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Confront sexual abuse, don't manage it

Geoffrey Robinson |  25 October 2007

The Cardinal Secretary of State at the Vatican is usually thought to hold the second highest office in the Catholic Church. The present Secretary, Cardinal Bertone, was a personal appointment by the pope. So it was disheartening when, on a recent visit to the United States, he 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.” I believe that most of the Australian bishops had moved beyond this point more than a decade ago, so it is discouraging to hear that it 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.

If you go to Italy, you will not be there long before you meet the two phrases “far bella figura” and “far brutta figura”. Literally they mean “to make a beautiful figure” and “to make an ugly figure”, but are better translated as “keeping up appearances”. In other words, when something is badly wrong, you still present a beautiful exterior, a beautiful figure to outsiders. This mentality goes all the way back to ancient Rome, so it is deeply entrenched, and it is small wonder that it has been present in a Church that has its centre in Rome. When one adds to this the rise of papal power in the second millennium, culminating in papal infallibility, with its idea that the pope and the Church he rules can never really be wrong, one begins to understand why someone like Cardinal Bertone could still speak in the way he did. The response to abuse was at least as great a scandal as the abuse itself. If we are to overcome it, we must be prepared to put up with a temporary and very brutta figura so that we may eventually create a genuine bella figura.

The danger for bishops today is that they can think that they have done everything that is within their personal power and that the rest is up to the pope, over whom they have no control, so they can and must just get on with their job. It seems to me that bishops and, indeed, all members of the Church, still have the most unpleasant, most difficult and most unwelcome task of trying to insist that the pope be the rock a pope is supposed to be in holding the Church together. They have to use whatever means they can to convince him that there is a scandal that will cripple all the Church’s activities unless and until it is confronted.

This has been the first and major basis for the book that is being launched today, but as I wrote it I realized that there was a second basis.

Protestant Churches have always had the weakness that, when controversies arise, there is no authority to hold them together, so they have divided into dozens of Churches and literally thousands of sects. Within the Catholic Church, on the other hand, the power of the rock, the pope, has held the Church together. Its weakness, however, is that all the divisions do not go away, but are contained within the Church. Outsiders frequently have the idea of a monolithic Church, with everyone meekly obeying the pope, and they can fail completely to understand just how diverse the Church is, just how motley a group of people Catholics really are, and how fierce are the divisions and the struggles for power within the Church.

I believe that the major division is between the proclaimers of certainties and the seekers after truth. Of course we need certainties and of course we need a search for truth, but it is possible to put too heavy an accent on either of these elements. Today the proclaimers of certainties seem to be in the favoured position and to hold the reins of power. This has left many people feeling a sense of alienation, of being marginalized, of no longer quite belonging to the Church that had given them much of their sense of belonging, meaning and direction throughout their lives. This feeling has strengthened sense of needing to search for truth.

In writing the book I became aware that I was writing a book for these people, that I was trying to tell them that there is a Church for them and that it is fully in accord with the mind of Jesus. I was telling them that there are basic certainties, but there is also abundant room for search, for taking personal responsibility and growing through that process to become all we are capable of being, all God wants us to be.

I became aware that it was important for many people that there should be a bishop saying these things. At moments I felt that the needs of these many people were so great that it is perhaps true that I have never been more of a shepherd, I have never been more justified in carrying around a pastoral staff, than I have in this. If the book carries an important message to these people, then I shall be delighted.

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as this, for I feel that the major differences between the proclaimers of certainties and the seekers after truth are not religious or theological, but psychological. For reasons in their background and upbringing or within their personality, many people need certainties. In a world in which, as Alvin Toffler still teaches us, change is the only constant, this need can be profound. I may argue with a person’s theology, but I cannot argue with their psychological needs.

Surely the answer has to lie in dialogue and mutual respect, and we have a long way to go. We must get away from the idea that the side with which I disagree must do all the changing and come to me, and see instead that both sides need to reach out. I hope that I have given some indications of the lines the dialogue might follow.

I express my sincere thanks to those people who read either the whole or different parts of drafts of the book and offered me their comments. They greatly helped me to avoid some basic errors and to have greater consistency in the book. I would love to name them, but the unfortunate reality is that that might not help them.

