Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

October 27, 2007


The previous post in this Archangel's blog reflected on Ray Lawrence's analysis of how and why human sex has come to appear shadowed under a gloomy cloud in the Christian ethos rather than as a joyful part of human life. He has now been joined by Australian bishop, Geoffrey Robinson, in his new book, "Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus". The bishop calls for a coherent modern view of sex and a change in the use of power in the Church in developing and articulating a view that sees sex as a positive and joyful experience. He points to the many neuralgic sexual issues that must be addressed - homosexuality, marriage, divorce, sacraments for the divorced and remarried, couples living together before marriage, women and women priests - by all parties in dialogue and marked by mutual respect.

Robinson distinguishes, among the participants in dialogue, the proclaimers of certainty and the seekers for truth. Each has a role but a balance between certainties and seeking must be maintained. Today, he avers, the proclaimers of certainties are in the favored position and holding the reins of power. At the publication of his book, he said: "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."

The use and misuse of power is a major concern of Robinson. He feels that power in a hierarchical structure carries with it responsibility and accountability. In the abuse crisis, the bishops figured largely in the proliferation of abuse through their secret reassignments of miscreant priests. The pope does not escape his criticism. "Where," he asks, "is the papal promise to investigate every possible source of abuse...? Where is the request to the bishops to coordinate their studies in their territories and report to Rome? Where is the document placing every thing on the table for discussion, including such things as obligatory celibacy and the selection and training of candidates?" He was disheartened that Cardinal Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, on a recent visit here, blamed the abuse crisis on the media and greedy lawyers and then added that the Church had "faced this trial with great dignity and courage"! It might be added that John Paul II, on the occasion of the US cardinals visit to Rome in April 2002, declared that the Church could help the laity in resolving such problems in society! This after it was laity, in the persons of trial lawyers, district attorneys, victms, and the media had unearthed the abuse existence and forced the Church to deal with it! If Bertone and John Paul II do not even understand the nature of the problem and its fall out, can they be expected to take effective action?

As for the women issue, John Paul II even refused to recognized the presence of Sister Theresa Kane at their meeting in 1979 and forbade any discussion of women priests or priestly mandatory celibacy! Such silencing of discussion is obscuratism at its worst.

Bishop Robinson' book on sex and power in the Church and Lawrence's book (see previous posting) provides enormous opportunitites and content for discussion. Both will be welcomed by seekers for truth, but, regretably, not by the proclaimers of certainty.