Pontifications

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Bishop Geoffrey Robinson: Reformer? Dissenter? Prophet?

posted by David Gibson

Bishop Robinson.jpgYou decide. Click here for my interview with Australian bishop, Geoffrey Robinson, who just completed a U.S. tour to discuss his controversial new book, “Confronting Sex and Power in the Catholic Church.”
Here’s an excerpt:

Amid all the turmoil, you seem like a man at peace.
Yes, I’ve written what I believe. How others react is up to them. I have no control. One of the difficulties I’ve had with journalists recently is they’re all asking me what other people think, and I can’t tell you that. I’m at peace with what I’ve written. No one has so far said, What you say on page such-and-such is wrong because…They’re saying it’s wrong because it’s contrary to church teaching. But no one has yet given me a reasoned argument against anything I’ve said in the book.
Why then is there this negative reaction from bishops?
Because I’m questioning, I’m saying that a number of church teachings need to be put on the table for discussion. That’s the consequence. Start from this: If we wish to respond fully to abuse we must follow wherever the argument leads. If it demands that obligatory celibacy be put on the table, we must put it on the table. If it demands that church teachings on sex be put on the table, then that must be put on the table. If it demands that church teaching on authority be put on the table, then that must happen. We must follow the argument wherever it leads. And it’s wrong to say, well, you may not question a whole range of things.



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Mel

posted June 19, 2008 at 12:23 pm


David Gibson,
Of all the books written recently by Catholics about the faith, why are you promoting this guy’s book? What’s YOUR agenda?
Please check out this commentary on retired Auxiliary Abp Robinson, who is described as the Australian version of our own retired Detroit auxiliary bishop (and “professional dissident”) Gumbleton:
http://www.splendoroftruth.com/curtjester/archives/008923.php



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R

posted June 20, 2008 at 11:29 am


Mel (the commenter),
Of all the articles about the world today, why are you singling out this interview, and trying to silence its author? What’s *your* agenda?



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Mel

posted June 20, 2008 at 2:07 pm


R,
What are you: a relative of Dave Gibson’s ? Let the man speak for himself. My inquiry was addressed to him.



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David G

posted June 20, 2008 at 4:17 pm


Dear Mel: Actually, I don’t believe I know who “R” is, so I don’t think his defense is a case of nepotism.
As for your “question” (quotes necessary given the tone), I don’t have an agenda, except to prompt discussion. There are lots of great books out there, yes. (My bio of Benedict XVI is the best–smiley face here to denote facetiousnes–but I’ve already promoted that one.) But Robinson’s also addresses key questions, and of course some bishops have drawn attention to it by trying to bar Robinson from their dioceses. Shedding light on a controversial topic is the best way for people to make up their minds, no?
Rather than just dismissing it or trying to squelch discussion, tell us: What did you think of Robinson’s book?



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Little Bear

posted June 21, 2008 at 9:03 am


One of the great problems in the American Church is one that Bishop Robinson points out in his interview—anger! Many American Catholics feel anger toward the Church, because they feel betrayed. They trusted their church leaders—then came the sexual abuse scandals. One top of that, is the attitude of some (not all) arch/bishops in dealing with dissent—excommunication, black-balling (in Scranton PA diocese—teachers trying to unionize–lost their jobs), Cardinal Mahoney’s underhanded dealing with Bishop Robinson, excommunication of CTA members in some arch/dioceses—and even refusal to permit avowed CTA members to speak on issues in other dioceses. Finally, the energy and time invested by bishops on the new vernacular liturgy—when other more pressing issues are at stake, is frustrating. Too many of our hierarchs are like bus drivers worried about whether the seats of the bus are either cloth or leather. They haven’t noticed that the wheels of the bus have fallen off—and the passengers are leaving.



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Mareczku

posted June 21, 2008 at 11:34 am


I live in the Scranton Diocese and am troubled by what is being done to the union members and teachers. It is all about power, I am afraid. Little Bear, you speak of CTA members. Who are they? I don’t know what these initials refer to. I think a major problem in the Church is how the bishop view the laity. To many we are dispensible. It is very sad. Many of the bishops see Christ in each other and in the priests but they do not see Christ in the common person. Look at Boston. Did the priests that abused those children see Christ in them? No, they would not have treated them as they did if they saw Christ in them. Did the bishops and their lawyers see Christ in the children? No they did not or they would not have threatened and bullied them. Did Cardinal Law see Christ is the children? NO NO NO HE SURELY DID NOT. He did not see Christ in them. He is now living in Rome with 3 nuns to serve him and his own driver. He gets a stipend of $5,000 a month. He is living a lifestyle that he surely feels he deserves. I can imagine that he thinks that his red hat will get him a high place in heaven. He must be happy that he doesn’t have to deal with defiled outcasts and other riff-raff. Thank God for people like Bishop Robinson who have the courage to tell the truth. Many of the bishops love their power and surely do not want to hear what Bishop Robinson has to say and some don’t want the people to hear it either.
Mareczku



