Our Lady of the Rosary Parish Kellyville

Parramatta’s loss is Sydney’s gain, but let’s be thankful for what we have received


Catholic Outlook November 2014: Family & Life Office
Mass for Celebrating the Early Years of Marriage, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, 22 April 2012. Photo: Jack Crombie.

Originally published in Catholic Outlook November 2014

By Family & Life Office Director Ben Smith

Archbishop Anthony Fisher is a champion in proclaiming the gospel of life and love, which is the essence of marriage and the family. Despite the short overlap between the establishment of the Family and Life Office in the Diocese on 10 June 2014 and Archbishop Anthony’s tenure in our Diocese coming to end, he has laid a substantial platform from which the gospel of life and love can spring forth in the Diocese in 2015 and beyond.

One of the most important aspects of this platform is the Diocesan Pastoral Plan, Faith in Our Future, launched on 23 February this year, which identified support for families as one of its top five priorities.

The key issues of the platform highlighted by Archbishop Anthony were: same-sex ‘marriage’, euthanasia, bioethics, marriage, sexuality, family, healthcare ethics, abortion, IVF, contraception and the meaning of love. However, the most critical issues he addressed were the attempts to redefine marriage and the push to legalise euthanasia.

Archbishop Anthony has been forthright in his defence of traditional marriage, as he is well aware that the “the future of humanity passes by way of the family” (Familiaris Consortio, 86). Last year, he identified and explained in his Ray Reid Lecture at the Gifts and Graces of Marriage Conference, that a five-stage revolution had been attacking the notion of the traditional family in Western society since the late 1960s.

It started with sex-on-demand, championed by the hippies with their slogan “make love not war”. This stage involved contraception and abortion-on-demand as well.

The second phase was divorce-on-demand, which resulted in a decline in the view that marriage is for life, destabilising the permanence of marriage and the family and robbing spouses and children of this experience of permanence.

The third stage was children-on-demand in which IVF became legal in the 1980s and was used to ‘manufacture’ children for those who could afford them.

The fourth stage was marriage-on-demand that involved the mainstreaming of de-facto relationships in the 1990s.

The fifth stage, which we are currently experiencing, is sexuality-on-demand in which gender, sexual orientation, marriage and family are plastic concepts that can be moulded to suit the purpose of any individual.

Inspired by Archbishop Anthony’s defence of the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family, we must stand against the push to legalise same sex ‘marriage’. The redefinition of marriage will, based on the empirical experience of European countries which have introduced this change, lead to a weakening of the status of all marriages and facilitate an increase in divorce and a reduction in the rate of marriage.

Archbishop Anthony has given clear guidance on how this five-stage revolution can be countered, drawing heavily on the work of St John Paul II, whose teaching on the Theology of the Body provides an antidote to the false notions of the human person, love, sex, marriage, family and gender that prevail in our time.

He has also been a strong advocate against the legalisation of euthanasia in Australia. The children of the five-stage revolution highlighted above are keen to access euthanasia-on-demand. The mentality of the people who argued for abortion on demand in the 1970s by using the slogan ‘my body, my right’ are keen to use the same argument for euthanasia.

However, what seems like a private decision has public consequences, as seen by developments in The Netherlands. In his recent submission to Federal Parliament on the Exposure Draft of the Medical Services (Dying with Dignity) Bill 2014, sent on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Anthony cited comments by Dutch Prof Theo Boer. Prof Boer stated that, in The Netherlands “euthanasia is on the way to becoming a ‘default’ mode of dying for cancer patients”.

Once a practice becomes the default option, a subtle cultural pressure begins to weigh on the decisions of sick people whose decision making is often compromised by their weakened bodies. This is one of the many reasons why the Archbishop argued that it is impossible to protect the vulnerable from euthanasia even with the most stringent legal safeguards. Hence euthanasia can never be made safe.

Parramatta will soon lose a world-class advocate for the gospel of life and love. Sydney will gain a great asset at a time when the Church, as part of the Synod on the Family, is pondering new pastoral approaches for helping marriages and families.

Despite our loss, we count our blessings for the profound teaching and leadership that we have received, which we are all called to proclaim in our churches, families and workplaces.

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