Sydney, Australia – Australia’s Catholic bishops have disowned retired Sydney bishop Geoffrey Robinson, accusing him of failing to understand fundamental church teachings.
The country’s bishops have released a public statement suggesting that Bishop Robinson — as a bishop, a man chosen by the Pope to guard the teaching of Catholics — is wrong about the authority of Christ and the authority of the church to “teach the truth”.
The statement was the first official response to Bishop Robinson’s controversial book published last August, in which he said the church needed to reverse 2000 years of teaching on sex and power as part of radical reforms from the Pope down.
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In Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church, Bishop Robinson suggested that while the church refused to examine some fundamental teachings — including sex outside marriage, women priests, homosexuality and papal power — it was not serious about tackling abuse by priests, only “managing” it.
Bishop Robinson, 71, who was abused as a child, headed the Australian church’s efforts to tackle clerical sexual abuse for a decade, until he retired in 2004 because he was so disillusioned.
The statement by the 38 bishops who attended the bishops’ meeting last week, published on the conference website, commends Bishop Robinson’s contribution to the the life of the church, his “years of effort to bring help and healing to those who have suffered sexual abuse”, and his work in establishing church protocols.
But, after correspondence and conversation with Bishop Robinson, “it is clear that doctrinal difficulties remain. Central to these is a questioning of the authority of the Catholic Church to teach the truth definitively”, the statement says.
This led in turn to questioning Catholic teaching on tradition, scripture, papal infallibility, the priesthood and moral teaching.
Bishop Robinson is in the US, on a lecture tour for the activist group Voice of the Faithful, which led the fight against clerical abuse and the cover-up culture in Boston.
The book has sold more than 8000 copies, and is being published in the United Kingdom and United States.