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Nancy Danielson

posted June 21, 2008 at 10:48 pm


What correlation is Bishop Robinson making between obligatory celibacy and the imposter priests who brought scandal to the Catholic Church?



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Little Bear

posted June 22, 2008 at 9:06 pm


Hi, Mareczku,
The CTA is the national organization Call to Action. It is composed of laity, priests, and some bishops. It believes that Catholics shouldn’t just be passive pew-sitters, but utilized their baptismal calling and participate in how the Church is operating. Some of their points of agenda are: optional celibacy for priests and women being permitted to be ordained as well. This group and 10 other groups from ultra conservative to ultra liberal were excommunicated by the bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska. And they are not welcome to speak in other dioceses.
To Nancy—priests who were ordained (supposidly observing celibacy) engaged in the sexual abuse of youngsters. And bishops and cardinals properly consecrated condoned their actions by moving them around the parishes like cancer cells . The scandal occured under their watches. “Imposter priests”? None were accused, none were convicted.



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Joseph Gannon

posted June 23, 2008 at 10:40 am


The maxim “Follow the argument” reminds me of what Socrates says to Crito in the dialogue “Crito”. I could look it up but the idea is that we must follow the logos (argument) wherever it leads. Not a bad idea.



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Nancy Danielson

posted June 23, 2008 at 11:55 am


Little Bear, it is because priests are not Married that they are called to celibacy. All who are not Married are called to celibacy. The scandals had nothing to do with celibacy. It was the result of manipulative and deceitfull imposter priests who preyed on mostly teen-age boys. Read the John Jay Report which can be found on line.
Any Bishop or Cardinal who was aware of the abuse and did nothing to stop it, is guilty of enabling, which is a grave sin. I think we all know, however, that these predators are deceitfull and manipulative, which is why they often get away with their abuse.



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Nancy Danielson

posted June 23, 2008 at 12:05 pm


P.S. deceitfull not a typo as they are full of deceit.



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Little Bear

posted June 23, 2008 at 1:17 pm


Nancy,
We can engage in all the semantics that we wish, but the Bishops and Cardinals who were aware, knew of the sexual abuse and did nothing are guilty of more than “enabling.” They are a bunch of criminals!
They are guilty of conspiracy, injustice, lying, and betrayal of trust (just to mention a few crimes). The sad thing is that these Cardinals and Bishops will never go to prisons because in many areas the statutes of limitations has expired. Too many Arch/Dioceses are so mired in this complicity—that Diocesan Officials are incapable of monitoring their own Dioceses in regard to cover-ups of clergy abuse {as is written in the Suffolk County D.A. Report per Diocese of Rockville Center, NY).
Because the Hierarchs wish to maintain “Good Appearances” at all costs,
they will not even entertain Bishop Geoff’s ideas contained in his book, they will not discuss the issues openly with the people, they will continue demanding that the laity attend sexual abuse prevention courses (and continuous up-dating on the internet), but THEY will not change THEIR ways, and they sure are not attending the courses themselves. They are in a state of denial!
As someone wisely remarked, it will be up to the media to expose their complicity and deceitfulness. And it is up the the People of God to unceasingly pressure for honesty from their bishops.



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Nancy Danielson

posted June 23, 2008 at 2:00 pm


By enabling, I mean that although they did not actually commit the act of abuse, those who were aware of the crime and did nothing to help prosecute and prevent abuse, were guilty of contributing to the crime.
Your use of the term “Hierarchs” implies that ALL the “Hierarchs” were involved, which is not true. Read the John Jay Report.
How does allowing Priests to Marry prevent sexual abuse?



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Nancy Danielson

posted June 23, 2008 at 2:07 pm


P.S. The Church’s teaching on sex is that Sexual Love only exists within the Sanctity of a Holy Marriage between Husband and Wife in covenant with God.



