ONLINE
FERUARY 7, 2005

INSIDE
THIS ISSUE

Parishes address gangs, drugs, violent crime
Grief moves mother to start nonviolence foundation
Prayer, programs help stop murders
on Oakland streets

Religious ethicists debate
new stem cell proposals

Make health care a budget priority,
religious leaders tell Congress

Bishops oppose efforts to overturn
‘conscience clause’ for abortions
Thousands walk S.F. streets
to protest abortion

Young activists energize
anti-abortion march

John Paul calls for ‘sexual maturity’ in seminarians

‘Zero tolerance’ governs policies
at Christian Brothers’ schools

Apology service set
for Castro Valley parish

 Coach, teacher, dean retires
after 40 years at St. Elizabeth High
Oakland bishop named to
Vatican Congregation
Catholics’ generosity expected
to extend to Bishop’s Appeal
Relief funds continue
from East Bay parishes
Operation Andrew begins
New housing for seniors in Oakland
Regulations for observing Lent

Commentary:

• Reflection from Aceh – why did
so many have to die?

• Lent: A paradigm of the Christian life

• A time to write your own morning offering

• Manhattan church no longer a white elephant on Park Ave.

Obituary

Sister Margaret Patricia Faherty, PBVM

 

 

 

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

BISHOP
VIGNERON

FRONT PAGE

Pope in hospital

Pope John Paul was hospitalized Feb. 1 for complications from the flu. As the Voice went to press, he remained at Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome. Before becoming ill, he released a Lenten message on death. See below.

 

 

 

 

 

REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchia

Father Jayson Landeza pounds yet another cross into the memorial garden at St. Columba Parish last year for those killed by violence in the city. The pastor has already erected three crosses for victims killed in January 2005.

CHRIS DUFFEY PHOTO

 

Remembering victims
of violence

 

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

For Oakland residents, the end-of-the-year homicide count brought good news for a change. For the first time in three years the murder rate fell below the three-digit mark – from a high of 114 in 2003 to 88 for 2004.

While this decrease is encouraging, it is still unacceptable. “One homicide is one too many,” said Father Jayson Landeza, pastor at Oakland’s St. Columba Parish and a chaplain with the Oakland Police Dept.

The deaths prompted the north Oakland parish to mark each homicide with a simple wooden cross in the small garden in front of the rectory. Each cross bore the first name of the victim and the person’s dates of birth and death. By New Year’s Eve, all 88 victims had been remembered.

“I think it has been real eye-opening for a lot of people,” said Father Landeza. Initially some passersby mistake the crosses for a picket fence, he said, but he hopes they leave committed to helping stop violence in whatever ways they can.

With the start of the new year, the parish removed the 2004 crosses, but had to quickly resume its silent memorial. A murder on New Year’s Day accounted for the first cross for 2005 and two more crosses had been erected by the end of January.

The parish’s memorial began after Rawn Harbor, the parish’s liturgy director, told parishioners about churches in the eastern U.S. that displayed crosses to remember victims of homicide. Parish leaders agreed to establish the memorial to serve as a “real stark reminder” of the human toll of violence in the streets, Father Landeza said.

News reports of the crosses led several mothers of the homicide victims to contact the priest and tell him their tragic stories.

“As an Oakland police chaplain, I get called into situations oftentimes at the scene, so it is not unusual for me to work with families of homicide victims,” he said. “But these were folks I hadn’t had any contact with.”

These encounters moved Father Landeza to begin attending support groups for families and friends of murder victims in Oakland. Sitting in on those sessions has left a deep impression.

“That has been a really moving experience, just profoundly moving,” he said. “Words can’t even describe what that’s like to hear the pain, the continued pain. Even for folks who have lost their children years and years ago there is this pain that never seems to go away.”

The plight of murder victims’ families has also compelled the parish to more active participation in Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), a grassroots organization of churches and other faith-based groups working to address neighborhood issues including violence and drugs.

“Our participation in (OCO) has tripled in the last five years,” Father Landeza said. “Now there has been a real resurgence on the part of my parishioners particularly with regards to violence.”

Part of this resurgence in community activism resulted in the parish’s support for Measure Y on last November’s ballot. Approved by 69 percent of voters, it provides funding for anti-violence programs and more police officers.

Father Landeza expressed exasperation about the tepid response of the Catholic community to violent crime in the East Bay.

“We are involved in this kind of stuff because we are right there, we are right in the heart of it. Yet I don’t hear a whole lot of voices [outside of the immediate neighbors] or people doing something to make a difference. I don’t even hear from the top circles of the diocese, frankly,” he said.

“Oftentimes prominent leaders, particularly in the African American community, come out pretty stridently against the violence in the city and take stands and make themselves very present. I think that is a challenge for all levels of our diocese to do that.”


Kids walk Lake Merritt to help kids hurt
by tsunami in Indonesia

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

More than 250 kids, parents, teachers and friends walked around Lake Merritt the morning of Jan 29 to raise money for young tsunami victims in North Sumatra, Indonesia. The two student councils of Oakland’s St. Martin de Porres School were the inspiration behind the event, which brought in thousands of dollars to help rebuild a school in the area hardest hit by the Dec. 26 earthquake and tidal waves.

After the disastrous tsunami swept over 12 Asian Pacific countries, St. Martin’s students did some kid-style soul-searching and held classroom discussions about the tragedy when they returned from Christmas vacation.

When their principal, Sister Barbara Dawson read an e-mail from an Indonesian priest who had studied at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley telling of the plight of youngsters newly orphaned by the tsunami and others whose schools had been washed away, they wanted to help.

“We already have the kind of stuff they need. But their schools are on the ground. The kids need money to get books, clothes, new buildings so they can grow up to be somebody,” reflected Gabrelle Lee, 10, about the information Jesuit Father Ignatius Ismartono, coordinator of Crisis and Reconciliation for the Indonesian Catholic Bishops had shared in the e-mail. Lee is student council president for K-5 at St. Martin’s. Her counterpart Erica Baires, 14, is council president for grades 6-8.

