Bishop Urges Major Study of Sexuality

By Filteau, Jerry | National Catholic Reporter, March 30, 2012 | Go to article overview

Bishop Urges Major Study of Sexuality


Filteau, Jerry, National Catholic Reporter


BALTIMORE * At the Seventh National Symposium on Catholicism and Homosexuality, retired Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson called March 16 for "a new study of everything to do with sexuality"--a kind of study that he predicted "would have a profound influence on church teaching concerning all sexual relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual."

"If [church] teaching on homosexual acts is ever to change, the basic teaching governing all sexual acts must change," he said.

Robinson, a priest since 1960 and auxiliary bishop of Sydney from 1984 until his retirement for health reasons in 2004, told the Baltimore symposium, sponsored by New Ways Ministry, that "because sex is so vital a way of expressing love, sex is always serious."

That view, espoused by the church, stands in contrast to the general perception of modern society, which "appears to be saying more and more that sex is not in itself serious," he said.

For the church to deal with sex seriously, however, does not in itself mean that the church must continue to accept uncritically its traditional understandings of sexual morality, he said.

Robinson was a featured speaker at the March 15-17 symposium, which drew - about 400 gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-gender and questioning Catholics and church personnel ministering to them. The gathering's first day was devoted to a retreat guided by the bishop.

At the symposium's March 16 lunch, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley addressed the group on a pending state law, which he had signed just days earlier, legalizing same-sex marriage.

Opponents of the new law have launched a campaign for a popular referendum this November to revoke it, ' but several recent polls have indicated that a slight but growing majority of the state's voting population favors legalization of same-sex marriages.

In his talk later that afternoon--available along with other writings on his website, bishopgeoffrobinson.org--Robinson did not address the growing U.S. question of whether faithful same-sex unions should be blessed with the title and all legal rights of "marriage." But he argued that the church's moral appraisal of such unions would change dramatically if it were to reevaluate its traditional approach to all human sexual activity.

While the church's emphasis on the profound significance of sex is correct, its natural law approach to sexual morality and its interpretation of ancient scriptural passages on homosexual and other sexual activity are in need of correction, he argued.

Robinson--whose activities before he became a bishop included teaching canon law and heading the Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand--said his own full realization of how serious sex was came when the Australian bishops called on him to head an investigation into the causes of clerical sexual abuse of minors in his country and how to resolve those problems. …

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