I thank Garry Eastman for the risk he took when overseas publishers would not take up the book. I thank him for his support for me and the wholehearted manner in which he has sought to promote the book. I thank Cathy Oliver, the editor, who was patient with me and helped my writings to look more like a consistent book. In the last two weeks I thank Debbie McInnes for her expertise in guiding me through my dealings with the media. I thank Michael Whelan, Catalyst for Renewal and the Aquinas Academy for hosting this gathering. I thank my brothers and sisters and my many friends for their support for me, whatever the circumstances.

I thank all of you for coming here this afternoon and supporting me by your presence. I hope that the book in some manner speaks to your own needs and longings, both psychological and spiritual.

Geoffrey Robinson is a retired auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Sydney. He is author of the recently-published "Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus". Details at the website of John Garrett Publishing. The above is the text of the address he delivered at the book's launch.


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Submitted comments

Congratulations to bishop Geoffrey Robinson for his courage and scholarship and naming honestly what needs to be said. Sadly in my own ministry I have often been under close scrutiny and exclusion simply for raising questions about the processes (or lack of them), opportunities for discerning conversations, need to reviewing the effectiveness of church structures etc. The most diffult aspect of church life today is the unwillingness to face the whole pastoral reality in the light of the gospel and ask with an open heart to the Spirit, what might we do better? Those who plead for this to happen are judged to be 'disloyal'.

I wish bishop Geoffrey so well and applaud his courage.

Kevin Treston 30 August 2007

A genuine Pastoral concern for others shown here unfortunately highlights its absence elsewhere within the power-structure of the church.

Kevin Rocks 30 August 2007

Thank God we have a prophet and a bishop who is willing to see reality as it is and give some positive direction. His book has not arrived here yet but it is on order.

Rob McCormack 30 August 2007

Bishop Robinson is to be applauded for his candid and very human book and for voicing the thoughts and opinions that too many in the church have chosen to keep to themselves, even for centuries, let alone decades.

The fear of "rocking the boat"...even if that's the barque of Peter...is too often offered as a key reason for keeping quiet...whereas a good rocking on the high seas can do the world of good (as exampled when Jesus chose to sleep in the stern of the fisherman's boat while the crew, Peter included, panicked).

Bishop Robinson puts his finger on an essential nerve when he speaks of the need for dialogue.For too long,the Body of Christ has been presented as something that comes in two parts: the clergy and the laity, and the underlying suggestion that the laity has a lesser role, and that celibacy almost ranks as a sacrament equal to marriage.

How often must it be proclaimed that the laity forms part and parcel of the royal priesthood? What is a priest without a flock, and what is a flock without a shepherd?How can a marriage be a partnership of one?

Power and sex are always confronting...perhaps because in the ugliest of relationships they travel together as a pair.It's enough...sometimes more than enough...to have the strength to confront one of them, let alone both!

For myself, in the matter of clergy sex abuse, I have often wondered...and now I have a chance to say it publicly...how the Australian bishops can collectively decide that a figure of around 55,000 Australian dollars can be a 'cap' in terms of compensation?To me, such an arbitrary sum adds insult to injury, a bucket of salt for the festering wound.

Surely,the process needs vital change in this area if "Towards Healing" is to be more than two seemingly appropriate words. Perhaps an independent panel should decide how much money is needed, individually, to repair some of the damage.Pain stays longer with some than others.

It was only days ago, that a deepening shadow crossed the horizon of World Youth day 2008..when one of the various parties involved in a squabble over the use of the Randwick racecourse as a papal venue uttered the words "Bad faith" in regard to the negotiations.

A common enough phrase, but when it's hurled against the church, it ought to be regarded as a cut to the quick. There's too much "bad faith" about the church. Bishop Robinson has made a handsome, personal effort to do something about it.Others should not be discouraged from following suit.

Brian Haill 30 August 2007

May the Holy Spirit move the Church to at least respond to this timely book.

Bruce Swain 30 August 2007

I read Bishop Robinson's new book last weekend and want to say how much I admire his graciousness, his vision and his scholarship. His are challenging ideas which I hope will be evaluated carefully and courageously by EVERY "citizen of the Catholic Church", not just the bishops, cardinals and, of course, the pope. It will be interesting to see how many, who do not like what he argues, resort to the easy but dishonest ploy of attacking the man rather than the ideas. I want to thank Bishop Robinson for what he has done in writing this book and having it published for all to read, ponder and pray about. Hopefully many of his silent fellow bishops will find the courage to join him in calling for the radical reform of a church which has Jesus at its centre and sole reason for existence.And not just calling for reform, but seeing that it is begun swiftly. Oh yes, I happen to believe that pigs CAN fly - when they are shown how - but they can't do it on their own!