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Little Bear

posted June 24, 2008 at 3:16 pm


I have read the John Jay Report–and some prelims leading to its finalized form. There are enough powerful Cardinals, Arch/bishops in the Conference—to make others think three times before they open their mouths to confront their “suspect brother bishops.” But in not speaking up—the other bishops become complicit in the crimes. I suggest that you read, Nicholas P. Cafardi’s “Before Dallas.” It is an eye-opener.
Secondly, please read Bishop Robinson’s “Confronting Sex and Power in the Catholic Church.” The seeds of this abuse are exposed in his work. But Geoff does it as a series of thoughtful questions that he lays before his brother bishops and the people to ponder, and discuss. The problem is as I’ve stated above—-the hierarchs will not permit any questioning—they are just hoping that the problems will just “go away.”



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Nancy Danielson

posted June 25, 2008 at 8:31 am


Geoffrey Robinson’s “series of thoughtful questions”, do not address the issue of the abuse. Manipulative and deceitful imposter priests were able to enter the priesthood. The question is, how do we keep such imposters out of the priesthood?
How does allowing priests to Marry prevent abuse?
How does changing God’s Truth on His intention for Sexual Love in the Sanctity of a Holy Marriage between Husband and Wife in Covenant with Him,(God) prevent abuse?
How does changing the authority of the Church, which lies with the Magisterium ( the Pope and those bishops in communion with him), prevent abuse? Any Bishop or priest that did not report known abuse was not in communion with the Magisterium nor were they in communion with God.



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Nancy Danielson

posted June 25, 2008 at 11:40 am


P.S. The question is not limited to the Priesthood. How do we put an end to abuse? How do we protect our children and all people from abuse?



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Little Bear

posted June 26, 2008 at 12:10 pm


Unless the Magisterium is willing to sit down, and discuss “thoughtful questions” in honesty—trying to get to the bottom of all the problems, the answer to your question is NEVER! We will never be able to keep, as you call them, “Imposters” out of the priesthood, if our magisterium won’t even entertain discussing the questions that writers, like Bishop Goeff, raise.
Are you aware that Jesus’ Apostles were all married (except perhaps for John?), and marriage was permitted until the 12th century? Our current shortage of priests is another factor in this discussion. Permitting an optional celibacy, is a question that Bishop Robinson presents in his book, along with others.
As far as changing authority, if the magisterium will not move—the Holy Spirit (acting through others, other methods), will move it. There are signs that this is happening already. But maintaining the status quo displays a lack of faith in the Lord, who does not stand still on one place, but ‘pitches His tent among us’ and moves when His people do.



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Nancy Danielson

posted June 27, 2008 at 9:51 am


Little Bear, you still have not answered my question. How would allowing priests to Marry, prevent abuse? How would celebrating sex outside of Marriage prevent abuse? How would not having a final authority regarding Catholic Dogma, prevent abuse?



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Little Bear

posted June 30, 2008 at 12:47 pm


Doctrine—What we as Catholics profess and believe is recited every Sunday in the Nicene Creed. That is our main doctrines of belief. When adults/older children are baptized, when youngsters are confirmed—they are asked to make a their profession of faith following a series of questions e.g. Do you believe…. “I do.” The priest,or bishop replies, “This is our faith, this is what we believe.” So who is talking about any change of doctrine/beliefs here?
What you are calling Dogma—-is man-made and changable. And it had better be…because what has been expounded about the priesthood since Gregory the Great’s proclamations, is not responding to the needs of God’s People TODAY. We no longer live in the 12th Century or even the 1960′s anymore. We live in the 21 Century—we are the People of God TODAY, not yesterday.
We need our Pope, Cardinals, Arch/bishops to wake up. They are like bus drivers—worried about the covers of the seats–cloth or leather. They aren’t noticing that the bus wheels have fallen off. And they aren’t noticing that the passengers have left the bus and are walking away. Bishop Robinson has….but too many of the rest would rather continue talking about the bus seat coverings.



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Nancy Danielson

posted July 1, 2008 at 11:26 am


It has always been a Truth of the Catholic Church that Christ entrusted His Church with the Deposit of Faith and that the Magisterium is the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. If the Magisterium is not the teaching authority of the Church, the Catholic Church would become Protestant.
It has always been a Truth of the Catholic Church that Sexual Love only exists within the Sanctity of a Holy Marriage between a Husband and Wife in communion with God. God desires that all Marriages be Holy.
“Have you not heard that a man shall leave his Father and Mother and be joined to his Wife and the two shall become one flesh? What God Has joined together, let no man separate.”-Christ – This refers to God’s intention for Marriage from the beginning and God’s authority over man regarding Marriage.
It has always been a Truth of the Catholic Church that those of us who are not Married are called to be celibate. The Church may decide at some time to allow priests to have the option of Marriage. Allowing Priests to Marry does not prevent child abuse. These are two separate issues.



