Lima, Peru, Mar 9, 2020 / 06:10 pm (CNA).- A Peruvian cardinal has said that the Vatican has been asked to dissolve the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Peruvian religious community whose founder sexually and psychologically abused members, and committed other abuses of power.
“I personally think, when a religious organization has committed a crime, and it must be said that way, from the point of view of sexual abuse and the financial matters, that there are problems and it must be dissolved; and that is the point where we are on this road, and I know that the Holy See is on that road,” Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno said March 10 during an interview with Peru’s Radio Santa Rosa.
“There are good people within the Sodalitium, so we cannot put them all in the same bag. The underlying problem is that the founder is, not only seriously questioned, but I repeat, with much regret, he is a perverted person and such a person cannot transmit and encourage the sanctity of life that Pope Francis himself in an apostolic exhortation manifested.”
The cardinal said that other bishops in Peru, including the president of the country’s episcopal conference are in agreement with him about the Sodalitium. He said that dicasteries of the Holy See, while not disagreeing with their conclusion, have not yet found a definitive way to move forward on suppression of the religious congregation.
“My personal position is that this religious community should be dissolved, and those within it can be helped, so that they can live authentic lives, and I believe that many people share this view. This is a proposal that many of us are talking about, and it is not that Pope Francis or the dicasteries of the Holy See disagree, but we are on a path,” he added.
The cardinal, a member of the Society of Jesus, was appointed to lead the Peruvian Archdiocese of Huancayo in 2004. He was made a cardinal in 2018.
The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae declined to comment on the cardinal’s remarks.
The group is a society of apostolic life founded in 1971 in Peru, and granted pontifical recognition in 1997. Alejandro Bermudez, executive director of CNA, is a member of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae.
The Sodalitium’s founder, Luis Fernando Figari, stepped down as superior general in 2010, after allegations surfaced that he had committed serial acts of abuse while leading the community. Other former leaders of the community have since faced related abuse allegations, and several remain subject to law enforcement investigations.
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.”
Figari was subsequently forbidden from the group’s community life, from any contact with the religious community, and from him from returning to Peru. Figari was also forbidden to make any public statements.
In January 2018, Pope Francis appointed Colombian Bishop Noel Antonio Londoño Buitrago C.Ss.R. as papal commissioner for the society, tasking him with overseeing an ongoing process of reform that began after allegations against Figari came to light. Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark was tasked in 2016 with assisting the community’s reform process and its internal investigations of alleged misconduct.
In 2019, the community elected Colombian José David Correa González as its new superior general.
Prosecutors in Peru are believed to be deliberating about the possibility of criminal charges in connection to acts of abuse which took place with the Sodalitium.
ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, contributed to this report.