Richard Flynn 30 August 2007

"culminating in papal infallibility, with its idea that the pope and the Church he rules can never really be wrong..."

how can a bishop, especially a retired one who has the time to open a book and check his notions, have such a sophomoric conception of papal infallibility? To such as these we owe our catechesis for the last 30 years.

David Williams 30 August 2007

Thank God for Bishop Robinson's honesty and forthrightness!What a breath of fresh air to hear a Bishop advocating that the church needs to face up to the wrong that has been done in these sexual abuse cases and not move offenders to other areas where the same thing can happen. Other problems too are discussed with the same frankness in his recently published book.Let us hope it leads to more open discussion in the church.

Joan Leach 30 August 2007

This is a brave and timely voice speaking the truth in love! I fully support and thank this truly prophetic and courageous man.

Celestine Pooley 30 August 2007

Congatulations and Bravo Bishop Geoffrey,
A beautifully written, honest, humble and scholarly account of our Church today. May you be widely read and acclaimed.

pat morrisey 30 August 2007

I haven't read your book, Geoffrey, but I am pleased to hear your refreshing view on the subject of sexual abuse and the Roman Catholic Church.I think I have suffered vicarious abuse from working with victims. I found the Church had very little to offer them and it has affected my relationship with the instituion. On top of this the patriarchal structure of the Roman Catholic church is alienating for me as an intelligent woman. We haven't even managed to have truly inclusive language in our prayers and liturgies and at this point I do not feel that my time and energy is well spent trying to change such an institution with such entrenched attitudes. Sorry to sound so negative - on a positive note I take the attitude that there are many good people in the Church and there are existing structures which I have and will continue to work with to promote social justice. Thanks for the opportunity to comment

Jane Moore 30 August 2007

As one of the many marginalised from the institution, I want to thank Geoff Robinson for his courage in saying what so many people of good will have long thought. This will not make his retirement very easy, but he has done a very great service to the church and given new heart to many.

Keith Carlon 30 August 2007

Congratulations to Bishop Geoffrey Robinson for speaking out so lovingly,honestly and humbly about the Church's response to sexual abuse and for trying to address and have an open conversation about the underlying causes. I listened to you on the Religion Report and feel so encouraged and joyful at your courage and integrity. It gives me hope and I hope that a great many others can speak the truth in love, not seeking to blame, but seeking to work together for a more inclusive and loving Church.

Frances Pegrem 30 August 2007

Sitting in my counselling room is a boat carrying a crouched figure. At the front of the boat is an oil lamp. Next to the boat is a rock, also of clay. Together they hold stories and many tears. Some of grief and loss and others of joy. They hold stories of my own and my clients tears and our shared humanity. They remind me of the times I have been there with the living, the dying and the dead and and the abandoned and abused and done the work that I was taught priests do. I have often wondered where all was lost yet found. They boat and the rock remind me of a fisherman and of a man with the name meaning rock. The boat symbolises for me the journey and the rock is the steadying rock the anchor. And the light the spirit that binds and guides.

They remind me of the stories of my childhood and the amazing very human men, the courageous and not so courageous Jesuits who taught me. They also remind me of the priest men who hurt me, my friends, my family, my colleagues, my clients through wrongful sexual acts of grooming and abuse. They remind me of the men and woman who have courage to say no – enough. And they remind me that covering up is never enough. They have become for me the symbols that have been built on symbols that remind me of childhood. They remind me of the meaning of the wounded, vulnerable, abandoned Christ in his being as God Man.

I am reminded again and again that the healing takes place in being present to the suffering of another. The simple act of presence is enough. Today I experienced that healing presence in yet another man who in his words and action is so present. The courageous words of struggle acknowledged are healing. I felt my struggles heard and understood. An amazing gift to present. Bishop Geoffrey Robinson - Thank you.

John Dallimore 31 August 2007

We saw the dawn of Vatican II and recently, the slow attempt to bury its spirit culminating in the cover ups of the sex abuse scandal.

We are both in our 70s and often feel that the Institutional Church is muddling around in a mess of its own making by avoiding necessary changes.

