A Case of Sexual Double Standards and Clerical Impotence? —- by Brian Mark Hennessy

A Case of Sexual Double Standards and Clerical Impotence?
Abridged and paraphrased by Brian Mark Hennessy from an article in the National Catholic Reporter

Readers will probably recall the incident earlier this year when a priest, named Anatrella, stoked a furore when it was revealed that he had announced to a Vatican Conference for new bishops that they were not obligated to report a suspected sexual abuser to authorities even in countries where the law requires such reporting. The Vatican quickly responded saying that Msgr Anatrella’s remarks did not change Church policy on reporting. That was too vague for Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, head of Pope Francis’ new Commission for the Protection of Minors, who immediately issued a statement to the effect that “civil law agencies are charged with protecting our society and, therefore, all members of the Church have a moral and ethical responsibility to report all suspected abuse to the civil authorities”.

For years, seminaries and monasteries around France sent students and novices, if their superiors decided that they were struggling with homosexuality, to this very same Msgr. Tony Anatrella, a prominent French priest and therapist who has written disparagingly of gays – alleging that they are narcicistic, incapable of sexual chastity and cannot be ordained as priests. Now it transpires that Anatrella himself is facing mounting allegations that he himself had sex with male clients under his therapeutic care. So far, European media have relayed accusations from as many as four different men who say that Anatrella engaged in various sex acts with them during counseling sessions in his Paris office. “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. Recently, another ex-seminarian, has told French News 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. Anatrella has so far not responded to the allegations.

The reports about Anatrella have emerged, inconveniently, as the Church in France has been embroiled in a crisis over charges that Bishops have shielded priests even after they received reports that the clerics had molested children. Lamarca said that in 2001 he reported these episodes to the late Cardinal Archbishop Jean-Marie Lustiger. Yet, he said, nothing was done. Lamarca’s allegation was one of three accusations to surface again in 2006, but because they involved adults, despite taking place during professional therapy consultations, the accusations were not pursued by civil authorities. The newly appointed Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois has since sent an email to all his priests expressing his support for Anatrella. Accusations from additional ex-patients have not changed the cardinal’s opinion and he spoke of a “gay lobby” working against Anatrella – who remains as a consultant to the pontifical councils for the family and for health care ministry and as recently as February 2016, Msgr Anatrella was the main organizer of a major conference on priestly celibacy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Despite all the mounting allegations, Anatrella, has not been the subject of any investigations at all – despite that being a specific mandatory requirement of Canon Law. It really does seem even now in 2016 that from top to bottom a shambolic Catholic Church continues to ride the stormy seas of sexual abuse without a compass, sail, rudder, manual, log-book or captain.

In Loco Parentis

I had not suffered these experiences, what right had I to feel the way I did?

However the sense of betrayal that I feel and that I believe we all should feel, is immense.  In such a small community behaviour such as this could not have gone unnoticed.  However no action was taken and therefore I have drawn the conclusion that there was collusion.  One can offer as a weak defense that the perpetrators of these acts were sexual deviants driven by some mental disorder.

But how do you come to the defense of the bystander?

These people helped shape my life, these bystanders were ‘in loco parentis,’ our surrogate parents who failed in their duty of care.

People whom I held as role models and shining examples of humanity I find to be flawed.  They are men just like you and me, but they can hide from the real world behind their cassocks and collars with impunity.  Through the court of confession they can be judged and sentenced by one of their own and on leaving the smallest of courtrooms be admonished with a prayer or two and a promise to be repentant, released with a once again unblemished copy book .

I regret the fact that due to my youthful naivety and blind faith I was unable to see what was happening and help and support my friends.  These were boys who through no fault of their own were singled out. They were not victims, they were vulnerable.  The God Squad was a group of devout young boys whose deep religious beliefs were manipulated against them in the perfect environment and this was allowed to happen in full view.

Father Romano Nardo

It was not until the arrival of a rather unusual Italian Priest at our West Yorkshire Seminary did I begin to feel a certain closeness.  Father Romano Nardo was unusual, not only as a Priest, but also as a person. This eccentric young man made an instant impression on me despite his odd appearance; he wore thick glasses, big glasses, actually, very big, thick glasses.

Romano was the first Priest of the Comboni order to offer an explanation for my unbearable homesickness. Pain, he told me was a route to God.  By accepting our pain, learning to live with suffering, we move ever closer to God.  As a rational adult I’m capable of offering counter arguments.  But in vulnerable adolescence the notion that pleasure is sinful and pain and suffering is spiritually uplifting resonated with me and I embraced his theological reasoning.