Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus
Bishop Geoffrey Robinson. 320 pages, paperback. The Liturgical Press, 2008 (first published 2007 by John Garratt Publishing, Mulgrave, Victoria Australia). ISBN 9780-8146-1865-3. $24.95.
While Geoffrey Robinson, former auxiliary bishop of Sydney, begins and ends this book looking at the international clergy abuse scandal within the Catholic Church, he devotes most of the space in between to examining the Church through a much broader lens. Maintaining that there is a culture of abuse within some of the institutions of the Church that is sustained by an inability or unwillingness to be open to re-examination and change, Robinson raises questions about how the Catholic Church has come to this present crisis and then raises more questions about where to go from here.
Bishop Robinson comes to his subject with a rich background of both theological and pastoral experience. He holds advanced degrees in theology, philosophy, and canon law. He has served as president of the Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand, written extensively (including a book on the Gospel of Mark), and served as chief justice of the Sydney Archdiocesan Marriage Tribunal and as auxiliary bishop of Sydney for twenty years. More importantly, he has a vast amount of human experience, which he has allowed to inform his theological background. It is a winning combination.
This is not a book for people who are looking for neatly wrapped answers. Robinson steers his readers through a process by asking important questions, beginning with what it means to be in a healthy relationship with God, through issues concerning the exercise of authority within the Church, and on to an examination of the bases for the sexual ethic of the Catholic Church. His questions nudge the reader to reflect more deeply on the issues that have been raised. It is a very readable book, devoid of theological jargon, that is addressed to all who are open to honest and straight-talking reflection on the present state of the Catholic Church.
"It is God's will that every single human being, regardless of age, gender, colour, race, caste, religion, or sexual orientation, should grow to become all she or he is capable of being. In this way the human race as a whole can grow to be all that it is capable of being" (page 84). This conviction provides the grounding for the book. Robinson exhibits a deep trust in human persons. Concern about upsetting "the simple faithful" does not seem to trouble him. He is definitely of the John XXIII school of ecclesiology: Throw open the doors and the windows of the Church and let the fresh breath of the Spirit blow through.
Robinson maintains that there are two sources from which we come to know about God: "the Bible and the world around and within us" (49). Tradition is a dynamic process of handing on the faith as it evolves over time. …