Thursday, August 2, 2018

Ecclesiastical Censure of Tony Anatrella: "All Those Religious Officials with Responsibility to Hear This Case in Paris and Rome Have Known the Facts about Anatrella for at Least Two Decades"

In comments here in the past two days, Sarasi and MarkWilliam both noted that they had not seen news* of the recent censure of the influential French monsignor-psychotherapist, Tony Anatrella, who has been relieved of clerical duties after church officials decided multiple allegations that he sexually assaulted men coming to him for "reparative" therapy are credible. As I noted in response to both Sarasi and MarkWilliam, I myself saw little news about this in English-language publications when it happened several weeks ago. I knew about the ecclesiastical sanction of Anatrella because a Facebook friend of mine in Montréal shared with me a statement Philippe Lefebvre made when this took place.

I was keeping silence on this blog at the time, and did not post about this. P. Lefebvre's statement on Facebook is here, and is public, so anyone who wishes can click and read it. Here's my rough and ready translation for English speakers who don't read French:

At last! Tony Anatrella has been sanctioned this 4th of July by the church officials to whom he answers, that's to say, the archbishop of Paris. Following an internal investigation and directive of the church, Tony Anatrella is suspended from clerical functions: he has been forbidden to celebrate Mass and the sacraments. I am awaiting further information. This comes after 13 years in which I have been involved, with others, in this case: this is an outcome beyond what we had hoped for. And it is troubling to remember that this result seemed impossible to hope for because all those religious officials with responsibility to hear this case in Paris and Rome have known the facts about Anatrella for at least two decades and did nothing at all except cover up, deny, bully, and attack those who sought in every way possible to alert them to the situation. As far as people outside the church (notably, professional psychologists), who sought to alert church officials about Anatrella by providing professional statements and documents: they were simply ignored by church officials. Shame be on all those religious officials with responsibility to deal with this situation, who chose one time more to render themselves blind, never to communicate with whistle-blowers, never to listen to those seeking to provide them information. They preferred, instead, to dish out intimidation and silence. The ones who displayed courage in the face of the constant rebuffs they have endured are the victims — who in all justice should not be summed up by the term "victims": they are the ones who came forth and stood up despite everything, regardless of their own religious convictions, the ones who have demonstrated true dignity and faith, in contrast to the cowardly ecclesiastical structures that scorned their gifts. IF YOU WISH AND CAN DO SO, SHARE THIS NEWS.

I have seen good coverage of this story in French-language media. I have seen almost no coverage in English-speaking publications, and such coverage as exists tends to be very shallow, not noting Anatrella's longstanding high-level influence in the Vatican, where he was one of the movers and shakers and crafters of the policy under Benedict XVI banning gay men from the priesthood, where he has written key documents attacking LGBTQ people and gender studies, which are used as teaching materials in church-sponsored seminars, where he informed new bishops that they had no legal responsibility to report abuse to legal officials, and so on. See Anatrella's Wikipedia page for a good summary of all of this, and click his name in the labels below for what I have shared about his history.

Why the dearth of coverage of this story in English-language publications? I'll say bluntly, frankly: the religious media in English-speaking countries are more than a little homophobic and heterosexist, and that is true a fortiori of the English-speaking Catholic religion media. Remember the big brouhaha earlier this year when it appeared the head of the German Catholic bishops' conference, Cardinal Marx, had said that gay couples could be blessed? Remember how the big boys of English-language Catholic journalism, of English-language religion journalism, weighed in immediately to collude with the homophobic Catholic right to twist and suppress that story?

Heterosexism, homophobia, heterosexual male entitlement: not new at all in English-language religion media and especially English-language Catholic media….

I give the openly gay Catholic journalist Robert Mickens high marks for referring forthrightly to the Anatrella story in this recent statement noting how this story undercuts the hateful gay-bashing meme the Catholic right continues to push as "the" explanatory meme for the abuse crisis:

Incredibly, there are still priests and bishops who would deny or profess not to know that there are any homosexually oriented men in the ordained ministry. [The late Cardinal Keith] O'Brien and many other priests and bishops who have engaged in sex with men would probably not even identify as gay. They are products of a clerical caste and a priestly formation system that discourages and, in some places, even forbids them from being honest about their homosexual orientation. 
Sadly, many of these men are or have become self-loathing and homophobic. Some of them emerge as public moralizers and denouncers of homosexuality, especially of the evil perpetrated on society by the so-called gay lobby. Unfortunately, O'Brien was, at times, one of the more brazen among them. 
The Vatican knows all too well that there are large numbers of priests and seminarians with a homosexual orientation. But rather than encourage a healthy discussion about how gays can commit themselves to celibate chastity in a wholesome way, the Church's official policies and teachings drive such men even deeper into the closet. 
And like any other dark place lacking sunlight and air, this prevents normal development and festers mold, dankness, distortion and disease. Nothing kept in the dark can become healthy or flourish. 
As recently as 2005, just a few months after the election of Benedict XVI, the Vatican issued a document that reinforced the "stay in the closet" policy by saying men who identified as gay should not be admitted to seminaries. 
In fact, one of the prime authors of that document — Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a priest-psychotherapist from Paris — was recently stripped of his priestly faculties after being credibly accused of abusing seminarians and other young men in his care. 
And yet there are gay priests who have found a way to wholesome self-acceptance of their sexuality. Some of them are sexually active, but many live celibately. Arguably, they are among the best and most compassionate pastors we have in our Church. 
Their more conflicted gay confreres — and all gay people, indeed the entire Church — would benefit greatly if these healthy gay priests could openly share their stories. But their bishops or religious superiors have forbidden them from writing or speaking publicly about this part of their lives. 
This, too, only encourages more dishonesty and perpetuates a deeply flawed system that will continue to produce unhealthy priests.

MarkWilliam has told us he'll translate some of the Italian-language coverage of the latest about Anatrella. When he dcoes so, I'll point you to his translations and/or share them here, with Mark's permission.

* To be precise, Sarasi said she had seen this news only recently.

The photo of Anatrella is by Peter Potrowl, who has graciously uploaded it to Wikimedia Commons for online sharing.

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