Bishop Anthony Fisher, the auxiliary bishop of Sydney and coordinator of World Youth Day, is under fire for his remarks about World Youth Day being overshadowed by “old wounds” related to clerical sexual abuse. Cardinal Pell, the archbishop of Sydney, has responded to the situation by repeating his apology about the case in question.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports that when asked about the Church’s response to the crimes of Father Kevin O'Donnell in Melbourne, Bishop Fisher responded:
“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.”
Father O’Donnell was accused of sexually abusing Emma and Katie Foster between 1988 and 1993. Emma went on to suffer from anorexia and drug abuse and committed suicide earlier this year. The younger sister became alcoholic and was hit by a car. She now requires 24-hour care.
The priest was never tried in the Foster sisters’ case but was convicted of other child sex crimes in 1995 and jailed. He died in 1997.
In 1998 the Foster sisters’ family received an apology from Cardinal George Pell, the present Archbishop of Sydney who had been appointed Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996. Archbishop Pell encouraged the family to enter the Towards Healing program, whose compensation payments were capped at AU$50,000.
The family refused and instead pursued litigation over an eight year period.
Anthony Foster, the Foster sisters’ father, was reportedly infuriated by Bishop Fisher’s comments.
Foster said an “open ended arrangement” was needed to care for victims of clerical sexual abuse.
"No limits, full and free flow of help to victims for the rest of their lives, because they will suffer for the rest of their lives," he explained.
Cardinal Pell on Wednesday defended his handling of the Foster case, emphasizing that his apology to the Foster family still stands.
“I apologized to Emma in 1998. I met with her parents,” the cardinal said, noting that they had been offered financial help.
"We also offered them counseling for Emma and Emma availed herself of that counseling for 10 years and we contributed substantially towards those counseling costs.
"It's a tragic case, in every sense of the word and I, I repeat my apologies."