Spiritual abuse occurs more frequently than thought

spiritual abuse

The Vatican is investigating more than a dozen founders of congregations of consecrated or religious life, with spiritual abuse a frequent issue.

Spanish Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, spoke about his office’s work overseeing religious congregations in an interview July 30 with Vida Nueva, a Spanish weekly magazine on religion.

The most common allegations involve abuse of power or conscience, financial corruption or problems associated with “affectivity,” Carballo said.

He said the church has very “clear and precise criteria” in discerning the authenticity of a religious charism when determining whether to approve a new congregation or religious order.

Among these criteria, he underlined: “Communion with the church; the presence of spiritual fruits; the social dimension of evangelization; high regard for other forms of consecrated life in the church; and the profession of the Catholic faith.”

“Sadly, it must be confessed that, at times, it is difficult to discover the authenticity and originality of a charism in some realities,” the archbishop said.

He said that the congregation is currently investigating about a dozen founders of institutes that come under his office’s authority.

“In most cases, these are associations whose canonical recognition is underway,” he said without naming the founders or the communities involved.

However, he said, in addition to that number, some institutes had already been canonically recognized. Some whose founders are being investigated, too, “so the number increases significantly.”

“All of this does a lot of damage to consecrated life and to the church itself,” he said. “Therefore, much more attention should be paid when discerning the need, benefit and usefulness for the church. Especially when approving associations whose canonical recognition is underway.”

It is a bishop’s right to approve such associations, he said. “But it is also a grave responsibility,” and discernment is needed.



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