The two councils brainstormed strategies with Sister Dawson. How could St. Martin de Porres students help the students in North Sumatra? Should they have a cupcake sale? Well, no. Sugar rushes and empty calories aren’t healthy. So what about something healthy like a jump rope contest? Or perhaps a competition to see how many shots people could make through a basketball hoop?

Then, as so often happens during brainstorming sessions, somebody came up with the best idea of all. A walk around Lake Merritt. “It just sort of popped up, out of nowhere,” the two presidents agreed, during a Voice interview.

“We thought it was really a cool idea,” said Baires. But how do you bring a great concept to actuality in just two and a half weeks?

Sister Barbara Dawson, the dynamo school official who last year brought
St. Martin de Porres back from the brink of imminent closure to a viable 144-student and-still-growing institution, proceeded to teach her two student councils some of the finer points of community organizing.

Before long, Sister Dawson had Baires and her six middle school council colleagues attending meetings with adults at Catholic Charities, the diocesan school department and social justice office, and the Indonesian Catholic community to learn the practical logistics for making the event happen.

As they planned, kids back at the school logged onto their computers to design spiffy flyers to take to local churches and the West Oakland BART station announcing the walk.

Lee and the other fifth graders told the younger students, in words they could understand, what a tsunami was all about. “We broke it down for them. We went around and asked them to imagine that it was happening to them,” said Lee. “We told them that any kind of money – a penny, a nickel, a quarter, was very important to give.”

Baires, meanwhile, visited some of her former public school teachers to ask for contributions.

Finally, the “Kids Walk for Kids” event was ready to go. As early as 8 a.m., participants from at least 10 elementary and high schools assembled at the site of Oakland’s future cathedral on Grand Avenue at Harrison St. for the 9 a.m. walk.
Half of Street Martin’s students were there from both campuses (Sacred Heart and St. Patrick). There was heavy competition that day from an eighth grade CYO game, explained Baires.

One fifth grader was sick, but he sent money via his friends. A kindergartner gave Baires 63 pennies for the cause. She had collected them from family members, from pockets of coats hanging in the hall closet, from underneath sofa cushions plus a few of her own, left over from candy change. She had pasted little stickers on her offerings, so she’d know which of the pennies were hers.

The grandmother of two students brought $50 to the walk.

Sister Dawson said the Vietnamese Seniors from Catholic Charities “joined us in the walk and raised more than $3,000.”

When the usual Saturday morning runners along the lake saw what was going on, many of them chipped in as well.

St. Martin de Porres’ principal credited the generosity of adults who helped plan the walk. Kathy Gannon-Briggs, principal of Oakland’s St. Bernard School, did outreach to the principals and schools. Parents from St. Raymond School in Dublin, St. Felicitas School in San Leandro and St. Martin de Porres, along with teacher Liz Guneratne from Oakland’s St. Elizabeth Elementary School, staffed the first aid and water stations. Holy Names High School students served as patrol monitors on paths around the lake.

A prayer service, created by the Indonesian Catholic community, began the walk. Maria Surjadi of the Diocese of San Jose and Deacon Hoc Chuan of the Oakland Diocese led the service that included the song, “We Shall Overcome,” sung in Indonesian. Song sheets were circulated so everyone could join in. The crowd also recited “the Lord’s Prayer” in Indonesian.

The song was aptly symbolic: an African-American vow translated into the language, hopes and dreams of another suffering, oppressed culture. And the prayer: a 2,000 year old affirmation of love poured out from the heart of an Aramaic Jewish teacher to His Divine Parent, repeated down through the centuries by the followers of Jesus in every culture.

 


Freed Haitian priest pleads for peace

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Father Gerard Jean-Juste is at liberty now, free to speak and travel, free to feed the poor in his Port au Prince church, and free, wherever he goes, to plead for peace, democracy and justice in Haiti.

During a visit to the Bay Area, Father Jean-Juste spoke of his arrest last October, as he was feeding 600 poor children in his parish church, of his seven weeks in prison, his visit with exiled Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide in South Africa, and Haiti’s desperate need for help.

The gulf between the misery in Haiti and the prosperity of the U.S., just 600 miles to the north, the priest said, “is not what God wants of us on earth.” As he spoke before crowds at Stanford and St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Berkeley late last month, he noted that “we are all Americans, living in the continent of America” and urged the nations of the Western Hemisphere to “come together to fight against misery.”

As a first step he is calling for the return of President Aristide, who, he said, was pressured to flee the country last Feb. 29, as groups of armed fighters moved into Port-au-Prince. These fighters were “thugs,” Father Jean-Juste said, who had been armed by some elements in the U.S. government to carry out a coup d’état. After the coup, an appointed president replaced Aristide, who had been re-elected in 2000 and still had a year left to serve his term.

Father Jean-Juste openly calls for the president’s return from exile and free elections, and it was this that led to his arrest and imprisonment. “When they came to arrest me,” the priest said during an interview, “they had no charges,” though later the authorities came up with some: first, that he was disturbing the peace and then, that he was plotting against the state.

Armed men in civilian clothes burst into Ste. Claire Parish on Oct. 13, Father Jean-Juste said, followed by men wearing hoods. They ordered the children to lie on the floor and threatened to shoot them when they prayed the Our Father and sang a hymn. When the children had been bullied into silence, the men threw the priest to the floor, handcuffed him and took him to prison. He was treated with such brutality that he still suffers pain in his arm and wrists.

Religious and human rights groups and some members of the U.S. Congress pressured the government of Haiti to release the priest, and residents of the poor neighborhood he serves in Port-au-Prince came in droves to visit him. “People kept coming in big numbers to see me,” he said, “so they kept moving me.”

Conditions were terrible in prison, the priest said, but it was an opportunity for him. “Spiritually that brought me to understand the strength of the martyrs,” he said. He spent much time in prayer, and he said, “Prison was not a prison for me. It was a time to minister to the other prisoners.”

He taught the inmates to say the rosary, and “they went back and forth walking with me, praying.” Priests and nuns brought him rosaries to distribute to his fellow prisoners, who “went crazy about rosaries,” and at night he gathered with others to say Mass in the dark.

