TRUTH AND HUMILITY ARE THE CORNERSTONES OF THE MORAL EDIFACE
(Brian Mark Hennessy reports on an exemplary case of facing the truth with brave humility and compassion for victims of sexual abuse. Brian Hennessy has written a “Forward” in italics below and also the ultimate “Notes”. The central article is a paraphrase of a report by the Catholic News Agency dated 26th January 2017 which was reported in “CRUX”)
You need to be brave to be humble and, very often, telling the truth is both the bravest and most humble act that we, as human beings, commit to. Such a combination of self-effacing morality dignifies the spiritual essence of our humanity. In a world when all men, women and children are equal, there is an accompaniment to “truth” and that is “justice”. You cannot have one without the other. Nevertheless, in this human world, understanding truth is complex and often difficult to discern – and never more so when two seemingly honest and respectable individuals have different versions of the facts of a truth that requires determination. The wise King Solomon managed to discern the truth in a dispute over who was the mother of a child by his human understanding of motherhood, but most disputes are more complicated than that. It is uniquely refreshing, therefore, when an individual or institution embraces a totally moral route, searches for the truth of alleged wrongdoings and humbly admits that truth when it has been established.
PARAPHRASE OF REPORT BY THE CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY FEATURED IN “CRUX”
The determination of the allegations against Luis Fernando Figari Rodrigo (born July 8, 1947 in Lima, Peru), a Peruvian Catholic layman, who was the founder and former superior general of the Society Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV) is a case in point. Figari, who had been accused of “sexual abuse, mistreatment, and abuse of power” was exposed in 2015 in a book, “Mitad Monjes, Mitad Soldados”, (Half Monks, Half Soldiers), by the author, Salinas. Figari denied all the allegations in the book, but Alessandro Moroni Llabres, elected as the Superior General of SCV in 2012, embarked on a journey of moral determination to seek the truth. Indeed, he set up an Ethics Commission for Justice and Reconciliation in November 2015, after the original allegations had been made, so that the victims “could be welcomed and served in the first instance by highly respected and objective persons.” In doing so, he set aside any fears of damage to the reputation of the Institute and he openly embraced the Victims of the alleged abuses. In April 2016, that Ethics Commission’s report detailed an internal culture of extreme “discipline and obedience by the founder, Figari, which was forged by extreme physical demands, as well as physical punishments, constituting abuses which violated the fundamental rights of individuals.”
Sodalitium Christianae Vitae is a society of apostolic life which was founded in 1971 in Peru, and granted pontifical recognition in 1997. In addition to Peru, the community operates in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, the United States, and Italy. In the past few days, the Catholic News Agency has reported that the Institute has announced that 66 persons were victims of abuse and mistreatment by members of their Peruvian Sodalitium Christianae Vitae community. The still current superior general of the community, Alessandro Moroni Llabres, said, on January 21, that the society has set aside more than $2.8 million in reparations and assistance for victims. Moroni further said that “besides the norms proper to the judicial and canonical spheres, there is a necessary moral sphere.” In that respect, he reiterated the community’s pronouncements recognizing “all the harm done by Figari” – and in his condemnation of Figari’s actions, declared him a “persona non grata”. He added that, “We have also asked for Figari’s removal from our community and we have sent all the information on his case to the Holy See where Figari’s trial is proceeding in Rome. We are waiting for the final pronouncement by the Vatican authorities”. Moroni continued, “We have also recognized that some members of our community have done much harm and we have taken very concrete measures to clarify the truth about all these cases – and this is most important thing – we are maintaining our commitment to making redress to those who suffered because of this. Those persons continue to be our priority.”
Moroni said the Ethics Commission had presented 32 cases to the Sodalits, and that another team of international experts in abuse investigations and the care of victims had discovered another 71 cases, “and so we have attended to a total of 103 persons. Of this total, sufficient elements have been found to consider 66 persons as victims of abuse or mistreatment of various natures. To determine if a person can be considered a victim,” he said, “we did not require any technical or scientific means of proof, such as would be required in any juridical investigation. Rather, we made a moral evaluation, considering the verisimilitude of the testimonies that were received. In case of doubt, we have opted to trust the persons who have given us their testimony. Among monetary compensations, medical or psychological assistance, help to return to the workforce, and support for some persons whose cases did not correspond to this process (but who had urgent needs) we have approved for this purpose an amount that so far totals more than $2,842,000,”
In a brave, humble and unique statement, Moroni concluded, “For us, the principal responsibility does not fall upon the Vatican or the Peruvian Church. Nor does the principal responsibility fall on the Attorney General’s Office; the principal responsibility of seeking the truth and repairing the damage is ours. Beyond the lofty complexity of the judicial and canonical processes, today we want to reaffirm that we are determined to fulfil our moral responsibility, with all its consequences. The community asks forgiveness from “everyone who has suffered any kind of abuse or mistreatment on the part of a member or ex-member of the Sodality. Welcoming the truth, however painful it may be, and making reparation to those who have suffered enables us to go forward on the path of service to which God calls us.”
The brave response of Alessandro Moroni Llabres to the allegations made against Figari, the former Founder and Superior General of Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, could not be further removed from the response of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy to allegations of criminal sexual abuse of child seminarians at their Mirfield Seminary in England. The Combonis, also known as the Verona Fathers, have ignored the Victims of the childhood abuse consistently, failed to investigate the allegations against clerics of their Order and refused to have any dialogue with the Victims. Indeed, the Combonis have gone to extreme lengths of publicly denying that the abuse, which was reported to them and has been known to them for almost five decades was true. Moreover, this denial flies in the face of assertions by living members of their Order that the allegations were factual. Their denial is a symptom of their cowardly arrogance – the very opposite of “Truth” and “Humility”. Indeed, rather than embracing the truth with brave humility and embracing the victims, the Order, even went to the length of falsely accusing one Victim of crimes in the Criminal Tribunal of Verona in Italy in a macabre attempt to conceal the ‘Truth” that they have a cowardly fear of embracing.