Oppose SB 360 - California's Attempt to Break the "Seal of Confession"

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The “seal of confession” is one of the most sacrosanct of Catholic beliefs and penitents rely on this unbreakable guarantee to freely confess and seek reconciliation with God. A priest who breaks the seal is automatically excommunicated (Canon 1388)

Yet now, the California Legislature is debating SB 360, a bill proposing to eliminate the penitential communication exemption when it comes to child sexual abuse. The state Senate has already approved of SB 360 by a vote of 30-4, and it is now before the state Assembly. Clergy and ministers are already “mandated reporters” - which means that when they hear information about suspected abuse, they are required to report this to law enforcement. There is no evidence that breaking the seal of confession would provide any greater protection for our children.

Examine the issue with Archbishop José H. Gomez who explains how, “Confession is sacred — to every priest and every Catholic.”  In his articles on the subject, Bishop Robert Barron says: “What I hope is clear—not only to Catholics, but to any American committed to the First Amendment—is that we are dealing here with an egregious violation of the principle of religious liberty.”

Send your Legislator an email objecting to this assault on our religious freedoms
or write a letter to your legislator. Click here is a sample letter.

[ adapted from the California Catholic Conference website (cacatholic.org) ]



LATEST UPDATE (July 9, 2019): Bill 360 was withdrawn the day before its July 9th hearing in the California Assembly Public Safety Committee. This effectively removes the bill from further consideration this year. Thanks to all who joined in the protest, letting your assembly person know. The Safety Committee noted more than 125,000 people expressed their opposition to the bill. This number however seems low given the Diocese of Los Angeles ran a campaign that delivered 140,000 letters to the State Capitol and another 16,700 e-mails to representatives in LA.

Not only were Catholics opposed to this bill, but also our religious brothers and sisters. Muslim, Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, and Baptist faith leaders signed a statement declaring “we are all one with American Roman Catholics in condemning the attack on religious freedom that the current version of California Bill 360 represents.”

Andrew Rivas, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, expressed his thanks, saying, “An amazing number of people spoke to their legislators to explain the sacred nature of the sacrament of Reconciliation. It is important to our spirituality and our relation to God and to others. Our thanks go to all who played a part.”

Pastor's Easter Message

Happy Easter!!

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

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At last, we have completed our 40 Lenten days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. For myself, I can finally eat dessert and sweets again, and I no longer have to endure the hunger pains of my Friday fast. We also spent time in Lent examining the complexity and dark rooms of our conscience to see where we are missing the mark of excellence, that we humbly know deep inside is our calling. 

Lent has also been a time to recognize that the struggles of life remind us we’re still on the other side of Paradise with stresses of exams, complexities of relationships, difficulties of forgiveness, worries of health and employment, pains of medical procedures and loss of loved ones, challenges of extreme climate, and craziness of politics and the world.

And so today is a glorious day to celebrate our triumph with Christ.  By ourselves, we humbly know we cannot achieve the excellence and escape darkness, but with Christ, we know we are to be winners of the race to salvation.  We can break through the doors to Paradise. So we can truly rejoice and be glad for the Lord has made this triumphant holy day for us.

Our Lord endured the chaos of his passion and death, but God once again brings order out of chaos by raising Jesus from the dead. Easter is when we celebrate new baptisms and renew our own baptism that grafted us onto Christ, so we can join Christ in his glorious resurrection, bringing order out of the chaos of our lives. 

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In a sense, today is like being on the Mount of Transfiguration, recognizing Jesus as truly exalted Lord and not just a suffering servant. Like Peter, we too want to stay here, build some tents and rejoice. After all, who wants to descend down the mountain of Easter to face stresses of final exams, challenges of health, brokenness of relationships, or fear of the future. 