Thank you Geoffrey for being a bishop who has the courage to come out and publish in clear format many of the things we have been thinking about for decades. In fact ever since about year 2 or 3 of the time of John Paul II when we began to get the feeling that there was an aura of creeping infallibility in the Vatican steering the Church and all was not well.
When the sex abuse scandal erupted we were stunned, how could this happen?

More than anything we need to keep alive the spirit of the Council and dialogue with each other to find what the Spirit is saying, and admit where we are wrong. We need to ask what would Jesus do? And then do it!

Pat & Lois O'Shea 31 August 2007

Thank you Bishop Geoffrey for speaking out so thoughtfully yet again !

Lorraine Murphy 31 August 2007

Having now read Bishop Geoffrey Robinson's new book, I join with those who applaud his honesty, his courage and his balanced approach to issues that are vitally important to mission of Jesus in today's world. I hope this book will reach the widest possible readership in Australia and overseas. Vivat pastor bonus!

Brian Grenier 31 August 2007

Leadership just as we need it. Willingness to call a spade a spade. I thorougly agree with what is said by Geoffrey Robinson and I sincerely hope that he is being listened to rather than ignored or silenced. We, the entire People of God, should not tolerate either of these latter stances.

Jim Potts 31 August 2007

It is amazing that finally in Australia there is a stong voice in the wilderness.

Irena Stumbras 31 August 2007

Didn't Jesus condemn this syndrome in Mt 23:1-7?

Leonie Green 31 August 2007

It is profoundly reassuring when the written word, the spoken word and the human presence speak with the one voice. I thank Geoffrey Robinson for the clarity and grace in his message to us all. And I honour his courage and endeavour.

Brian Gagen 31 August 2007

What a courageous man is Bishop Robinson. He has opened the window to allow the fresh air of truth and compassion into the Church. I feel that the Holy Spirit is speaking to us through his enlightening book that has to be welcomed by all who realistically view the Church today.

Thomas O'Grady 31 August 2007

Bishop geoff, thank you. You remind us with your usual incisiveness and compassion, that despite the wounded face of the Church being all too clear at times - and sadly too often among its leaders - that the Spirit of Jesus is always among us calling out the prophetic voices. God bless.

Robert O'Connor 31 August 2007

Bishop Geoffrey Robertson. Thanks for speaking up and placing the case for the abused and the laity who although they are told "they are the Church" are denied a voice on these critical matters as the "appointed" ones refuse to "hear" our words.
Laurie Sheehan

Laurie Sheehan 31 August 2007

I have always admired you and your chairmanship of the Sydney Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Board in giving leadership to all of us who occupied positions of responsibility in the Catholic Education Office and in Catholic schools.
Your emphasis on helping young people to grow into the freedom of becoming all that they are capable of becoming has been taken so much further here where you address all of us who are church. You are a brave man and a potential modern martyr. Thank you, Geoff!!

leo kane 31 August 2007

I believe that the systemic dysfunctions revealed in Robinson's book can also be seen in the Church's on-going abuse of wider Creation. Here too it 'manages' the problem of its theology, policy, and institutional conflicts of interest in relation to 'the environment', rather than 'confronting' them in the manner that Robinson suggests is needed in the context of sexual abuse. Witness the recent venture of the Vatican into jet air travel for pilgrims. Contrast this with its statements on caring for Creation and the need to live more simply so that others (including the non-human) may simply live. This includes strong statements in relation to lifestyle changes advocated to address the massive global threat of climate change.

I think Robinson nails it - there are ultimately some deep psychological issues to be addressed, as well as the systemic / institutional ones. The psychological dimension has also been raised by Michael Whelan (Catalyst for Renewal). Unless the Church confronts rits ecological impact as an institution, it will continue to tell others to get their 'green' act together whilst, in general, conducting bu$ine$$ as usual - just like most governments and most corporations do.

Steve Douglas 31 August 2007

I couldn’t believe my eyes reading the article in Eurika. I was stunned to see all the confusing ideas and ideals that spiritually torment me so thoughtfully, and graciously expressed by Bishop Geoffrey. Thank you, thank you, thank you! So I am not alone in my thinking; so mine were not thoughts of a budding iconoclast attempting to justify his desertion of the priestly vocation that I so loved and still love . Thank you again for the joy you gave me. You are indeed a brave man. May The Holy Spirit that inspired you and encouraged you soften the ground like heavenly rain that your ideas will be accepted and take root and grow into a mighty tree where little birds like me will find refuge.

