Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bishop calls for Catholic reform

THE Catholic Church is still not serious about confronting sexual abuse, only "managing" it, according to the Sydney bishop who headed Australian efforts to tackle abuse.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson says the Catholic Church needs to reverse 2000 years of teaching on sex and power as part of radical reforms from the Pope down.

While it refuses to look at some fundamental teachings — including sex outside marriage, women priests, homosexuality and papal power — the culture that produced and protected abusers will continue, he says.

These explosive claims — unprecedented for a bishop — are in a book to be launched tomorrow: Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church.

Bishop Robinson, 70, who was abused as a child, headed the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference professional standards committee for a decade until he retired because he was so disillusioned in 2004.

Calling for the most radical changes since Martin Luther started the 16th century Protestant Reformation, Bishop Robinson says the Pope has failed the church, and the church has failed its members.

"I'm aware of how radical the call I'm making is. I'm looking for a very different church," he told The Age.

He said the response of the church, especially the Vatican, to the sexual abuse crisis did not go deep enough. "The most profound factor about sex is that the church has had a morality for 2000 years based on offences against God and I find that quite inadequate. I ask if we should move to a morality based on relationships, on good and harm to people."

Bishop Robinson said the Catholic Church centralised too much power in the hands of the Pope.

"The entire responsibility of the church throughout the world to something as big as sexual abuse depended too much on the response of one person."

On sexual issues, the book asks questions rather than making statements. Bishop Robinson said this was because he did not want to suggest he had the answers and because it was harder for the Vatican to condemn questions.

He suggests there is "a crying need" in the Catholic Church to reconsider such issues as sex outside marriage, contraception and homosexuality.

"The responsibility appropriate to adults must not be reduced to the obedience appropriate to children, and too often that happens in the church. I don't think God does that."

Bishop Robinson proposes stripping considerable power and authority from the Pope, who would speak formally on behalf of the church only after consulting it.

The Pope would function more like a prime minister than a monarch.


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Sotto Voce


Anonymous said...

Hey do you remember that guy bishop Robinson?

No, who was he?

He was a Catholic Bishop who spoke a little bit of common sense about the Catholic Church but he dissappeared.

Really how?

He was called to the Vatican and never seen again.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear! I don't know where Bishop Robinson is now, but his book is causing a few waves. It was the subject of comment in the English weekly "The Tablet" last weekend, and that prompted me to scour around the religious bookstores trying to find someone this side of the world who stocks it.

Well, they're trying. But just at present it is "reprinting." The original print run swept off the Aussie shelves and the next issue is being rushed out. The publisher seems to think that COLUMBA will be bringing out an edition for the Northern Hemisphere in the new year. Meanwhile it can be ordered from the publisher, or from Pauline Books and Media who are awaiting the supplies from the printer.

Why is this book exciting such curiosity? Some will be intrigued by the title - Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church - but others will have been made wistful by the secondary title which is "Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus." Isn't that something we all wish the Church could come round to? If this book can start a debate, can we not all benefit?

Sotto Voce, please keep us up to speed on this topic.