The president of the Haitian senate and the former mayor of Port-au-Prince were both in prison with him, and the mayor, who had once been Father Jean-Juste’s altar boy, returned to his faith under the influence of the priest. “Now he’s saying the rosary,” Father Jean-Juste said. “He said, ‘What a wonderful thing I discovered God again.’”

At the time of his arrest, Father Jean-Juste said, Haitian authorities had been planning to persecute other Catholic leaders, but the response to his imprisonment forced them to back off. Over seven weeks they moved him four times and eventually released him on Nov. 29.

“They release you at night so you won’t meet the media and it is risky for you to go home,” Father Jean-Juste said, but nevertheless he managed to arrive at his parish of Ste. Claire where the welcome was overwhelming. “The crowd came from all over,” he said, “and everybody wanted to touch me, to see me. The church was crowded, so I said Mass. We prayed the whole night, we sang, we praised God.”

The following day hundreds joined in a procession to the church. Children carried posters saying, “Father Jean-Juste is free. Time for food.” The priest has run a variety of services at the parish, including food programs.

Since his release, the priest has traveled to Miami and New York, and with help from supporters, spent five days in South Africa, where he met Aristide. The exiled president is hungry for news of Haiti, he said. “He wants to know everything. He asked me what we can do to stop the violence and return to democracy, how he can return to fulfill his mandate.”

Aristide, Father Jean-Juste said, “wants what most of us in Haiti want, a return to constitutional order. You cannot replace an elected president with an illegal one.”
Political prisoners should be released, the priest said, and countries such as the U.S. should “recognize President Aristide right now as the elected president of Haiti, as South Africa has done, as Caribbean nations have done, as most black countries have done.”

He is also asking for the wealthy countries to help Haiti feed its people and develop technology. When he arrived in the Bay Area he was struck by the beauty of the surroundings and the blaze of lights. “My God, how great it is,” he said. “In Haiti electricity is a rare utility.”

God wants us to share our bounty, he said. If the poor have food, Father Jean-Juste said, “the rich one can sleep at ease and the poor one can sleep with something in his belly.” This is what the priest tries to achieve in his parish with its 80,000 impoverished members, feeding the children and working to find them education, clean water and shelter.

He also supports them spiritually and has worked for more than four years to build a chapel, St. Jude, in a slum area without any church. He says Mass there in the basement of the half-finished structure and needs $330,000 to finish construction.

The needs are great, he said – to release the hundreds of political prisoners who remain in jail, to feed and educate the children of his parish, and not least, to raise awareness and compassion for Haiti in the U.S.

To support food and education projects in Ste. Claire Parish, donors may contribute to the What If? Foundation, 1563 Solano Ave., Ste 192, Berkeley, CA 94707. Information is available at www.whatiffoundation.org. Those wishing to contribute to St. Jude chapel may send checks made out to Ste. Claire Church, c/o Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, PO Box 13218, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


 
 

INSIDE THIS ISSUE



Parishes address gangs, drugs, violent crime

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

Within his first year as pastor of St. Peter Martyr Parish in Pittsburg, Father Ricardo Chavez buried more than a dozen young victims of violence – gangs, drugs, murder, suicide, and drunk driving. After each death, he became increasingly disturbed by the lack of community outcries. When a 16-year-old boy was fatally shot, he decided he needed to act.

He began preaching against violence from the pulpit. With Carolyn Krantz, the parish’s pastoral associate, he formed Families Against Violence. The group, affiliated with the community organizing group Contra Costa Interfaith Sponsoring Committee, began working with the police to host a series of meetings to address the violence and to develop solutions.

The police came to the parish to interview parishioners. They also “beefed up” their patrols in the hot spots for violence connected to drug use.

The parish hosted workshops to help educate youth and parents about the dangers of gangs and has organized to address illegal drug sales and prostitution in their neighborhoods.

Spiritual response
On a pastoral level the Pittsburg parish reacted to the violent deaths of its young people with two stirring “re-consecration” ceremonies. Parishioners brought to the church dirt from their homes and from the scenes where blood had been spilled. Father Chavez blessed and anointed the soil with holy oil, then the parishioners took it back into the community “to reconsecrate the community to God,” the pastor said.

“Ever since we did that the first time, the violence went way down,” Father Chavez said. “Now is there a cause-and-effect relationship? Only God knows. But we are not troubled with the same level of violence as we have been in the past.”

Oakland’s St. Benedict Parish held a similar blessing ceremony after a young victim of a drive-by shooting crashed his car through a fence and into the schoolyard of the private school housed in the former parish elementary school.
“It hit us very, very closely,” said Father Jay Matthews, pastor. He gathered with school leaders and students to consecrate the ground where the young man died so that students “could take back their school yard.”

Over the years Father Matthews has presided at the funerals of several homicide victims. “As a community we band together and support the families as much as we possibly can in their grieving process,” he said. “And truly as a parish community we are strong advocates against violence – there are other ways to settle disputes.”

The parish has not witnessed as much violence as it has had in the past, said the longtime pastor. However, the issue of violence “is always on our plate as a community because of where we are located,” he added.

Community organizing
In Richmond, where violent crime has increased in recent years, members at St. Cornelius and St. Mark parishes have turned to community organizing to make their neighborhoods safe.

Father Jesus Nieto-Ruiz, who just concluded more than five years as leader at St. Mark’s, said parishioners grew empowered by working with one another to challenge city officials and police to improve security in their neighborhoods. One community meeting led to the creation of a task force on violence.

At neighboring St. Cornelius parish, Father Filiberto Barrera, administrator, said he has presided at about the dozen funerals of people who met violent deaths in the past four years.

The priest, who is a chaplain to the Richmond Police Department, would like to see a monthly candlelight vigil in one of the Catholic churches for those grieving the loss of a loved one through violence. “I know it would be a healing experience for our families,” he said, noting that the parish has held occasional vigils and anti-violence marches in the past.

Unfortunately, the priest noted, the parish does not have a committee to focus on violence like some of the Christian churches in the area. But as the only priest on the pastoral staff with a load of pastoral duties, Father Barrera said he hasn’t had time to organize such a committee.

This underscores the biggest challenges that parishes in urban areas face in addressing violent crime in their midst, said Father Ricardo Chavez of St. Peter Martyr. The parishes that need the most help are those that have the least amount of money and other resources to work with, he said.

