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20-Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

Australian bishop faults Papal leadership on clerical abuse

The retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney has called on Pope Francis to show more leadership when dealing with historical child abuse within the Catholic Church.

Bishop Emeritus Geoffrey Robinson (above) is giving evidence today before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney. He feels that the Vatican did not understand the scale of the problem and that St John Paul II ‘handled abuse poorly’ during his Papacy from 1978 to 2005.

The bishop told the commission of his ideal scenario where John Paul II had come to the microphone in St Peter’s Square in 1997 and told the crowd he had received reports of widespread sexual abuse of minors by priests and religious which had shocked him to the core.

“A real leadership like that from the Pope would have been marvellous, and from subsequent popes, now we still don’t have that kind of leadership, not even from Francis,” Bishop Robinson said. “It didn’t fit into his image of Church, and he couldn’t deal with it. Instead, what we got from him was silence. And so bishops were loyal to the silence.”

The former bishop is an expert in canon law and a vocal critic of his Church’s handling of the crisis who calls for ‘profound and enduring change’ in relation to their treatment of victims of abuse.

Though he criticised Pope Francis for his lack of leadership on these subjects, Bishop Robinson admits the current Holy Father could raise the subject like he has on homosexuality and Catholic remarriage.

“There are very powerful people opposing him ‘tooth and nail’ so there was wisdom in him taking one step at a time,” he added.



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