NSW Police is set to move the Supreme Court to stop LGBTQI protestors from organising a protest march in Sydney CBD on February 2, 2023, during Cardinal George Pell’s funeral at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Trigger Warning: This story discusses child sex abuse and homophobia, which might be distressing to some readers. For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.
Pell, Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic cleric convicted on child abuse charges before he was acquitted, died at the age of 81 in Vatican City on January 10, 2023. Sydney Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher is scheduled to lead a requiem mass at the Cathedral for Pell’s funeral.
LGBTQI campaign group Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR) said last week that they planned to organise a protest march on the day of the funeral to “denounce Pell’s decades-long opposition to LGBTQ+ rights and same-sex marriage”. CARR applied to the NSW Police to organise a protest past St Mary’s Cathedral and up Oxford Street on February 2.
NSW Police Say They Have Safety Concerns
In a statement to Star Observer, NSW Police said that they unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with the organisers over safety concerns and now plan to apply to the Supreme Court to ban the protest march.
“The NSW Police Force has received a Form 1 for a protest planned for Thursday 2 February in Sydney CBD,” an NSW spokesperson said. “However, despite attempted negotiations with organisers, safety concerns associated with their proposed assembly cannot be adequately mitigated without amendments to the proposal.”
“As such, the Commissioner will apply to the NSW Supreme Court to prohibit the assembly. The NSW Police Force recognises and supports the rights of individuals and groups to exercise their rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, however, the first priority is always the safety of the wider community,” said the police spokesperson.
Under provisions of the Summary Offences Act, the police can apply to the Supreme Court to prohibit a public assembly.
CARR Will Oppose NSW Police In Court
Opposition leader Peter Dutton and former Prime Minister Tony Abbot are some of the prominent leaders expected to attend the funeral. CARR said that since the funeral is likely to see attendance from “key figures in Australia’s political right-wing, police are demanding that the LGBTI community stay out of sight and earshot of St Mary’s Cathedral.”
CARR activist Eddie Stephenson pointed to Pell’s legacy and harmful statements against the LGBTQI community. “(Pell) called homosexuality more unhealthy than smoking and abortion more immoral than child sexual abuse. And he didn’t just say these things: he devoted his considerable power and influence to enforcing the oppression of LGBTQI people and women, to say nothing of his deep complicity in systematic child sexual abuse,” said Stephenson.
CARR co-convener April Holcombe said that the organisation intends to oppose the police application in the Supreme Court.
“The right to assembly and protest is a fundamental democratic one,” said Holcombe. “Police are attempting to stifle activism for LGBTQI and women’s rights. We represent the majority opinion on these issues and we will not be silenced.”
CARR has said that protestors will gather at the Hyde Park Archibald Fountain on February 2, 2023, at 10.30 am and march along College Street past St Mary’s Cathedral and up Oxford Street.
Pell Knew Of Child Sexual Abuse By Catholic Priests: Royal Commission
Pell, the Vatican’s top finance minister, was convicted in 2018 of molesting two teenage choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996, when he was archbishop of Melbourne. Pell spent 13 months in prison and maintained his innocence. In 2020, the high court acquitted Pell. The high court ruled that the jury that convicted Pell, had not entertained a doubt as to his guilt.
A royal commission found in 2017 that Pell knew of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Australia as early as the 1970s but had failed to take any action against them.
Pell continued to make statements against the LGBTQI community. As late as March 2022, he called on the Vatican to reprimand two German Catholic senior clergy members – Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich and Bishop Georg Baetzing – who asked the church to change its teachings on sexuality and homosexuality.
In 1990, Pell said homosexuality existed, but “for the good of society it should not be encouraged.” In 2006, he opposed the legislation that gave same-sex couples the right to adopt children.
Drag performer and satirist Pauline Pantsdown and child sexual abuse survivors have been tying colourful ribbons on the fence outside St Mary’s Cathedral in solidarity with victims and survivors. Despite the staff removing the ribbons, colourful ribbons continue to go up ahead of Pell’s requiem mass.
If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.
For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14
For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.
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