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Posted May 15, 2008, in Catholica Australia (www.catholica.com.au). Catholica Australia introduced the following letter by saying: “Coincidental with the statement arriving from Bishop Robinson, Catholica Australia, also received a letter from Fr Daniel Donovan in response to yesterday's news story. Here is the text of Fr Donovan's letter. It has also been published in the Catholic forum.

Cardinal Mahoney and the American Speaking Tour of Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

The Churches in Australia and for that matter around the world have been mired for many years in the allegations of sexual abuse of persons by members of the clergy. This has led to universal condemnation for two major reasons. Firstly, there was an abuse of power by the perpetrators who took advantage of their position to harm the vulnerable. Secondly, the failure of Church leaders to deal effectively with the victims’ complaints and the attempts to cover up the matter. Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus, has had the courage to place this issue in the public forum. Robinson does not deny or call into question any teaching of the Church nor does he either in the book or at any time in his public lectures attack the teaching magisterium of the Church.

The Australian Bishops claim that the people “have a right to know clearly what the Catholic Church believes and teaches, and the Bishops have a duty to set this forth…” Robinson has never denied this. Rather he has addressed those issues which (as noted above) the Bishops were not setting forth in clear and specific teaching. Daily the Church was facing serious criticism for its failure to respond officially to the sufferings of victims of sexual abuse and their families.

It seems to me unconscionable that both the Australian Bishops and Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles would turn on a brother Bishop because he has called for not a change in orthodox teaching but rather he emphasizes orthopraxis. No one, least of all Robinson, is questioning truth but there is the corresponding duty to communicate the truth and this has been the importance of Robinson’s contribution. If the Church is to take seriously the healing process then it must not deny debate and ban dialogue. This would be to substitute intellectual abuse for sexual abuse. It is always unsettling when debate and discussion is stifled in the name of truth! It might be worth adopting the advice of the Pharisee, Gamaliel, who counsels the Sanhedrin “to take no action against these men” (the apostles, Acts 5:38). Gamaliel goes onto explain that if the if the teaching is “of human origin” then it will disappear but if it is of “divine origin” then they might be “fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39).

Fr Daniel Donovan

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