G. Calleja 01 September 2007

I thank God for Bishop Robinson and his brave new book! I pray that it will be read by the people who have some influence in the decision making of the church and that this publication will prove to be a turning point for Catholic attitudes and understanding of what is needed in the church today. Congratulations, Bishop May God bless you abundantly.I applaud you.

Margot Kerby 01 September 2007

What a courageous man. I am not a Catholic but attend a Catholic mass for the glbt people in London - and I am priviledged! I hope you find a lot of support in the world and among Catholics as so many feel as you do and have written as I believe you have done. Thank you and God bless you. You have the faith and integrity to speak you truth. One day, the Pope and Africa will have to listen as the authority of the church now that more are educated and emotionally educated and aware will be with you.

thank you, again

irene threasher 02 September 2007

I wholeheartedly agree with Bishop Geoff's willingness to express his discerning thoughts about these vital issues. I offer him my total support, and pray that God will open the eyes and hearts of those who are seemingly trying to distance themselves from managing the challenges before them, that they may resolve them, and lead us all to go forward with Jesus in love and harmony.


John Spora 03 September 2007

Thank you. I think we should all be explorers and I also believe that tasking a risk is a necessary part of Christianity - if we intend to follow that risk-taker extraordinary, Jesus Christ.

dawn wilsond 03 September 2007

04.05.07 I wanted to wait until I had read the book until I commented. I've just re-read all the comments so far and can only deeply agree with sentiments of gratitude to Geoff for his courage, clarity and scholarship. I too am grateful that he has "published it for all to read, ponder and pray about." Critics will find it hard to counter his arguments. As I finished reading, a couple of lines of poetry surfaced in my memory: "And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew; the one small head could carry all he knew." Amen to that! I pray that this challenging, painful but enlarging book will get the readership the search for truth deserves. Gerard Monaghan
Gerard Monaghan

Gerard Monaghan 04 September 2007

With reference to Bishop Robinson's address I would sincerely like to understand what it is 'within the present structures of the Church' that gives the pope the exclusive right and 'power to confront this problem at its deepest sources'. What are the 'deepest sources' to which Bishop Geoffrey refers? Does this power and these deepest of sources exist within the magisterium of the Church? Do they flow from scripture? I'm confused. Are bishops, priests, those in authority in religious orders constrained by gospel teaching, from giving justice and compensation to those offended in this way, and apologising to them openly and publicly? May I give the following example of one who risked all in order to expose the brutal and fraudulent behaviour of the US health insurance industry? As a senior executive of one of the biggest of HMO's (Health Management Organisations) she confessed to having achieved her position and astronomical remuneration by her skill in denying legitimate claims of those insured with her companies.This resulted in the death of at least one of the insured and the suffering of many thousaands. By making these admissions she risked legal action, both civil and criminal, being taken against her and she destroyed her medical reputation. We can be assured that she was not supported in this bravest of actions by the HMO corporations. Did she breach ethical business standards by her public statements, should she have adverted to the 'mission statement' of the industry etc? Where Bishop Geoffrey poses his series of questions beginning: 'Where is the PAPAL statement....?; 'Where is the PAPAL promise...?; 'Where is the request to those institutes...?, could not the word PAPAL be replaced by the word BISHOP'S where a bishop (or any person with the appropriate responsibility)has the obligation to right wrongs? Kindest regards, Claude Rigney

Claude Rigney 05 September 2007

As a Catholic country doctor, married to another country doctor (both of 45 years experience) & having seen the devastation following priests straying into the fields of child molestation, we are both apalled that somebody has not spoken out before & often speak of this, with dismay.
Boston is a prime example of the devastation of coverup & relocation of offendors, rather than summarily dismissal etc. Paedophilia, like cancer, is almost incurable: so why shift offendors into new pastures, with or without the cover of "treatment": with an almost 100% failure rating: realistically speaking!

All power to Bishop Robinson

J McCarthy 06 September 2007

Excellent . keep on going with such great ideas which can only heal all of us

God bless you!!!

patricia vaughan 06 September 2007

Dear Bishop Robinson,
Thank you for the couragious step you took to expose the evils in the church. However, I must confess that the approach you used to arrest this problem is not the best for the church. It is quite disappointing that you as a prince of the church could devise such a means to tarnish the image of the church.

