Far-sightedness of Father Purcell

Far-sightedness of Father Purcell

Fr Brian Harrison OS

It is sad that Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, whose deeply dissident book you reviewed in the October issue, is apparently passing through a crisis of faith.

He has evidently regressed to the point at which I found myself 35 years ago! I had lost my youthful Protestant belief in 'Sola Scriptura' and was wondering if there was any infallible authority at all on earth. But on coming to realise that without such an authority there is no credible divine revelation at all, I was given the grace to accept in faith the Roman Catholic Church's claim to speak with that authority.

Since Bishop Robinson has evidently ceased to believe in the infallibility of either ex cathedra papal definitions or ecumenical councils, he is unfortunately on a trajectory that could logically lead him to abandon historic Christianity altogether.

That, as I say, is sad. But the Bishop's book also provokes indignation, because serious harm to the Church and to souls is caused when a successor of the Apostles who has made a shipwreck of the faith decides not to 'go quietly', but rather to trumpet his doubts and uncertainties to the world in a book of several hundred pages.

Since this Bishop is now advocating something pretty much like liberal Anglicanism, his book will confirm Protestant and Orthodox Christians in their errors, delight the Church's secularist enemies, and inject further dissent and confusion into an already weakened and divided Australian Catholic community.

This sorry affair only proves the far-sightedness of a great battler for the faith, the late Fr Terence Purcell, who realised Geoffrey Robinson should never have been made a bishop in the first place.

Supported by dozens of other Sydney priests back in 1982, when then-Father Robinson was being widely touted as a future bishop, Fr Purcell repeatedly tried to warn Vatican authorities that Fr Robinson was a public dissenter from Church doctrine prohibiting divorced and remarried Catholics from receiving Communion.

Unfortunately, the Pro-Nuncio, Archbishop Luigi Barbarito, refused to forward these grave concerns to Rome.

Sure enough, Fr Robinson was ordained a bishop in early 1984. About a month later, Fr Purcell learned that his own registered airmail letter of December 1982 direct to the then-Cardinal Ratzinger, documenting the Sydney priest's flagrant unorthodoxy, had mysteriously failed ever to reach His Eminence.

St Louis, Missouri, USA

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