Thursday, September 14, 2023

Regnum Christi responds to accusations of sexual abuse of former women members

Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi

The director general of the Consecrated Women of the Regnum Christi movement, Nancy Nohrden, expressed her closeness to the members of the community in Chile and Argentina in response to a letter published Sept. 5 by a group of former consecrated women.

In the letter posted by the La Tercera portal, about 30 former members of the movement expressed their backing for a civil lawsuit filed in June against the Legionaries of Christ.

The plaintiff is a woman who claims to have been a victim of the abuse of power and conscience as well as sexual abuse from 2008 to 2010 while she was part of the formation center of the consecrated women in Chile.

The former consecrated women who wrote the letter published in La Tercera consider the context presented in the complaint to be “credible” and want to “provide information” in this regard.

The former members claim that while they remained in the movement they were “subjected to an environment in which the abuse of power and conscience was common and where the sexual assaults described in the lawsuit in fact could have occurred.”

When referring to the founder of the movement, Marcial Maciel, they described him as “a revered and unquestionable leader.” The consecrated women said that according to the statutes they “had to give up ‘their own judgment in favor of that of [the authorities and superiors] as a holocaust pleasing to God.’” 

The women wrote they were subject to “demanding control over the use of time, rigorously monitored in detail by superiors” as well as being prohibited “from questioning any order or requirement” from them.

Furthermore, having friends was considered “being unfaithful to God,” which kept them “isolated from each other” as well as from the media. In addition, their personal documents were withheld from them.

With the publication of their letter, the former consecrated members want “the truth — and only the truth — to come to light.”

The director’s response

Given these statements, Nohrden, the director general, expressed her closeness and prayers in a letter sent Sept. 6 to the consecrated Chilean women and those who work in Chile and Argentina.

She stressed “the genuine and sincere commitment to the search for the truth” in this “painful situation.”

She made reference to a reflection from Regnum Christi’s 2020 General Assembly, which addressed “aspects of the exercise of authority and obedience that were practiced in the past.”

The director asked the consecrated women to “contrast what we experienced [in the past] with the present and become aware of the steps of renewal and maturation in our style of consecrated life and [our] exercise of authority and obedience up to now, with the grace of God.” 

Nohrden clarified that “asking for forgiveness is not to discredit the steps of purification and growth made in recent years, nor the beauty of a life consecrated to God and to the service of our fellow Christians.”

The superior considered that the experiences of history, which in some cases have been marked by “pain and mistrust,” can help “on the path of personal and institutional renewal and learning.”

On the other hand, she recognized “with pain” that several aspects of the internal culture were “a reflection of the double life that the founder led” and created a system “with criteria and praxis of life contrary to the Gospel or outside of ecclesial provisions.”

This, Nohrden admitted, harmed and wounded consecrated women and members of student centers.

However, she expressed gratitude for the path they have “traveled in recent years, of growing freedom and personal responsibility in living” their vocation.

“We still have to move forward in this renewal and continuous conversion to the criteria of the Gospel,” she assured, encouraging the women to take up that commitment together, “from the perspective of the kingdom to which Christ invites us.”

Finally, in her letter to the consecrated women in Regnum Christi, the director asked them to pray for “light and strength” in accompanying their fellow Christians “with deep respect, patience, and charity.”

The lawsuit

As explained by the Legionaries of Christ, “in November 2019, this same complaint was presented to the Congregation — today the Dicastery — for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Holy See (CDF), which referred to several Legionary priests of Christ.”

The congregation, they said, had commissioned a preliminary investigation, which lasted nine months, and in May 2021 determined that “it didn’t entail sufficient elements to give credibility to the complaint.”

The Foundation for Trust, which is representing the plaintiff, stated that the complaint filed in 2019 paved the way “for two preliminary investigation processes.”

One of them was conducted by consecrated women from the Regnum Christi movement itself and another by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.

The foundation reported that the first of the investigations had determined “that the events reported were credible and that there were also indications of the participation of Legionary priests.”

Furthermore, the foundation said at that time that “the director general of Regnum Christi contacted our client to ask forgiveness, recognizing the credibility of the complaint and offering her various reparation measures.”

In a statement dated June 26, Regnum Christi said that when analyzing the investigation of the external canonist who was in charge of it “it was considered that there could be plausibility” in some aspects.

However, it was determined that “it was necessary to check several aspects” because the conditions established had not allowed going into sufficient depth.

Regnum Christi also pointed out that after the report issued in 2021 by the Vatican, the director general “closed the case” by determining that “there are no indications that provide sufficient support for the complaint.”

This result, she stated, was communicated to the person who had filed the complaint.