Father Barrera believes the East Bay would greatly benefit greatly if such a committee would organize on-going religious response to violence. “Maybe there could be some guidance from the diocese,” he added.

Outreach to youth
In southern Alameda county, Congregations Organizing for Renewal (COR), a local community organizing group, has been tackling the problem of gang-related violence by providing wholesome alternatives for young people. Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Union City, for example, supports a Spanish youth group that meets at the parish, considered neutral territory by gangs.

Last year COR urged city officials to build a youth center where teens can gather for after school programs and activities. Father Jose Leon, pastor, said providing positive places for youth makes it less likely they will be drawn into gangs or crime.


 

Grief moves mother
to start nonviolence foundation

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

To Alexandra Matteucci, the yelling, screaming harassment of athletes and coaches during games from Little League to the major leagues is more than senseless – it’s verbal violence and she wants it to stop.

Such violence cost her son his life.

Just a few weeks short of his 17th birthday in 1993, Joseph Matteucci went to a pick up a friend, a pitcher in the Big League Division of Little League Baseball. The junior at Castro Valley High School arrived during the last inning of the game at which two spectators had continuous tried to distract a catcher with trash talking.

After the game ended, the catcher approached the hecklers with a baseball bat determined to “settle the score.” When he swung the bat at one of the hecklers, he hit Matteucci instead. Struck in the back of the head, Matteucci died without regaining consciousness. He was buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward.

Out of “desperation” and “not knowing what to do with all that pain,” Alexandra Matteucci decided to dedicate her life to creating and funding nonviolence programs for youth through a foundation in her son’s name.

She decided that the Joseph Matteucci Foundation for Youth Nonviolence should focus first on developing a curriculum that teaches middle and high school students the skills they need to resolve conflicts without violence.

The program started in 1994 with four public schools and, by 1998, 42 schools were involved. The schools reported fewer fights and less truancy. They also began writing for grants and funding their own programs.

Pleased with this result, the foundation decided to stop funding the mediation programs and began developing “What’s Up With Guns?” to address the problem of children bringing guns and other weapons to school. The educational program, which is presented to students during assemblies, looks at what could happen when students use guns. The presentation tells the story of two boys who get into an argument at school over a girl, a situation that Matteucci described as a “very familiar scenario.” First the boys get into a physical fight. The school suspends one.
One kid goes home finds a gun and kills the other. Then the presentation looks at what happens afterwards to each of the young people involved – one boy at the morgue and how his death affects his family and friends and the other boy and how his actions affect his family and his journey through the legal system. The program is an opportunity to help youth realize the long-range impact that can result from their decisions.

The foundation also supports programs to help schools tackle the issue of student bullying on campus and verbal abuse by parents at youth sports events
As part of the program Matteucci and a sports psychologist talk to parents whose kids play sports. Matteucci recounts how her son was killed at a baseball game. The sports psychologist discusses the importance of parents modeling appropriate behavior at sports events.

“I can tell you that it has been an uphill battle,” she said. “We need to change it, we need to change the way we think about it, and just do it one person at a time.”

(For more information about the Joseph Matteucci Foundation for Youth Nonviolence, phone: (510) 889-7451; e-mail: info@jmf4peace.org, or website: www.jmf4peace.org.)


 

Prayer, programs help stop murders
on Oakland streets

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

Throughout much of 2004, newspaper headlines told the sad tale of death on the streets of several East Bay cities: “Father held in stabbing of toddler”; “3 killed, 9 hurt in gang gunfire”; “Girl, 16, victim of Oakland shooting.”

The litany of death is a familiar refrain in Oakland, often cited as the deadliest city in the East Bay. The script, however, changed in 2004 with a decline of the homicide rate, from 114 in 2003 to 88 by the end of last year. Several factors are responsible for this drop in the murder rate – increased police presence in high-crime areas, imprisonment of violent offenders, greater teamwork between law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, and, according to some Catholics, the power of prayer.

“Because of a lot hard work by the Oakland Police Department, community groups, interested people, and, I would even venture to say, our prayers and the prayers of the community,” there is less violence, said Father Jayson Landeza, pastor at Oakland’s St. Columba Parish and an Oakland Police Department chaplain. “We are 20-odd homicides down from last year and I am not beyond saying prayer helped to bring a little of that along.”

Allaire Zegura, a member of Oakland’s St. Jarlath Parish, agrees. Zegura attends a monthly rosary sponsored by the parish’s Legion of Mary group to pray for peace in Oakland and throughout the world.

“Statistics were just released concerning the number of homicides in our city last year,” Zegura wrote in a recent letter in The Voice. “The number has dropped by 30 percent. Coincidence? I don’t think so.”

Other efforts are also making a positive difference. Lt. Jim Emery, head of the homicide department of the Oakland Police Department, said California Highway Patrol officers have boosted the strength of Oakland Police, which does not have a large enough squad for the number of crimes in the city.

The CHP focused on high crime areas. “When they’ve come in, there have been numerous arrests for guns, drugs, a lot of different things, and that does have an impact,” said Lt. Emery.

Some of those arrested have been sent to prison and their being off the streets has also helped.

Although some people have been murdered for something as trivial as “looking at someone the wrong way,” Lt. Emery said, most of the murders in Oakland are linked to drugs or gangs.

One of the more dramatic incidents occurred last year when a confrontation broke out between members of two gangs who were attending separate funerals at Hayward’s Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. The violence continued after the funerals, resulting in 12 shootings in Oakland. Three of the victims died.

Stemming the rate of violent crime is the police department’s highest priority, Lt. Emery said. But he said a culture of violence where “some of these young guys don’t think twice about shooting somebody “ is not overturned quickly. “It took 20 years for these people to develop to a point where it is OK for them to do something like that,” he said.

He strongly believes that involvement of the entire community is needed to create the changes needed to end the violence. He encourages churches to play a positive role in helping youth people develop good values. Sponsoring or supporting programs like the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) and scouting can make a big difference, he said.

