Vatican announces steps to stop spiritual abuse

Spiritual abuse

The Vatican has announced steps to combat the misuse of Catholic spirituality for potential spiritual abuse.

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, has expressed a heightened vigilance over the potential for mystical or spiritual elements to be exploited for abusive ends.

Speaking to OSV News, Cardinal Fernández spoke of “false mysticism” and outlined the Vatican’s initiative to study and implement measures to forewarn and halt spiritual abuse.

“Today we are more attentive than before to the possibility of mystical or spiritual elements being used to take advantage of people and even abuse them” the Cardinal told OSV News.

This announcement comes amidst a backdrop of several high-profile cases that have shed light on the distortion of the Catholic faith and its mystical tradition by abusers to manipulate and coerce victims into sexual acts.

One such case involves Father Marko Rupnik, a former Jesuit and renowned liturgical artist, whom multiple victims accused of using spiritual justification to facilitate abuse.

Similarly, Third Order Franciscan Father David Morrier, a former chaplain at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, faced allegations and subsequent legal action for sexual battery of a student under the guise of spiritual counselling and rites purportedly aimed at deliverance and exorcism.

The posthumous revelations concerning Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities and his mentor Dominican Father Thomas Philippe, further underscore the gravity of the issue.

An independent investigation commissioned by L’Arche International revealed that Vanier, Father Philippe and his brother Father Marie-Dominique Philippe, also a Dominican friar, manipulated spiritual beliefs to justify sexual abuse, invoking religious figures and concepts of divine union to coerce their victims.

These cases have prompted the Vatican’s doctrinal office to take a proactive stance in preventing the exploitation of spirituality for abusive purposes.

By raising awareness and developing strategies to prevent such abuses, the Church aims to safeguard its followers from those who might pervert its teachings and rituals for nefarious ends.

Local interest

In late 2023, the Vatican responded to Bishop of Christchurch Michael Gielen’s request for help dealing with unauthorised exorcisms and related spiritual abuse in the Diocese.

The retired bishop of Toowoomba, Robert McGuckin, has been tasked with conducting an Apostolic Visitation to investigate the allegations.

Following allegations of unauthorised exorcisms by the Latin Mass Trans-Alpine Redemptorists, Gielen suspended all exorcisms in the Christchurch diocese in August this year.

Yet despite the suspension order, Newshub alleges more unauthorised exorcisms and concerns about the wellbeing of young people have emerged.


Additional reading

News category: World.

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