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An open letter to victims

Published on July 7, 2023

Prevention and fight against abuse - Brothers of Saint John

To the victims, especially those who have not come forward

Madam, Sir, Sister, Brother,

The report To Understand and To Heal, which has just been made public, is dedicated first and foremost to you. It is thanks to the courage of many of you, put to the test by all kinds of resistance, that the evil of the abuses committed within the Congregation of Saint John has been denounced, directly or through victims’ associations, and that it can now be brought to light and analyzed.

These steps have been decisive not only in identifying the aggressors and protecting other people, but also and above all in raising awareness of the systemic dimension of this abuse, i.e. the workings and beliefs that facilitated the contagion of abuse.

What you have experienced is an unspeakable tragedy for you, and today for the whole community. While you had every confidence in the brothers who were presented to you as men of God, you were deceived. They abused your trust and their authority. They have violated the limits of your intimacy and the respect due to you, either through hurtful words that leave a stain on your soul, or more seriously through touching or rape. A number of you have also been locked into evil by injunctions of silence, a claim to “secrecy”, by justifications or minimizations that abuse the meaning of words, the meaning of friendship and the priesthood.

The spiritual or religious life has been the motive that has captured your heart, and the abuse has made it a place of destruction for you. This betrayal of the Christian faith, a betrayal of God who makes himself man’s servant, who liberates and lifts him up, not enslaves him, shames us. The suffering you have experienced in your body, in your heart and in your soul, the suffering you still feel today in your psyche, in your relationships, in your life of faith or your religious life, never ceases to fill us with dread, shame and dismay.

Not all of you have been able to talk about the abuse you have suffered, or have wished, or found the means, to talk about it to an official body. Our thoughts are with each and every one of you. I’ve listed some contacts below for those of you who would like to take this step today.

Even if we are aware that we still have a long way to go, I wanted to tell you that thanks to your testimonies, we are deeply committed to a process of conversion and want to respond in deed and in truth to this report.

Brother François-Xavier Cazali CSJ
Prior General

Consult the report “To understand and to heal”

Contacts in America

Find contacts in America

Contacts in France

– The SOS Abuse Commission sos.abus@stjean.com, set up by the Congregation, is chaired by a magistrate. It is made up of four lay outsiders, including a lawyer and a psychologist, and two brothers from the Congregation. The commission is available to listen to you [in French or in English] and to recommend to the Prior General the steps to be taken with regard to Church and State justice systems.

– Bishops’ conferences or national conferences of religious: paroledevictimes@cef.fr and ecoutevictime@corref.fr in France.

– The Commission Reconnaissance et Réparation (CRR, victimes@crr.contact), an independent commission for victims of sexual abuse by religious, set up by CORREF (Conférence des religieux et religieuses de France). It formulates requests to the accused religious institute for recognition and reparation for the victim. Similar bodies may exist in other countries where the Congregation of the Brothers of Saint John is based.

– It is also possible to contact local civil society helplines, such as France victimes in France (01 41 83 42 17 (7 days a week, 9am to 9pm) or victimes@116006.fr).