Another approach lies in helping youthful offenders make a fresh start when they leave detention. Operation New Hope, a pre- and post-release project of Catholic Charities of the East Bay, trains adult volunteers to mentor young men incarcerated in Alameda County. The detainees, ages 16-18, learn skills in communication and conflict resolution and receive encouragement to overcome such obstacles as dysfunctional families and substance abuse.


Religious ethicists debate
new stem cell proposals

By Kathi Wolfe
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON—A member of the President’s Council on Bioethics and two Columbia University scientists are promoting new research methods that could, they say, resolve the contentious stem cell debate.

Aspects of the proposals have received support from critics of embryonic stem cell research, including San Francisco Archbishop William Levada. But many religious opponents of embryonic stem cell research still remain skeptical, saying these new approaches could raise more questions than they answer.

In early December, William Hurlbut, the Bioethics Council member, along with Donald W. Landry and Howard A. Zucker, scientists from Columbia University, presented their proposals to the President’s Council on Bioethics.

The proposals are an attempt to address ethical concerns expressed by opponents of embryonic stem cell research, who have successfully lobbied to deny federal funding of such research. But they hardly end the “moral warfare” in the stem cell debate,” said the Rev. Ted Peters of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences in Berkeley, Calif.

Even if the researchers’ theories don’t quiet the storm, they amount to a significant effort by leading scientists to address the moral concerns raised by embryonic stem cell research.

The scientists make two main arguments. One involves a new cloning technique. The other provides a different perspective on the ethics of using “dead” embryos.

Hurlbut, a Stanford University bioethicist, wants to develop an entity that would produce cells that would act like embryonic stem cells, but which would not, he says, become a human embryo. Through a cloning technique called “altered nuclear transfer,” the genetic structure (the genome) of a human egg would be altered, so that it would not, Hurlbut says, become a fully developed human embryo.

This procedure would take out the gene that would allow a placenta to form. Without a placenta, this mass would not become an embryo, Hurlbut argues.
He is making his proposal to “bridge the discord in the debate on stem cell research,” said Hurlbut in a telephone interview with Religion News Service. In the past, he himself has opposed embryonic stem cell research.

Hurlbut’s theory is still in a theoretical stage. He believes that the technology exists to test it, but that many experiments should be conducted on animals before conducting any research on human embryos.

In “The Journal of Clinical Investigation,” Donald W. Landry and Howard A. Zucker, Department of Medicine and Department of Pediatrics, Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, make a different argument.

They say that “a reality of human embryonic life” is that many of the embryos die (become non-viable) within a few days of fertilization. Landry and Zucker argue that these embryos are “organismically dead” and should be viewed in the same way as people who are considered to be “brain dead.”

Just as some organs, such as hearts, can be healthy (and used in organ transplants) after a person is considered to be “brain dead,” cells can still function as stem cells in embryos that are dead, Landry and Zucker say. They say that extracting stem cells from embryos should be viewed in the same ethical framework as harvesting organs from people who are brain dead.

San Francisco Archbishop William J. Levada offered his strong support for Hurlbut’s proposal in a letter to President Bush. Archbishop Levada said that in a conversation Hurlbut “had explained a new and interesting proposal.” The proposal “offers hope that there may be a solution to an area of ... controversy,” Archbishop Levada said, noting that the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine has an “interest in and encouragement of the proposal.”

The United Methodist Church might support Hurbut if it becomes clear that he definitely won’t be producing something that is an embryo, says Jaydee R. Hanson, bioethics consultant for the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.

Some other religious voices have been less than enthusiastic.

Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education of The National Catholic Bioethics Center, says it’s likely that Hurlbut’s proposal involves the creation of a damaged or disabled embryo. “Damaged or not, that would be destroying a developing human being,” he says.

Landry and Zucker’s proposal is also flawed, he says.

“You can’t say an embryo is dead just because its cells have stopped dividing,” he says.

Hurlbut’s proposal raises questions about what it means to be a human being, says Carrie Gordon Earll, senior policy analyst for bioethics at Colorado-based Focus on the Family.

“If you turn off a gene on human matter, are you experimenting on something that could be a human being?” she asks.

She is equally troubled by Landry and Zucker’s proposal.

“There are some embryos that won’t survive,” Earll says, “but in order to identify those, you may put some normally developing embryos at risk.”

Which brings her back to the moral objections that her group has always had against stem cell research. Non-viable embryos should be “treated with respect,” she says. “If viability and functionality were the chief criteria, then disabled people would be at risk,” Earll says.

Everyone is anxious for ways to move stem cell research toward therapies, says C. Ben Mitchell, professor of bioethics and contemporary culture at Trinity International University. The proposals may in some way do this, he says, but it will take time for nuances to be explored.


Make health care a budget priority,
religious leaders tell Congress

By Andrea James
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — Insisting that health care is a moral issue, some religious leaders are demanding that Capitol Hill make it a priority when Congress takes up the president’s budget proposal, to be released Feb. 7.

A letter to Congress signed by more than 75 nationally known religious leaders and scholars says they will evaluate the government budget to make sure it provides health care, education and housing for the neediest Americans.

“The federal budget is a moral document,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold said Jan. 25 during a panel discussion sponsored by a think tank, the Center for American Progress. “I notice how glibly we use phrases — ‘One nation under God,’ and then I find myself saying, ‘So what does God think?’”

The panel, which included Griswold, Center for American Progress President John Podesta, Northwestern University ethics professor Laurie Zoloth and Georgetown researcher Ann Neale, faced audience questions about the absence of liberal religious leadership for the Clinton health plan proposed in the early 1990s.

Panel members also addressed a failure to mobilize the way religious conservatives have.

The “progressive” religious voice, which Podesta credits for the civil rights and labor movements, has been silenced, he said, as “people began to equate being religious with being conservative.”

That can change, panel members said. Health care can become a moral rallying cry the same way abortion and gay marriage issues have mobilized Republicans, said Zoloth, an Orthodox Jew and self-described “optimistic Democrat.”

About 45 million Americans, or 15 percent of the population, don’t have health insurance, according to the Washington-based Kaiser Family Foundation.


Bishops oppose efforts to overturn
‘conscience clause’ for abortions

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Leaders of California’s Catholic bishops and Catholic health care organizations have expressed dismay at efforts to overturn a federal “conscience clause” protecting those who refuse to perform abortions.

