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Prominent French priest and Vatican adviser accused in sex scandal

Monsignor Tony Anatrella during a conference in Lille (Nord, France).

(RNS) For years, seminaries and monasteries around France sent students and novices to Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a prominent French priest and therapist who has written disparagingly of gays, if their superiors decided the young men were struggling with homosexuality.

Now Anatrella, who argues that gay men cannot be ordained as priests, is facing mounting allegations that he himself had sex with male clients under his care, a scandal that could have repercussions all the way to the Vatican, where the priest is still regularly consulted on matters of sexuality.

The reports about Anatrella that have emerged in recent weeks also landed just as the Catholic Church in France has been embroiled in a crisis over charges that senior churchmen shielded priests even after they received reports that the clerics had molested children.

Anatrella stoked that furor earlier this year when it was revealed that he told new bishops at a Vatican-sponsored course that they are not obligated to report a suspected abuser to authorities even in countries where the law requires such reporting.

The Vatican quickly said that Anatrella’s remarks did not change church policy on reporting, and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, head of Pope Francis’ new Commission for the Protection of Minors, issued a statement saying that beyond the requirements of civil law, all members of the church “have a moral and ethical responsibility to report suspected abuse to the civil authorities who are charged with protecting our society.”

Yet the allegations that Anatrella himself has engaged in sexual misconduct – accusations that were first broached a decade ago – pose a much greater threat to the priest.

So far, European media have relayed accusations from as many as four men – only one of whom agreed to be identified by his real name – who say that Anatrella engaged in various sex acts with them during counseling sessions in his Paris office, with the activity allegedly occurring up until a few years ago.

“You’re not gay, you just think that you are,” Anatrella reportedly told Daniel Lamarca, who was a 23-year-old seminarian when he first went to Anatrella in 1987.

According to Dutch Catholic journalist Hendro Munsterman, who first reported Lamarca’s story in Nederlands Dagblad, Anatrella told Lamarca he could rid him of his “pseudo-homosexuality” and sought to do so by performing sex acts on Lamarca.

“I know details about Anatrella’s body that could only be known to someone who has seen him naked,” Lamarca told Nederlands Dagblad.

Lamarca said that in 2001 he reported these episodes to the archbishop of Paris at the time, the late Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger. But Lamarca said nothing was done.

Then, in 2006, he told a liberal lay-run Catholic periodical, Golias, about Anatrella’s behavior; Lamarca’s was one of three accusations to surface that year, but because they involved adults and wound up being their word against Anatrella’s, civil authorities did not pursue the allegations.

The church also apparently took no action. Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois had succeeded Lustiger by that point, and he reportedly sent an email to all his priests expressing his support for Anatrella. Accusations from other ex-patients did not change the cardinal’s opinion and he spoke of a “gay lobby” working against Anatrella.

In recent weeks, another ex-seminarian, who goes by a pseudonym in the articles, told French outlets that he was counseled by Anatrella for 14 years, from 1997 to 2011, and that after the first few years Anatrella began “special sessions” that included episodes of mutual masturbation.

It is unclear how many of these accounts may also be the same ones that surfaced in 2006.

Anatrella has so far not responded to the latest allegations.

On May 13, the Archdiocese of Paris released a statement acknowledging that in 2014, the current archbishop, Vingt-Trois, received a written complaint, via a priest, from a patient of Anatrella’s who also made allegations of sexual exploitation. But the archdiocese said that because the complainant would not reveal his identity, the church could not pursue the matter.

In addition, the Paris archdiocese said that it received reports of other allegations regarding Anatrella late last month, also by way of a priest. “Because he could not act on the basis of anonymous third-party statements, the cardinal asked the priest to encourage the accusers to make personal contact (with the archdiocese) and lodge a formal complaint,” said the church statement.

The statement went on to say that “any person who has been a victim of sexual aggression (or their parents in the case of minors)” should personally contact the archdiocese to report it. “They will be received and listened to, counseled on what to do next, and urged to file a complaint with the judicial authorities,” it said.

Any person knowing “facts that justify a complaint or denunciation” should also report them to civil authorities, it added.

While Anatrella has been a familiar figure for decades in France, his controversial views gained wider attention in 2005 when he reportedly helped the Vatican, then headed by Pope Benedict XVI, a theological conservative, craft guidelines aimed at keeping gay men out of the priesthood.

Anatrella at the time also wrote a lengthy article in the Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano, stating that homosexuality was “like an incompleteness and a profound immaturity of human sexuality.”

According to a report from Catholic News Service, Anatrella wrote that gays are “narcissists” and said homosexuality is “a problem in the psychic organization” of a person’s sexuality. He said that for theological reasons the Catholic Church can only ordain “men mature in their masculine identity.”

On a practical level as well, he wrote, many of the sex scandals in the church happened because gay men, even if they vowed to remain sexually chaste, were ordained as priests and could not remain chaste.

Anatrella also provided a long list of warning signs that should alert seminary staff to the possibility that a seminarian is gay.

Among the signs he listed were students who had trouble relating to their fathers or who tended to isolate themselves, and those found viewing pornography on the Internet and who often saw themselves as victims.

Anatrella remains a consultant to the pontifical councils for the family and for health care ministry; in February, he was the main organizer of a major conference on priestly celibacy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

French church leaders who have been on the defensive over reports that many of them failed to report priests who abused minors are set to announce new policies to protect children early in June.

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

About the author

Tom Heneghan

Tom Heneghan is a Paris-based correspondent

28 Comments

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  • “Here, I’ll prove to you you’re not gay by having sex with you. Doesn’t sound too appetizing, does it?”
    “You just think you’re gay. Just do what I do: have sex with other men and tell yourself you’re not gay. Problem solved!”

