Archbishop who offended clergy sex abuse survivors in 2008 is now a keynote speaker for the USCCB, SNAP stunned
(For Immediate Release April 26, 2022)
During a 2008 World Youth Day press conference, Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, Australia, then an auxiliary bishop, remarked that survivors of clergy sex abuse were "dwelling crankily"on "old wounds." His comments appalled the survivor community in his country at the time. Yet according to a recent report, when the U.S. Catholic bishops gather June 13-17th for a retreat in San Diego, the assembly will feature spiritual talks by Archbishop Fisher.
To us, the invitation to Archbishop Fisher is yet another slap in the face of survivors worldwide. To feature a hierarch who demonstrated such a stunning lack of understanding of the long-term effects of clergy sexual abuse is nothing short of perplexing, especially since the Church continues to experience ongoing cases of abuse and cover-up.
Australia's Royal Commission, a top-level inquiry into institutional child sexual abuse in Archbishop Fisher's own country, found 4,444 allegations of child sexual abuse had been reported to Catholic authorities. The Commission said in February 2017 that most of the abuse took place in churches, with 7 percent of Catholic priests in Australia accused of abusing children between 1950 and 2010. The Commission also reported that these allegations were almost never investigated by the Church and that in some dioceses more than 15 percent of clerics were perpetrators.
We note that many of those who were abused in the 1990s or early 2000s may still not have come forward. Delayed disclosure is a well-researched fact. Accordingly, we concur with our SNAP representatives in Australia that even the Commission's appalling numbers may be extremely low, and that the true extent of clergy abuse will likely never be known.
We are calling on the USCCB to drop the synodal roadshow on "fraternal bonding" and instead seriously look at the empty pews and evaluate why the level of trust in their institution is at an all-time low. This "retreat" appears to be nothing more than a tactic to distract churchgoers from the ever-present problem of clergy sexual abuse, including the lack of accountability and transparency the Church created and continues to perpetuate. Until Catholic leaders definitively decide to clean up the wreckage of the past, admit without any reservation their hand in these crimes, and make true reparation to victims who continue to carry the pain, these "old wounds" will never begin to heal.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for more than 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)