New Australian Archbishop Needs to Replace "Logic" With a Dose of Reality

The headline in Australia’s Star-Gazette newspaper was intriguing:  “No place for bigotry against gays in Catholic Church, says Sydney’s new archbishop.”  I was ready for some really good news, but my hope was dashed somewhat when I read the story.  I didn’t need to read very far.  The first sentence hurt enough:

“Sydney’s next top Catholic has told the Star Observer he will not stand for homophobia in the church, but he stopped short of distancing himself from comments made two years ago when he said same sex marriage would lead to polygamy.”

Archbishop-elect Anthony Fisher

It might seem that Archbishop-elect Anthony Fisher is a lot better than his predecessor, Cardinal George Pell, who in 2011, according to the newspaper, “compared homosexuality to the ‘flaw’ in a carpet maker’s otherwise perfect carpet.”  It is not so much Farmatta’s opposition to marriage equality which is so surprising or outrageous, but the way that he argues the case is disrespectful to gay and lesbian couples.

In a 2012 essay on same-sex marriage, Fisher raised the specter that marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples will bring about polygamy:

“Now the social engineers have their sights set on removing the ‘man and woman’ part of marriage as well. All that will be left is marriage as an emotional union: it’s enough, as they say, that people love each other. But if marriage is just about feelings and promises, it obviously can’t be limited to a man and a woman: two men or two women might love each other. But on the same logic so might more than two.”

But he didn’t stop there, and he also predicted other travesties:

“If polygamy is irresistible on the ‘all that matters is that they love each other’ line, so is marriage between siblings or between a parents and their (adult) child. Once again this is not just ‘slippery slope’ pessimism: it simply reflects the fact that the advocates of SSM [same-sex marriage] give no account of marriage that would exclude such intimate partnerships from being deemed marriages. Only marriage understood as the kind of comprehensive union I have outlined can resist such ‘morphing.’ “

The simplest answer to this illogical thinking is:  “No one is asking for polygamous or incestuous relationships to be recognized.”   The marriage equality movement arose because there is a natural equality between the love that a gay or lesbian couple share and the love of a heterosexual couple.  The social goods from such love are also the same in both types of couples.  No one is saying the same thing about polygamous or incestuous relationships.  To make the comparison is not a logical argument, but fear-mongering.

But where the archbishop-elect’s line of thinking is most disrespectful by the fact that he sees the advent of marriage equality as a result of the sexual revolution, and not as a question of justice and liberation, as more and more Catholics have begun to see it. Embedded in this line of thinking is that all that matters to gay and lesbian people is to have their sexual relationship recognized.  That is simply not the case.  What they want recognized and protected is their love and commitment to one another, so that their partnership, which might include a family, can develop strongly, can protect their emotional and personal needs, and can contribute to the common good.

The Star-Gazette news article quoted Fisher’s statement on abhorring discrimination:

“Fisher added that he would not tolerate discrimination: ‘The Catholic Church teaches that God is love and that all He has created is good, God loves everyone and there is no place for hatred and bigotry in His Church towards people with same sex attraction.’ ”

Yet, in this very statement he shows, again, disrespect by using the term “same sex attraction” and not “gay and lesbian” which is how the overwhelming majority of such people identify.   If he wants to show that he is concerned about this community, the first thing he should do is to respect their self-identification.  Even Pope Francis uses the word “gay.”

Fisher, like many other members of the hierarchy, needs to learn that if he really wants to welcome LGBT people to the church, he needs to become more knowledgeable about their lives, the nature of their relationships, and about the real forms of injustice and inequality that they experience.  Too often such bishops think that they are being “compassionate,” when in fact, they are being unjust.

Fisher needs to replace his “logic” with a dose of reality.  His first line of business as archbishop should be to open a dialogue with LGBT Catholics to learn about their faith journeys and their gifts.  I don’t think that someone like him is unreformable, but I think he needs to see how his “logical” arguments are, in fact, pastorally and personally harmful.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry







10 replies
  1. Michael Clifton
    Michael Clifton says:

    I agree with your analysis, but the case of polygamy is not a pure fantasy. Alas! Gert Hekma, a Dutch intellectual, spoke this year to the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups in favour of allowing marriage of 3 or more people, such as a gay couple who marry a lesbian couple and have children together. He said that a law of this sort was in preparation in the Netherlands.