However descend we must because Monday comes. And even though the Church keeps Easter going for an octave (eight days), society thrusts us back into our trials and chains. But, the beauty of our 40 days of Lent leading to Easter is we once again are reminded we are an Easter people, not for one day, but for eternity. To ingrain this idea, our Church has us celebrate and exercise the Easter Season for 50 days. So, make sure to buy a 50-day supply of ½ priced chocolate bunnies and jellybeans tomorrow to keep the celebration going. Splurge on a potted flowering plant to remind yourself of new life and your internal beauty in the eyes of God.

Now is the time to be dormant no more, but to burst open with beauty and the aroma of life. We descend the mountain of Easter, but this time with confidence that this dark valley of tears, this blighted desert of crosses are but an illusion, a mirage compared to the reality that we belong to Christ and that we carry the light of Christ with us always. Let us, there-fore, be Easter for the world.  Happy Easter!        – Fr. Ivan

Kara Speltz on Forgiveness

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I've been a student of nonviolence for over 50 years.  A very poor student unfortunately.  But the topic is not as easy as one might think.

While I spoke often on nonviolence, I never fully comprehended that what I needed was to address that personal anger within me.  So as I entered my 80s I began to have what I call epiphanies.  Sudden and unexpected comprehensions that my most important work was to find a way to end that anger.  One of the most important experiences happened  here at Newman.  When Bishop Barber exiled Fr. Bernie & Fr.Bill  It created such a wave of anger  many in our community left.  I was so filled with anger, I could hardly contain it.

But I knew that, because I was a spokesperson for nonviolence, I had to get over it.  Someone once told me, "if you can't forgive someone start by praying for them."  And so I did for 3 years.  I usually serve breakfast on the last Sunday of the month and so when JC would happily tell me that the Bishop had joined them in serving, I was relieved that I was not there.

Around Christmas a friend told me a story of how the bishop visited the women prisoners at Santa Rita Jail to say Mass and would introduce himself, simply as Fr. Michael. The story touched me and I found myself saying that I was very near to forgiving the bishop.  Lo and behold - New Years morning as I served breakfast the bishop came and joined us.

I was struck, by his humility, as we shared our feeling in small group after breakfast  Much to my surprise, I found myself liking him.  Several months later, he totally captured my heart when he said, "I can't be here every week, but I look at my watch and think they're serving breakfast @ People's Park."

Now I always look forward to seeing him and tell people that I have come to love this man.  This has upset some parishioners.  To me, this transformation of my feelings was a miracle. I often say "he's a complicated man.  But aren't we all?  Aren't we each filled with paradoxes and contradictions?"

This thought has transformed me in other relationships.  It has allowed me to reconnect with my younger brother, who I've been estranged from for over 20 years because of deep political differences.  My brother, like the bishop, is a complicated man, and I am an extremely complicated woman with paradoxes people would probably never believe.

All of this is about the journey towards nonviolence, in that I knew I couldn't hold that hatred in my heart and proclaim to be a student of nonviolence, because the core of nonviolence is love.  Loving our enemies is the hardest command that Jesus gave us, and I suspect, it is a lifelong struggle.  But we have to begin with little steps and know that God will walk that journey with us.            – Kara Speltz

Deacon Evan Cummings, CSP

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Before a Paulist seminarian becomes a priest, he first spends about nine months as a transitional deacon (who may baptize, preach homilies at Mass and preside at weddings).

This new video provides highlights from the Mass at which Paulist seminarian Evan Cummings was ordained a transitional deacon. Evan spent a year with us 2016-2017 during his pastoral year. He will be ordained at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City on Saturday, May 18th.

Also click on the following link and check out an audio interview with Evan and his family after his final profession and diaconate ordination in Washington DC on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 2018.

Bishop Barber's Response to the Abuse Scandal (The Catholic Voice)

The Catholic Voice article
September 3, 2018
By Most Rev. Michael C. Barber, SJ

When I visited UC-Berkeley earlier this year and met with a large group of Catholic students for a discussion, the first question they asked me was “What do I tell my Catholic friend who no longer practices his faith because of the scandals in the Church?”

