By Dennis Coday
NCR staff writer
Australian Bishop Geoffery Robinson has said he is “disappointed” in his fellow bishops, who last week issued a statement saying they had found “doctrinal difficulties” with Robinson’s book on sex abuse and reform in the Catholic church.
Robinson is in the United States on a book tour for Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus, which was published last fall in Australia is now available in North American through Collegeville, Minn.-based Liturgical Press.
Robinson, 71, is the retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney and led the Austrailan bishops’ committee that addressed sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.
The Australian bishops’ conference issued a statement May 6 that rejected the reformist proposals advocated by Bishop Robinson in his book. They stated that "the authority entrusted by Christ to his church may at times be poorly exercised, especially in shaping policy and practice in complex areas of pastoral and human concern. This does not, in Catholic belief, invalidate the church's authority to teach particular truths of faith and morals."
Robinson issued a response to the bishops’ statement May 15. The text of that statement follows:
The statement of the Australian bishops is not unexpected, but it is disappointing. My book is about the response to the revelations of sexual abuse within the church. Sexual abuse is all about power and sex, so it is surely reasonable to ask questions about power and sex in the church.
In their statement, the bishops appear to be saying that, in seeking to respond to abuse, we may investigate all other factors contributing to abuse, but we may not ask questions concerning ways in which teachings, laws, and attitudes concerning power and sex within the church may have contributed.
This imposes impossible restrictions on any serious and objective study, and it is where I have broken from the Bishops Conference. We must be free to follow the argument wherever it leads.
Bishop Geoffrey Robinson
15th May 2008
Earlier this week, the web site Catholic Australia (www.catholica.com.au), made available a letter from Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony to Robinson denying Robinson permission to speak in Los Angeles archdiocese. The letter from Mahony was dated May 9 and cite canon law 763, which says a diocesan bishop must “safeguard the preaching of God's Word and the teachings of the church in his own diocese.”
Mahony’s letter “requests” and “urges” Robinson to cancel his U.S. speaking tour. The letter notes that “His Eminence, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the Prefect for the Congregation of BIshops, has urged you to cancel your visit to the United States.”
Robinson is scheduled as keynote speaker at a the symposium "Rebuilding the Catholic Church" today in Philadelphia.
After Philadelphia, Robinson will be visiting Chevy Chase, Md. (May 19), Morristown, N.J. (May 21), Manhasset, Long Island, N.Y. (May 22), Fairfield, Conn. (May 24), Dedam, Mass. (May 29), Cleveland, Ohio (June 5), Seattle, Wash. (June 7), San Diego, Calif. (June 10), and Los Angeles (June 12).
Information on the Philadelphia symposium is available on the co-sponsors’ Web sites: Voice of the Faithful of Greater Philadelphia and Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church.
Contact information for Robinson’s other U.S. stops is here: Tour schedule.
Read more about Bishop Robinson's book and his U.S. tour here,
Australia’s reform minded bishop schedules U.S. tour, and here,
Bishop’s book calls for ‘a better church’ and here,
Australian bishops find 'difficulties' in retired bishop's book on church reform
Collegeville, Minn.-based Liturgical Press has obtained the North American rights to Robinson’s book, and it is now available for purchase here.