In a joint statement, Bishop Stephen Blaire, president of the California Catholic Conference, and William J. Cox, president of the Alliance of Catholic Health Care, objected to a suit filed Jan. 25 by state Attorney General Bill Lockyer to challenge the clause as unconstitutional.

The provision, the Hyde-Weldon Amendment, was part of the 2005 Health and Human Services appropriation bill signed by President Bush on Dec. 8, 2004. It states that agencies or local governments that discriminate against doctors, hospitals or programs for refusing to provide, pay for or refer for abortions may not receive funding under the act.

Lockyer said the amendment would allow the U.S. government to block $49 billion in funds allocated to California if the state barred funding to a hospital or health care provider who refused to perform an emergency abortion.

In a statement released Jan. 28, Bishop Blaire and Cox said:
“If the state doesn’t have the power to force a woman to get an abortion, then obviously it shouldn’t have the power to force someone to perform an abortion.”


Thousands walk
S.F. streets
to protest abortion

A San Francisco police line stands between pro-choice activists and pro-life participants.

A Walk for Life participant holds up a papal flag at the gathering on the Marina Green.

San Francisco Auxiliary Bishop Ignatius Wang addresses Walk for Life participants on the Marina Green.

 

 

GREG TARCZYNSKI PHOTOS

Resources available for healing after abortion

By Voice staff

The Diocese of Oakland continues its outreach to women healing from an abortion through its After the Choice program that offers one-on-one assistance, support groups, referral to clergy and therapists, and post-abortion retreats.

Monika Rodman, diocesan Respect Life ministry coordinator and After the Choice director, said the next retreat will take place July 29-31.

Anyone wishing to learn more about After the Choice can place a confidential call to: (510) 267-8335 or 1-888-467-3790.


 

Young activists energize
anti-abortion march

By Celeste Kennel-Shank
and Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON— From the snow-covered Ellipse, the expanse of lawn across the street from the White House, to the multiple tiers of the MCI Center arena, teens and college-aged youth were a strong presence at the 32nd annual March for Life on Jan. 24.

Older activists said they were encouraged by the youthful energy among those protesting the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

“If they live that way in their youth, truly they will do good for our country and our world,” said Metropolitan Herman, leader of the Orthodox Church in America, one of several religious leaders addressing the rally.

Georgette Forney, co-founder of the National Silent No More Awareness Campaign, said people born since the 1973 Supreme Court decision realize they could have been aborted.

“A lot of kids know they’ve lost a sibling,” she said in an interview, as she gathered at the rally with 45 other women who had abortions. “My 15-year-old daughter wishes she had her sibling.”

President Bush, in what has become a tradition during his presidency, addressed the crowd —young and old—in a message via telephone.

“I encourage you to take heart from our achievements, because a true culture of life cannot be sustained solely by changing laws,” he said. “We need, most of all, to change hearts. ... I ask that God bless you for your dedication.”

Hoping to send a message to Congress, 18,000 Catholic youth gathered in the morning at the MCI Center, a local arena, for a rally and Mass.

“I don’t really know what kind of mother would kill her child,” said Leilani Cachola, 14, of Sunnyvale, Calif. “So that’s why I’m here to protest.”

“The desire to have a pro-life nation in America is not fading out, because you have it—a new generation,” said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, at the start of the Mass that featured more than 200 Catholic priests.

Also impressed by the turnout was singer and youth leader Steve Angrisano of Denver, who told the crowd, “I wish the whole world could see the power of the young Catholic Church today.”


 

 

John Paul calls for ‘sexual maturity’
in seminarians

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — As U.S. bishops met (Feb. 1) with Vatican officials to review policy on sexually abusive priests, Pope John Paul II urged seminaries to examine the “emotional and sexual maturity” of all candidates for the priesthood—including their attitudes toward celibacy.

The pope, who was sick with the flu that hospitalized him later that day, canceled a scheduled audience with members of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education but sent a message containing the admonition to Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the congregation.

In his message, the pope said seminary education must take account of four dimensions in the formation of a priest, “human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral.”

“In the light of present social and cultural changes, it can be useful at times that educators avail themselves of the work of competent specialists to help seminarians understand more basically the needs of the priesthood, recognizing in celibacy a gift of love to the Lord and to brothers,” the pope said.


‘Zero tolerance’ governs policies
at Christian Brothers’ schools

By Voice staff

Although recent media accounts have highlighted past cases of sexual abuse in local Catholic high schools, students enrolled in these schools today find themselves in a more secure environment, with safeguards and policies in place to protect them.

Diocesan secondary schools as well as those run by religious orders both fall under the guidelines of the Safe Environment for Children Project, which requires that all staff and faculty members be fingerprinted and trained in ways to detect and prevent sexual abuse.

Jason Keadjian, a spokesperson for the Christian Brothers District, emphasized these safeguards in the wake of recent media disclosures of abuse by a Christian Brother of students at De La Salle High School in Concord in the early 1980s. “We have a zero tolerance policy regarding sexual misconduct,” he said, and the order is “determined to prevent these types of incidents.”

Christian Brother Christopher Brady, De La Salle’s principal, spoke to a full assembly of students the day after the Contra Costa Times published a major report on the abuse.

“I told them it was wrong then, it is wrong now and that we have zero tolerance” of such sexual misconduct, he said.

He apologized to the students for having to deal with a situation that occurred before they were born and reassured them that “their parents and our faculty and staff will protect them.”

The teachers and staff at De La Salle, as well as those at St. Mary’s College High School in Berkeley, also run by the Christian Brothers, are governed by the diocesan guidelines which fall under the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Each diocese is audited by the national Charter office for compliance.

The diocesan policy, adopted in 2004, applies to schools and parishes and sets guidelines for conduct with minors and for reporting suspected incidents of abuse.
For example, unaccompanied minors may never enter a rectory’s living quarters, two adults must be present at youth group trips and organized sports activities, and adults are forbidden from supplying alcohol, cigarettes, inappropriate reading material or controlled substances to minors.

