The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself. - Oscar Wilde
Sometimes don't you wish that you could tell certain world leaders how to do a better job of running the world? Me too! When I first envisioned writing Barking From the Front Porch I pictured a cranky old fellow waving his cane, chasing kids off his front lawn. Then I saw him sitting at his desk composing letters of advice to those who appear to be in charge of world affairs.
With that in mind, I wrote letters to Pope Francis, Barack Obama, George Bush, Vladimir Putin and Stephen Harper. I even wrote a letter to our four-legged canine friends - they might run the world better than some who are now in charge. Many of the letters I wrote are now obsolete and some of these world leaders have come and gone, but now that I have a blog, available around the world, perhaps some of my rantings will reach those who have the power to make this world a better place. So, here I share my open letter of free advice to Pope Francis.
Dear Pope Francis,
Peace be with you!
I was going to phone you and ask for an audience for me and my coffee buddies but I understand you are a busy man so I’ll try to make this short. Our group of four, and sometimes five or six members, gathers several times a week to discuss both weighty and trivial matters over a cup of coffee. We have tackled everything from politics, sex, homosexuality and religion to world peace, love, war, famine, race relations, crime and gun control. Occasionally we even delve into the mysterious secrets of the golf swing.
We are not experts at any of these topics, but we offer free advice and probing questions for many of the world’s leaders, including you. There are absolutely dozens of topics we would love to discuss with you, one being the issue of priestly celibacy.
This issue perplexes us to no end. We certainly agree that celibacy may be an admirable state of life for an occasional priest, or maybe even a lay person. Sex does divert one’s attention from prayer and contemplation yet the release of sexual tensions also frees one to concentrate on loftier matters, matters not of the flesh, but of the spirit. However, we understand that sex is a gift from God and a blessing when consummated within a loving, committed relationship.
There is a growing shortage of Catholic priests, particularly in North America. We know that thousands of Catholic priests have left the priesthood to get married. Many of these married priests were fine pastors, distinguished speakers and respected Church leaders. Many would eagerly return to their priestly duties were they permitted to do so, and many would be eagerly welcomed back by their congregations.
We are not biblical scholars and we are certainly not experts on Church law, but we know that there are married priests in certain rites or branches of the Catholic Church. We also know that in the United States of America certain Episcopalian parishes with married priests have been permitted to become full members of the Catholic faith.
Priests have not always been celibate. The twelve apostles were not all celibate. Over the course of history there have been marriages of priests permitted. Certainly, celibacy has been a long tradition in the Catholic Church. In the Bible, the Pharisees were known for upholding traditions and concentrating on those traditions and rituals rather than on matters of the spirit. Jesus sometimes had some harsh words for Pharisees. So is priestly celibacy a necessary tradition?
What would Jesus do?
What will Pope Francis do?
The Church has long needed a leader who reflects Jesus’ message of love. It is a tough job, but in the brief time you have been the leader we have seen forgiveness rather than judgement, love rather than suspicion and reconciliation rather than division.
Thank you, Your Holiness, for listening.
Peace be with you.
Gerald M. Sliva
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