Wednesday, July 16, 2008
"CONFRONTING POWER AND SEX IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH"
by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson
By chapter eight I had come to the point of exhaustion with his word "growth" and its derivatives. He used those words seven times on pg. 170 alone. The book is focused on the concept. He sees Catholicism as a series of steps taken to mature the Catholic faith concept within the conscience. It became quite annoying because it appeared to overshadow the view of Catholicism as a set of truth premises to which we must adhere. Growth took on an importance greater than adherence to truth.
In chapter nine he tells us:
In other words, I was gradually coming to realize that the 'tradition' behind teaching on and attitudes towards sexuality must be questioned.(p. 176)
My first objection was to the idea that sexual sins are always and in all circumstances mortal...so that there cannot be venial sins in the field of sexuality. Rape and a single 'bad thought'...were equally mortal sins and led to the same eternal punishment....In many good people the idea that every 'bad thought' was mortal led to the conviction that it was impossible to avoid mortal sin, so many became discouraged in the moral life.
On page 182 he tells us
Homosexuality is called an abomination, but the word 'abomination' is used 138 times in the bible, and if homosexuality is an abomination, so is eating lobster or prawns, so we should not put more weight on the word than it deserves.
In chapter 10 we are told:
It must occasion great surprise that the teaching of the Catholic Church on something as important as sexuality draws so little on the bible. Why would a Christian church put the bible aside and assume that a new and elaborate sexual ethic needs to be developed that is not contained in the gospels or even based on anything that is said there?...(p. 202)
In relation to nature, should not the church's argument give a number of examples of other fields where God has given a divine purpose to some created thing, such that it would be a sin against God to use that thing in any other way? Why do church documents not attempt to do this? I remember reading years ago the mocking argument that the natural God-given purpose of eyes is to look forwards, so rear vision mirrors in cars are against nature and hence immoral. Granted that this is a mocking argument, does it not raise questions about what we mean by 'nature' and how difficult it is to draw moral consequences from a claim to a divinely established nature?
The chapter questions many of the assumptions about the marriage relationship.
In chapter eleven we are told:
...I, a Catholic bishop, have on a number of occasions found myself in the situation of helping a victim who grew up as a Catholic to find a path in life outside that church. If this is the path that a particular victim must follow in order to reach wholeness, then respect for the dignity of the victim demands that I give the assistance I can.(p. 219)
That is a typical example of his placement of "growth" over the truth claims of Catholicism. However, on page 226 he makes the following statement with which I agree:
Forgiveness is given on the basis of a person's repentance forpast wrong, while the question of a new assignment must be based on the future good of the whole community, especially of potential victims.
I also agree with his assessment of trust and its violation:
If it is abused in a serious manner and then given back to the same person, the trust given toall priests and religious is lessened and harmed. I believe that priests and religious must accept that there can be only one chance at a trust as sacred as that given to them. They cannot seriously demand a second granting of trust when, through abuse of that trust, they have harmed a victim, every other priest and religious, the whole church community and the message of Jesus Christ himself.
Sexual abuse would always cause serious damage to the church. But if, when the very first cases came to light, the church had responded decisively, compassionately and openly, the damage done would have been far less. The main complaints were of cover-up, denial, placing priests and religious above victims and moving them from one assignment to another. If trust in all priests and religious is to be restored, then it is precisely in these areas that the church must now clearly and openly change its ways. ...
Parents will always react strongly against a person known to have offended against a minor, so it is impossible to see how such a priest or religious could ever exercise an effective ministry, no matter how reformed the person may be. (pp. 228-229)
The acid test I suggest to any bishop or religious superior is this: 'Would I be prepared to stand up in front of the congregation, tell them, honestly and fully, the facts of the case and then ask them whether they are willing to accept this priest.' If the bishop or superior is not prepared to do this, the priest should not be appointed. (p. 230)