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Eminence, the emeritis cardinal archbishop of HGN

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What do one hundred and fifty Chicago priests know that Cardinal George does not know?

Coat of Arms of the Archdiocese of Chicago
This article about Bishop Geoff Robinson was in the National Catholic Reporter. I missed it last week, and a friend from Australia alerted me. My friend tells me that Bishop Robinson was his canon law professor in the seminary.
NCR article

Recently I put up a link to Bishop Robinson’s website on this blog after Bishop Robinson’s very well received talk at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland. 

Bishop Robinson's Web Site

Following the New Ways Symposium Bishop Robinson began a speaking tour of the United States. According to the NCR article the ordinary in Detroit advised his priests to avoid going to hear Bishop Robinson when he came there to speak. It seems this was also the case in Baltimore. 

What most interested me in the NCR article was the report that one hundred and fifty Chicago area priests attended Bishop Robinson’s talk while he was in the windy city. 
Now my question is what do these priests know that the cardinal does not know? At least the cardinal appears not to have instructed his priests not to go to hear Bishop Robinson. Maybe the pastoral experience and sensitivities of these priests have already informed them that there is something very inadequate about the present roman church’s official teaching on sexuality. Bishops and cardinals seem slow or reluctant to hear the same message.

An assessment of Vatican II as it ended was that one area needing to be addressed by the bishops gathered in council which was neglected was the area of sexuality. Looking back it might be this failure to address the topic of sexuality with the world’s bishops that began to signal the end of the reforms that brought so much promise and hope to many areas of the church’s life in the mid twentieth century. At least one scholar suggests that the reforms of the council ended in 1968 with Paul VI’s encyclical on birth control.

Adam Kotsko wrote in February:

“Fast forward to the aftermath of Vatican II, where a spirit of reform and openness to the modern world dominated — and one of the innovations of the modern world was of course The Pill. A council of experts recommended that the Catholic Church change its anti-contraception stance, but in 1968 the pope rejected their recommendation and reaffirmed the status quo in the infamous encyclical Humanae Vitae. In retrospect, this moment could appear to signal the premature death of the ‘spirit of Vatican II.’”

It could also be argued that the failure to address issues of sexuality in some way at the Council contributed to the present disaster of sexual abuse in the church.

According to the NCR article, after Bishop Robinson’s talk in Chicago, Sister Barbara Reid who is a vice president at the Chicago Theological Union quoted from John’s gospel: “the truth will make you free” (John 8.31-41).” She continued: “We have nothing to fear from speaking the truth.”

Hearing the truth on the subject of sexuality seems to be what a good number of Chicago area priests understand. It’s time to open the windows of the church again. Let the leaders of the church, like Cardinal George and many other bishops in this country breath the fresh air of truth as spoken by Bishop Robinson. It is past time for the church to have an open discussion on all matters of sexuality.


  1. Thanks for this entry 'Wild Hair' .. as always, your reflections are concise, focused and helpful.

  2. Thanks BB. Hope all is well in your part of the world.