ROME, October 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, Australia, has issued an extensive mea culpa at the Vatican Youth Synod for all the ways in which the hierarchy and members of the Church have failed young people — whether through the crime of sexual abuse, a lack of catechesis, or by denying young people the “Church’s treasury” of beautiful liturgy, Eucharistic adoration, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
“Today in your presence, Holy Father, and amidst my brother bishops, I want to say sorry to young people for all the ways we’ve failed them,” Archbishop Fisher said in his intervention on Wednesday afternoon.
In his 4-minute speech, delivered on the floor of the Vatican’s Synod Hall, the Archbishop apologized particularly for the “shameful deeds” perpetrated against minors through sexual abuse, the “failure of too many bishops” to respond appropriately when abuse was identified, and for the “damage” done to the Church’s credibility.
He also expressed his regret for “poor preaching,” a failure “to introduce youth to Jesus Christ,” and for not encouraging them to “live heroically [their] baptismal call to holiness.”
However, Archbishop Fisher told youth: “Never give up on Jesus because of our failures.”
“Never give up on the Church that you can help make more faithful. Never give up on the world that, with Christ and the Church’s help, you can make a better place,” he urged young people.
At a Vatican press briefing on Thursday, Archbishop Fisher was asked why he felt the need to acknowledge the abuse scandal, but why he chose to speak “directly to young people” in apologizing for the Church’s failures. The Archbishop responded:
“I did take a long time to work out in what voice to address the Synod. I’d never been to a Synod, and I didn’t know how these things went, but I was very aware in my context, and I know it’s true also for the United States, Ireland, Canada, Chile, Germany, a number of countries, have faced this in the last few years, that there are a lot of young people hurting, or people who were young when they were hurt, and the hurt goes on. And there are others whose trust has been terribly damaged.”
He added: “I felt I have to, the Church has to speak directly to them, not just about them as a phenomenon, or a number. They are real live people that need to hear how sorry we are and how much we want to help and how determined we are to go forward as a Church.”
“I’m quite convinced that is the common view amongst the bishops. I’m not peculiar in this. In a sense, I was just giving voice to something I think would be very widespread,” the Archbishop of Sydney said.
“Likewise,” he added, “I think the laity of our Church want to hear this said by the Church.”
Earlier this week he was elected as a member of the information commission responsible for disseminating news on the Youth Synod.
At today’s press briefing, he concluded by saying that his intervention was meant to give “a voice not just to a few amongst bishops or clergy but Catholics generally.”
“I hope young people can hear it,” he said. “We really are ashamed of what has happened, and we want to make it right to the extent we can, and we are determined to do better in the future. The Church has to be the safest possible place for a young person, not a place where they are put in danger. I hope that is what people will hear through me.”
Here below is the full text of Archbishop Anthony Fisher’s intervention at the Vatican Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.
INTERVENTION BY S.E.R. ANTHONY FISHER OP
Today in your presence, Holy Father, and amidst my brother bishops, I want to say sorry to young people for all the ways we’ve failed them.
For the shameful deeds of some priests, religious and lay people, perpetrated upon you or other young people just like you, and the terrible damage that has done; and for the failure of too many bishops and others to respond appropriately when abuse was identified, and to do all in their power to keep you safe; and for the damage thus done to the Church’s credibility and to your trust (IL 59 and 66): I apologize.
For the times Catholic families, parishes and schools have failed to introduce you to the person of Jesus Christ, his saving word, and his plan for your life; and for the times we’ve seemed to you unwelcoming, distant or harsh, or have not demonstrated the sheer joy of being Christians; and for the times when you were searching for your sexual, ethnic or spiritual identity, and needed a moral compass, but found Church people unsympathetic or ambiguous: I apologize.
For when we’ve sold you short not encouraging you to live heroically your baptismal call to holiness and the paschal path to life through self-renunciation; or when we’ve provided too little youth ministry or other support, so you’ve found living as a young person of faith and ideals lonely in a secular, often cynical world; or when unbeautiful or unwelcoming liturgies have failed to inspire or include you, and when you’ve been denied the Church’s treasury of examination of conscience, reconciliation, adoration, pilgrimages, penances and devotions: I apologize.
For poor preaching, catechesis or spiritual direction that fails to convert, and for lack of imagination or enthusiasm for that new evangelization to which the recent popes have called us; and for our failures to demonstrate God’s mercy, as Pope Francis has insisted we must, and to involve you in campaigns for Christ-centred justice and in works of mercy; and for families, dioceses and religious orders that with a contraceptive mentality have given up on generating new vocations and so have not nurtured yours: I apologize.
To any young person we have let down in these or other ways: from the bottom of my heart I apologize to you. And to the Lord I pray: Kyrie eleison.
But I say to young people also: never give up on Jesus because of our failures. Never give up on the Church that you can help make more faithful. Never give up on the world that, with Christ and the Church’s help, you can make a better place.
In Jesus Christ, the Ancient of Days is made young – for you. The Creator of this beautiful universe comes close to your life to save you. He calls you to ‘come, follow’ him and become his young disciple. He sends you out as a missionary to our world. You can be a hero, for nothing is so exciting as the adventure of the Gospel!
So: when you are lost and need direction, know that the young Jesus is the eternal Way for you! When you are confused and need sound teaching, know that the young Jesus is the eternal Truth for you! When you are searching for the vocation that will most fulfil you, know that the young Jesus is eternal Life for you!
In the presence of the Holy Father and amidst my brother bishops, I recommit myself to young people and to drawing them closer to Christ who is always there for them.