The policy sets forth specific guidelines for counseling sessions with minors, the setting under which former Christian Brother Joseph Jesse Gutierrez molested students at De La Salle. Gutierrez, who is no longer with the order, also worked at St. Mary’s in Berkeley, St. Mary’s College in Moraga and Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma County.

The Hanna center has adopted its own policy and procedures to protect boys, with requirements for background checks, training for all employees, and the reporting of any suspected incidents to the proper authorities. The boys and their guardians are informed of the boys’ personal rights and told how to recognize inappropriate behavior and make a complaint.

St. Mary’s College faced charges in 2002 that it had failed to adequately protect students from sexual assault and to report crimes that occurred on campus. The school responded by adding educational programs and publicity about sexual assault, creating a sexual assault response team, expanding the definition of assault and providing access to support services.


Apology service set
for Castro Valley parish

Bishop Allen Vigneron will hold an apology service for the community and victims of sexual abuse at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Castro Valley at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 17. This service continues a policy he began last year of offering prayers at each church in the Oakland Diocese where a priest sexually abused children or teenagers.

The service at Our Lady of Grace will acknowledge the suffering caused by the behavior of Robert Ponciroli, who was parochial vicar at the church in the late 1970s. With the aim of healing wounds in the community and individuals, the bishop will apologize for the diocese’s failure to prevent abuse and for the betrayal of trust by one of its priests.


 

Coach, teacher, dean retires
after 40 years at St. Elizabeth High Coach, teacher, dean retires after 40 years at St. Elizabeth High

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

St. Elizabeth High School has become the habit of a lifetime for Patricia Coyne.

She attended the Oakland school, played sports there, coached part-time during college to help pay her tuition, and then returned in 1963 to serve, in turn, as a physical education teacher, a coach, athletic director, and finally as dean of students and vice principal

On Dec. 31, 2004, Coyne officially retired after 40 years on the faculty. But three weeks later, there was no sign of her going cold turkey from this long-standing habit. In fact, on one recent sunny morning, Coyne was very much a familiar presence around St. Elizabeth’s. She was helping with last minute details for the upcoming crab feed fundraiser. That afternoon, she was picking up a cake from Costco for the event.

During a sentimental walk through the halls with a reporter, Patricia Coyne explained why St. Elizabeth’s has become so deeply ingrained in her life. “It made me the person I am. When I came back as a teacher, I knew I wanted to give the same experience to the students.”

And what was the experience? Instilling confidence, for one thing. “In order to win at sports, to excel in math, you have to be confident,” she said.

Educating the whole person was another. “It’s about meeting kids where they are, and taking them forward, value-wise, as well as academically.” Nearly every St. Elizabeth graduate today goes to college.

As she spoke, Coyne would pause in front of a class picture. “Here’s my aunt Theresa Coyne. She graduated in 1935.” Then Coyne moved to her own class of 1957, and pointed herself out. Not far down from her photo was another familiar face— Dominican Sister Liam Brock, a classmate then and principal today.

Coyne pointed down the hall to a corner door. “That was my kindergarten room,” she said, noting that she also attended St. Elizabeth Elementary School.

One could almost hear the chatter and squeals of those long-ago little kids. Suddenly, two real life voices punctured the reverie. Seventeen-year-old senior Nancy Estrella, and her friend, Krista Benavidez, also a senior, came rushing down the hall to greet Coyne. Estrella was Coyne’s teaching assistant last year, helping her with the stacks of paperwork so familiar to deans and vice principals. Benavidez is one of the 275 kids at St. Elizabeth’s whom Pat Coyne knows by name.

She’s always made it an imperative to recognize every student. “Knowing a kid’s name makes a big difference to him or her,” Coyne said.

Asked how she would remember Patricia Coyne, Estrella didn’t hesitate; “She is always laughing.” Added Benavidez, “She has a great personality.”

Coyne had discreetly moved away to give the girls some privacy as they talked to the reporter. As they headed to their next class while gulping down cardboard bowls of ramen noodles, Coyne said she will continue to hang out at St. Elizabeth, either volunteering for something, “or having somebody volunteer me,” and by attending as many sports events as she can.

After all, it was sports which has been the underlying thread that has stitched so much of Pat Coyne’s life together at St. Elizabeth’s.

Coyne played sports as a high schooler and loved them so much she decided to major in physical education at San Francisco State University. She returned to her alma mater during those college years to help coach.

The only major competition from her scholastic focus was reading mystery novels. Coyne loved the genre, especially police stories which dwelt heavily on forensics. By her junior year, she decided she’d go into law enforcement after graduation.

It wasn’t to be. Police departments had height requirements, then – five feet four for women. Coyne measured in at “barely five feet two.”

So, after graduation in 1962, “I went to work in a bank.” A year later, she received the phone call that would change her life. It was from Dominican Sister Mary Albert, dean of girls at St. Elizabeth’s.

“Did you graduate from college yet?” asked the nun. When Coyne said yes, the nun offered her a job as a physical education teacher. The position included coaching volleyball, softball and basketball.

Along the way, she and the women’s coaches at Bishop O’Dowd in Oakland, St. Vincent’s in Vallejo and Carondelet in Concord decided to start the Girls Catholic Athletic League. It later merged into a co-ed organization – the California Catholic Athletic League.

At one point, she was also working as athletic director, “which was worse than coaching three sports, because now I had both the girls and the coaches to worry about,” she said with dry humor. By the 1970’s, Coyne decided to leave coaching. “I didn’t have a life.”

But St. Elizabeth’s offered her an alternative — to teach math. “Whenever I burned out, they’d find something else for me to do,” she said. During those teaching years, Coyne attended classes at the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley geared to promoting young women’s place in science and math. She began to encourage her students to break stereotypes.

She stepped to the forefront of change in other ways, as well. When she was named dean of students, she found herself serving as referee for student conflicts. It got to be time-consuming. Then she heard about a new peer-counseling program called the Youth Empowerment System (YES)and brought the program to St. Elizabeth’s. “There was no sense in my spending time doing this when the kids could settle it themselves, without our using the disciplinary process,” she said.

St. Elizabeth’s still has the program. It has continued to be successful. “Basically, there just are not a lot of fights here. The kids have learned to be pro-active so that conflicts don’t turn into something bigger.”

