Bishop Geoffrey Robinson speaks his (own) mind

You will have noted that this blog is called “Sentire Cum Ecclesia”: to think with the Church. As in: rather than thinking against the Church.

You will also notice Chesterton’s little quote about reformers in the header. If you haven’t, note it now–it is pertinent to the subject of this blog.

The latest well intentioned “reformer” to hit the headlines in Australia is Bishop Geoffrey Robinson (70), who retired from his post as auxiliary bishop of Sydney in 2004 due to ill health and has just published what looks like being the best seller since Paul Collins’ latest tome, “Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus“. You can read the introduction to the book here.

One can only imagine that the change in theological climate among the Sydney episcopacy may have been one cause of his ill health judging by the new report in yesterday’s edition of the Age: “Bishop calls for Catholic Reform“.

John Garrett, the publisher of the bishop’s book, hosted the bishop for a speaking event on Friday night. When I first received an invitation to the event, I wondered if he had the requisite permission from the local ordinary. My assumption, given the subject matter of his presentation, is that he did not.

The connection between the two words “power” and “sex” coupled with a third word “church” was always going to ensure that Bishop Robinson’s book got attention.

According to The Age report, the Bishop said that

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

A powerful cocktail, you will agree.

In his blog entry, Zwartz compares Robinson to Martin Luther. The comparison, Zwartz admits, is “slightly mischevious” because “Bishop Robinson remains a devout Catholic”. However, he thinks that the comparison is justified, because of “the ambition and extent of his suggested reforms”.

Well, Luther also regarded himself as a “devout Catholic” and was equally well intentioned with his “reforms”. Nevertheless the effect of his teachings was to tear a chunk of the Church right out of its orbit and send it hurtling out of control into ecclesiastical “outer space”.

By both his address to the John Garrett crowd and the publication of his book, Bishop Robinson seems intent on stirring the nest of discontented dissenters in the Church. As John Garrett’s publishing blurb prophetically states: “Readers will love or hate this book, but will not be able to be neutral.”

I agree entirely. I am not so able.

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