  • Why on earth would anyone be surprised about this? I’m not, the three men I have known who went to a catholic seminary and later came out as gay would not, either.

    Two words: Cardinal O’Brien.

    I have become increasingly convinced over the past ten years that the worst enemies of gay people, whether religious or not, but more likely religious, are the homo-hating homos that hide out in the churches, or hide out among political conservatives, or both.

    They are desperate to deflect attention from themselves, desperate to control their own desires by attempting to control others.

    Two more words: MR. X, a very well known radio talk show host, an ordained minister. as virulently antigay as they come. and who could not answer a direct question with a simple “no.”

  • If gay men can’t be priests, that effectively turns out the lights in the Roman presbyterate.

  • I am unable to find the report from Catholic News Service where Anatrella wrote that gays are
    “narcissists” and said homosexuality is “a problem in the psychic
    organization.” Could you provide a link?

  • The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy.
    William Hazlitt

    Just another reason to become a non- $ – contributor.

  • Consistent reporting. Anything negative is attributable to “the Vatican,” while the pope’s protection of his prelates remains unreported.

  • Why there are so many gay catholic priests if they clearly know about ctholic church’s rules?

  • Watch the Pope do absolutely nothing about this, also. “Rules” mean absolutely nothing to these hypocrites. It’s all about power.

  • Because if you grow up gay in a Catholic family, and are afraid to live openly as a gay man, opting to become a priest is an expedient way of justifying why you are not going to marry and have sex with a woman.

  • This situation is not helpfull for both to catholic church and gay catholic priest. At the long run both of them pay the consequences. This is why gay catholic seminars most be honest and think well about their vocations.

  • Hey, if you got rid of all gay men in the priesthood, there would be no more priests left. Another option is to eliminate the celibacy mandate and allowed married men to become clergy.

  • Unafortunately you are right. There are lots of gay priests and very few of them have strong faith to do their ministry according what church’s demands. Those catholic gay priests who have strong faith to do their vows ( chastity, poverty and obedience ) deserve my respects because they love his church’s at full.

    About celibacy mandate that’s an interesting good subject to talk about it next time.

    Take care. God bless you Rick.

  • They are not necessarily gay. They may well be homosexual hating homosexuals. And there are many who are not gay, but into children.

    The real issue is this. You cannot be a priest without a vocation, a literal “calling from god.” As it was explained to me by a Catholic priest, this is a gift from god. The Church has its means to determine who has a genuine calling, because many do not.

    So either god is calling these child molesters to the priesthood, the entire idea of a calling is bogus, or the church’s methods for determining who has a vocation is bogus. From my conversations with three different gay men who entered seminary and left, there are a lot of gay men and a lot of pedophiles who see the priesthood as a way of escaping form themselves. These are not the same men, necessarily.

    so I will go with option 3, though the possibility of option 2 is attractive to me as an atheist.

  • Homosexuality and pedophilia have no connection, except in the lurid minds of some social conservatives who are using LGBT people as their latest boogeymen and scapegoats. http://psc.dss.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/HTML/facts_molestation.html
    As for your rapid anti-Catholicism, that’s pretty out of place, too. Obviously, the Catholic Church still has some housecleaning to do, and that’s on the clergy, not ordinary Catholics.

  • It really isn’t surprising those who identify themselves publicly as anti-gay are found so often to harbor their own same gender desires. Scientists have already proven that:

    “Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.”

    http://www dot landman-psychology dot Com/Homophobia%20Associated%20with%20Homosexual%20Arousal dot pdf

    http://psycnet dot apa dot Org/journals/abn/105/3/440/

    An agency of the federal government, the National Institutes of Health, publishes a supporting study:

    http://www dot ncbi dot nlm dot nih dot Gov/pubmed/8772014

    Here’s a video that illustrates that study:

    http://www dot youtube dot Com/watch?v=AEuDDvqYbVw

    How about a You-tube SONG that explains this?

    http://www dot youtube dot Com/watch?v=1CQg9f7z9eg&feature=youtube

  • While it’s obvious the Catholic clergy who spend all their time attacking happy, successful, open LGBT people are just as you described, it’s important to remember there are genuinely gay, happy, successful, open priests. We know this because the priests who finally went to civil authorities about the child abuse committed by other priests are gay. The bravery of the gay priests is precisely why the Vatican subsequently attacked them.

    It’s also important to remember that pedophiles are not LGBT.

  • I hope seminars get better mechanisms to avoid that kind of men. Its not good for church’s let that men enter to a priesthood. Seminars could get help by psychologists for examples. God bless you.

  • I wish seminars take a note what you say to make stronger test to avoid those men become priests. God bless you.

  • I dont think is filled with self-hating closet homosexual clergy, there many good sheperds also. The point here is that media just focus over priests scandals to get ratings and make money with that. I dont deny catholic church is havimg hards days by her incompetence to solve this troubles.

    Im still hoping for media to talk about good sheperds also to see the other catholic church face but i doubt it because scandals is what media needs to get some incomes.

    God bless you.

  • The Southern Poverty Law Center observes other quacks have used methods similar to Anatrealla’s mutual masturbation:

    “Conversion therapy – sometimes known as “reparative” or “sexual reorientation” therapy – is a dangerous practice that purports to change a person’s sexual orientation, literally “converting” them from gay to straight.

    This practice – which can include violent role play, reenactment of past abuses, and exercises involving nudity and intimate touching – has been discredited by virtually all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.”

    https://www dot splcenter dot org/issues/lgbt-rights/conversion-therapy

  • From what I have read of Cardinal O’brien and a few others, never leave an adult alone with one eithe.r

    Thanks for finally indicating you are a Poe. We were getting worried!

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