Her mission as dean was “to change kids’ behavior. Expelling somebody became a last resort.”

She would get kids counseling. This approach did not always endear her to some faculty, she admits frankly.

But for Coyne, “these kids are just kids. Someone here needs to make a difference in their lives.”

Is she sad to be leaving? “I’ll miss this place in a way,” she replied. “I don’t want to go because the kids give me energy and make me feel younger, but I need some time to myself.”

Coyne’s official retirement party took place on Feb. 5 in St. Elizabeth’s gym. During the festivities, she received the Diocesan Medal of Merit.


Oakland bishopnamed to Vatican Congregation

Bishop Allen Vigneron has been appointed as a consultor to the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, a group that oversees Catholic seminaries, universities and other schools of higher learning.

Among the 31 consultors to the congregation are educators from many areas of Europe and the Americas. Father David M. O’Connell, president of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., is the only consultor besides Bishop Vigneron who works in the U.S.

Before he was assigned to Oakland in 2003, Bishop Vigneron was rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Mich. and an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

The congregation grew out of a body created in 1588 by Pope Sixtus V to supervise the University of Rome. Today the group has authority over schools throughout the world and makes visits to Catholic institutions, nominates rectors, and produces a magazine, Seminarium.

Each year the congregation publishes statistics on the number of seminarians and priestly ordinations throughout the world.

 


Catholics’ generosity
expected to extend
to Bishop’s Appeal

By Voice staff

Buoyed by the generous response of East Bay Catholics to the recent tsunami disaster, the new development director for the Oakland Diocese is confident that the annual Bishop’s Appeal will meet its goal of $2.1 million.

“I am so gratified by the generous spirit in the diocese,” said John Neudecker who took over diocesan fundraising programs in late December. “I’ve never known generous Catholics to only support one cause at a time. I think the tsunami has made people more aware of the pressing needs of people, including needs nearer to home.”

Neudecker said the 2005 Bishop’s Appeal will be launched in parishes on Feb. 13 to raise funds for numerous ministries in the diocese. Thirty-two percent of the money will go to Catholic schools in low-income areas, catechetical resource specialists for parishes throughout the diocese, and the Special Religious Education Department for developmentally disabled children and adults.

Twenty-two percent of the funds are allocated for clergy support and lay leadership training. This includes care of retired and disabled priests, training of lay leaders, and the education of seminarians.

“The Catholic population continues to grow so our need for priests and lay leaders is growing as well,” said Neudecker, noting that seminary training and the education of lay leaders “can only be delivered at the diocesan level” and thus need diocesan funding.

Neudecker emphasized that no Appeal funds are used to pay for lawsuits and other settlements stemming from clergy sex abuse. Nor are any of the funds allocated for the future Cathedral of Christ the Light, which has its own fundraising campaign.

Other programs to be funded by this year’s Appeal include youth ministry and CYO (Catholic Youth Organization), the Safe Environment Program to prevent child sex abuse, hospital chaplains, pastoral planning, subsidy to low-income parishes, and retrofit of parish buildings.

Bishop Allen Vigneron, in a letter encouraging parishioners to support the Appeal, noted that the East Bay includes “some of America’s most desirable residential communities, but also neighborhoods where poverty, ignorance and the absence of faith and hope prevail. God’s grace inspires the more fortunate among us to reach out, through His Church, to those of our neighbors who suffer from spiritual and material need.”

As in past years, each parish has an Appeal goal based on its annual income. Most parishes met or exceeded their goal last year and Neudecker hopes new donors will join those who have donated in the past.

Neudecker, a graduate of St. Mary’s College and president of its Alumni Board, brings years of fundraising experience to his new diocesan post. He served as senior development officer at John F. Kennedy University and as director of development and appeal programs at St. Mary’s College. He has also worked as a fundraising consultant to several Catholic organizations.

He and his wife are members of St. Agnes Parish in Concord and his son and daughter are graduates of the parish school and De La Salle and Carondelet High Schools.


 

Relief funds continue
from East Bay parishes

Catholic Relief Services reports that more than $90,000 have been sent to its Oakland office for tsunami relief. This amount is in addition to the hundreds of thousands sent by East Bay parishes and individuals to the national CRS office in Baltimore.

Newly reported parish contributions include: St. Joseph Basilica, Alameda, $30,000; Holy Rosary, Antioch, $17,644; St. Philip Neri, Alameda, $9,253.76 and Our Lady of Lourdes, Oakland, $6,027.92.


Operation Andrew begins

Above, Father Larry D’Anjou, diocesan vocations director, talks about the 13 men studying to be priests in the Oakland Diocese, during a discernment day for 28 other men considering a vocation to the priesthood. The Jan.15 session, in a program called “Operation Andrew,” included prayer, an address by Bishop Allen Vigneron, and small group discussions. Left, one of the participants reflects on information about how to discern a religious vocation.

 

 

 

 

 

CHRIS DUFFEY PHOTOS

Housing for seniors
Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron (center) joins Father Jayson Landeza (left) and members of the St. Columba Development Corporation and Christian Church Homes of Northern California in breaking ground, Jan. 6, for a 44-unit senior housing residence adjacent to the 56-unit Sister Thea Bowman Manor on Oakland’s San Pablo Avenue.

CHRIS DUFFEY PHOTO

 


 

Regulations for observing Lent

Ash Wednesday, Feb. 9, marks the beginning of Lent. The following regulations regarding fasting and abstinence are observed: Catholics ages 14 and over are to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays of Lent.

Individuals between 18 and 59 are also obliged to fast – eat only one full meal – on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Eating two smaller meals is permitted if necessary to maintain strength, but eating between meals is not. These obligations, however, do not apply to those whose health or ability to work would be seriously affected.

Catholics are also encouraged to do penance in other ways, such as prayer, acts of self-denial, almsgiving, and through works of kindness and compassion.

Because the Lunar New Year falls on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 9, this year Bishop Allen Vigneron has extended a dispensation from the law of fast and abstinence on Ash Wednesday to all in the Oakland Diocese who are commemorating the New Year. Those who take advantage of the dispensation, however, must observe a day of fast and abstinence the following week