I am not a member of the ordained ministry of the church, but I have always held the church to a high esteem not withstanding her human frailties.

It is true that the church has gone astray in many ways, but i am not ignorant of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church.

Bishop Robinson, you are sounding as if the church forces celibacy on priests and religious. The implication of what you have written so far is that you were pushed to embrace the call to priesthood. But, to the best of my ability, I am convinced that the church does not force celibacy on any body. The church rather throws it open as a prerequisite for priesthood. It is only an option which anybody can opt for. Besides, the number of years spent in the seminary is enough for every candidate for ordained priesthood to take a stand whether to embrace the call or to opt out of the seminary. The church has never forced anybody to be a priest; rather the call has been willingly accepted by the candidates. It is quite unfortunate, Bishop Robinson that you as a canon laywer cannot interpret the letters of the law, which you are indeed a master in it.

Bishop Robinson,it is indeed disheartening that although you are a catholic bishop, you have felt to appreciate the wondeful gifts of celibacy to the church. Celibacy is a gift, it is a sacrifice, it is cultivated too. It is humanly impossible but gracefully accomplished. If the church emphasises on the humanity of Christ; that he was like us in all things except sin, I can't see why the church should not still keep to celibacy for her priests.

I can understand the problems created by celibacy in the church, but the abuse of a thing does not remove its usefulness. Any priest who sees celibacy as an impossibility should quit the altar immediately. I think we still have many priests and religious who keep to their vows. Bishop Robinson, you are committing the fallacy of over generalisation.

Bishop Robinson, I have questions for you: Do you think if priests and religious are allowed to marry that the church will be free from abuses and drought in vocations? Do you think there will not be cases of devorce among priests and religious? No doubt, these human frailties must ressurface.

I understand the problems of Australian church and I do believe that if the church is catholic as she confesses always, nothing prevents her from seeking for pastoral help from other countries. I remember when australia used to send her priests on mission to other countries. I think it is time for her to receive from others. Australia is not the only country suffering from the shortage of priests.

Bishop Robinson, I do believe that the Spirit of God is still with the Church. Your devastating critique is not the best way to solve the problem. I believe that the church has not done anything wrong to ordain you. You should be grateful to her.

Regina Anthony,

Regina Anthony 18 September 2007

Congratulations to Geoff on his book and on his speaking out.

I have two problems with both of these.

The first is, why did he wait so long? Why didn't he speak out more clearly while he was still part of Pell's team? To have broken ranks then would have meant being clearly authentic, and he would have escaped the criticism that he's just cavilling at a system that eventually delivered no power to him.

The second is, what does he understand by the label "church"? It seems, both from what he says and from the constraints of the debate he's engaged in, that "church" is being used in a way that restricts it to the organization, to the hierarchy - the system abrogates to itself empowerment.

Most post-Vatican 2 Christians have probably long gone past this. Why are Robertson and the rest of his pre-Vatican 2 colleagues still stuck at this point?

Move on past, Geoff, and we'll respect you more.

Gabe Lomas 18 September 2007

Geoffrey Robinson has been a devoted hard working servant of the church over many years and a man of great integrity. I can only guess how hard it must have been for him to realise that it was necessary for him to speak out like this. My heart goes out to him. I applaud his courage, commitment and compassion!

Wayne McMillan 19 September 2007

We are among the few in the US who have read this book,purchasing it from the publisher. This story must get out and we are doing our best to do so. As co- chairmen of Call To Action Western Washington (USA)we want to thank Bishop Robinson from the bottom of our hearts from our entire membership, some 350 of us. Our national organization I know is very interested in the book and if and when he comes to the US we would appreciated knowing when and where.
God bless our clergy in Austrailia.
Peace, Tom and Betty Hill

