Georges Pontier, Archbishop of Marseille, President of the Conference of Bishops of France, recently responded to calls for recognition of the
human damage caused by ecclesial movements such as the Legionaries of Christ and others that are guilty of abusive practices. Click Here
The archbishop was responding to a group of forty victims of various abuses suffered as members of Roman Catholic ecclesial movements and religious orders they had formerly belonged to. One of the three leaders of the group addressing the archbishop was Xavier Leger, a former member of the Legionaries of Christ, who has posted several articles on ReGAIN.
The letter that was submitted by the victims in French may be seen at Click Here The Archbishop’s response is included with the above letter from the victims.
The article stated that::
Critics of the several new ecclesiastical communities had complained of the ‘destruction of personalities’ by cult-like practices. The complaints had centered on groups such as the Legion of Christ, the Beatitudes community, and the Community of St. John – all of which had seen formal charges of misconduct lodged against their founders.
The Archbishop, while warning against the
dangers of generalization, did acknowledge difficulties with some groups, involving the manipulation of individual consciences, adding that
French bishops oppose such practices, and that
the Gospel of Christ, which we seek to serve, is a school of spiritual freedom.
Archbishop Pontier, in his address to the French bishops, gathered in a plenary session issued a call to denounce the human damage that the forty victims had suffered as a result of their membership in the religious orders and movements involved. Such damage he said included
depression to suicide or destruction of personalities.
What was new in this case was not the reporting of sexual abuse that plaintiffs have suffered but the spiritual abuse that they suffered. The article referred to the way that founders of these groups have used their spiritual power on young impressionable people and how they take advantage of people by making them become dependent, thus creating an imbalance of power in some cases leading to destruction of personalities.
Another new issue in this case is that it is the first time that such a group of the new religious movements that have been seen as symbols of the
new evangelization have been lumped together in these types of circumstances.
In his letter, Archbishop Pontier clarified in his letter that his main concern was the issue of
spiritual freedom i.e.
manipulation of consciences. He went on to explain that
The gospel of Christ we want to serve is a school of spiritual freedom.
He said that in the past, some bishops have warned the public and families about certain groups but he now wishes all bishops to do a better job of listening to accusations from those claiming to be victims. Archbishop Pontier said that there needs to be respect for canon law regarding freedom of conscience.
We heartily endorse the work of Xavier Leger and the others who presented their testimonies and we are absolutely delighted to hear a member of the Roman Catholic hierarchy recognize that some groups, including the Legionaries of Christ do spiritual damage to some of their members. This is the message that ReGAIN and several others who have pounded away at for years, without positive acknowledgement from the Legion leaders or from the Vatican. It is obvious that until problems of spiritual abuse, manipulation of conscience and abuse of power and the resulting destruction of personalities that can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts are recognized and acknowledged, there will be no progress.
Perhaps if Cardinal DePaolis had dug a little deeper and spoken to ex members and some of Father Maciel’s victims during his three years as Apostolic Delegate, he might have become more aware of the extent of all the damage that has been done and is still being done by Legion leaders other than just the founder.
We sincerely hope and pray that Archbishop Pontier, who seems to have an understanding about human damage done by cult like practices will pass this information on to members of the Holy See and to the Pope so that they might become aware that a reform for a group such as the Legion requires more than superficial changes to their legal documents.
The Catholic Church’s neglect of the sexual abuse problems and failure to deal effectively with it resulted in horrendous consequences including additional suffering for victims, billions of dollars of settlements and loss of millions of Church members, who expected better of the One True Church established by Jesus Christ. We expect that if the Catholic Church continues to enable cult groups such as the Legionaries of Christ to flourish, while they are causing spiritual, psychological and emotional damage and if the Church fails to act, there could be another tsunami of shipwrecked souls, lost membership and further billions of dollars in costs. Can the Church afford for this to happen or can they find a more effective way to stop the spiritual bleeding of people who have a genuine desire to serve God and their Church?
What would Jesus want His representatives in His Church to do?