What happens when a big name of the anti-gender crusade is involved in a sex scandal?
Rogério Diniz Junqueira*
Monsignor Tony Anatrella is a prominent name in the galaxy of anti-gender “experts”. A French Catholic priest of the diocese of Paris and a psychotherapist, he has been for years a reference for the ultraconservative Catholic sectors engaged in the offensive against what in France they call “gender theory” – one of the variations for what is more commonly called “gender ideology”. The “Psi of the Church,” as he is also known, owes his notoriety especially to the virulent opposition towards homosexuality and towards any possibility of recognizing it as a bearer of rights.
The penetration of his opinions, supposedly based on psychoanalysis, gave him projection inside and outside the religious circles, as well as a formidable transit in the Holy See in Rome, where he became an adviser and a member of several dicasteries. However, his prestige, like that of other guardians of orthodoxy, is threatened by the sexual scandals, carefully muffed for a decade, in which he was involved. However, lately, the French ecclesiastical authorities, in face of new facts, have finally opened a canonical process against him. Meanwhile, religious and non-religious leaders of movements and organizations engaged in “family advocacy” – always ready to accuse feminists and LGBTIs of using “gender” to, among other things, promote pedophilia, homosexual indoctrination and seek to take away from parents the right to raise their children – seem to have nothing to say about the case.
Anatrella’s prestige faced his first shock when, in 2005 and 2006, allegations surfaced that he would have subjected patients, young seminarians and priests, to a series of sexual abuses and violence through his “body therapies,” aimed at healing them from homosexuality. However, in 2007, because of what appears to have been a providential performance of the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, another important name of the anti-gender galaxy and colleague of Anatrella in the seminary times, the proceedings were promptly shelved. Thus, with a reputation scraped, appearing as a victim of calumnies of the “gay lobby”, Anatrella was able to continue with his controversial professional activities in Paris and Rome. This was possible until ten years later, when new and more consistent complaints were made by other former patients, who were motivated to act upon the pedophilia scandals in the diocese of Lyon. In view of the strong media repercussion, the French ecclesiastical hierarchy was obliged to take measures, including informing the concerned Vatican authorities, such as the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature.
Born in 1941, graduated in Psychology and member of the Salesian order, Father Anatrella affirmed himself through publications on youth education Anatrella’s prestige faced his first shock when, in 2005 and 2006, allegations surfaced that he would have subjected patients, young seminarians and priests, to a series of sexual abuses and violence through his “body therapies,” aimed at healing them from homosexuality. However, in 2007, because of what appears to have been a providential performance of the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, another important name of the anti-gender galaxy and colleague of Anatrella in the seminary times, the proceedings were promptly shelved. Thus, with a reputation scraped, appearing as a victim of calumnies of the “gay lobby”, Anatrella was able to continue with his controversial professional activities in Paris and Rome. This was possible until ten years later, when new and more consistent complaints were made by other former patients, who were motivated to act upon the pedophilia scandals in the diocese of Lyon. In view of the strong media repercussion, the French ecclesiastical hierarchy was obliged to take measures, including informing the concerned Vatican authorities, such as the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature.
In the 1980s, his controversial formulations, hostile to homosexuality, earned him increasing media visibility. However, it was at the end of the following decade that the psychoanalytic priest finally succeeded in becoming notable for his opposition to the Civil Pact of Solidarity (PaCS). According to him, homosexuality would be a pathological refuge from narcissistic immaturity and the recognition of same-sex marriage would pose a threat to the natural “symbolic order” with dramatic social consequences. Presenting himself as a “specialist” in the subject, he endowed of presumed scientific veneer the position of the French episcopate, who were contrary to the matter.
No less notable was his participation during the 2000s in campaigns against the adoption of “marriage for all”, against the depathologization of transsexuality and against the criminalization of homophobia. Anatrella is singled out as one of the main authors of the Congregation for Catholic Education document which, on the orders of Joseph Ratzinger, determined the prohibition of access to homosexuals for the priesthood: the Instruction on the Criteria of Vocational Discernment about Persons with Homosexual Tendencies and Admission to the Seminary and Holy Orders, 2005.
Some authors consider that the first occurrence of the syntagma “theory of the gender” was given in their articles throughout this period. The “gender ideology” variant had been in circulation since the end of the previous decade.
Paradoxically or not, almost at the same time that he faced his first judicial difficulties, Anatrella began his promotion in the institutional structure of the Church. As a specialist in homosexuality and in the risks of “gender theory”, he became part of the “experts” mobilized since the beginning by the Vatican to build an anti-gender discourse in order to support the ultraconservative offensive against the ghostly “gender ideology”. For such, he received the title of Monsignor as a member of the “pontifical family” when he was appointed as advisor to the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Health Care, in addition to the duties assigned to him in other dicasteries.
