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Suspended priest attends Vatican symposium


Peter Potrowl | CC BY 3.0

I.Media - published on 02/19/22

Father Tony Anatrella, prohibited from priestly ministry in 2018, was among attendees at the Vatican's symposium on the priesthood.

Suspected of sexual abuse and banned from ministry, Father Tony Anatrella — who has always denied the charges against him — has been seen attending a symposium on the priesthood being held at the Vatican. Organizers stated that the priest was not invited and simply registered on his own accord for the event, which concludes February 19.

While the Church intends to fight against the abuses committed in its midst, the presence of this 81-year-old priest, sanctioned by the Archbishop of Paris in 2018 and under the shadow of a canonical trial since 2021, raised eyebrows among the 400 or so participants.

“Stupefaction” and “dismay”: These are the terms used by a bishop participating in the symposium when he noticed the presence of Father Anatrella. The priest, who is a psychoanalyst and was once dubbed the “shrink of the Church,” attended the first two days of the symposium.

When asked about the arrival of the French priest, Cardinal Marc Ouellet explained that his office had not been in charge of registration for the event. Father Tony Anatrella had not been invited, he explained, but simply registered and showed up.

Other religious are reporting that Father Anatrella, had been invited.

The management of registrations and the distribution of ID badges was outsourced to an Italian company.

“Is this a provocation on his part?” wondered one prelate attending the symposium. “The organization could have told him that, given the circumstances, it was better not to come,” he said, seeing here a “carelessness” that is part of the “old world” practices that the Church is trying to eradicate.

Another bishop said he considers the situation “totally incongruous”; but another recognized that no one can be prevented from registering for this type of event.

Canonical process underway

In 2018, Archbishop Michel Aupetit, then archbishop of Paris, imposed sanctions against the priest after a preliminary investigation. He can no longer hear confessions or spiritually accompany the faithful. He was also asked to renounce all public interventions and therapeutic activities.

This prohibition came as a consequence of complaints from former patients of the priest-therapist, who accused him of having practiced “therapies” aimed at “curing” them of homosexuality, and which led to sexual abuse, reported the newspaper La Croix.

In 2007, three civil cases against Anatrella were dismissed, with the statute of limitations being invoked in two of the three cases. In 2019, a new complaint from a victim — a minor at the time of the events, which allegedly took place in 1974 — was filed with the Church.

In 2021, the Diocese of Paris initiated a canonical trial against him. The accusations are not public knowledge as the investigation is still underway. Father Anatrella has repeatedly denied all accusations, saying he is the victim of factions in the Church.

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