Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson speaks his (own) mind

You will have noted that this blog is called "Sentire Cum Ecclesia": to think with the Church. As in: rather than thinking against the Church.

You will also notice Chesterton's little quote about reformers in the header. If you haven't, note it now--it is pertinent to the subject of this blog.

The latest well intentioned "reformer" to hit the headlines in Australia is Bishop Geoffrey Robinson (70), who retired from his post as auxiliary bishop of Sydney in 2004 due to ill health and has just published what looks like being the best seller since Paul Collins' latest tome, "Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus". You can read the introduction to the book here.

One can only imagine that the change in theological climate among the Sydney episcopacy may have been one cause of his ill health judging by the new report in yesterday's edition of the Age: "Bishop calls for Catholic Reform".

John Garrett, the publisher of the bishop's book, hosted the bishop for a speaking event on Friday night. When I first received an invitation to the event, I wondered if he had the requisite permission from the local ordinary. My assumption, given the subject matter of his presentation, is that he did not.

The connection between the two words "power" and "sex" coupled with a third word "church" was always going to ensure that Bishop Robinson's book got attention.

According to The Age report, the Bishop said that
While it [the Catholic Church] refuses to look at some fundamental teachings — including sex outside marriage, women priests, homosexuality and papal power — the culture that produced and protected [sexual] abusers will continue.
A powerful cocktail, you will agree.

In his blog entry, Zwartz compares Robinson to Martin Luther. The comparison, Zwartz admits, is "slightly mischevious" because "Bishop Robinson remains a devout Catholic". However, he thinks that the comparison is justified, because of "the ambition and extent of his suggested reforms".

Well, Luther also regarded himself as a "devout Catholic" and was equally well intentioned with his "reforms". Nevertheless the effect of his teachings was to tear a chunk of the Church right out of its orbit and send it hurtling out of control into ecclesiastical "outer space".

By both his address to the John Garrett crowd and the publication of his book, Bishop Robinson seems intent on stirring the nest of discontented dissenters in the Church. As John Garrett's publishing blurb prophetically states: "Readers will love or hate this book, but will not be able to be neutral."

I agree entirely. I am not so able.

10 Comments:

At Sunday, August 26, 2007 7:51:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Being a confessional Lutheran, it really ticks me off when people like Bishop Robinson are likened to Luther. Bishop Robinson is in no way another Luther, Australian or otherwise.

Brother Schuetz, I might in another context argue that you have it backwards, that the church was already out of its orbit and out of control in ecclesiastical outer space, and Luther simply argued for that which restores and reforms the church back to the right preaching of the Word and the proper administration of the Sacraments according to the institution of Christ.

No doubt you will disagree with that. But let us call a truce for a time on that. May we agree on this: all kinds of people have called for all kinds of "sweeping reform" of the church, and if the Book of Concord spends less ink (or pixels) on them than the Roman church that is simply due to their not having the scope of power and presence as the Roman church, but Luther's opposition to what is generally called Protestantism is as clear and robust as his opposition to what he takes to be the errors of Rome. Further, not by the wildest stretch of the imagination did Luther call for women priests, approval of sexual relations as deriving their value from the expression of love between people regardless of whether married or not or a couple of male and female or not. In fact quite the opposite, and his arguments against priestly celibacy was to allow priests to live within that opposite, not within the relational models Bishop Robinson suggests. Nor were Luther's arguments regarding church polity, including his take on the papacy, based on the relational models the bishop extends to ecclesiastical as well as personal relationships.

At least some of the commenters to the "An Australian Luther?" article noticed that -- in the context of lumping Luther right along with the rest as sexually and institutionally all messed up of course, but at least they noticed the difference.

This is no Luther. It is but another view of Christianity and church against which Luther stood, right along with the rest of them celebrated on Reformation Sunday in churches of various names (some of them with the word Lutheran in them).

Dear brother Schuetz, another comment. In another context, I might argue that in Bishop Robinson you hear the real voice of not just Vatican II but the decades of developments, the "spirit" that led up to it, not followed from it, and that what the Roman church is attempting is neither the advancement of the Roman faith nor the adoption of the "spirit" of Vatican II, but a watered down version of the latter that is neither true to it nor the former. I urge you and all post conciliar Tiber swimmers to consider that, and as an ex Catholic that is my original and still main reason for even posting on this blog.

But let us for this moment declare a truce on that too. Bishop Robinson's book will not bring about the "sweeping changes" he calls for However, in a very real sense, it doesn't have to. The church he describes, functionally, IS the Roman church of most of those within it. By that I mean, while the offical church continues to do what it does and some within it continue to "think" with it, the vast majority of Catholics actually live and practice as if the church were the church of Bishop Robinson, and see the "church" and those thinking with it as marginal elements to be tolerated and/or ignored until they eventually "get it".

Surely, surely, you must have noticed this. And, until such time as I can stand with you, again, as a son of the Reformation I wish you well in your efforts to sentire cum ecclesia.

