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Bishop says forgiving priest abusers easier said than done

Sydney auxiliary Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, whose pioneering healing work with clergy sex abuse victims was recognised last week, has said that forgiveness often involves a struggle between a victim's feelings and his or her will to forgive.

He said that people have no direct control over their feelings.

"A victim who thinks of a serious offence will feel angry and there is nothing that can be done to prevent this anger," he said. "To think of the offence and not feel angry is simply not an option."

Bishop Robinson received an honorary doctorate from the Australian Catholic University for his work in the development and maintenance of professional standards in ministry and in the Towards Healing process of responding to victims of abuse.

"He has laboured with great sensitivity, honesty and compassion to assist those affected by sexual abuse within the Australian Church," said vice-chancellor Professor Peter Sheehan. "Leadership in the area of professional standards has been as important and necessary as it has been challenging and painful."

Bishop Robinson said there are two stages to forgiveness. The first is the desire to leave an offence behind and get on with life.

The second involves turning towards the offender and asking: "Do I want only punishment for the offender or do I also want to see change and growth?"

Victims have forgiven when they are able to answer that, even though they may still see punishment as necessary and desirable, they also want growth and change in the offender.

Bishop Robinson, 66, stepped down last year after nine years as Chair of the Australian Catholic Bishops Committee for Professional Standards.

Speech by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson (Australian Catholic University Graduation Ceremony 26/3/04)
ACU National graduation at Parliament House (Australian Catholic University 24/3/04)

ACU honours Bishop Robinson (Catholic Weekly 4/4/04)
Citation: Geoffrey James Robinson (Australian Catholic University Graduation Ceremony 26/3/04)
Australian Catholic University
Towards Healing: Principles and procedures in responding to complaints of abuse against personnel of the Catholic Church of Australia

31 Mar 2004