You can bet your bottom dollar a lot of rosaries around the world are going to be offered up for Bishop Geoffrey Robinson after some hear the views he expresses in this extended conversation recorded on 8th March 2012 by Dr Ingrid Shafer but only published on YouTube on the weekend of 28-29 Apr 2012. This is one of the frankest interviews yet and this bishop covers much of the ground that many people would like to see openly discussed within their church and free from the threats imposed by the Temple Police elements who believe they alone are the spokespeople for the mind of Almighty God. This is probably the closest many Catholics might ever come to of having a bishop sitting in their own loungeroom answering their questions honestly and openly and without looking over his shoulder to see if he might get into trouble for saying the wrong thing about anything. This is a bishop "speaking from the heart" — "cor ad cor loquitur" as Cardinal Newman used as his motto: "heart speaking to heart"!
In the first segment Bishop Robinson gives a preview of a talk he was to deliver in America on human sexuality. The lecture would also be attended by members of the LGBT community in Baltimore. Bishop Robinson makes the point that the problem the institution seems to have is not so much over sexuality issues but that its leaders have this sense that they cannot afford to admit they are wrong about anything.
In the second segment Bishop Robinson discusses a way in which the leadership should reclaim their authority by acting more collegially. He asks why, on major proposals all of the bishops of the world cannot be consulted in writing and vote? He makes his points within the context of the issue of the ordination of women and the considerations of papal infallibility. He gives an example of where he asked a question on sexual morality of a large group of Australian and New Zealand Bishops where the overwhelming majority of them agreed that they no longer believed a certain sin which he describes was no longer a mortal sin. He argues the Church has to admit that it can be wrong about a lot of things.
In the third segment Bishop Robinson explains his love-hate relationship with the Church quoting the saying of Cardinal Newman: "There's nothing so ugly as the Catholic Church; and nothing so beautiful". He discusses the legacy of the late John Paul II and suggests that John Paul II failed to address the greatest moral crisis of his time: the clerical sexual abuse crisis in the Church. Towards the end of this segment he discusses the challenge that the greater education of the laity has posed for the institution. He also discusses the way in which mythology has been misinterpreted and literalised and the problems this has caused for the authority of the institution.
In the fourth segment Bishop Robinson argues that for the church to be saved – for the good parts of the Catholic story to be saved – there has to be a collapse. He discusses one of the problems we've been discussing on Catholica recently of how we explain the problem of evil in the world. Dr Shafer asked Bishop Robinson how many other bishops might agree at least privately with some of the views he is expressing. He also discusses his own limitations. He is critical of the concept of democracy in the church but urges greater collegiality and participatory governance. He suggests that modern communication technologies ought to vastly improve the governance of the church.
Video recorded & edited by Dr Ingrid Shafer submitted to Catholica on 29Apr2012
Bishop Geoffrey James Robinson is an emeritus Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney. He was born in 1937 and ordained for the Archdiocese of Sydney in 1960. He earned advanced degrees in Philosophy, Theology and Canon Law, first in Australia and subsequently in Rome. From 1967 until 1983, after a few years as a parish priest, he taught canon law at the Catholic Institute of Sydney. In addition to serving as Chief Justice of the Archdiocesan Marriage Tribunal, he was secretary and then president of the Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand. In 1984 he published a book on marriage, divorce, and annulment. A few years later he published books on the Gospel of Mark and religious experiences in our everyday lives. For many years he served as the Chairman of the Sydney Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Board and the Australian Catholic Education Commission, NSW. Finally, he worked extensively in the areas of ecumenism and professional standards in ministry. In 1984, he was named auxiliary bishop of Sydney, combining administrative work with his Tribunal and other duties. Further information can be viewed HERE.
Dr Ingrid Shafer is professor emerita of philosophy and religion, Mary Jo Ragan professor of interdisciplinary studies and editor-in-chief of Crosstimbers magazine at the University of Oklahoma. She is also editor of ARCC Light, the Newsletter of the Association of the Rights of Catholics in the Church. Further information can be viewed HERE.
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©2012Ingrid Shafer, Geoffrey Robinson
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