 
At Monday, August 27, 2007 8:19:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

I agree that Luther never proposed such "relational" models as are proposed here, nor women priests etc. I also agree that Luther, like all reformers, was right about what was wrong (see the Chesterton quote again). But he did propose reforms that struck at the heart of the nature of the Church--the Petrine Office, the Office of the Bishop, the Sacrifice of the Mass. I agree that what Bishop Robinson is proposing is not "Luther-an", but the manner of the reform for which he is calling is.

Re your final comments about Bishop Robinson accurately representing the Church as she is, please note that he is (was?) retired, and that the shape of the local Church in which he was once an auxiliary has gone definitely in the right (rather than the wrong) direction. So I think that questions whether he represents the Church as it is. He may represent the Church as some (now rapidly aging) folk hoped it would be, but not the church of the present or the future.

 
At Tuesday, August 28, 2007 12:27:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

Saints preserve us, Bishop Robinson can't even be original. Aping the same stuff ala John Shelby Spong and the graying heads in many denominations.

Let's see:

Robinson suggests there is "a crying need" in the Catholic Church to reconsider such issues as sex outside marriage, contraception and homosexuality.

Well, that's pretty much been done in the Episcopal church already and it's not a pretty sight. Seeing Episcopal "priestesses" marching alongside of NARAL in support of abortion rights and hearing "Bishop" Gene Robinson call for the legalization of gay marriage doesn't inspire me at all.

Bishop Robinson proposes stripping considerable power and authority from the Pope, who would speak formally on behalf of the church only after consulting it. The Pope would function more like a prime minister

Oh, sorta like the Archbishop of Canterbury who is not succeeding very well as the parts of the Anglican Communion crash and burn?

And then we have the ELCA and other liberal Lutherans such as the Church of Sweden. Have had married pastors, women clergy and a democratic congregational polity for years, but have pretty much jettisoned any connection to the BOC and other Lutheran confessions except in name only.

But he did propose reforms that struck at the heart of the nature of the Church--the Petrine Office, the Office of the Bishop, the Sacrifice of the Mass. I agree that what Bishop Robinson is proposing is not "Luther-an", but the manner of the reform for which he is calling is.

Yup.

 
At Tuesday, August 28, 2007 2:02:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

please note that he is (was?) retired, and that the shape of the local Church in which he was once an auxiliary has gone definitely in the right (rather than the wrong) direction.... He may represent the Church as some (now rapidly aging) folk hoped it would be, but not the church of the present or the future.

Another yup.

Terry has annointed himself prophet to bring us erring Romanists back to the true faith as Luther understood it. Problem is, most of those "Churches of the Reformation" have long abandoned the faith as Luther understood it.

Just hop into your local Methodist, Presbyterian, Reformed, UCC, etc. on a Sunday morning. They're right up there with the ELCA on "progressive" issues.

 
At Tuesday, August 28, 2007 11:01:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

That most of the churches of the Reformation have abandoned the faith as Luther stated it, or more accurately abandoned the non Lutheran confession they started with, is not a problem at all. Just don't hop into your local Methodist, Prebyterian, Reformed, UCC, ECUSA etc on a Sunday morning, or if you're looking for Lutheranism, most ELCA and even some LCMS churches either.

I still maintain it is absurd to describe someone as Luther like when what he advocates would find no support from him.

I do not at all consider myself some sort of prophet bringing Lutherans back to Lutheranism. Apart from a few instances, clearly labelled as such, my message has been, to put it in terms of this post, has been if you want Catholicism don't hop into your local "Catholic" parish either, because what you find there is not that but a watered down version of the trends that led to the Council, a difference not of kind but degree.

Ich bin am Ende damit.

 
At Tuesday, August 28, 2007 9:08:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Thanks for the Gene Robinson reference, Christine. I was wondering what struck me as familiar in the name "G. Robinson". I was thinking of the famous "J. Robinson" of "Honest to God (1963)" fame. What is it about the "G./J. Robinsons (Bishop)"?

 
At Wednesday, August 29, 2007 3:06:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

my message has been, to put it in terms of this post, has been if you want Catholicism don't hop into your local "Catholic" parish either, because what you find there is not that but a watered down version of the trends that led to the Council, a difference not of kind but degree.

Well, when I was contemplating becoming Catholic I certainly had the option to join the SSPX. Or the SSPV (a splinter group from SSPX) or even CMRI (even farther removed). Seems that "orthodox Catholicism" isn't immune to dissolving into factions either.

I am a bit amused that you are convinced that some of us here are not properly informed as to what the Catholic Church "was" and what she now "is".

Be happy as a confessional Lutheran, Terry. Be the very best confessional Lutheran you can be (and I'm sure you will be). For those of us who have already "hopped" into our local Catholic parishes, we have found what our hearts were seeking and it is enough.

Ich bin auch am Ende damit.

 
At Wednesday, August 29, 2007 3:10:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

I was thinking of the famous "J. Robinson" of "Honest to God (1963)" fame. What is it about the "G./J. Robinsons (Bishop)"?

Oh, I remember the controversy that book caused! Must be something in that name :)

 
At Wednesday, August 29, 2007 9:57:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

It should be on the index of prohibited names...

 
At Wednesday, August 29, 2007 10:59:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

It should be on the index of prohibited names...

What an absolutely splendid idea !!

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home