CHRIS SIDOTI.- Archbishop Anthony saves the day.

I laughed so hard I could hard stop myself from crying. There’s no limit to the wonderful capacity of human beings to produce clowns to make us laugh our way through every crisis.

Sunday and Monday were awful days, A journalist described the coming of the coronavirus as watching a tsunami approaching, visible building on the horizon, getting bigger but not knowing how big it would get or when it would arrive.

On Sunday the tsunami started to hit us. Margaret, my wife, and I visited our two gorgeous grandkids, Jacob 7 and Sophia 5, and tearily kissed them goodbye. For how long? Three months? Six months? Maybe longer. Traumatised, we came home to hear the announcement of the anticipated commencement of the shutdown.

On Monday I went early to the barber, I told him ‘Number 1 all over., As short as you can get it. It’ll be months before I am able to have another haircut.’ Then home just as the restaurants, bars, clubs, cinemas, gyms and churches – all the entertainment venues – closed for as far ahead as we can see. Our grandkids were preparing for school at home.

Awful days made worse by the certain knowledge that far worse is still to come.

Then on Monday night, after dinner, I sat down on the lounge and found and read that day’s ‘Pastoral Letter to the clergy and faithful of the Archdiocese of Sydney’ from the Most Reverend Anthony Fisher OP, DD BA LIB BTheol DPhil ( And I laughed so hard I could hard stop myself from crying. There’s no limit to the wonderful capacity of human beings to produce clowns to make us laugh our way through every crisis.

Let me give you some highlights.

Although called a pastoral letter ‘to the clergy and faithful’, its true audience became apparent immediately after the greeting. ‘As priests bid farewell to parishioners today there have been tears and bewilderment. Please assure your people …’. The ‘you’, the audience, is clearly intended to be the clergy, not the faithful. Ok. That’s fine. We’ve always known just where we stood in the eyes of the hierarchy. It’s nice to have it confirmed, though, ‘in this time of pandemic’, as Anthony calls it.

Then he repeats, from his earlier 18 March pastoral letter, his comparison of the current situation with that in the early days of the British colony. ‘Following the most recent advice from the commonwealth and state governments it may seem that we are again in that situation.’ Really? Today’s health crisis is the same situation as the suppression of Catholicism in 18th century England and New South Wales? The suggestion is so laughable that here my giggles began.

It got better. I found the re-assertion of a hierarchy within the hierarchy. Not only ‘clergy and faithful’ as distinct classes of Christian but also ‘bishops and priests’ as distinct classes within ‘clergy’. ‘Bishops and priests can still say Mass privately, and the NSW government has confirmed that bishops and priests may use their (closed)cathedral or parish church for that purpose and live stream the service.’

The real laughter started when I read ‘all but priests are dispensed from attending Sunday Mass’. Really? First of all, no one is able to attend Sunday Mass anyway. Second, who cares for Anthony’s kind dispensation? Who needs it? We Catholics attend or not as we discern and decide. We don’t need Anthony’s dispensation. It’s like the emperor who had no clothes. He thinks he can impose and dispense and acts like he can but he can’t. It’s just so funny to see this clown thinking he’s the emperor when in fact he’s naked.

There’s much much more of course but let me jump to the point where I could restrain myself no longer, where he discussed weddings being restricted to the immediate family. I read it and said to Margaret, sitting beside me, just listen to this. I was laughing so much she couldn’t understand a word I was reading. ‘Disappointed brides could be promised a larger celebration after the public emergency has passed (e.g. on the first anniversary).’ Really!!! ‘disappointed brides’!!! What happened to the ‘disappointed grooms’? Oh yea, I forgot. Only brides like a big party. Anthony would know from his close engagement with women over the past decades. You can understand why I was laughing so much I cried.

At the end there’s the grand signing off. ‘Most Rev. Anthony Fisher OP, DD BA LIB BTheol DPhil Archbishop of Sydney’.

Honestly. You’ve got to say. These blokes are a riot. For me, Anthony saved the day. The day that was so traumatic ended on a wonderful hilarious high. The message is don’t take yourself too seriously. There are more than enough of us doing that already.

Chris Sidoti was Foundation Secretary of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 1987-1992 and Human Rights Commissioner 1995-2000

He is a consultant on the establishment of human rights institutions in the region. 


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16 Responses to CHRIS SIDOTI.- Archbishop Anthony saves the day.

  1. Michael Byrne says:

    Is this a product of the bourgeois Catholic ilk? Whatever, it is uncharitable in its form, style and content.

    I am not enamored with the form and style of some Catholic practice where it acts in place of personal and sacramental prayer and practice that lead to a mature choice in life’s direction. To come to know of God’s love in this life, and live accordingly in service to others. At all times in the shadow of the Cross.

    There is place for criticism that stands devoid of ridicule.

  2. Bill Holley says:

    “‘Just look at them, Guido, in their dear little costumes, with their hats and their skirts and their rosaries and their turned around collars. All those things do is demand people’s attention, and they often get their respect, as well. I’m sure if all these clerics had to walk around looking just like everyone else and earning respect the way everyone else does –only by the way they act –I’m sure that most of them would have no interest in it, that they’d go out and get jobs and work for a living. If they couldn’t use it as a way to make people think they’re special, and superior, most of them would have no interest in it at all.’ After a long pause, she added, ‘Besides, I don’t think God profits from the help they offer.‘It’s their interest in power, I think, that makes me so dislike them: so many of them are driven by it. I think it distorts their souls.’”

