The Catholic Church is still not serious about confronting sexual abuse, only "managing it", according to the Sydney, Australia bishop who headed Australian efforts to tackle abuse. Bishop Geoffrey Robinson says the Catholic Church needs to reverse 2000 years of teaching on sex and power as part of radical reforms from the pope down. While it refuses to look at some fundamental teachings : including sex outside marriage, women priests, homosexuality and papal power : the culture that produced and protected abusers will continue, he says.
These explosive claims : unprecedented for a bishop : are in a book entitled Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church. Bishop Robinson, 70, who was abused as a child, headed the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference professional standards committee for a decade until he retired in 2004 because he was so disillusioned. Calling for the most radical changes since Martin Luther started the 16th century Protestant Reformation, Bishop Robinson says the pope has failed the church, and the church has failed its members.
"I'm aware of how radical the call I'm making is. I'm looking for a very different church," he told The Age. He said the response of the church, especially the Vatican, to the sexual abuse crisis did not go deep enough. "The most profound factor about sex is that the church has had a morality for 2000 years based on offenses against God, and I find that quite inadequate. I ask if we should move to a morality based on relationships, on good and harm to people." Bishop Robinson said the Catholic Church centralized too much power in the hands of the Pope. "The entire responsibility of the church throughout the world to something as big as sexual abuse depended too much on the response of one person."
On sexual issues, his book asks questions rather than making statements. Bishop Robinson said this is because he did not want to suggest he had the answers and because it was harder for the Vatican to condemn questions. He suggests there is "a crying need" in the Catholic Church to reconsider such issues as sex outside marriage, contraception and homosexuality. "The responsibility appropriate to adults must not be reduced to the obedience appropriate to children, and too often that happens in the church. I don't think God does that."
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 than a monarch.