Reviewed by PAT LYTHE.
Love’s Urgent Longings, this slim (100 pages) book, packs a powerful punch as retired Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, whose book Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church (2007) caused alarm and criticisms from the hierarchy, as he criticised the Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis.
Now he examines his own personal struggle to live out his faith journey. Do I stay within the Church? What is God asking of me? Is there a God?
Although it is a very personal story, it is a journey that will resonate with many thinking Catholics on their own travels. Bishop Patrick Dunn has just held a series of regional forums in Auckland at which he has posed the question, “How do we live our faith in this secular society today?”
Robinson also asks this question and, like Bishop Dunn, examines the polarity between religion and spirituality. Robinson asks himself would just a general spirituality be enough for him. What is spirituality? What is the meaning and purpose of life? What satisfies his deepest longings? What nourishes or what stifles his relationship with a loving God?
The concept of a God who judges instead of a forgiving God who loves unconditionally has often been portrayed by the “rules” of the institutional Church. How do we address this dichotomy? Robinson comes to the conclusion that he needs a community that shares his faith around him. But it needs to be a community that has the freedom to help all people to grow and to become all that they are capable of being.
Money, sex and power have been the biggest temptations to human beings.
The Church’s response has been poverty, chastity and obedience. Robinson suggests that these could be replaced by simplicity, fidelity and service.
If we all lived more simply, were faithful to our relationships and reached out in service to others, he says — these attitudes are essential for a new spirituality for a sustainable planet and a prosperous humanity.
These are just a few of the questions, the issues and possible solutions Robinson poses as he explores his own crisis of faith. His questions are our questions.
LOVE’S URGENT LONGINGS — Wrestling with Belief in Today’s Church by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson (2010, John Garrat Publishing, available from Pleroma Christian Supplies); $24.99. Mrs Lythe works in the Pastoral Office and is the coordinator of the Pastoral Services team in Auckland diocese.