The Focolare Movement will initiate an independent review of its handling of sexual abuse allegations.
Leaders responsible for the lay movement’s activities in France resigned from their positions this month, as the group addressed concerns that it did not properly address a former consecrated member of the movement who admitted to sexually abusing a minor, and is alleged to have committed numerous other acts of sexual abuse.
“The Focolare Movement has…decided to institute a special inquiry that will be entrusted to an independent Body the composition of which will be made public shortly.”
“The task of this Body will be to listen to the victims and to gather further testimonies, as well as investigating whether there were any omissions, cover ups or silences on the part of those responsible for the Movement. At the end of the investigation, the independent Body will make its final report public,” said an Oct. 22 statement from the Focolare Movement’s headquarters in Rome.
The statement addressed allegations concerning a former consecrated member of the group, who admitted in 1998 to having sexually abused a minor, and was dismissed from the movement in 2016.
The Focolare statement said the member, identified only as J.M.M., is presumed to have had other victims, according to a finding from the independent Commission on sexual abuse in the Church in France.
The member was in 1994 accused of sexually abusing a male victim in 1981 and 1982, when the alleged victim was 15 and 16 years old. He was not tried for the crime because of the criminal statute of limitations, but he did admit the molestation during a lawsuit in 1998, and was required to pay damages.
J.M.M “followed a psychotherapeutic path for a number of years,” the statement said, but he was not dismissed from the group until 2016, after his victim contacted Focolare leaders and the French bishops’ conference.
“In November 2019, the independent Commission on sexual abuse in the Church in France (CIASE) received notification concerning the presence of other presumed victims of J.M.M.,” the Focolare statement said.
Last month, the group held a meeting with some alleged victims of J.M.M,, at which one Focolare official expressed his shame for abuse suffered in the group, “and also for the silence or lack of initiative sustained for years on the part of various people in positions of responsibility.”
“Faced with this immense suffering, we are convinced that the only path to follow is that of offering the victims full attention and recognition of the harm done. I wish here to reiterate the Movement’s full and unconditional collaboration, to shed full light on the facts and do justice to the victims,” Maria Voce, president of the Focolare Movement said in a statement.
Founded in Italy in 1943, the Focolare Movement is a lay-led organization that promotes Christian unity and solidarity. There are formally 140,444 members of the Focolare movement, including some men and women who live forms of consecrated life. Beyond formal members, there are millions worldwide who participate in projects and initiatives of the Focolare Movement.