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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Geoffrey Robinson, reclaiming the spirit of Jesus

The main story in this week's Tablet is about a newly released book by retired auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, Geoffrey Robinson - Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: reclaiming the spirit of Jesus. The book sounds interesting- it deals with issues of of Papal power, the sex abuse problems, and the ordination of women and married men. Here's a little about it from the Tablet article, Outlook from the outback ....

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One of the most intelligent and capable of the Australian bishops, Geoffrey Robinson, 70, is a former lecturer in canon law and was seen by many as the logical successor to Cardinal Ted Clancy as Archbishop of Sydney. Erudite, shy, rather unsmiling, and certainly no wishy-washy liberal, he is esteemed by Australian Catholics for his integrity in coordinating the Church's national response to the abuse crisis in the late 1990s .....

Bishop Robinson says his experience in dealing with offenders has convinced him that there is a strong case to be made for mandatory celibacy having triggered the abuse crisis, even if it is not the only cause. He says there is no evidence that homosexual priests are any more likely to abuse minors than heterosexuals. He also argues that seminaries and novitiates may not be healthy places to form priests and Religious .....

But Bishop Robinson believes the deepest sources of the abuse are embedded in the power structures of the Church, and he calls for a major corporate restructure, including a constitutional papacy: "Papal power has gone too far and there are quite inadequate limits on its exercise." He says the College of Bishops has been marginalised, and that in his time as an active bishop it was rarely asked its advice and never asked to vote, even on controversial matters: "We were not asked to vote before the publication of the document on the ordination of women, not even when the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI] spoke of this teaching as ‘infallible', with the Pope doing nothing to contradict him. If bishops are not asked their opinions even when the word ‘infallible' is in the air, the College of Bishops would seem to have no practical importance in the Church, and the statement of the Second Vatican Council that the college is a co-holder of supreme power would seem to have no practical importance."

Continuing further, Bishop Robinson says that "many bishops are uneasy" about the Church's present teachings on marriage and divorce, and questions whether the constantly repeated teaching that both the unitive and procreative aspects must be present in each act of sexual intercourse is anything more than an unproven assertion ("If it is only an assertion, is there any reason why we should not apply the principle of logic: What is freely asserted may be freely denied?"). He says that there is no proof in the New Testament that Jesus acted with divine knowledge, and no evidence of an explicit order by Jesus that there must be successors to Peter and the 12 apostles .....

In these early years of the pontificate of Benedict XVI, we can all feel the centrifugal forces in the Catholic Church beginning to pull the various continents further apart. The reason is simple. Rome seems unable and unwilling to engage with the practical problems that local Churches are facing on the ground ..... This is why Australia is one of the places where the Catholic ecclesiology of the future - how the Church will look in 10 years' time when there are no priests - is already being worked out .....

Bishop Robinson said he knew what he had written was probably about to change his life forever, and that it was quite possible that the Roman authorities would come after him: "I do realise, at least in theory, that I could end up outside the Church. Whatever happens, let it happen." ..... But if Rome does come after Geoffrey Robinson, it should be prepared for a conflagration.

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You can read the introduction to Fr. Robinson's book in a pdf file here


7 Comments:

Blogger IsabellaWilliams said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:29 PM  
Blogger Winnipeg Catholic said...

An interesting post. Thanks for reviewing the book. I might check it out... Didn't Fr. Curran already say a lot of this? But then again, he does not have the perspective of a Bishop.

All the Best, B

12:26 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi, thanks for dropping by.

Fr. Curran's an interesting guy. I haven'st seen what he's said about this, but did read an article by him on birth control. I guess the way he's perceived by traditional catholics would mean that Fr. Robinson's book would be more paid attention to, as you say.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Deacon Denny said...

Ooooh, I love it when a bishop speaks like that. Bishops usually are predictably orthodox. Thanks for the post, Crystal.

10:43 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Denny - it's good to "see" you :-)

11:58 PM  
Blogger Garpu the Fork said...

I need to find this book...it's not on Amazon yet. I hope people actually read what he has to say (I've read the introduction.) But given the vocal rad-trad minority...

8:49 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

He has a unique perspective on the abuse problem, having been abused himself, and he has a respectable background in canon law. I think especially interesting is the stuff about Papal power.

10:45 AM  

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