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.

Franciscan 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.”

The 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.”

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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.

Quinn 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.

But 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.

To contact Cardinal Collins:

Catholic Pastoral Centre
1155 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario, M4T 1W2
Telephone: (416) 934-0606, ext. 609
Fax: (416) 934-3452
Email: archbishop@archtoronto.org