Sodalit founder appeals decision barring him from contact with community

Vatican City, Jun 4, 2018 / 02:48 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Luis Fernando Figari, a layman accused of physical, sexual and psychological abuse, has launched a second appeal against a 2017 Vatican decision prohibiting him from living with the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, the society of apostolic life he founded.

A May 25 letter from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life said that the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, which functions as the Holy See’s supreme court, rejected Figari’s initial appeal Jan. 31.

The congregation also denied charges that it has been protecting Figari, who currently lives in Rome, from criminal investigation in Peru.

“Figari has never been hidden, sheltered, or protected in any way by the Apostolic See, and it considers unfounded the claim that Mr. Figari is prevented from defending himself or responding to accusations formulated against him in Peru,” the congregation wrote in its letter, which was made public June 1.

The congregation stated that its prohibition on Figari returning to Peru “is not in fact absolute”, and written permission for his return may be given by the pontifical commissioner of the Sodalitium.

Regarding Figari’s second appeal, the congregation wrote, “We are awaiting the final decision which, we hope, will be delivered as soon as possible and, above all, will confirm what was previously handed down.”

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae is a society of apostolic life which was founded in 1971 in Peru, and granted pontifical recognition in 1997. CNA’s executive director, Alejandro Bermúdez, is a member of the community.

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life decreed in January 2017 that Figari may not have contact with members of the Sodalitium. It directed the community’s superior, Alessandro Moroni Llabres, to order that Figari be “prohibited from contacting, in any way, persons belonging to the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, and no way have any direct personal contact with them.”

The congregation also directed Moroni at that time to order that Figari not return to Peru, except for very serious reasons and with written permission; that he be placed in a residence where there are no Sodalits; that a member of the Sodalits be entrusted with the task of referring to Figari, for any eventuality and request; and that Figari be prohibited from granting any statement to the media or from participating in any public demonstrations or meetings of the Sodalitium.

The congregation said an apostolic visitation had resulted “in the conviction that Mr. Figari … had adopted a style of government excessively or improperly authoritarian” and that he had “committed acts contrary to the sixth commandment”, at least one with a minor. The congregation wrote that they consider it credible that Figari committed the crime of abuse of office, as outlined in canon 1389.

In January Bishop Noel Antonio Londoño Buitrago, C.Ss.R., of Jericó was appointed pontifical commissioner of the Sodalitium. Londoño will oversee the leadership of order as they continue to reform their governing policies and formation procedures, while Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who has been papal delegate to the Sodalitium since May 2016, will focus on reforming the community’s economic matters.

Figari stepped down as superior general of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae in 2010, after allegations of abuse surfaced in Peru.

The community was investigated after the publication of a book in 2015 by journalists Paola Ugaz and Pedro Salinas, chronicling years of alleged sexual, physical and psychological abuse by members of the SCV. In addition to Peru, the community operates in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, the United States, and Italy.

In February 2017, a team of independent investigators commissioned by the Sodalitium reported that “Figari sexually assaulted at least one child, manipulated, sexually abused, or harmed several other young people; and physically or psychologically abused dozens of others.”

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