Bishop Robinson: Listen to the saint in your parish

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson visited the diocese last week at the invitation of the Social Justice Council and spoke to appreciative audiences at Hamilton and Morpeth. His topic was “The Church – where to from here?” and his address was followed by a barrage of questions.

Bishop Geoffrey, now retired but formerly Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney, has spoken extensively about his hopes for the Church and written (among others) Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church and For Christ’s Sake, End Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church for Good.

Bishop Robinson has been a leading campaigner for victims of child sex abuse and was instrumental in developing the “Towards Healing” protocol.

While he acknowledges the significant impact of the crisis of abuse of children by some clergy, he doesn’t make it the hook on which all the Church’s current struggles are hung. Clericalism received a serve in his words to some 150 people, as did the undervaluing of women and the still-prevalent “angry God” presented by some.

“The best thing the Church has going for it is person of Christ....[we need to] get ‘the Church’ out of the way as much as possible” and “listen to its saints and prophets more than its bishops. Listen to the saint in your parish.”

Bishop Robinson reflected on changes in Australian society, explaining that once the Church was at the centre of people’s social lives as well as their religious lives. The rise of science has also challenged the Church’s place: “Science captured the imagination in a way religion did not.”

Rising affluence, the reign of individualism and a prevailing uncertainty all challenge the place God and faith once held for many.

Bishop Robinson has great faith in the work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and hopes that Pope Francis will invoke the bishops’ vow of loyalty to him in a way that works in favour of victims of sexual abuse.

While Bishop Robinson’s words are hard-hitting and uncompromising, there is much hope and encouragement in the vision of Church he outlines.

And above all, “Let's put Jesus front and centre because he's still the best thing we've got going for us.”

Tracey Edstein Image
Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is the former editor of Aurora Magazine, the official magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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