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Nancy Danielson

posted July 1, 2008 at 11:31 am


P.S Culture can not transform God’s Truth, The Word Made Flesh, our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is Christ, who transforms us.



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Little Bear

posted July 1, 2008 at 12:28 pm


Just as a human being begins as an embryo and develops, grows, (with changes all the time), and learns—so too did the Church. It did not come pre-packaged with all the answers. It had to develop and grow—and hopefully learn over centuries. Your insistence that there has always been a ‘magisterium’ with the complete “deposit of faith” with developed teachings does not mesh with the realities of Church History. Even the theologies of the Sacraments were not developed until later.
Are you aware that we had more than 7 Sacraments during different periods of the church’s history? Are you aware that today, 2008, that we have at least 4 different theologies about the Sacrament of Confirmation? So please don’t talk like every thing was set in concrete—the “it was always so”—because it is not.
The Sacraments, like the Sabbath and like the Church, were created by God for us. It is not the other way around.
Jesus didn’t establish a Magisterium. He commissioned His Disciples to go out and baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To show by their example, not decrees, what the “Good News” the “Gospel” really meant.
As as the priesthood was concerned–for nearly a thousand years, from around 100 AD until about 1100 AD, the priests were not socially distinct from the laity. There were no seminaries. One simply presented himself three days before being ordained to a bishop (elected by the people themselves), for an oral exam. If over 24 years of age, with no physical defects, and with a grasp of the articles of faith (found in the Creed), and with some communication skills, this person was ordained a priest.
By the way, the Catholic Church is not just the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church permits its men to be married and to be priests. It is just the Roman Rite (largest rite, to be sure, but not the only Rite), that does not. And even that is not completely all true. Go to Africa—-there are many married Roman Catholic priests (with children), who are performing a wonderful ministry among the people. The bishops must be celibate—and in those dioceses that are headed by a Religious Order Bishop (Dominicans, Franciscans, Maryknoll,etc.) it is because there are NO unmarried priests available to be consecrated as Bishop.
The Church exists for the people—not the other way around. And it is time for the Roman Catholic Church in English speaking countries to respond to the needs of the people here.



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Bob Nunz

posted July 1, 2008 at 5:40 pm


The issues raised by the gentle bishop are that power imbedded in clericalism and undergirded by the “creeping infallibility” attributed by some to every word from Rome is an important dynamic that can lead one to abuse others easily, if so disposed.
An interesting sidelight – maybe David wil blog on this – is the most recent Pew report, where Lugo cites the issues of money power and control for being reasons many fall away from the institutions of religion.
That perception has some basis in reality.
So then, why is there a perception of a power and control hierarchy in the Church?
Could there not be better service. dialogue reciprocity and engagement?
For me, one sure sign of power being an isue ist he way his fellow Bishops treated Robinson (as they have Gumbelton here) and even the way they’ve bad-mouthed Trautman about his views on liturgical language reform. Robinson says he wants to ask questions.
They just want to shut him down and anyone else who rocks the boat.



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Nancy Danielson

posted July 4, 2008 at 10:31 pm


Little Bear, like it or not, the Magisterium,the Pope and those Bishops in communion with him, is the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. Christ entrusted His Church, the Catholic Church, with the Deposit of Faith, so that the Word would remain consistent until the end of time.
You still have not answered my questions. How would changing the Catholic Church’s teaching on celibacy, sex, and the Magisterium prevent child abuse?



