Advocates for marriage equality have criticised Australia’s leading Catholic for saying 2017 was a ‘horrible year’ because of the same-sex marriage debate and the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.
In a Christmas message released on Friday, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said Christian concepts of life and love were challenged during the “annus horribilis” of 2017.
Reverend Fisher also acknowledged the “shameful crimes and cover-ups” in the church uncovered by the child abuse royal commission.
“For people of faith you might say it’s been an annus horribilis,” he said.
“Our Christian conceptions of life and love have been challenged in the marriage and euthanasia debates, freedom of religion in Australia put in doubt and shameful crimes and cover ups in our church uncovered by the royal commission.”
Equality Campaign spokesman Clint McGilvray said Reverend Fisher’s decision to refer to both marriage equality and the sexual abuse inquiry in the same context was “completely wrong”.
“One is celebrating the best of Australian values, the best of who we are and what we are,” Mr McGilvray told the ABC.
“In terms of the other, I mean that is a terrible thing what’s happened and the church has to address that.
“As a Catholic I know the majority of Catholic Australians voted yes because it is in line with the values of our faith, and it’s also in line with the values of a ‘fair go’ and treating everyone with the same dignity and respect.”
Those on social media also deemed the message insensitive, suggesting those who had suffered at the hands of the abuse had perhaps had a worse year than the church.
Top Catholic proclaims 2017 as 'annus horribilis' in wake of SSM, royal commission https://t.co/olxCzIiI0F – because this is all about the Church, never the damaged lives left behind by its evil actions 😡
— Mark Pesce 🏳️🌈YES (@mpesce) December 22, 2017
Oh, Catholic leaders. You make ministry so hard for the rest of us, including the many Catholics who disagree with you. No wonder it’s so hard to convince people that God is Love and Christianity welcomes everyone. https://t.co/kby79uc45w via @ABCNews
— Avril (@DocAvvers) December 23, 2017
In his message, Reverend Fisher also said he found hope in the number of young people “standing up for faith and ideals”.
“Our young people are not naive about the shames in our past or the trials in our future, but they want to be part of the answer to both,” he said.
“They are generously responding to the call to be priests and prophets, servant leaders and saints, the spiritual heroes we need for our times.”
Reverend Fisher was one of the senior members of the clergy to reject some of the recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, including changing confessional to force priests to report abuse.
“I think any proposal to effectively stop the practice of confession in Australia would be a real hurt to all Catholics and Orthodox Christians and I don’t think would help any young person,” he said.
Formerly the Bishop of Parramatta, Reverend Fisher was appointed the ninth Archbishop of Sydney in 2014, stepping into the breach following Cardinal George Pell’s appointment to the Secretariat Of the Economy which saw him move to the Vatican.
At the time, Reverend Fisher committed to improving the church’s response to abuse.
“Victims of abuse and all young people must come first – no excuses, no cover-ups. The Church must do better in this area and I am committed to playing a leading role in regaining the confidence of the community and of our own members,” he said.
– with AAP