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Australian bishops issue warning on retired bishop's book May 13, 2008

The Australian Catholic bishops' conference has issued a public statement warning of "doctrinal difficulties" in a book by the retired bishop.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, who was an auxiliary bishop of the Sydney archdiocese for 20 years prior to his retirement in 2001, is the author of Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus. Bishop Robinson is currently on a promotional tour, speaking about the book to audiences in the United States.

At their May meeting, the Australian bishops warn that Confronting Power calls into question "the authority of the Catholic Church to teach the truth definitively." The book reflects "Bishop Robinson’s uncertainty about the knowledge and authority of Christ himself," the bishops report.

The bishops' statement goes on to note problems with the bishop's book on "among other things, the nature of Tradition, the inspiration of the Holy Scripture, the infallibility of the Councils and the Pope, the authority of the Creeds, the nature of the ministerial priesthood and central elements of the Church’s moral teaching."

The Australian bishops express their gratitude for the work Bishop Robinson did before his retirement, particularly his work with victims of sexual abuse. "However," their statement continues, "people have a right to know clearly what the Catholic Church believes and teaches."

The statement indicates that the bishops' conference had corresponded with Bishop Robinson in an effort to resolve problems with the book. The fundamental problem, the statement notes, is the author's failure to acknowledge that "the Church's magisterium teaches the truth authoritatively in the name of Christ."

The bishops acknowledge, "The authority entrusted by Christ to his Church may at times be poorly exercised." Nevertheless, the statement says, the failures of human leaders does not "invalidate the Church’s authority to teach particular truths of faith and morals."

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