Lay group honors controversial Australian bishop

By Daniel Burke
Religion News Service

A prominent lay Catholic group is presenting an award to retired Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, whom U.S. bishops have barred from speaking on church property for questioning the church's authority.

Voice of the Faithful, a reform movement spawned by the Catholic sexual abuse crisis, is presenting its "Priest of Integrity Award" to Robinson on Thursday (May 22) in Manhasset, N.Y.

VOTF is also sponsoring several events on Robinson's U.S. speaking tour, which continues through mid-June, according to spokesman John Moynihan.

Robinson, a sexual abuse victim and auxiliary bishop of Sydney until 2004, led the Australian bishops' investigation of its own clergy sex scandal.

But the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has denounced Robinson's 2007 book,Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church, for "doctrinal difficulties."

The book's "questioning of the authority of the Catholic Church to teach the truth definitively" improperly puts in doubt Scripture, tradition and the authority of the pope and creeds, the Australian bishops' conference said in a statement May 8.

Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, citing the Australian bishops' concerns, asked Robinson to cancel his U.S. speaking tour, including his June 12 trip to Los Angeles. Ten other U.S. bishops have also asked Robinson not to speak in their diocese, according to Catholic News Service.

Dan Bartley, president of Voice of the Faithful, who will present Robinson with the award, said: "Is this the way American bishops respond to Pope Benedict's call to do everything possible to heal the church?"

"Why is a loyal Catholic bishop prevented from asking honest questions in his search for the truth in the aftermath of the worst scandal in the modern church?" Bartley asked.

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