Focolare Movement report highlights decades of sexual abuse

Focolare Movement

In March this year, the Focolare Movement released its first internal report on cases of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults within its ranks, highlighting decades of abuse.

Focolare, founded in 1943, is one of the largest lay organisations in the Catholic Church, with representation in 194 countries and boasting over 2 million people involved in its work worldwide.

Focolare members live in the community, can be married, and take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.

The report sheds light on accounts of abuse reported to the movement’s Commission for the Welfare and Safeguarding of Members from 2014 to 2022. It reveals a troubling history of abuse spanning from 1969 to 2012.

According to the findings, 66 members of the global Focolare movement were accused of abusing 42 minors, with 29 of the victims aged between 14 and 18 and with 13 under the age of 14.

Additionally, 17 vulnerable adults also fell victim to abuse at the hands of Focolare members during this period.

This report comes one year after an independent investigation exposed the abuse committed by a former French consecrated member of the movement, Jean-Michel Merlin, who had abused at least 37 boys from the 1960s until 2016 when he was dismissed.

Approach might shield offenders

The report has received criticism for its limitations.

While it provides numerical data on abuse cases, it refrains from naming the abusers, specifying the locations and dates of the abuse incidents or disclosing the sources of the allegations.

Some have raised concerns that this approach might shield the perpetrators, hinder accountability and deny the victims justice.

Christophe Renaudin, the first to formally accuse Jean-Michel Merlin of abuse in 1994, expressed scepticism about the report’s impact.

Renaudin told NCR the report was “a smoke and mirrors operation to give the impression that something is being done, but the reality is that the movement couldn’t care less about the victims,” stating that it might create an impression of action being taken while neglecting the needs of the victims.

The Focolare movement’s response to this criticism emphasised their aim to protect the privacy of everyone involved.

However, questions have been raised about whose privacy and rights are prioritised – the victims or the alleged abusers.

The report also reveals that the abuse within the movement was not limited to sexual abuse but extended to include emotional, spiritual and financial abuse.

The offenders were often figures in positions of power, making it difficult for victims to come forward and seek justice.

The release of this internal report comes shortly after Pope Francis made the motu proprio Vos Estis Lux Mundi permanent, which outlines procedures for handling abuse cases within the Vatican and applies to Vatican-approved lay associations like Focolare.


National Catholic Reporter

UCA News



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News category: World.

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