Statement of the Bishop of Parramatta


Statement of the Bishop of Parramatta to the people of the Diocese for the weekend of 21-22 July 2012

Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP
Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP,
Bishop of Parramatta.

My Dear People,

Today’s readings open with the words: “Doom for the shepherds who allow my flock to be destroyed and scattered – it is the Lord who speaks!” (Jer 23:1). They are challenging words to hear at any time, but in our current context they echo forcefully around our parish churches.

We were all shocked by the terrible story of ‘Fr F’ reported recently on Four Corners. It has resulted in public scrutiny of his behaviour while serving in his home Diocese of Armidale, of his time in our own Diocese of Parramatta, and of the adequacy of the Church’s response to allegations about him. It has reignited public condemnation of clerical abuse and criticism of the way it has sometimes been mishandled.

I would like to state my own position clearly on this matter. All sexual abuse within and without the Church is a grave sin before God, a crime and to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. I am acutely aware that the harm it does to victims is incalculable and often irreparable. Child abuse must be eliminated from our Church and everything possible done to bring justice and healing to the victims.

As you will have heard, Bishop Michael Kennedy of Armidale and I have decided jointly to commission an independent inquiry into the matters recently drawn to public attention. We have appointed a distinguished lawyer and former Federal Court judge, Hon. Antony Whitlam QC, to conduct this inquiry. We are determined that justice be served in this case. For many years the Diocese of Parramatta has enjoyed a close working relationship with NSW Police and the NSW Ombudsman which we value greatly. At this critical time we will be co-operating fully with the Police to ensure that any criminal conduct is investigated and dealt with appropriately.

These are times of soul-searching for all Catholics. It is my prayer that this wound in the Body of Christ can be healed radically, now and for the future. I call on all Catholics in our Diocese to pray and offer penance for the purification of the Church from this and all sin, and in particular for the victims of such grave misconduct (cf. Pastoral Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland, 19 March 2010, n. 2).

I urge you, my dear people, to love and to support your priests, the vast majority of whom are dedicated men, loyal to their mission as priests, and do not deserve to be tarnished by association with the perpetrators of these crimes. Our priests need your prayer and support more than ever at this time.

In our first reading the Prophet Jeremiah dreams of a virtuous descendant of David who will be the Good Shepherd for us. He also promises that God will raise up other shepherds after the heart of that Good Shepherd, shepherds who will care for us and whom none need fear. Sure enough, in St Mark’s Gospel, we see the advent of that Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who takes pity on a crowd who were “like sheep without a shepherd” (Mk 6:34). As He was the model for His apostles, so He is the model for all true pastors. We turn to Him in prayer today. I will pray for all of you in this difficult time that we may adhere ever more closely to the Person of Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully in the Good Shepherd

(Most Rev.) Anthony Fisher OP

Bishop of Parramatta 

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