The nauseating report of the Bishop's retirement Mass (complete with a picture of apostate ex-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in the queue for communion) in today's Canberra Times, and of course picked up by Cath News, made up my mind.
Can this truly be the Church?!
In the end, I've decided to speak out because I am utterly scandalized to learn of this, and to learn that it was permitted to continue so long.
Even more scandalized that the man is being lionized by the press and 'progressive' catholics instead of being condemned for heterodoxy and advocacy at least of heteropraxis.
Let us hope that Pope Benedict XVI moves swiftly to laicize him lest he continue to lead others astray.
Have we learnt nothing from the abuse scandals?
One of the features of the abuse scandals was the clericalist deferral to the word of priests who denied all sin, claimed all innocence. One of the lessons we should have learnt is that claims of innocence need to be properly tested, not just accepted because it is a priest (or bishop) speaking.
So why then is no one challenging Bishop Power's alleged commitment to celibacy even the face of his acknowledgement on television that he has been in a 'loving relationship' with a woman for the last ten years?!
He said, in an interview on ABC TV, that it is important to his relationship to God that "I try my best to honour that [commitment to celibacy]".
Why should we take that seriously? And is it even a claim that he has never fallen? More importantly, even if he has kept his promise of celibacy, his public acknowledgment of the relationship will surely endanger others who will be encouraged to follow his example.
Consider too, the context. He has acknowledged that many of his seminary class mates have left the priesthood to marry. Others, it seems, were child abusers:
"I think that much of the sexual abuse... I'm not saying it's caused by celibacy, I've never said that, but I do think that in that whole climate I don't think that we've, within the Church, got a healthy attitude towards sexuality, and I remember going to court one time to give some hope of a lighter sentence for one of my classmates that was going down for that [!] and I pointed out that in the seminary we were very poorly prepared for a celibate life, and I think in many ways it's all about relationships and where priests are denied healthy relationships that they'd have within marriage, that at times there can be the temptation to find comfort in other areas..."
One of the features of the abuse crisis was surely that occasions of sin frequently led to the commission of sin (human nature being what it is!). One of the lessons we should have learnt is that the Churches age-old emphasis on avoiding occasions of sin should be followed, not rejected.
Instead, it appears successive Canberran archbishops have allowed Bishop Power have allowed to continue to live in scandalous circumstances that appear to have been well-known to many in Canberra, particularly amongst the clergy.
I'd like to hope that Bishop Power's 'early retirement' was actually action by Rome (where the wheels after all do turn slowly in such cases!) and do reflect some attempt to rectify the situation on the part of now Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge. But if, as someone has claimed in a comment, other Canberra clergy are living in similarly scandalous situations, you have to wonder.
Finally, one of the features of the abuse crisis was that heterodoxy - adherence to error or heresy - frequently flowed through into heteropraxy, most often manifested as immoral behaviour.
Since his retirement, Bishop Power has dropped all restraint, openly advocating the practice of homosexuality, the ordination of women, and allowing married clergy to return to pastoral ministry.
All care no responsibility!
A commenter on my earlier, rather sympathetic post on the Bishop suggested that he was a case of all care, no responsibility.
I'd have to say his behaviour at the moment is certainly lending considerable support to that view.
Canberra-Goulburn is currently without either an Archbishop or an Auxiliary. That surely puts an enormous administrative load on those left behind to administer the diocese for the remainder of the interregnum period.
Yet instead of offering to help out, Bishop Power portrays, in the Canberra Times, his abandonment of his Office as a positive virtue:
"His hopes for retirement, freed from the burdens of meetings and bureaucracy, include that he be freer to support priests and deacons hanging in for the long haul. He would also have more time to catch up with other friends and family members and to have a special outreach to those on the outer in the Church and the wider community."
Is this one of those cases of presenting a positive front?
The Vatican is of course notoriously reluctant to speak out on these kind of issues, and explain for example, just why a bishop has requested or accepted 'early retirement'.
The reasons for this perhaps made sense historically, in the desire to preserve reputations.
Maybe they still make some sense when the bishop or priest concerned keeps quiet, or better still adopts a suitably penitential lifestyle.
In this day and age though, when wrong is proclaimed as right, and all too many of those who promised obedience feel free to break that promise, never mind the others made at their ordination, the case for greater transparency seems overwhelming....
Meanwhile, please join me in praying for a good, holy, orthodox and strong new Archbishop for Canberra-Goulburn.
And while you at it you might raise a prayer for good bishops for the still vacant diocese of [about to become?] Wilcannia; and for the Archdiocese of Hobart and diocese of Ballarat (where the bishops are above the age limit).