Wednesday, May 10, 2023

French nuns report spiritual abuse by superiors

Bénédictines du Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre - Wikiwand

French nuns dedicated to the Sacred Heart and its iconic Sacré Coeur Basilica in Paris have said they suffered systematic spiritual abuse by their superiors in the past “with serious and lasting consequences, implemented over several decades”.

Joining previous French dioceses, orders and communities that have issued public confessions, the Benedictines of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre (BSCM) said they and women who had left the order came together to agree on a joint statement addressing the abuse.

The order had suffered “spiritual and conscience abuse, abuse of power and authority, separation of the sisters from their family and spiritual advisors, moral and physical violence” it said, as well as “threats, systematised lies, slander, a climate of fear and manipulation, humiliation, deprivation of freedom and a lack of vocational discernment”.

Coming after apostolic visitations in 2004 and 2012, the declaration shows how deep-seated this abuse was, it said. 

“These abuses caused many departures of sisters, in too often painful and difficult conditions,” the 2 May statement declared.

“The authorities at the time neither supported nor accompanied, but rather ostracised them.”

The order, which prays and welcomes pilgrims at Sacré Coeur and nine other religious sites around France, said departed sisters had contacted it to open a dialogue about the past. They spent a weekend together in February.

Their statement asked forgiveness “from all those who have been victims of this abuse”, in particular Roseline de Romanet, the prioress general from 1998 to 2004 who was “seriously humiliated and durably slandered (as well as her family) before the sisters and the Church”.  

Romanet, who quit the order in 2004, said the two apostolic visits “did not prevent 20 years from going by before we began to resolve these difficulties. What a waste of time!”

The statement also thanked those who left for breaking their silence and denouncing excesses. They said they would establish an independent commission to study the excesses and decide on just reparation.

Sister Marie-Jérémie Rorthais, the order’s general counsel, told La Croix the worst abuse occurred between 1998 and 2012 but could not establish how many sisters had suffered because “in a certain way, we were all victims”.

Sister Véronique Margron, head of the Conference of French Religious, said the abuse episode was “one of our dramas … hence the importance of all this work and the effort of transparency”.