Betty Hill 20 September 2007

I am ambivalent about Bishop Robertson. When he was an Auxilary Bishop what real responsability did he take to question some of the issues he raises? For example did he insist that homosexual activity is wrong and that clergy who promoted it or did it should be removed from the clerical state. No! It is one thing to criticize abuse and then do little to expose the problem. A clergy who dissent on key issues and behave accordingly. Yes the truth matters and the mystery or Jesus' entrusting his Church to 12 who then appointed others to this day. Not all bishops are worthy of it. I remember the Superdome confirmations fiasco as I was cooerced into taking part. It was a disrespectful abomination with middle aged people in leotards. I mention this because Bishop Robertson was behind this pantomine. I undestand the issues he raises in his book. He attacks because he is disillusioned. His 1970s approach is however part of the problem. Instead of a consolidation and reconsideration of much that has been forced on your average Catholic over the last 40 years in the name of relevance. Why doesn't he take a hard look at himself. Its not about power. It is about authority serving the truth. Did he ever use his power to help reform the Archdiocese of Sydney under cardinal Clancy. No...it was all novelty and change and if it didn't work even more!!! What did he do to serve tradition as a Catholic. He criticisms do not sound too Catholic too me. He sounds like something else.

Chris 21 September 2007

The sexual abuse of children by priests was probably a much more important cause of the Reformation than is usually recognised.
More recently, the "Stolen Generation" was probably an attempt to rescue half-white children from abuse by tribal elders. It's a sign of racism that so little has been done to rescue the others.

Richard England 21 September 2007

at last a man with gospel and spirit filled conviction who knows the church is more than the institution will ever be. the church must be truly catholic and less and less roman or hierachial.Having been a victim of abuse myself I know well what he is up against. I hope someday I can have the blessing of meeting him. Father Andrew Gentry

father andrew gentry 22 September 2007

From those who struggle with reconciling faith and the after affects of abuse, we thank Bishop Geoffrey Robinson for his voice of encouragement and truth.

marie Ewing 12 October 2007

Thanks be to God and thank you Bishop Robinson. I think there may be a very small group of Catholics who do not see a need for change but we live in the allegory of "the king has no clothes" - most easily see the nakedness but maybe we need a bishop instead of a child to say it clearly. I look forward to reading the book and I thank Bishop Robinson for being the word that most know but were afraid to speak. What a wonderful, new "Aggiornamento" could happen if more bishops, laity, and priests just simply spoke and lived what they already know as true

Dennis O'Donnell 16 October 2007

Bishop Robinson won the esteem and gratitude of many of us some years ago when he humbly and honestly faced the issues of sexual abuse in the church on national television. This book is full of the same honesty and humility. It responds respectfully to the pain of many people, and goes much further. I am deeply indebted to bishop Robinson for his scholarly, considered and courageous honesty.

Anne Benjamin 28 October 2007

Bishop Robinson is a modern day hero, simply for telling the truth. He reminds me of a modern day Jan Hus, who called for reform a century before Luther came on the scene. If the Church had dialogued with Hus instead of asassinating him the Reformation would never have happened. The Vatican won't kill Geoffrey Robinson, they will simply seek to silence him. The support of the faithful, moral and financial, is the best assurance that his voice will continue to be heard.

Hugo 17 November 2007

God bless and increase your prophetic voice. You have opened the doors to many needed reformations. No matter the trials, remember Matt 25:31-40, and that you have the support of the real church - the people. Thank you seems an inadequate response for your courage. May God always hold you in the palm of his hand.

Kath Young 23 November 2007

Congratulations on a great book and thank you for the courage in taking up the challenge and giving so much of yourself so generously on behalf of those like myself who have been clinging to our church by my fingernails, in spite of huge misgivings for several decades. Vatican 2 and Pope John 23 had given me such hope and happiness which quickly died with his death. We must find ways to spread the knowledge found in this book far and wide - several translations and I hope that people like Geraldine Doogue are able to spread the word on Radio National and Compass on ABC TV.

Irene Drizulis 29 November 2007

Notwithstanding what I've already written about the tardiness of Geoff's speaking out, I must admit that what he's said and the way he's said it add up to something of great courage, insight, integrity and honesty.

He's pinpointed critical and essential issues, and produced a clear and cogent framework for assessing and addressing them. As such, he's done much more for us, the Catholic Church, than any of our other 'leaders' in Australia or in the Vatican.

Thank you, Geoff.

Gabe Lomas 12 January 2008

Please don't use the word "hero" exclusively for the noble efforts of Bishop Robinson. He needs to be thanked. But just think how the problem would be successfully resolved if everyone who is a reader and responder took one step to effect change in a Catholicism which has not been democratic enough - and far too hierachical. In my mature years I have moved on from depending upon the power people in the Church.

ray smith 09 June 2008

Bishop Robinson, I and wife congratulate you on your stance and thank you for your courage. Kindest regards, Paul Maggs

Paul Maggs 16 June 2008

I have read the book and find that it largely expresses my own deep disappointment at the continuing failure of much of the church leadership.

