The Good Shepherd

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 10, 2007 | Categories: Lesbian in a Catholic Sort of Way

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson headed the Australian bishops’ committee that developed guidelines and procedures for dealing with clergy sex abuse. What he heard and saw cost him his health. He retired in 2004 when, he said, the burden of his “profound reservations” about the church he loved became too strong to be ignored.

Last month he emerged from retirement to promote his new book, “Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus Christ,” and to demand a better church.

Robinson says the church-especially the hierarchy in Rome-must tackle the twin problems of sex abuse and power.

In the book, he writes that the church has not confronted the sexual abuse crisis; it is simply managing it. He blames Pope John Paul II, in particular, for failing to exercise the leadership demanded by the sex abuse crisis, allowing it, instead, to ravage the church.

He criticizes the church’s teaching on sex and sexuality, which are based on offences against God, as outmoded and inadequate. He suggests a sexual morality based on human relationships.

Response to his book has been muted from the official church. Other Catholics have received it favorably. Pat Power, auxiliary bishop of the Canberra-Goulburn archdiocese, had no trouble in reading “with a great deal of interest” this “timely book.” Bishop Power is a well-respected human rights activist, outspoken for indigenous people, refugees and other marginalized groups. “Overwhelmingly, Catholics who love the church and thinking Catholics will applaud what he has done,” Power said.

Bishop Robinson told the National Catholic Reporter that he sees a fractured church with a major division between the “proclaimers of certainties and the seekers after truth,” with the proclaimers of certainties seeming to be in the favored position.

“This has left many people feeling a sense of alienation, of being marginalized, of no longer quite belonging to the church that had given them much of their sense of belonging, meaning and direction throughout their lives.”

“In writing the book I became aware that I was writing a book for these people, that I was trying to tell them that there is a church for them and that it is fully in accord with the mind of Jesus. I was telling them that there are basic certainties, but there is also abundant room for search, for taking personal responsibility and growing through that process to become all we are capable of being, all God wants us to be.”

“I became aware that it was important for many people that there should be a bishop saying these things. At moments I felt that the needs of these many people were so great that it is perhaps true that I have never been more of a shepherd, I have never been more justified in carrying around a pastoral staff, than I have in this.”

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