Titles, Paradigm Shifts and New Consciousness

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 5 March 2009 0 Comments
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Geoffrey Robinson, a Roman Catholic Bishop from Sydney, Australia, has published a book titled Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus. He scheduled a book tour of the U.S., and apparently the Vatican pressured bishops in America to threaten him into rescinding his planned trip. He declined to accede to their demand. Any comment? Also I wonder if he has any relationship to your gay bishop, Gene Robinson. My blessings on your superb work.


I have not met Geoffrey Robinson, but I have heard of him for years. A man of awesome integrity, he was chosen by the Catholic Church in Australia to lead their study of and response to the abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests in Australia. He did that with such competence and care that he was applauded by everyone except the Roman Catholic hierarchy, for whom his honest report was too embarrassing to be made public. Honesty often is. Many thought Bishop Robinson should have been appointed Archbishop of Sydney, but this report probably killed his chances. Instead, George Pell, a genuine Neanderthal thinker, was given the position in Sydney and ultimately made the Cardinal Archbishop of Australia. Robinson chose to retire rather than to be identified with the Australian Catholic Church headed by George Pell. He wrote this book to chronicle his findings in the abuse scandal and was quite critical about what he felt was the inadequate and even dishonest response of the Catholic Church in Australia and in the Vatican to the abusive practices obviously tolerated for far too long by his church. He also included in this book some cogent criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church that he loves dearly.

The response of the hierarchy of his church has been to try to silence him and marginalize him. I suspect he did not have a warm welcome from Catholic bishops in America.

For what it is worth, however, he has my admiration. I have read his book and commend it to you. It is passionate, open, honest, critical and yet loving of his Catholic tradition. The inability of this Church to listen to the public witness of one of their own is a sign of the weakness and fear present in this Church. I would welcome Geoffrey Robinson to any venue that I could set up. He has much to say that should be heard.

To my knowledge he is not related to Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire and I do not know whether they have ever met.

John Shelby Spong




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