By Patrick B. Craine
TORONTO, April 10, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Archdiocese of Toronto is taking flak this week after barring a
priest known for opposing Church teaching from speaking in the diocese.
Fr. Michael Crosby, a self-styled reformer who calls for women’s
ordination and acceptance of homosexuality, among other things, as part
of a top-down overhaul of the Church, will be the speaker at the
Canadian Forum on Theology and Education from April 22-23. He will offer
seven talks over the two days.
The event was originally
scheduled to take place at the office of the Dufferin-Peel Catholic
District School Board, but has been moved to a non-Catholic venue in the
Diocese of Hamilton after the Toronto Archdiocese said the event did
not meet its protocol for talks by visiting clergy and laity, which
requires that they be “theologically sound” and “support Catholic
teaching on faith and morals.”
The forum, which has been
organized annually for the last three decades, is explicit in its
intention to challenge Church teaching. “The signs of crisis [in the
Church] are evident,” reads its website. “It is felt in the ‘sex abuse
scandal’, in the issues of women’s ordination, mandatory/optional
celibacy, married clergy, and the questions these issues have raised
about internal structures of authority and clerical culture.”
website adds that the forum “will be an experience that helps teachers,
chaplains, parents and priests learn how to respond to this challenge.
Students’ concerns and distrust of ‘Catechism’ answers; teachers’
oft-unspoken questions; parents’ misgivings about their childrens’ faith
and priests’ uncertainties about the content of pastoral letters and
homilies are all grist to the mill at Forum.”
The forum is
endorsed by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA),
which advertises it and is hosting a wine and cheese as part of the
event. Organizer John Quinn says most of the attendees will be “teachers
in Catholic schools.”
In a set of blog posts, Quinn accuses the
Archdiocese of “suppressing healthy Catholic dialogue” and calls on
Catholics to complain to Cardinal Thomas Collins.
He says the
decision was “arbitrary” and amounts to the Archdiocese establishing an
“Index of Forbidden Dialogue.” He complains that the Archdiocese’s
protocol for visiting speakers has “absolutely no transparency,” with no
explanation offered for the decision.
But Quinn also cites an
email by Matthew Sanders, executive assistant to the Archdiocese’s
Chancellor of Spiritual Affairs, which indicates that Fr. Crosby’s
faculties to speak “were rescinded upon learning of the nature of the
subjects he is coming to speak on.”
According to Quinn, Fr.
Crosby was given permission to speak in a letter of Dec. 3rd, 2012, but
that permission was later revoked.
Based on Quinn’s recounting of
the events, it appears that in between the initial letter of permission
and the revocation, Quinn had run afoul of the Archdiocese for
organizing a meeting of priests in an effort to launch a Toronto chapter
of the Detroit-based group Elephants in the Living Room. The
organization is run by priests of the Detroit Archdiocese and is
dedicated to Church "reforms" that diverge from Catholic teaching.
says he had tried to organize a meeting on Feb. 28th of priests from
the Archdiocese of Toronto and the Dioceses of Hamilton, St. Catharines,
and Peterborough with representatives of the Elephant group. But, he
says, he received an e-mail on Feb. 21st from the Archdiocese of
Toronto’s Chancellor of Spiritual Affairs, Rev. Ivan Camilleri, alerting
him that the group is “not in good standing in the Archdiocese of
Toronto,” and the office “in no way supports” the opening of a chapter
in the Archdiocese.
The controversy was reported by the Toronto
Star on Saturday in a story that appeared to paint the Archdiocese’s
move as a denial of free speech.
“It’s not uncommon for Catholic
clergy, laypeople and theologians to be denied platforms in Catholic
institutions if their ideas do not conform to prescribed teaching — a
practice some see as being at odds with societal values of free speech
and open dialogue,” wrote journalist Leslie Scrivener.
Archdiocesan spokesman Bill Steinburg insisted to LifeSiteNews that they
are “not stifling free speech” and highlighted a quote he had given to
the Toronto Star.
“For someone to officially represent the church
(as a priest does), the presenter’s message must be consistent with the
norms of the church, which are clearly spelled out,” Steinberg said.