Community of the Beatitudes forms commission to study past abuses

A priest writing a letter to St. Therese of Lisieux during a “rose petals” evening of prayer in Vismara, province of Milan, Italy, September 2017. / Credit: Béatitudes Community

Rome Newsroom, Nov 9, 2023 / 11:10 am (CNA).

A 50-year-old charismatic movement has announced it will form an independent commission to study problems in the group’s past.

The Community of the Beatitudes, which was founded in France and is now present in 27 countries, said Nov. 8 it will establish a multidisciplinary commission of experts to “shed light and shadow on the community’s history,” which includes sexual abuse and abuse of conscience.

The decision to form a commission was made at the end of the community’s general assembly, held Oct. 27–Nov. 5 in Nouan-le-Fuzelier, central France.

While the assembly’s 71 delegates were scheduled to also elect a new president during the meeting, Archbishop Guy de Kerimel of Toulouse, who has overseen the community since January 2022, decided to postpone the election to May 9, 2024, to have more time to better know the members, according to French newspaper La Croix.

The Community of the Beatitudes, which was formed in 1973 following the Second Vatican Council, includes consecrated brothers, consecrated sisters, and lay married and single members who join together in local groups to share a common prayer and community life.

As of 2019, the ecclesial movement has 760 members in 27 countries on six continents. It has more than 300 lay members, 271 sisters, and 177 brothers, 97 of whom are priests.

Sister Anna Katharina Pollmeyer is the community’s current president.

According to Sister Laetitia du Coeur de Jesus, who oversees the group’s communications, the community “felt the time was right for this review” of its past, La Croix reported.

The commission will work with the team of historian Tangi Cavalin, who has studied the dynamics of Church institutions and who recently published a yearslong investigation into the sexual and spiritual abuses of the Dominican priests Marie-Dominique Philippe and Thomas Philippe, the founders of the Brothers of St. John and L’Arche communities.

The Community of the Beatitudes acknowledged in 2011 that one of its lay founders, Gérard Croissant — also known by the religious name Ephraim — was a sexual abuser.

Croissant and his wife, Jo, formed the community along with another couple. At the time Croissant was not Catholic, but he converted in 1975 and was ordained a deacon in 1978. In 2008 he was expelled from the community and ordered to live a life of silence and penance by the Church.

Croissant’s brother-in-law, Philippe Madre, was also expelled from the movement in 2010 for abuse.

Another senior member of the movement — Pierre-Etienne Albert — was sentenced to five years in prison in 2011 for the sexual assault of 38 children. He was accused of sexually abusing more than 50 children, ages 5–14, from 1985 to 2000.

In the two decades after its founding in the mid-1970s, the Community of the Beatitudes saw quick growth. It underwent its first reform near the end of the first decade of the new millennium, at which time it was shaken by the revelations of sexual abuse by Croissant, Madre, and Albert.

In June 2011, the movement was established as a public association of the faithful under diocesan law with a view to becoming an ecclesial family of consecrated life by Archbishop Robert Le Gall of Toulouse.

The community was officially recognized by the Vatican in 2002, but Rome intervened in 2007 following reports of internal governance problems, and a pontifical commissioner was appointed in 2010 to oversee a reform of its statutes.

On Nov. 12, 2020, the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life permitted Le Gall to establish the community as an “ecclesial family of consecrated life” under diocesan law.

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