Thursday, July 10, 2008


Perhaps you recall the name from a story I blogged recently about Cardinal Mahony barring him from speaking in Los Angeles. If not, here is the Catholic World News account.


Why would a dissident like Cardinal Mahony ban another dissident from speaking in his diocese? It didn't make sense. I bought the book--CONFRONTING POWER AND SEX IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: RECLAIMING THE SPIRIT OF JESUS--and have just finished reading it.

Before I get into the contents, a little background on the author.

First, turn to the website of the Archdiocese of Sydney where Bishop Robinson is featured on this webpage.

- He was born in 1937 and retired in 2004 at age 67 for reasons of ill health.
- He served on the staff of the Catholic Institute of Sydney as a lecturer in Canon Law
- He was appointed chair of the Sydney Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Board in 1986
- He has served as Chairman of the NSW Catholic Education Commission
- He has an honorary doctorate from Australian Catholic University

The diocesan website also tells us

By taking a proactive role in devising processes within the Church for the prevention of sexual abuse, he has made an enormous contribution world-wide towards raising the consciousness of Church leaders to their responsibilities in this very difficult and sensitive area, and to developing appropriate and compassionate pastoral responses to those who have been hurt. He is the foundation chair of Encompass Australasia, a psychosexual programme established in 1997 jointly by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes for Church personnel who were guilty of offences against children or of adult boundary violations. He has overseen the development of Encompass to provide specialist psychological services for people in helping professions struggling with psychological issues or wanting to enhance their ability to live life with vitality.

Archbishop Pell, a recognized leader in Catholic orthodoxy, is the Archbishop of Sydney. Robinson worked under him.

An interview with Robinson at Beliefnet reveals that Robinson, himself, was sexually abused and did not confront the issues it provoked until he began working with sexual abuse victims. It also reveals that Robinson is basically a humble man.

His website gives the Itinerary of the US Lecture Tour. From that it can be discovered that VOTF was a major promoter of his lectures. He has also been sponsored by a New York Catholic church, a Lutheran church, Fairfield University, the Paulist Center in Boston, the University of Toronto, FutureChurch, Call to Action, the University of California at San Diego, a Neighborhood center, and Dignity. Both Richard Sipe and Fr. Thomas Doyle have acted as contacts for one of his lectures.

His statement, given on the day the book was released, Oct. 17, 2007, reveals the flavor of the contents:

...on a recent visit to the United States, [the Cardinal Secretary of State at the Vatican, Cardinal Bertone] was asked about sexual abuse and first blamed the media, then greedy lawyers, then said that the Church had "faced this trial with great dignity and courage" and hoped that "other institutions and social agencies will face the same problem with their members with an equal degree of courage and realism as the Catholic Church has done."...it is discouraging to hear that [this attitude] still prevails at the highest levels. It is a typical example of seeking to manage rather than confront a problem.

As long as the Church seeks to manage rather than confront, the devastating effect the scandal has had on the Church will continue and will cripple other activities. Of what use is it to proclaim a “new evangelization” to others if we are not seen to have confronted the suppurating ulcer on our body? In all our preaching to others, we would lack credibility. Cardinal Bertone does not seem to realize just how much credibility the Church has lost over the last twenty years and how seriously we must act in order to regain it.

Over that time most of the blame has been poured onto the bishops. I am not simply seeking to divert this blame, far less to defend every action of every bishop, if I say that it is important to understand that, within the present structures of the Church, the pope alone has the power to confront this problem in its deepest sources.

One must ask, “Where is the papal statement addressed directly to victims, with the word ‘sorry’ proclaimed clearly? Where is the papal promise to investigate every possible source of abuse and ruthlessly to eradicate it? Where is the request to those institutes especially set up to treat offending priests to present their findings on the causes? Where is the request to the bishops to coordinate the studies in their territory and report to Rome? Where is the document placing everything on the table for discussion, including such things as obligatory celibacy and the selection and training of candidates? With power go responsibilities. The pope has many times claimed the power and must accept the corresponding responsibilities.

As I read that I reflected that it was not that long afterward that Pope Benedict, on his visit to the U.S., did apologize to the victims. So perhaps the process that Robinson claims is mandatory has begun. In reading the book, I came to like Bishop Robinson. Though I was not always in sympathy with his suggestions, there are parts of the book with which I heartily agree. Some of the questions he asks are questions I've asked as well.

Tomorrow I'll post quotes from the book.

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