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New movement says founder was an abuser

By on Thursday, 17 November 2011

The US website of the Community of the Beatitudes

The US website of the Community of the Beatitudes

A Catholic movement based in France has acknowledged with “humility and repentance” that acts of sexual abuse were committed by its founder and other important members of the organisation.

The Community of the Beatitudes, in a statement posted on its French website yesterday, said that under the oversight of a commissioner appointed last year by the Vatican, it was undergoing a process of “purification, restructuring and re-founding”.

The detailed statement came two weeks ahead of the scheduled start of a criminal trial of Brother Pierre-Etienne Albert, a top member of the community, who has been accused of dozens of acts of sexual abuse of minors over a period of 15 years.

The statement said it wanted to emphasise that the community’s own process of self-examination had been going on for several years.

“The new information about the gravely culpable acts committed by several of its members, in particular its founder, has led the community to move further ahead in the process of repentance and purification of its memory,” the statement said.

The Community of the Beatitudes was founded in France in 1973 by two Protestant couples who desired to live as the first Christians did. The primary founder, Gerard Croissant, was a Protestant minister who became a Catholic and was ordained a permanent deacon in 1978. In 2002, the organisation was given official recognition by the Vatican.

The statement said the founder, Croissant, had committed “crimes against the moral law of the Church” and had acknowledged “serious failures” in sexual matters, particularly in regard to sisters in the community, many of whom left because of the abuse. One case of abuse by Croissant involved an underage girl, it said.

“His prestige as a charismatic founder, together with the seduction of his words, led most of his victims to be taken in by supposedly mystical arguments, which covered grave violations of morality with spiritual themes,” it said.

The statement said all this was “for too long kept secret inside a small circle” in the community. In 2008, it said, diocesan and Vatican officials intervened and removed Croissant from diaconal ministry and forced him to leave the community.

Although Croissant has been told to live in silence and penitence, he has continued to give talks and hold meetings without the Church’s permission, the statement said.

“The community is deeply ashamed by the behaviour of (Croissant) and expresses its closeness to the suffering of those who were abused by him,” the statement said. It said the community would do everything to ensure that such abuses do not occur again.

The statement said abuse was also committed against members by Croissant’s brother, who served for a time as the head of the community but was expelled when the accusations came to light in 2010.

The community said the first signs of “fragility and error” began to appear in the movement in 2002. In addition to acts of abuse, it cited “unbalanced psycho-spiritual practices”, a confusion between consecrated and lay status of members, and problems of governance.

Many members began to leave, and in 2007 the Vatican first outlined a restructuring program for the movement, reconstituting it as a community of diocesan right, under the canonical authority of the Archbishop of Toulouse, France. In 2010, in the face of continual internal divisions, the Vatican named Dominican Fr Henry Donneaud to take charge of the organisation and complete the process of internal reconciliation.

The statement posted online, which was signed by Fr Donneaud and the community’s general council, said that despite the mistakes of the past, it was false and defamatory to call the Community of the Beatitudes a “sect”. It said the community has placed its fate in the hands of the church, which in turn has recognised the community’s “authentic fruits of vitality, solidarity and evangelical witness”.

The community is active in more than 60 dioceses around the world, including the Archdiocese of Denver.

  • maryp

    Shut it down.

  • sienna

    Truly sorrowful news.  The Beatitudes were an integral part of my old diocese, and the community there helped me to become the christian I am today.  In fact, one of them was my sponsor when I was received into full communion in the Church.  I’m praying for reconciliation, clarity, and God’s grace in this confusing time for all of those in and associated with the community.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry to hear about this. It would be a pity to punish all the members for the crimes of some of the leaders.

  • Mariano Barrientos

    I know that God forgives every all of our sins in heaven and hearth, but the law of the land is the law and must be fulfill 

  • http://twitter.com/PJTPOOAM Thomas Poovathinkal

    IN RELIGION (AMONG PRIESTS AND RELIGIOUS) THOSE WHO EXERCISE AUTHORITY IN THE

    WORLDLY SPIRIT OF POWER AND PROJECT IT AS RELIGIOUS AUTHORITY ARE SO OFTEN FOUND

    PRACTISING A DIFFERENT KIND OF CHASTITY. NO WONDER TRUE APOSTLES ARE VERY RARE TO

    BE FOUND.

  • buckle

    I was something of a religious “taster” or “drifter” in my youth – of the sort which St. Paul warns about. It was relatively easy to join a host of communities and groups but the only ones which impressed me were the Legion of Mary and Opus Dei. Of these two, the Legion was head and shoulders above anything I had encountered in the Catholic Faith. It was made up of mainly single and poor Irish bachelors although I recall one troubled married variant and a token Indian who was a delight. For some reason it seemed the real deal. Opus Dei was impressive for it’s Marxist attitude towards me. That’s Grouch Marx as in they did not hide the fact that I was to be excluded from their club and for that reason they have my admiration. All the other ‘communities’ consisted of middle class bores whose members would have been better off witnessing to the faith in their local tennis clubs. I grew to detest them all and the feeling was mutual. My advice to young people, avoid these groups. To students, steer clear of university chaplaincies.

  • Carlton

    Is there a movement having arisen in the Catholic Church in the past 50 years that doesn’t involve priest’s and bishops seducing little boys and/or girls? 

  • AgingPapist
  • johnny sprite

    Here we go again….. Do we need a German pope before we get serious to get to the bottom of this? No wonder he is on record as saying that he felt like standing at the edge of a volcano watching the filth come up. John Paul 2 does not seem very great. Many of these abuses happened on his watch and he and his Congregation of Bishops did nothing! id he go on his numerous travels to distrat us from the serious problems brewing in the church?

  • johnny sprite

    The Cardinals who should have done somthing about it at the time – Baggio, Gantin and Neves are all dead. All were negligent and lacklustre and found wanting. Now the blame goes to Pope Benedict 16 for the failures of his cardinals to act and clean up the shop

  • johnny sprite

    prayers are not enough mr sienna…

  • Inquisator

    Great…… more good news!