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Cardinal Mahony bars dissident Australian bishop May 20, 2008

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles has barred a controversial Australian bishop from speaking in his California archdiocese.

In a May 9 letter to Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a retired auxiliary of the Sydney, Australia archdiocese, Cardinal Mahony invoked the Code of Canon Law to explain that he had decided to "deny you permission to speak in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles."

Cardinal Mahony took action just as the Australian bishops' conference issued a public statement warning of "doctrinal difficulties" in Bishop Robinson's new book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church. The Australian bishops noted problems with Bishop Robinson's treatment of "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."

Bishop Robinson, who is in the US on a speaking tour to promote his book, is due to speak in Los Angeles on June 12. He is also scheduled to visit Boston, Seattle, and San Diego during his US visit. Cardinal Mahony urged the Australian bishop to cancel those appearances.

Bishop Robinson is likely to continue his speaking tour, defying the ban by Cardinal Mahony and challenging prelates in the other cities where he is scheduled to appear.

The liberal activist group Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) has issued a statement denouncing Cardinal Mahony's ban and praising Bishop Robinson for "trying to help us heal from the abuses which he saw first-hand" in Australia as head of a committee responding to the sex-abuse scandal there.

The VOTF statement acknowledges that the Australian bishops have found that Bishop' Robinson's book calls into question "the authority of the Catholic Church to teach the truth definitively." But VOTF adds: "Those who read Bishop Robinson’s book carefully may question such conclusions."

In his own response to the cautionary statement issued by the Australian bishops' conference, Bishop Robinson complained that "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." Because of that attitude, he said, he had "broken with" the episcopal conference.

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