Sunday, 26 August 2007

Revisiting the darkest hours.

During the darkest days of the priesthood, when the Australian church was wrestling with the scandal of sexual abuse, Sydney's Catholic auxiliary bishop, Geoffrey Robinson, was coming to terms with his own demons.

Only now, three years after his retirement, has Robinson has gone public with an extraordinary and personal disclosure: he was the victim of an abusive stranger. He had kept the secret hidden "in the attic of my mind" for 50 years until hearing the stories of victims began to stir "strong echoes within my own heart and mind".

But the church leader who could have become archbishop of Sydney did not reveal the abuse, and the indelible mark it left, to anyone outside a small circle of friends.

But this week Robinson, shy and guarded, broke his lifelong silence in an explosive critique of the church's use and misuse of power which outlines a radical vision for the church that questions the very nature of its power and sexual ethics and slays the sacred cow of papal infallibility.

Robinson, 70, was a teenager at the time of the abuse, the nature of which he does not fully disclose. The offender was neither a family member nor a priest.

Even now he finds it hard to tackle the topic and prefers his book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church, to speak for him. "Neither in my age at the time it happened nor in the duration of the abuse was it as serious as much of the abuse I have encountered in others, and yet, if the man had been caught in any one of his acts against me, he would have been sent to prison," he writes in the book's introduction.

"It was never a repressed memory but for most of my life it was, as it were, placed in the attic of my mind. That is, I always knew it was there but I never took it down to look at it..."

August 25, 2007 Sydney Morning Herald

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