  3. Michael Furtado says:

    Thanks for sharing a very good larf, Chris. Black humour at its grim best!

  4. Bill Armstrong says:

    Thanks Chris. If you don’t laugh you would have to cry. How out of touch with reality can they be?

  5. Kevin Mark says:

    I suppose it takes the horror of this pandemic for our first response to such a letter to be laughter rather than anger.

    But then again the best response to the naked emperor is laughter and mockery.

  6. Ed Cory says:

    Chris, I read your post with a wry smile, having had a similar conversation with my children/grandchildren as I went into self-isolation wondering whether I would ever again hold them. However, having read the ‘letter’, I am wondering if you may have over-reacted to what, it seems to me, is a fairly transparent re-packaging of officially imposed restrictions, and a necessary instruction to his front-line troops. In particular, the reference to colonial times does not seem to me to be out of place in the present context. True, it is pompous, he arrogates to himself decisions made by others, and displays his fine tin ear, no surprises there . However, to be fair, we should thank him for bringing into our stressed lives a little humour.

    Carey: a ghost writer would help, but the problem lies deeper.

  7. Gavin O'Brien says:

    We had a fairly similar letter here from the Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn, excusing us from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. I would have thought in this day and age that we as servants of God, not the Archbishop, can make this decision. I am not sure if , as in my tender youth-Pre Vatican II days , when it was a Mortal Sin to deliberately miss attending Sunday Mass, whether indeed that is still official Church teaching. Of course it was a Government proclamation that closed the Churches, not any decision of the hierarchy.
    By the way the Catholic Church was suppressed in colonial New South Wales over fears that the Irish convicts ( who formed the majority of Catholics) might like their Irish brethren, of whom my great great grandfather was one who was transported to the colony , stage an uprising against the Governor . It did occur at Vinegar Hill.The secularism and hatred lasted into my early childhood.

  8. carey burke says:

    Chris is entitled to lament a lock-out from free and easy contact with his grandchildren, but his riposte to Archbishop Fisher’s pastoral letter takes on a life of its own with only occasional reference to the actual letter. Archbishop Fisher would be well advised to employ a competent ghost writer who can juggle essential detail within a text that recognises the communicable values of brevity and simplicity. But he is not alone in offering a message cloaked in an overload of verbosity.

    It seems one of the impacts of the dreaded Covid 19 is an outbreak of contorted language emanating from national leaders. Scott Morrison has taken to facing the camera with an input which blends blanket bans with inexplicable permissions in related areas. The Chief Medical Officer summons verbal indignation to emphasis a point while the rest of his body lets loose an avalanche of body language which betrays his inner doubts.

    So perhaps +Anthony’s efforts deserve an award for effort with the hope of doing better in the future.

  9. Graham English says:

    He sounds like Pooh Bear or one of Enid Blyton’s heroines.

  10. Peter Johnstone says:

    As the old cartoon said: “Stop laughing – this is serious‼️”

    The ‘clown’ arguably holds the most influential vote in the Plenary Council. Surely he’s lost the entitlement to respect, a Christian courtesy that we Catholics extend to our bishops.

    The Holy Spirit clearly has a job in front of her in guiding the Plenary Council. Archbishop Fisher’s limited perspective must be challenged by the People of the Church.

    Thank you Chris Sidoti for exposing this dangerous nonsense.

  11. Janet Morrissey says:

    Thank you, Chris and John. This has made my day.

  12. Peter Dixon says:

    Thanks Chris, old mate.

  13. Kimball Byron Chen says:

    Chris your article highlights for me two TV series: F Troop and Dad’s Army. There are parallels between Captain Wilton Parmenter, Captain George Mainwaring and Archbishop Fisher. All have an understanding of their roles and responsibilities but lack the capability to discharge them. They say a fish rots from the head down. Did none of the sycophants around Fisher warn him that, if you write like a pompous ass, people might think that you are?

  14. Gerald Lynch says:

    My recollection of the history of the Catholic Church in Australia doesn’t quite match that of the Archbishop. His peculiar reference seems to parrot the Irish interpretation of the situation peddled to us as youths by such luminaries as the Christian Brothers whose Anglophobia was ingrained. A wider consideration of the fraught situation of the early Church in this country should look at the clash between the Irish hierarchy and the English government, the latter of whom believed that, as an English settlement, any Catholic clergy should be under the pastoral control of an English Church diocese. English clergy were approved but then the Irish powers objected and so began the sad story of supposed persecution of the faithful which has long coloured Australian Catholic thinking and politics.

  15. Rita Zammit says:

    I almost choked with laughter reading your piece on his ‘Most Reverend Anthony Fisher OP DD etc.etc.etc.

  16. Stephen Saunders says:

    Also said, the state should “keep out of the bedroom” yet straight marriage was “the only kind of friendship” the state should recognise.

    Also thought, SSM would make the religious “vulnerable to discrimination suits and some could lose their jobs”.

    With COVID-19 the only topic in town, Morrison can’t move on his regressive “Discrimination” Bill, as fast as Fisher and Davies would crave.

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