It srikes me as especially ironic that a pope and his senior advisers can act (or rather not act) so complacently in the matter of child sexual abuse when Jesus was so unusually strong in his condemnation of those who corrupt children. It makes mock of the claim to be the 'apostolic succession'.

But, as Bishop Robinson points out, the sexual abuse is but a manifestation of the broader abuse of power and it is at that level that serious renewal is needed.

When Adorno et al carried out their study into that gross 20th century abuse of power, the Holocaust, they concluded that a certain personality type was always likely to abuse power. They named it the 'authoritarian personality'.

The authoritarian personality tended to be ethnocentric, conservative and autocratic: almost essential CV requirements for promotion in today's Catholic Church.

I just hope and pray that Bishop Robinson's courage inspires his fellow bishops to follow him 'over the top'.

John Cogley 19 June 2008

Bishop Robinson's is the first voice of honesty that I've heard in the church re: clerical sexaul abuse. I applaud him for his courage. As a woman, I feel
that I have no place in the Catholic Church. Bishop Robinson speaks to equality - a message of hope.

mary ann mulhern 15 July 2008

The Catholic Church must not sweep under the carpet the intelligent and sinsere observations of Bishop Geoffery Robinson. Catholics must truly regain the spirit of Jesus which the institrution has smothered under centuries of bizarre ostentation and many of its traditions.

The Catholic Church today faces the predicament of Israel of old where every thing it had came to nought except 'The Book'. Bishop Geoffery Robinson articulates what many thinking Catholics feel in their hearts; We certainly want a better Church because the- official - Institutional part of the Catholic Church has been radiating too many worng messages and we have become too suspicious of its motives and how its role is played out.

Bishop Geoffery Robinson is a prophetic voice that cannot be ignored because it rings true and when many feel that it is the truth, that's how the Holy Spirit signals her presence.
I wish to say thank you to Father Geoffery; yours is the voice of the sort of shepherd that makes a lot of sense to me.

Alfred Arena 26 July 2008

What a fantastic book, i know this man personally and i have misunderstood him for a long time,

His ideas should be implemented and everyone should face up to the fact that all this did happen.

Lets work on making this a better life for all

John Peoples 24 August 2008

The Archdiocese of Sydney's official website entry on Geoffrey Robinson states that "the Holy Father, Pope John Paul 11, accepted Bishop Robinson's retirement on 15 July 2004, due to ill health".

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 2008 statement described him as "retired Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney". In his book, Geoffrey Robinson says "with the thoughts that were running through my head, I could not continue to be a bishop of a church about which I had such profound reservations. I resigned my office as Auxiliary Bishop in Sydney and began to write this book about the very foundations of power and sex within the church."

If the Holy Father and the Australian Bishops cannot tell the truth on such a fundamental issue as to whether Geoffrey Robinson retired or resigned and whether this was in protest or due to ill health, how can they be believed about anything?

Ray Ham 22 September 2008

A wonderful, courageous book that gives hope that the message of the Gospels is alive and not left in the hands of the clergy who do not understand the essence of what Christ was about. Thank you Bishop Robinson!

Peter Lynch 17 November 2008

Just finished reading the book Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church and was relieved to learn that there are influential catholics who are speaking out.

When I stopped going to Mass with a very heavy heart because of these issues, four other family members also stopped. I had been a practising catholic for 40 years.

But I don't want to stop at that, I would like to be part of a renewal movement which tackles all the issues covered in the book. I still hold true to the core values of Christ's message and indeed want to grow to be all that I am capable of being.

Is Geoffrey Robinson or Michael Whelan, Catalyst for Renewal looking for members as I would like to be involved in such a movement. I recently engaged in an exchange of views on these issues with a local catholic priest but unfortunately his attitude was that he "blames the breakdown of family life for the problems because priestly vocations come from families"! The blame game is still alive and well.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Marliene Byrne 03 December 2008

Reclaiming the spirit of Jesus is probably the simplest way to stay in this highly complicated church which seems to be more concerned with images rather than the truth about itself. What ought to be can only be approached by confronting what is, otherwise our efforts towards the ideal become exercise in futility.

Luciano P. Galman 16 December 2010

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