An outspoken Australian bishop is generating a lot of interest in the discussion of the need for changes in the Church’s administrative structure and how it operates, deals with conflict and handles dialogue. I am referring to Bishop Geoffrey Robinson who was removed from office by the Holy See over a year ago for publicly expressing his views that the Church needed to confront and resolve views on certain areas like the shortage of priests and conduct a thorough review on the Church’s overall positions on human sexuality. The Vatican then removed him from office! Nevertheless, Bishop Robinson continues to challenge the Church to face some really very difficult issues.
Bishop Robinson is now on a lecture tour. Speaking in Chicago to a very mixed audience, including about 150 priests, Bishop Robinson stated that the roots of the decades long clergy sex abuse scandal lie not in any set of rules or practices, but are found deep in the culture of the Church itself-
The “major fault” of the Church in the scandal, Robinson said, is that it “refuses to look at any teaching, law, practice or even attitude of the Church itself as in any way contributing to the crisis. In studying abuse, we must be free to follow the argument wherever it leads rather than impose in advance the limitations that our study must not demand change in any teaching or law.”
It is reported that his brother bishops were upset with his lecture tour and that Cardinal Roger Mahoney, then the Archbishop of Los Angeles, had denied Robinson permission to speak in the Archdiocese.
The Church certainly has many problems but one that always saddens me is an utter inability to enter into direct dialogue in areas or subjects that are either controversial or uncomplimentary to the Church. Today, the Church is badly battered and only an honest confrontation of its structural weaknesses will enable us to get out of this morass.
I side bar: In keeping with this, I noted that Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts withdrew an invitation to Mrs. Ted (Vicki) Kennedy as a commencement speaker and to receive an honorary degree. In doing so, the local bishop stated that he was merely following the 2004 statement that, “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.
Does dialogue in the Church always have to be a one-way street?