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.
Former Parramatta Bishop Anthony Fisher (pictured above) will be sworn in as the new Archbishop of Sydney in November, replacing George Pell who has taken up the post of the Vatican’s finance secretary.
His successor, who was raised in the south west Sydney suburb of Lakemba and worked for a time as a lawyer, has previously rallied against marriage equality.
In a speech to the St Thomas More Forum in 2012, Fisher acknowledged gay couples could love one another as much as straight couples.
However, he said anything other than heterosexual marriage, in order to bring up children, would inevitably lead to polygamy and even parents marrying their offspring.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
In the same speech, Fisher also said that Christian schools would face “enormous pressures” to teach children “that [same sex marriages] are the equal of real marriages and thus that homosexual acts are the equal of conjugal ones”.
The Archbishop-elect, who will oversee Australia’s largest Catholic diocese, struck a more conciliatory tone with the Star Observer.
“I look forward to leading the church in Sydney and serving all Sydneysiders in the years to come,” he said.
“As a “Sydney boy” who has lived and worked all over this great city, and as leader of the world’s most multinational institution, I value the wide variety of backgrounds of Sydney’s people. It’s part of our rich culture and one of our great strengths.”
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.”
However, he declined to say whether his previously-reported views on same sex marriage remained current.
Nevertheless, Catholic Church insiders have said Fisher’s approach is likely to be less hardline than his predecessor and more in step with Pope Francis.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis seemed to suggest same sex unions had some validity.
Former parish priest and member of Inclusive Catholics, Greg Reynolds, said conservatives stacked the ranks of Australian bishops.
“The old guard still have significant influence and they tend to be very loyal to the official teachings and the institution as opposed to loyalty to the spirit of Jesus,” he said.
“Only time will tell if a different breed of bishops will emerge as new men are appointed.”
Still battling to overcome the scandal of child abuse in the church, Reynolds said the Australian hierarchy remained “fairly quiet about gay issues”.
However, any crackdown on gay priests could backfire, Reynolds said, as they were “over-represented among the clergy” and could lead to a lack of candidates for vocation.
(Main image credit: Parramatta Catholic Diocese website)