Pope Benedict's message of peace and his expression of sorrow for the clergy abuse scandal were heartwarming, but his vision of the future is still lacking.

While the pope assured Catholics that candidates for the priesthood will be carefully scrutinized, his expectation that fewer priests will be available is worrisome.

A recent Georgetown survey showed that 83 percent of Catholic male respondents had never considered becoming a priest or brother. One of the reasons may be the mandatory celibacy requirement. It was the tipping point of discussions we had with our sons. They wanted to marry and eventually have families.

Since Vatican II, lay participation in the ministry of the church has been necessary. Today, married men serve as deacons and lay women are increasingly more active in a variety of leadership roles. However, though a married Protestant minister may convert to Catholicism and serve as a married Catholic priest, seminarians must promise to forgo marriage to be ordained, and a priest who marries may no longer serve the Catholic community as a priest. Women need not apply.

Church regulations on eligibility for the priesthood should change. The spirit of Christ must guide those who determine the continuing value of restrictions that exclude otherwise worthy applicants. The pope recognizes that we are a church wounded by the scandal. In our present need, we pray that the power of grace he calls upon will open the ranks of the clergy to welcome all who would help the church to heal and grow.


Federal spending: Social trumps military

The April 19 letter "A time to reflect" implies strongly that defense spending consumes 42.2 percent of the federal budget. This is not the case, since the data refers only to how money raised through the federal individual income tax system is spent. However, the federal government has many (some would say too many!) other sources of revenue.

To put things in better perspective, a quick online check shows that in 2007, combined spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment and welfare made up 56 percent of federal outlays, while defense spending actually totaled 19 percent of federal spending (not counting the 2.5 percent spent on veterans benefits). Looks like AOL wasn't kind enough to present a complete picture of how U.S. tax dollars are spent.


Back to cloth bags

According to the April 13 Star Tribune there is a paper-or-plastic bag dilemma that needs a solution. Why can that solution not be the use of cloth bags?

Many people already own cloth bags, and if they do not the cloth bags are easy to purchase or make. Also, if one so chooses, it is a convenient way to advertise one's school, religion, political leanings or even one's telephone number! Years ago cloth bags were the only available choice. They did not break as paper bags are wont to do and could be patched or mended if wearing out. They were not harmful to the environment. Let's go cloth!


For curbside recycling, try reusable containers

An April 17 letter writer is to be commended for using cloth bags, but should know that contrary to her statement, there is no need to collect paper bags for use in curbside recycling in the city of Minneapolis. The recycling program does not require paper bags for putting out cans, or plastic or glass bottles. They are one option, but not a requirement.

The "How to Recycle in Minneapolis" guide, recently mailed to residents by the Solid Waste and Recycling Office states: "Acceptable containers: small waste-baskets, pails and corrugated boxes less than ten gallons in size may be used instead of paper bags to hold cans, glass, paper, or plastic." You can request recycling stickers from this office for your containers of choice.

Paper bags are resource intensive to manufacture. I hope the writer, and other residents, will continue to increase use of reusable bags while shopping, and reusable containers for curbside recycling.


A governor who slights the common good

A claim has been made, by the Minnesota governor and his supporters that he saves taxpayers money. I disagree with this assertion.

Peruse just a few of his transportation fiascoes. It is definitely not the case concerning the 35W/Crosstown project. His notion that some private corporation should front the state money for the project has cost taxpayers more in terms of money. We have seen delays by a couple years, and higher costs in construction and time lost in traffic. He finally got on board with the Northstar commuter rail. He opposed this project vigorously as House majority leader. Now that we are getting half the rail at one-third more the cost and millions less in federal help, Tim Pawlenty is finally on board. Consequently then, his veto of the Central Corridor Light Rail bonding should be no surprise. Once again he is saying no to the federal funds ($455 million) and no to a project that eventually will happen, but at a higher cost to taxpayers.

These are just a few examples, in only one area, where the governor wants to appear to be a friend of the taxpayer, but is not. What he is doing is not protecting or saving the taxpayers. This is just more of the same from a governor whose legacy will be: Protector of the Private Wealth and Destroyer of the Common Wealth. "The Man" who allowed his home state to crumble in pursuit of the national spotlight.


A better way to view April 15th

Early last week, I finished up my tax forms, wrote my check to the U.S. government, went down to the mailbox and sent them off. Then I went home and celebrated. That's right, celebrated. I was delighted to do my little part by contributing to our larger national community in this manner.

For too long our society has looked upon the process of paying taxes with dread, as if it were some burden. In reality, taxes is our way of pooling our resources to create a better society for everyone. Or at least it can be, if we choose to hold ourselves and our elected officials to a higher standard.

I firmly believe that generosity is our best hope for creating a healthy community, both domestically and internationally. That is why I was so grateful that our own Rep. Keith Ellison introduced a resolution supporting the Global Marshall Plan, a strategy that employs generosity as the means to ending world poverty, hunger, homelessness, and guaranteeing education and health care worldwide.

So I encourage all Minnesotans to no longer think of April 15th as Tax Day, but instead as Generosity Day, and together we can create a stronger, more peaceful world.