Cardinal Roger Mahony has denied an Australian bishop permission to speak in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles after the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued a statement warning of “doctrinal difficulties” present in the bishop’s writings.
In 2007 Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, the retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney, published a book titled “Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus.” Bishop Robinson argued in his book that because the Church refuses to reexamine Catholic teachings on extramarital sex, women priests, homosexuality, and papal power, the Church is not serious about responding to clerical sexual abuse but is only “managing” it.
In a May 8 statement, the Australian bishops said that Bishop Robinson’s questioning of the authority of the Catholic Church to teach the truth definitively is connected to the bishop’s “uncertainty about the knowledge and authority of Christ himself.”
Bishop Robinson is presently on a U.S. lecture tour sponsored by Voice of the Faithful, an activist group formed in response to the clerical sexual abuse scandal. He responded to the Australian bishops’ statement in a May 15 letter, which is posted on the web site of Voice of the Faithful. He said the statement was “disappointing,” and continued:
“In their statement, the bishops appear to be saying that, in seeking to respond to abuse, we may investigate all other factors contributing to abuse, but we may not ask questions concerning ways in which teachings, laws, and attitudes concerning power and sex within the church may have contributed.
“This imposes impossible restrictions on any serious and objective study, and it is where I have broken from the Bishops Conference. We must be free to follow the argument wherever it leads.”
Pope Benedict XVI in his April visit to the U.S. had encouraged academics “to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you,” but he also said “any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church” would obstruct the academic duty to teach the truth.
Archbishop of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony in a May 9 letter asked Bishop Robinson not to speak in his archdiocese.
Saying he was “once again” writing regarding Bishop Robinson’s scheduled June 12 speaking engagement in the archdiocese, Cardinal Mahony said, “Your letter informing me of your coming appearance made it clear that you were not seeking my permission or approval, that you were planning to come regardless.”
In his letter, Cardinal Mahony said he had recently learned of the Australian bishops’ statement about the bishop’s book. He also said he had learned that Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the Prefect for the Congregation of Bishops, has urged Bishop Robinson to cancel his U.S. visit.
Cardinal Mahony requested Bishop Robinson to cancel his visit, citing Canon 763 of Canon Law. The canon pertains to a bishop’s duty to safeguard the teachings of the Church in his diocese.
“Under the provisions of Canon 763, I hereby deny you permission to speak in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,” the cardinal wrote. He also urged Bishop Robinson to cancel his entire speaking tour and to work with the Australian bishops’ conference, saying he would expect him to “follow exactly” their recommendations.
Dan Bartley, president of Voice of the Faithful, criticized Cardinal Mahony’s refusal of permission to Bishop Robinson’s Los Angeles lecture.
“Why is a loyal Catholic bishop prevented from asking honest questions in his search for the truth in the aftermath of the worst scandal in the modern Church?” Bartley said.
A statement from Voice of the Faithful said the ban would harm the Church, saying Bishop Robinson “obviously loves the Church.” The statement suggested that the Australian bishops’ statement was questionable in its conclusions about Bishop Robinson’s doctrinal stands.
Bishop Robinson’s lecture tour has scheduled events in Boston, Seattle, San Diego, and Los Angeles.