- Apr 20, 2021
In 2017, the man who leads the Vatican’s office for religious congregations acknowledged in an interview that some 70 “new movements” were under investigation for the abusive behavior of their founders.
Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier has ordered a reexamination of abuse allegations against Father Joseph Kentenich, the founder of the international Schonstatt movement, from his time in exile in the U.S.
Most observers of new movements in the Catholic Church would say they tend to share a number of characteristics, one of which is a strong cult of personality around the founder that tends to insulate such figures from suspicion and creates a series of disincentives for bringing forth accusations or complaints.
Pope Francis encouraged members of the Focolare movement to remain open to and in dialogue with the world around them, and to be courageous in confronting problems within their community, particularly in regard to revelations of abuse.
Questions have been raised about the influence some lay groups exercise over their members and about how the church should determine whether the movement should be reformed or dissolved when there is abuse or corruption.
The president of Focolare has accepted the resignations of the lay movement’s top leaders in France and announced the group will ask an independent committee to investigate how allegations of the sexual abuse of minors have been handled.
Peruvian theologian Rocio Figueroa has argued that little is being done to target the spiritual abuse that allowed the clerical sex scandals to happen, and has urged the Catholic Church to rethink its power structure and concept of leadership.
The Vatican office that grants official recognition to international Catholic lay movements and organizations ordered the groups to develop detailed child-protection guidelines and norms for handling allegations of the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.