His name is among the more than seventy Vatican advisors and other “experts” working in Catholic universities, who were called to Rome to write, under the aegis of the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Lexicon: ambiguous terms were discussed about family, life and ethical issues. The work, which would constitute the theoretical summa of the anti-gender crusade, was published in 2003 and was soon translated into several languages. It sought to make Karol Wojtyla’s doctrinal formulations about women and family (the Theology of the Body) a mean of containing what the ecclesiastical authorities called the “ideology of the culture of death,” which underlies the “gender ideology”.
This work has five articles written by Anatrella and dedicated above all to a contumacious attack on “the theory of gender” and on homosexuality. Like the others summa articles, his reverberate a discourse promoted in the field of pro-life associationism and reparative therapies of homosexuality and they are philosophically linked to the Theology of the Body and the doctrine professed by Opus Dei. In “Homosexuality and Homophobia,” for example, he claims that lobbies operate in favor of legal recognition of homosexual couples and of the right of adoption on the “pretext of the right to difference,” and argue that social systems and heterosexual individuals are led to feel guilty about homosexuality, because even questioning about it, would amount to the crime of homophobia. Again, he describes homosexuality as something of no social value, as a psychic tangle. And since, according to him, the institutionalization of rights in this subject can only take place from the “objective reality” of the universal couple model, composed of a heterosexual man and woman. The recognition of same-sex couples would be an ethically fragile attitude, the fruit of an incoherent reason. And he concludes: it is necessary to stop stigmatizing and labeling homophobes who question social and moral homosexuality.
Since then, Monsignor Anatrella has actively proceeded his reactionary offensive against “gender,” publishing several works, among them the preface to a collection of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Gender: The Controversy (2011) and The Theory of Gender and the origin of homosexuality (2012). In the first, entitled “The Theory of Gender as a Trojan Horse,” he presents the synthesis of arguments from the inventors of the syntagm “gender theory”. In the second, he associates homosexuality with this “theory”.
Also in 2011, among other things, he published the article “After Marx came the gender” in Avvenire, a newspaper linked to the Italian Episcopal Conference, which stated that “people are equal in dignity, but their choices, their lifestyles, do not have objectively the same value. ” And he concluded: “There is nothing discriminatory in emphasizing that only a man and a woman form a couple, marry, live together, adopt and educate their children in the interests of the common good and that of their children. They are the most capable of expressing sexual alterity, the couple and the family, the cell of society. ”
In the wake of the preparation for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus in 1967, the Pontifical Gregorian University, of Rome, held the international conference in February 2016 “Priestly celibacy: A path of freedom”. Its organizer, master of ceremony and lecturer was none other than Monsignor Tony Anatrella, who gave a lecture entitled “The psychological conditions of a happy celibacy today.”
Still, in that same month, Anatrella became involved in another controversy. Contrary to the determination of the Pontifical Commission for the Guardianship of Minors, instituted in 2014 by Pope Jorge Bergoglio, the monsignor affirmed, in the course of the formation of new bishops, that, for the Church, the bishops do not have obligation to denounce the sexual abuses by part of elements of the clergy. Those who should report formally should be the victims or their relatives. The news provoked the ire of Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Boston Archbishop and President of the Commission, who rebutted reaffirming the moral and ethical responsibility of denouncing abuses to civil authorities. Anatrella’s response that he had been misinterpreted seems to have been unsuccessful.
A few months earlier, Cardinal Vingt-Trois had already informed the French civil authorities of the opening of a canonical process against the “psychoanalyst.” The Apostolic Signature accepted the cardinal’s request and ordered the transfer of the case to the Inter-diocesan Ecclesiastic Tribunal of Toulouse. In the statement to civil authorities, the archdiocese of Paris reported that Father Anatrella was a priest of that diocese, involved in a mission of studies and research, what meant he was not practicing his ministry and, only occasionally, had given classes at the Collège des Bernardins, which were henceforth suspended.
Speaking of suspension, as the facts attributed to Anatrella date back from about 40 years, it will be up to the Vatican authorities to decide if they suspend or not the prescription. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with a new Mayor appointed in July of this year, might be contrary. However, there seem to be interests at stake that transcend the sexual abuse process. The final decision will be in the hands of Bergoglio, a skilled chess player, as well as a communicator.
Although a possible interference on the part of his patron saints cannot be ruled out, the “Anatrella Case” does not seem to have a simple ending. After all, in addition to the possibility of their conduct be paved in the face of disputes of a notorious court for intrigues, discord and rivalries, whatever the verdict may be it will entail a high political cost to the Church and its factions. Meanwhile, crowds of admirers of the “gender theory expert,” self-styled “family advocates,” uncompromising heralds of morality and non-negotiable principles, follow in resounding silence.
*Rogério Diniz Junqueira is an Associated Researcher at the National Institute for Educational Studies and Research Anísio Teixeira (INEP) at Brazil.
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