- Reform, rebuild and renew
On Thursday Pope Francis will have completed a year as Bishop of Rome, a year in which he has begun to transform the Church. But be in no doubt, argues our Rome correspondent, of just how wide and how deep go his aims for change
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Liz Dodd (“Lonely Calling,” The Tablet, 11 January), describes the loneliness of many Catholic priests and the effects it is having upon them individually and on their pastoral work. Her research revealed to her that a number of priests “claim that mandatory celibacy is the prime cause of priestly loneliness and are hoping that Pope Francis will make it optional for future clergy”. She quotes one priest, the founder of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, as stating that “the continuation of the celibacy rule was a disaster”.
It might help if the Pope, and the Church as a whole, took its guidance in this matter not from any other source than God himself. After all, his Word to us, the Bible, makes it pretty clear that in his act of creation God had a pretty fair idea of what he had in mind for us: “The Lord said, 'It is not good for a man to be alone. I will provide a partner for him'” (Genesis 2:18). In fact God got quite fulsome about it, going on to describe the relationship as bone from his bone and flesh from his flesh. Maybe a bit over the top, even a touch of Mills and Boon, but his perspective on the matter is pretty clear.
After all, as the old scholastics put it, “Actio sequitur esse” – action follows being. God himself doesn't do loneliness, because he's not: he's three persons, and they've been together now a long time, in a steady relationship and looking quite inseparable; three persons in one substance, you could hardly have it more intimate than that. And one of them took it even further and became man and dwelt among us. Really, we cannot do any better. Can we?
Michael Knowles, Congleton, Cheshire