Many Catholics have had their faith shaken by the recent revelations in Pennsylvania, the scandalous behavior of an American cardinal and the recent letter from the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

Here’s how I answered the students. When the famous English theologian and academic John Henry Newman converted to the Catholic Faith in 1845, his closest Anglican friends asked him “How can you join a Church which has such a history of corruption?”

He responded that the Church is a Divine institution in human hands. And humans are sinners. He also said that Christ himself knew there would be sin and corruption in the Church, therefore he purposefully chose Judas Iscariot as one of his apostles. So we can trace corruption right back to the origin, yet also show that “Where sin prevails, grace prevails all the more.” Christ also preached the parable of the wheat and weeds, to show that both would exist in the Church.

Yet that’s not the end of the story. Christ has destroyed sin, and death.

I also told the students that I’ve been in the Navy Reserve for 27 years. Every year about 50 admirals, generals and commanding officers of ships and bases are removed for misbehavior, ethical violations, criminal activity or “loss of confidence in ability to command.”
Yet we do not dismiss all commanders as criminal. One of my duties as chaplain is to visit the brig: the “jail” on a ship or Navy base.

Many of the prisoners are serving sentences for child abuse in their own families. Yet we do not say all sailors and Marines are abusers. We don’t say the Navy and Marine Corps is evil. No. We point out that the majority of sailors and Marines, and soldiers and airmen, are good and loyally serve our country every day: putting their lives on the line in many instances. In addition, we have real heroes in the military and recognize them with the Congressional Medal of Honor. So too in the Church. The majority of our priests serve you faithfully every day in every parish in our dioceses. We have heroes in the Church we call saints: like Mother Teresa and St. John Paul II.

There is no excuse for the priests who have committed crimes against innocent children. There is no excuse for bishops who have covered up these crimes or abetted them by transferring abusers to other parishes. This is evil.

The difference between the military and the church is that the military has a good accountability system. The Church does not. And we need to fix that now.

I endorse the call of Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the US bishops, to the Holy Father to establish an independent, lay-led review board that will address complaints against bishops.

In regards to the scandal of Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick and the revelations of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, we need such a board or commission to find the truth. Perhaps this could be the existing National Review Board. Whatever group is set up, it needs to find out “who knew what; and when did they know it?”

They need access to all the relevant documents, most of which are protected as “Papal Secrets.” They need to interview priests who worked in the Roman Curia and U.S. diocesan offices, who also would be released form the “Papal Secret” and allowed to testify.

We need to find out the truth. Only the truth will set us free. And only the pope can authorize the steps that need to be taken to find the truth.

But there is action I can take as bishop of our diocese.

In Oakland, I am calling for an independent outside audit of our Diocesan Review Board policies, to ensure we are faithfully following the precepts of the Dallas Charter, the procedures to investigate sexual abuse by clergy. I also am going to review the membership of the current Diocesan Review Board to make sure it has the number of lay experts we need in the fields of law enforcement, the judiciary, parents, a clinical professional specializing in treatment of childhood trauma and survivors.

In addition to these actions, I am inviting all priests, religious and lay faithful of the diocese to join me in a Novena to St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, from Sept. 6-14. We will distribute a Novena prayer to be read at all Masses every day.

On Sept. 14, the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross, I call all of us in the diocese to a Day of Prayer, Penance and Reparation for the sins members of the Church have committed against innocent children.

I ask our priests to hold a Holy Hour with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in each parish at a convenient time, to pray in reparation, for healing for the victims, and for the cleansing and reform of the Church and her ministers.

I invite us all to do penance that day, especially my brother priests: to fast and make other personal sacrifices in reparation for the pain suffered by the innocent. As Pope Francis said in his “Letter to the People of God:” “The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion.”

In addition, I have been receiving many letters and emails asking me to stand up for the truth and not be afraid to speak out in front of all the bishops on the need for reform. May I also ask you to pray for this intention in the novena and day of reparation?

On the Feast of the Holy Cross, we will stand with Mary at the foot of her son’s cross, so that we can grow in the graces of compassion, justice, prevention, reparation — and strength to reform the Church.