In a final note about 2017, an Australian archbishop has said the year was an “annus horibilis” or horrible year due, in part, to marriage equality’s passage in that country. But where he sees horror, others see much hope.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney made his comment in the annual Christmas message for the archdiocese, saying:
“At the end of another year the need for renewed hope unites us all. Like any year, this one has had its challenges for our world, our country, and each of us individually. For people of faith you might say it’s been an annus horribilis, as 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.”
Fisher additionally pointed to “our idealistic young people” as sources of hope:
“The throng of young people standing up for faith and ideals says to us that whatever the past failures, we can have hope for ourselves, our families, our Church, our nation, our world. Our young people are not naïve about the shames in our past or the trials in our future. But they want to be part of the answer to both.”
This latest statement about LGBT rights leaves Fisher an increasingly minority voice in the Australian hierarchy. Several leading bishops made LGBT-negative statements during this fall’s postal survey on marriage equality, in which Australian voters overwhelmingly voted “Yes.” Fisher’s response has, however, been the sharpest.
After the postal survey, Fisher said he was “deeply disappointed,” and he thanked voters who “stuck to their guns and voted No or abstained. . .[in] a David and Goliath struggle with politicians, corporates, celebrities, journalists, professional and sporting organizations drowning out the voices of ordinary Australians and pressuring everyone to vote Yes.” Fisher then claimed the postal survey results were wrong because 20% of Australians did not vote. During the survey, Fisher “sent hundreds of flyers to city churches and published articles on many church websites” encouraging Catholics to vote no, reported News.com.au.
But since marriage equality became law, Fisher is the only high-profile bishop to speak out so forcefully. Others have chosen to remain quiet, perhaps recognizing such opposition at this point benefits neither the church nor civil discourse. Such insight has yet to come to Archbishop Fisher.
For many reasons, 2017 was indeed an annus horribilis for the world. One need only turn on the news or check Twitter to find plenty of evil. The further advancement of marriage equality and other LGBT rights is not, however, among those reasons. In this assessment, the archbishop is simply incorrect. Bondings 2.0’s recently published list of “The Best Catholic LGBT News Events of 2017” reveals that, even with setbacks, justice in the Church is moving forward.
What I share with Fisher is his appraisal that young people are sources of hope. In their widespread acceptance and pursuit of justice for LGBT people, youth and younger adults are helping the world realize a more and more inclusive future. Millennials are, in the archbishop’s words, “not naïve about the shames in our past or the trials in our future.” We recognize the pain which church leaders like Fisher have caused and the Church’s longstanding oppression of LGBT people. But we are, again in his words, wanting to be “part of the answer.” It is just that justice innately means equality for all people without exception.
Looking ahead in this new year, there are many reasons for hope. Catholics’ increasing commitment to LGBT equality is one of them–a sign that, through our efforts and God’s grace, 2018 could very much be an annus mirabilis – a wonderful year!
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 2, 2018