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Little Bear

posted July 5, 2008 at 12:24 am


As long as the Pope and Bishops refuse to even discuss the issues leading up to the greatest scandal to hit Catholics in the United States (and also in other countries as well: Britain, Ireland, Canada and Australia–to name just a few—), there will be nothing to stop child abuse in the Church. It is up to the entire Church, the People of God, communicating together—not just the hierarchy—to bring about that change.
Are you aware that in Australia, over a 10 year period (after that scandal) 86% of registered Catholics have left the Church? Many, many of them are extremely bitter over the hierarch’s bungling and lying. You can argue about the “Deposit of Faith” all that you want. It doesn’t mean a bloody sow’s ear if the Magisterium is unable to observe the Ten Commandments themselves or if they are unable to demonstrate that THEY can observe Christ’s Law of Love, “Do Unto others….”
Secondly, NO CHURCH can claim that it possesses the TOTAL TRUTH about God or anything else. God cannot be “boxed”! The Jews tried it, and ended up crucifying Jesus Christ because he did not conform to their, “we have the Law” idea of God. The Catholic Church (no better) condemned people to death, tortured them, silenced them (still does that), because people (many of them are now Saints in the Church) presented other aspects of TRUTH.
It is God, Father, Son and Spirit, who changes all things, (including the Church), without changing Divine Essence. By the way, that concept comes from the Summa Theologica.



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Nancy Danielson

posted July 7, 2008 at 9:15 am


Little Bear, you still have not answered my questions regarding the specific changes you would like to make and how these changes will stop child abuse. What “other aspects of Truth” have been silenced by the Church?
Christ Has entrusted the Catholic Church, the Church that He Has Founded, with The Deposit of Faith. Why would Christ entrust a Church other than the one He Has Founded with The Deposit of Faith?



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Little Bear

posted July 7, 2008 at 2:34 pm


As I have stated above (but you are not understanding it), the CHANGES are to be made by the WHOLE CHURCH—not one individual. Bishop Robinson, asked a series of questions in his book dealing with our theology of priestly formation, our manner of dealing with problems in the church. But because of pressure from the Apostolic Delegate to the United States, Cardinal Re, the bishops in Australia hurridly put together a document, calling into question, Bishop Geoff’s book—and showing that they really hadn’t read it (just like I don’t believe that you have read his book).
Secondly, you are spouting the “party-line” (Christ Has entrusted the Catholic Church, the Church that He Has Founded, with The Deposit of Faith. Why would Christ entrust a Church other than the one He Has Founded with The Deposit of Faith?). Which indicates that you have never read any ecumenical papers which show the great work done between Catholics and other religious groups (Protestants). The Catholic Church recognizes that Luther was not all wrong in his assessment of faith, grace and salvation.
Finally, “aspect of Truth” that has been silenced. Not an aspect of truth, but those who have spoken the Truth, when the official Church was not ready to hear it, have been either ‘silenced’ or excommunicated, in the past, and today. There’s a slew of them, Nancy, study your Church History.



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Nancy Danielson

posted July 10, 2008 at 5:02 pm


Little Bear, the questions I ask are simple ones. What specific changes to Catholic Dogma are you referring to? How will these changes prevent child abuse?



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Anonymous

posted July 10, 2008 at 10:55 pm


Dogma–articles of faith that we profess each Sunday in the Nicene Creed—Trinity, Incarnation, Salvation, Resurrection, Eucharist, Mary as Mother of God, Immaculate Conception, Assumption, Descent of the Holy Spirit, etc.—These are the Mysteries of God
Manditory Celibacy of all priests in the Roman rite is not a dogma. It is one of several laws that the Vatican made—and can be changed. After all, there are several Rites that make up the Catholic Church—and the priests are permitted to be married (and have children) in these rites—they are just as much priests as those in the Roman Rite. They serve both God and their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Style of Governance in the Vatican also needs to be drastically changed to reflect the times that we live in. Absolute monarchies, such as the Vatican is, don’t make for effective means of dealing with modern problems such as dissolution of trust among the people, societal problems (child abuse as one issue), environmental issues, political intrique among modern nations….and a whole host of other factors. Oh, and by the way, the style of governance is not dogma either. It is purely man-made.



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Cassie

posted July 27, 2008 at 4:23 pm


I am reading Bishop Robinson’s book and literally crying. I have been away from the Church for several years because I felt like a heretic asking many of the questions that he addresses in his book. I did come back, participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a very kind priest, but still rebelled when he insistently advised me that authority comes from the top of the hierarchy DOWN to the faithful and we must be obedient. Are we not the Mystical Body of Christ? Christ is the Head, but we are the members. Shouldn’t our concepts of Catholicism and Christianity that are not the dogma in the Creed change with our increased knowledge of the people of God, the universe, psychology, the nature of things?



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Theresa M. Coleman

posted February 6, 2012 at 5:41 pm


This is a man of God whose prophetic vision is challenging us to be authentic followers of Jesus. We support you, Bishop Robinson, and look forward to hearing you speak on March 11, 2012 in Philadelphia.



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