The Archbishop of Sydney has criticized the city council’s sponsorship and advertising of a recent “Heaps Gay Live & Queer” concert held outside the city’s cathedral. LGBTQ advocates have objected to the archbishop’s comments, while some anti-equality protestors tried to disrupt the event.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher, O.P., took issue with the concert’s promotional materials, which featured the cathedral’s facade under the headline “Heaps Gay Live & Queer.” Fisher criticized the decision on Facebook, noting that, “It is frustrating and upsetting that St. Mary’s Cathedral, the mother church of Australia, has been used so provocatively to promote this event and such little sensitivity shown to people of faith.” He clarified that the forecourt of the cathedral was council land rather than church property and therefore, “the decision about the content of the concert and its advertising is unfortunately not ours to make.”
Some followers appear to have also circulated a petition, claiming that, “the LGBT community has disrespected the Christian nation” and calling for the prevention of LGBTQ-related events “in close proximity of any church in Sydney.”
Part of the two-month-long Sunset Piazza concert series, the event was billed as a “chaotic queer variety show” featuring the band Heaps Gay and was sponsored by the New South Wales government and the City of Sydney.
Speaking to the ABC, Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore took pride in the city’s inclusiveness and celebration of diversity:
“There is no place for hate, intolerance, or the sowing of division, she said. “We have made great strides toward equality, but it is sadly clear there is much work left to ensure LBGTI communities live free from discrimination.”
The image was removed, however, according to a Sydney council spokesperson, and all participating groups were asked to use the official Sunset Piazza logo in advertising “to avoid any confusion.” The spokesperson said that, “the City consulted and liaised closely with St. Mary’s Cathedral representatives” throughout the whole planning process of the concerts.
Following the adjustment to the promotions, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that, “Senior members of the church have recently told the City they have no objection to the Heaps Gay event going ahead.” But protestors under the name “Christian Lives Matter” did try to disrupt the concert held last Saturday. Pink News reported that the protestors gathered at the cathedral steps “waving Biblical banners and loudly singing tone-deaf hymns in an apparent bid to disrupt the show.” One of the “Christian Lives Matter” protest organizers said in an interview that queer people were like murderers and drug dealers.”
Fisher’s remarks provoked outcry from Australian Catholics for Equality and other LGBTQ advocacy groups, as well as individual Catholics on social media. “Gay people exist and they’re beautiful children of God,” Australian Catholics for Equality posted on their Facebook page. “[The archbishop] could’ve followed Jesus and Pope Francis…all that free advertising for St. Mary’s only to be wasted to bigotry. Aren’t gay people sacred? Would only ‘Heaps Straight’ be sacred?”
This isn’t the first time that Archbishop Fisher has spoken out in ways that are harmful to the LGBTQ community. In 2017, he urged Sydney Catholics to vote against same-gender marriage, arguing that it would “deconstruct” marriage and family in Australia. He has also denounced same-gender couples as parents, maintaining that it is best for children to have a male and female parent, and yet appeals to tolerance in his complaint about the concert.
In his statement, Fisher said:
“In this great season of Lent, we need to pray to ask the Lord that in our great and ‘tolerant’ city of Sydney, that religious belief will be respected and protected and that we will all rediscover an appreciation for what is sacred. This Lent, I’d encourage you all to make a pilgrimage to St. Mary’s Cathedral for Mass, Confession, or private prayer. I look forward to welcoming you there.”
The irony, of course, is the one-way street the archbishop claims for tolerance. The cathedral’s own website calls itself a “welcoming venue for reflection,” even as its archbishop preaches the opposite of justice and inclusion. Australian Catholics for Equality stands firm in their advocacy for respect and compassion, denouncing Fisher’s hypocrisy:
“Words matter bishop and they can do grave harm. To infer that gay people are not people of faith or that their lives and realities make our church somehow less sacred demeans and demonises them as less than children of God and that diminishes us all. Enough of this narrow-mindedness. Lent is a good time to challenge and repent from one’s internalised sin of homophobia.”
—Angela Howard-McParland, New Ways Ministry, March 1, 2021