A petition against relocating Loud Fence ribbons at the Armidale Catholic Cathedral is gaining momentum online.
Sexual abuse victim and Loud Fence advocate, Phil Wright started the petition to protest Bishop Michael Kennedy’s decision to relocate the ribbons from the front of the cathedral to within the church grounds.
“As a victim of sexual abuse through the Catholic Church in Armidale Diocese I am extremely offended and that is putting it as politely as I could ever put it,” Mr Wright said.
“He’s got no right to touch them.”
Bishop Michael Kennedy said the decision was made in response to some survivors of abuse who found the public display confronting.
“I’m very sensitive to this issue and do understand their concerns,” he said.
Loud Fence spokesperson Alison Armstrong said the site of the new memorial was on the same ground as the grave of a bishop who was overseeing the diocese at the time of the abuses.
The royal commission exposed then Bishop Henry Kennedy’s knowledge of what happened in the diocese in relation to Armidale priest John Farrell.
“He was aware of complaints and was part of the concealment,” Ms Armstrong said.
“We’re talking about people who are really damaged and they see this as another layer of offence.
“[They see] removing the ribbons as another attempt to marginalise or silence them.”
Bishop Kennedy has defended the decision.
“It’s on the opposite side of the cathedral [to the bishop’s grave] and that was deliberately done out of sensitivity,” he said.
“I’m aware also that there is some concern that the site we’ve chosen is hidden but that is not the case.
“The positioning is along the side the cathedral which is a heavy traffic area.”
Mr Wright urged that the action was inappropriate when case study 44, regarding incidences of sexual abuse within the diocese, was still an open case before the Royal Commission.
“I spoke to the bishop for about an hour and a half [about Farrell] on that same pathway they are putting the memorial on … it is so highly offensive to put it in the grounds but to put it there is even worse,” Mr Wright said.
Bishop Kennedy said he hoped the memorial would be accepted by all.
“I and the Catholic Diocese of Armidale will never forget the horror victims have experienced and the lasting impact on their lives,” Mr Kennedy said.
The petition has received more than 300 signatures in 48 hours and aims to reach a further 300 before being presented to the Royal Commission, Cardinal George Pell, and Pope Francis.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.