LIMA, Peru (CNS) — A Peruvian-based Catholic movement publicly distanced itself from its founder and asked for Vatican intervention in the wake of accusations of sexual, psychological and physical abuse of members.
In a statement issued April 5, Sodalitium Christianae Vitae asked forgiveness of the victims, those who had denounced the abuse and were ignored, members of the organization and others associated with it.
In Philadelphia, the movement’s clergy and lay people staff the Newman Catholic Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
“We consider Luis Fernando Figari guilty of the abuses of which he is accused and declare him persona non grata for our organization, which totally deplores and condemns his behavior,” Alessandro Moroni Llabres, the organization’s superior general, said in the message.
He said Sodalitium had asked the Vatican to order Figari’s “immediate separation from our community and end his unsustainable spiritual retreat in our facilities.”
Figari resigned of head of the movement in 2010 and has been living in a Sodalitium house in Rome, although immigration records show that he had visited Peru regularly through late last year.
The statement came slightly more than five months after two Peruvian journalists, Pedro Salinas and Paola Ugaz, published the book “Mitad Monjes, Mitad Soldados” (“Half Monks, Half Soldiers”), with detailed allegations of abuse by Figari and other Sodalitium leaders. Salinas is a former member of the movement.
“The recent months have been very difficult for the Sodalitium family because they have brought us face to face with an unfortunate past that returned to the present like an earthquake,” Moroni said in the statement. He said Sodalitium is cooperating with investigations by the Vatican and Peruvian prosecutors.
He also announced “the immediate start of an integral reform of our organization,” adding that Sodalitium had asked Pope Francis to send a Vatican representative to aid in the effort.
Leaders of the movement “acknowledge the sin of not having reacted in a firm and timely manner” to the accusations, “and we are willing to assume whatever penance is necessary to obtain the forgiveness of God, the church, our great family and society as a whole,” the statement said.
The book that triggered the shakeup in Sodalitium recounted Salinas’ experience and included interviews with 30 other former members, some of whom were minors when they joined.
Some said spiritual directors had ordered them to undress and then touched them, and there were several accounts of rape. Among those accused were Figari and German Doig, the movement’s deceased former vicar general.