Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a prominent French priest and psychoanalyst who stirred controversy in 2015 when he advised newly appointed Catholic bishops that they were not obligated to report sex abuse allegations to the police, now faces a Church legal procedure for abuse charges himself.
Anatrella has strongly denied the abuse allegations, suggesting in the past that he’s become a target because of his critical views and writings on homosexuality.
The French newspaper La Croix reported Monday that based on the report of a commission created by Cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris to examine the charges against Anatrella, a canonical procedure has been opened by the Diocese of Toulouse.
Although suspicions about Anatrella are said to date back at least 15 years, they did not become a matter of public controversy until 2016, when alleged victims aired their allegations in the French media. At the time, Vingt-Trois encouraged those alleged victims to file complaints with the proper legal authorities.
At least four men, one of whom agreed to be publicly identified, charged 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.
Daniel Lamarca, who was a 23-year-old seminarian when he was sent to Anatrella for treatment, says the priest told him, “You’re not gay, you just think that you are,” and suggested he could be cured of his “pseudo-homosexuality” by performing sexual acts.
According to the La Croix report, Vingt-Trois created a commission led by Paris Auxiliary Bishop Éric Marie de Moulins d’Amieu de Beaufort to meet with the alleged victims or receive written testimony from them, in addition to hearing from Anatrella.
Because Anatrella has been a consulter for the Church tribunal in Paris on other abuse cases, the decision was made to transfer his procedure to an inter-diocesan body based in Toulouse.
Should that tribunal recommend that Anatrella be “laicized,” meaning expelled from the priesthood, the decision would have to be made by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Any lesser form of punishment could be imposed directly by the panel in Toulouse.
Long a controversial figure, Anatrella was well known in France for his views on AIDS, gender theory, and his opposition to the French civil unions measure known as “PACs” which created a legal status for same-sex couples.
Among other things, Anatrella has served as a consultant to the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers. In 2005, Anatrella authored an article for the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, stating that homosexuality was “like an incompleteness and a profound immaturity of human sexuality.”
In 2015, Anatrella was invited by the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops to speak at a training program for newly named bishops around the world, known informally as “baby bishops school,” on the subject of clerical sexual abuse.
In that presentation, Anatrella argued that bishops have no duty to report allegations to the police, which he says is up to victims and their families. That brought a swift statement from the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, a body led by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, that Church leaders have “a moral and ethical responsibility to report suspected abuse to the civil authorities.”
For the last several years Anatrella has had no publicly ministry in the Archdiocese of Paris, and last year his courses at the Cistercian-sponsored Collège des Bernardins in Paris were suspended.
La Croix reports that the first accusation against Anatrella dates to 2001, and that five years later three additional complaints were registered with a Paris prosecutor. Those charges were not pursued, according to the report, either because the French statute of limitations had expired or prosecutors determined there wasn’t sufficient evidence.
Earlier this month, Anatrella had been scheduled at speak at a Rome conference organized by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Lateran University, on the subject of sex education. The appearance was cancelled at the last minute.