty to all. Wouldn’t it make much more sense to use our God-given talent and resources to make things better for the largest number of people?

Besides, the populations of poor countries are victims of their own governments. No country has ever prospered without a sound moral base and freedom – freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom to allow initiative to flourish, and freedom from confiscation of property.

Harold Manley

Less government, more charity
In its open letter (Voice, Oct. 18), the Clergy Committee of the Pacific Institute for Community Organizations - PICO, claims that “America is in crisis” because various levels of government have not acted upon their definition of social justice needs consisting of direct intervention in housing, education, public safety, health care and immigration.

When elected officials work together to fulfill the demands of PICO, they claim, then God will be able to do “a new thing,” such as strengthen families and build human community.

Apparently even God needs government intervention.

Though claiming a Catholic faith orientation, which is questionable, this group fails to consider the principle of subsidiarity. To quote from the Catholic Education Resource Center: “Students should not be taught that the aid of those in need depends upon government intervention, but rather, that it depends upon faith-filled individuals who take up Christ’s call to love one another, and who use their unique gifts and talents to serve their neighbors.”

They state further that “Subsidiarity teaches that social groupings nearest to a challenge should meet those challenges first, before resorting to larger or more remote groups for help.”

This unnamed clergy committee’s idea of social justice flies in the face of Bishop Vigneron’s commentary on the adjacent page, inviting people to return to basic moral principles.

Camille Giglio
Walnut Creek


Want to write?
Contributions to Reader’s Forum should be limited to 250 words.
Letters must be signed and must include the writer’s address and phone number for verification purposes. All letters are subject to editing.
Mail your letter to:
The Catholic Voice 3014 Lakeshore Ave.
Oakland, CA 94610.
Fax: (510) 893-4734.
Our e-mail address is:
Opinions expressed in letters to Reader's Forum are the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Catholic Voice or the Oakland Diocese.
Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.