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Reforms and prevention against abuse

Prévention des abus

Reforms and implementation of protection and anti-abuse measures

Determined to fight and protect against abuse, the Brothers of Saint John have voted to implement a number of reforms.

Three main directions have been pursued

Handling cases of abuse

Complaints are handled by a unit composed mainly of people from outside the Congregation and chaired by a Magistrate. The unit has two functions. Firstly, to receive testimonies and complaints, and to offer people the opportunity to be heard directly by two members of the unit. Secondly, to advise the Prior General on the action to be taken. It is up to the relevant state or canonical authority to decide on the appropriate course of action, with a view to eventual judgment and punishment.

Initial training

The brothers receive initial training in affectivity and human sciences. They also receive specific training in the prevention of sexual abuse. They are also trained in spiritual accompaniment.
All these training courses are given by lecturers from outside the Congregation.

Older brothers in apostolic priories have benefited from compulsory training sessions, with rules and training requirements for spiritual accompaniment.
Numerous training courses have also been set up to complement the initial training, especially on vision and leadership and the accompaniment of brothers. These have given rise to various handbooks on governance, the role of priors and the training of priors, for example.

Reform of the Congregation’s fundamental texts

A clear distance was established from the authority of Father M.-D. Philippe. The Rule of Life written by Father M.-D. Philippe is no longer the reference text for brothers making religious profession. The Text on the Charism voted at the 2022 General Chapter defines the life of the Brothers of Saint John independently of Father M.-D. Philippe. The Formation Charter he had written has been replaced by a Ratio Formationis reviewed and corrected by outside experts.

Chronology

Revelation on abuses carried out by the Brothers of Saint John and chronology of reforms. 

2024

– Spring 2024: establishment of an independent hotline available to all brothers.

– The “SOS Abuse Commission” becomes the “SOS Abuse Unit”, to better match the terms used by the Church and to mark its continuity.

2023

– July 2023: Public letter to victims, particularly those who have not come forward – by Brother François-Xavier Cazali

– June 2023: Publication of the Interdisciplinary Commission Report requested in 2019. Three areas of understanding: historical, theological, psychological and systemic.

2022

– December 23, 2022: Publication of the Ratio Formationis to replace the Founder’s Formation Charter.

General chapter: 
– Presence and input of a victimology doctor
– Vote on a text setting out the Congregation’s charism, independently of the Founder.
– Removal of the Rule of Life from the Constitutions
– Modification of the Constitutions: active and passive voice withdrawn from accused or convicted brothers

2021

– Publication of the handbook: Initial and ongoing formation for spiritual guidance

– Publication of the handbook: Objectives of our formation in chastity

– Publication of the handbook: Good practice in spiritual direction

2020

Meeting with the 140 brothers present in France
– Testimonies from victims
– Reading of the history of Eau-Vive Institute, founded by Father Thomas Philippe
– Reading of the intervention by a psychological and systemic expert at the General Chapter in November 2019
– Setting up of similar meetings for different regions of the world

– Letter from the Prior General on Spiritual Guidance

– Presentation and necessity of supervision with the Prioress General of the Apostolic Sisters of Saint John and the priories of the France Sud region.

2019

November 2019: second session of the General Chapter
– Historical review (Eau-Vive Institute affair)
– Welcoming and listening to the testimonies of victims, including an abused brother who became an abuser
– Involvement of an expert in psychology and systemics for a diagnostic hypothesis.

Declaration by the General Chapter
– On the relationship with the founder: decentralization from his person, refusal to refer to him in updating the community’s charism, refusal to refer to him for formation, discernment on his texts, including founding texts such as the Rule of Life

– Government decision to decentralize

– Creation of an interdisciplinary commission to shed light on abuses within the community (historically, theologically and doctrinally)

May: first session of the General Chapter
– Activity report from the SOS abus commission, immediately published:
Quantification of abuses, precision on their nature, justifications invoked, consequences for victims
Systemic aspects of abuse identified
Election of Brother François-Xavier as Prior General, previously Secretary of the SOS Abuse Commission
Session on psychological illnesses, sexual disorders
Session with the Apostolic Sisters of Saint John: Sexual abuse and consequences

2018

– Meeting with the Council of the Prioress General of the Contemplative Sisters of Saint John on the importance of accompanying wounded people

– Regional days on childhood wounds

2017

– Publication of the synthesis of the Doctrinal Report on Chastity, signed by the heads of studies of the three branches of the Saint John Family (brothers, contemplative sisters, apostolic sisters)
Focus on “the ethic of the love of friendship (…) [which has] served to justify unacceptable behavior”
Nine issues highlighted

– Creation of the Commission on Accompanying People and the Whole Community ( renamed Commission on Formation in Spiritual Accompaniment and Affectivity (COFASA) in 2019)

2016

– June: Letter from Cardinal Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the CIVCSVA (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life):
A number of observations on vocational discernment, novitiate training (place of philosophy, lack of diversity of teachers and intellectual references), the balance of studies and the training of formators, the number of departures from the community…
Reflections on formation to chastity and the teaching of the love of friendship, on abuses, especially in the context of spiritual accompaniment…
Comments on Father Marie-Dominique Philippe and Sister Alix, first Prioress General of the Contemplative Sisters of Saint John.
Words of encouragement: “The fact that young people may be called to religious life in your Family is good for them and for the Church”
Approval of several founding intuitions (common patronage of the Virgin Mary and St. John, place of study, etc.)
Positive feedback from the community’s government, and confirmation of the soundness of recent orientations

– April: General Chapter attended by Bishop Blondel, Pontifical Commissioner.
Doctrinal report on chastity presented by the Doctrinal Commission created in 2013
Lecture: “Sexual abuse and consequences”.

2015

– Implementation of other resolutions voted in 2013

Promulgation of normative internal procedures for cases of abuse
Commission of three brothers set up to deal with cases of abuse
Presentation for young priests (under 5 years of activity) on childhood wounds
October 2015: work with the CPG (Prior General Counsel) around male homosexuality (based on texts).

2014

– Setting up a hotline for brothers

2013

– First revelations of facts

During the General Chapter, Brother Thomas Joachim, Prior General, informs of sexual abuse committed by Father Marie-Dominique Philippe, founder of the community
The chapter also learns about abuses committed by some of the Brothers of Saint John

The chapter members decide to:
Set up a doctrinal commission to identify any philosophical or theological errors that may be passed on regarding chastity in the Congregation
Set up a listening unit and strict procedures to receive testimonies and better deal with cases of sexual abuse

Delve a little deeper

What are the Brothers of Saint John doing to combat abuse?

Report “To understand and to heal” - June 26, 2023
Download the “Ratio Formationis” in french - December 22, 2022
Go to the SOS Abuse Unit page
Download the letter from the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life - February 18, 2019
Download the letter from Brother Thomas - February 20, 2019,
“侵犯求救”委員會進度報告 2019 年 5 月代表大會

Other link

Letter of his Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God, 20 August, 2018