  2. Friends
    Friends says:

    As I’ve said before, in similar contexts: the root problem here is that Catholic priests and bishops are men living (presumably) in an enforced celibate and unpartnered condition, and therefore they have no empathy with, nor direct experience of, warm and intimate marital relationships. Many of them are emotionally stunted and frustrated, and thus perhaps, at some unconscious level, envious and resentful of the warm and intimate relationships enjoyed by others. Of course there are exceptions — and indeed there are some exceptionally warm and empathetic bishops, including (in an exemplary way) Pope Francis himself. But they seem to be very few and far between. Abolish the ridiculous and needless imposition of mandatory celibacy for all priests and bishops, and I believe a “sea change” in official Church policy toward lovingly-partnered Catholics would follow in due course.

    • Michael Clifton
      Michael Clifton says:

      I’m in absolute agreement. A lot of the problem comes from sexual frustration among the clergy.
      There is also a big dose of hypocrisy. Sometimes the people who are most outspoken are those who are leading double lives. An anecdote: An acquaintance went to Rome recently for a meeting at the Vatican. The night before at a restaurant he noticed an obviously gay couple of mature men wearing the latest trendy clothes etc. The next morning at his meeting he sees the same two men walk in wearing ecclesiastical garb: it was Bishop X and his private secretary Father Y! How is it possible to take such people seriously? If they weren’t doing harm by interfering in people’s lives, the situation would be laughable.

  3. Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM
    Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM says:

    The tone that I sense from my brother, Anthony, seems to be from a place of dualistic thinking where there is a winner and a loser in a debate and where there is the enlightened and the unenlightened. I would invite him to approach the discussion concerning sacramental and civil marriage with a humility that recognizes that no one is lesser than and no one is greater than. I would also invite him to enter the discussion in a spirit of respect that recognizes everyone has their truth to be shared and not dissected. Concerning polygamy and incest, I don’t believe that marriage equality would produce socially acceptable polygamy and incest. Polygamy has been established since biblical times. And, as far as incest, I suspect that consenting adults have lived in such relationships before talk of marriage equality. I have witnessed the marriages of my lesbian daughters and of gay friends. I have observed more unions of equals in these commitments than I have in heterosexual unions. And, of course, I have witnessed unions of equals in heterosexual commitments. But, too often, it seems that the heterosexual marriages reflect an established, social contract that institutionalizes subservience of women and children to a man and infers that they are his property. Food for thought.

  4. Benjamin Regotti
    Benjamin Regotti says:

    What a great reflection, Frank. Thank you for such consistently clear and insightful commentary. You are so “in sinc” with God’s Spirit! Peace! –Ben

  5. Ghosty Wolfe
    Ghosty Wolfe says:

    This reminds me of a particular line I have heard from heterosexuals all my life. I’ve heard it so many time it actually pains me now when a person makes the statement. It starts out well but ends horribly. It goes like this, “I don’t care if someone is gay …(brief pause and you’re thinking “oh open minded, nice person I might be able to be friends with but THEN the guy just has to go on and ruin the moment) …SO LONG AS THEY DON’T COME ON TO ME I’m fine with it! Any guy coming on to me will get his “insert gay slur here” @%@#$% kicked!” The comments from the Archbishop really remind me of that kind of stupidity. I find it alarming that man so well educated could make statements that are so incredibly illogical and foolish. I find it even more alarming that he is allowed around children. And, no, I am not joking when I say that. It’s people like him who are, even as I type, teaching this next generation to be hateful and intolerant. Let’s hope he gets over his need to be part of that elite set of the chosen eh? I really believe that’s what this is about. So long as LGBT people are “intrinsically disordered” the archbishop can get up every morning and know, no matter what else happens in his day, life is good because at least he’s not one of the awful LGBT people. I bet it puts a big smile on his face every time he thinks on it. Racism works much the same btw. The need to have someone “lesser than” ourselves is not one of our species better characteristics. 🙁


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Australia’s Catholic bishops were quite supportive of Abbot’s tactics, which enhanced their own efforts to prevent LGBT rights, including using children in Catholic schools as messengers of an anti-gay pamphlet. In addition, Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher struck at pro-equality Catholics in remarks deemed pastorally insensitive. […]

  2. […] using children in Catholic schools as messengers for an anti-gay pamphlet.  Additionally,  pastorally insensitive remarks by Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher were hurtful to many. Thankfully, Australian Catholics […]

  3. […] Fisher previously stated that marriage equality would lead to polygamy and incest being legalized. At that time, Bondings 2.0 said the archbishop need to replace his logic with a dose of reality. […]

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