The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Bishop Tells Sex Abuse Victims To Stop “Dwelling Crankily On Old Wounds”

Posted by Rhiana Whitson on July 17, 2008

In response to questions about the tragic case of clerical sexual abuse victims Emma and Katherine Foster’s parents wish to seek a meeting with the Pope Word Youth Day organiser and senior Australian bishop Anthony Fisher commented:

“Happily, I think most of Australia was enjoying, delighting in, the beauty and goodness of these young people… rather than dwelling on crankily, as a few people are doing, on old wounds…”

Sexual abuse is never an ‘old wound,’ and the consequence of comments like those of Bishop Fishers can have detrimental effects to not only the victims themselves, but public opinion of sexual abuse. Quoted in the same article, child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg suggests that the bishop’s comments act to reinforce the idea popular amongst many that the impact of sexual abuse is trivial (remember Summer Heights High ‘joking’ in the first ep that a tree in the school grounds was the site of a rape).

When it comes to comes to the abuse case in question, that of the Foster sisters, it is clear that sexual abuse does not just vanish along with the physical scars, or with the passing of time. Between 1988 and 1993 Katherine and Emma Foster were repeatedly raped by priest Kevin O’Donnell when students at Sacred Heart School, Oakleigh. Both girls suffered extreme trauma as a result, with Emma committing suicide this year at age 26 while Katherine has been left disabled after drinking heavily and hit by a drunk driver in 1999. (Check out Lateline for a more in depth re-telling of this absolutely tragic case.)

 Bishop Anthony Fishers comments show an extreme disrespect to not only the Foster’s but to all sexual abuse victims. As Christine Foster, the mother of the Emma and Katherine put it,

“The … ‘old wounds’ he speaks of, never heal and victims of sexual assault suffer all their life.”

I want to finish with the words of Anthony Foster, the father of the victims,

“The church can’t claim to speak with any authority to society about how it should behave when the church can’t behave properly and morally with its own victims.”

Bishop Fisher, we should be very “cranky”.


3 Responses to “Bishop Tells Sex Abuse Victims To Stop “Dwelling Crankily On Old Wounds””

  1. rhianawhitson2 said

    Apologies for the nonsensical parts of this post… I’m not really dyslexic, just a bad proofreader! Rhiana.

  2. Deanna Leonti said

    Bishop Fischer’s comments on sex abuse case criticized, cardinal responds

    “Happily, I think most of Australia was enjoying delighting in the beauty and goodness of these young people and the hope – the hope for us doing these sorts of things better in the future – as we saw last night, rather than, than dwelling crankily, as a few people are doing, on old wounds.”

    I Think the Bishop’s comment was very insensative. I wonder if that is what he felt about the issue or was it someone else’s feeling?
    Christianity’s roots stem from Judaism. look what a website on Judaism says;
    “Clarity or death.” “Death” is the complete absence of consciousness; reduced consciousness is therefore partial death.
    A wise person asks questions. And a wise person looks for answers.
    The best defense against abuse is to question what you see. Use your intellect to uncover inconsistencies, irregularities and rationalizations.
    Preaching is giving over information with fire and brimstone, without paying attention to what your audience is feeling. A preacher instructs: “I’m the authority…I’ll straighten you out… Accept what I say… Don’t question… Park your mind… Listen to me… Obey me!”
    Preaching is being a demigod, getting people excited and overwhelmed and moving them with an emotional sway. That’s not teaching. That’s brainwashing. And that is totally not the Jewish”

  3. hannahcolman said

    I saw this article on the Age Online’s homepage when it was posted and was completely shocked at Bishop Fisher’s insensitive comment. It must have been such a slap in the face to victims of sexual abuse, especially those who are part of the Catholic church.

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