Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Advise and dissent: St. Joseph the Worker parish, Berkeley

letters to the editor, Catholic Voice, Oakland, Aug. 8, 2011

Voice integrity questioned

In the more than 30 years that I have been a member of the Diocese of Oakland, I have not had any reason to question the journalistic/editorial integrity of The Catholic Voice until now.

Your coverage of the events at St Joseph the Worker Parish has been appalling. The article on Page 1 (Voice, July 5) was inaccurate, full of allegations stated as facts and historically incorrect.

I wonder if you have forgotten your own mission statement that states your purpose is “to help Catholics reach a clearer understanding of the Church’s Mission in the world through objective reporting.”

I must admit that it reflected what the Diocesan Communications Office was saying, but was there even an attempt to reach out to Father Crespin? The diocesan office admits it did not reach out to Father Crespin for his side of the incident, but does that mean that an “objective” newspaper should do the same and ignore the other side? I realize that you had an exclusive interview with Father Crespin published online, but what about those who do not go online?

Additionally, you claim to be “ a forum through letters to the editor . . . by inviting discussion of the topical issues of importance,” but you have relegated the letters to the last pages of the newspaper. Then you publish a letter (supposedly typical of the several letters you received on the incident) that says nothing of the real controversy.

I feel your bias is showing and your objectivity fading, if not completely lost.

I want to give you the benefit of the doubt and consider this miserable coverage naïveté and not malice. I pray that your news gathering and reporting improves and you go back to fulfilling your mission regardless of political pressure.

Lui Gonzales,
San Leandro

Appalled by diocese response

As longtime, active parishioners of St. Joseph the Worker Church in Berkeley we were appalled to read the statement from the Diocese of Oakland regarding recent events at our parish. It was abundantly clear that whoever wrote the statement had not bothered to do minimal fact-checking to corroborate many of the assertions in it. However, the most egregious and hurtful to our family was that of “lack of cooperation from Father Crespin which caused many pastoral difficulties. Some of these difficulties include: failure to observe the necessary steps to insure the valid and licit celebration of the sacraments.”

During the past year we have twice been present when Father George Crespin administered the last rites to a dying person. The first time was during the final illness of a developmentally challenged young man. His pastoral care for the dying young man, and his grieving family and friends, was far beyond all expectations. 

The second occasion was in our own home when Father Crespin attended Mario’s mother and administered the last rites with great solicitude. Again he conducted the memorial service with sincere thoughtfulness and provided an abundance of pastoral consolation to our grieving family. When we read the petty criticisms of Father Crespin regarding the sacraments, we were reminded of the passages in the New Testament criticizing Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.

Mario and Vivian Zelaya
Saddened by move

I’m very saddened by the way Father Crespin had to exit his home at St. Joseph the Worker. It seems there was a total lack of vision and respect accorded Father Crespin given his over 40 years of service and age.

Alan Roselius
Castro Valley
Protests at parish disturbing

The protest against Father John Direen at St. Joseph the Worker parish was very disturbing. We have come to know and love Father Direen since he was assigned there two years ago. He is a dedicated and humble priest and a wonderful confessor and preacher, with a gentle spirit and a great love for the people under his care. We are truly blessed to have him here in Berkeley.

We have no doubt that Father George Crespin did much good and touched many lives in his 30 years at the parish. Stirring up division in the parish is not the way to handle disagreements. It is entirely appropriate that Father Crespin was asked to move out of the rectory under the circumstances.

Apart from the unfounded fear that the parish is slated to close, it seems that the June 19 protest stemmed from a perception that Father Direen is somehow steering the parish away from a dedication to social justice. We have seen no evidence of that. On the contrary, Father Direen is interested in promoting all aspects of the Church’s social teaching. As he and Bishop Cordileone said in The Voice article, there can be no true justice, credibility or authentic witness when there is conflict between the social and moral teachings of the Church. We can confirm that such a conflict was unfortunately very much present at St. Joseph the Worker before Father Direen was assigned there, and we encountered examples of the sacramental irregularities outlined in the diocesan statement.

We are delighted that Father Direen and Bishop Cordileone seek to continue making St. Joseph the Worker parish a diocesan leader of social justice, understanding that this must involve the fullness of the Church’s social and moral teaching. Father Direen’s stated effort “to work on issues of integrity with regards to our Catholic faith” in the parish is badly needed and truly Catholic. He deserves our prayers and support, not protests.

John and Colleen Knutsen
Problem facing parishioners

As a former teacher in four Catholic parishes in the Oakland Diocese, who actively participated in parish social programs, I need to address the problem facing the parishioners of St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Berkeley.

Under the leadership of Fathers Bill O’Donnell and George Crespin, the parish accomplished so much for its people — human rights, social justice and forming a community embracing the poor and disfranchised. The Church and its people lived out the Gospel values of Jesus Christ. Father Crespin seved the diocese faithfully.

The current pastor chooses to move St. Joseph’s in a new direction. His actions are the antithesis of what Church and faith are all about. They precipitate a crisis that is not only relevant in this parish, but throughout the nation.

No wonder many Catholics are disillusioned and leaving the Church they love!

Pat Burgess Hyde
Walnut Creek

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