Corruptio optimi

The case of Jean Vanier has opened the eyes of France to a secret world of heresy and abuse which the Vatican first encountered in the 1950s. Céline Hoyeau has documented and analyzed this world in La Trahison des Pères (The Betrayal of the Fathers).

Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche, in 2012 (Kotukaran/Wikipedia); middle: Henri (Marie-Dominique) Philippe in 2005 (Herwig Reidlinger/Wikipedia); right: Thomas (Jean Marie Joseph) Philippe in 1986. (Titoumf/Wikipedia)

France has been shaken by the realization that gifted people have been abusers. Some were known but their abuse was ignored; the pedophile author Gabriel Matzneff, once honored, is now in disgrace. But the worst shock came when Jean Vanier was revealed to be an abuser, Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, whose deep sympathy for the handicapped has borne fruit all over the world. He abused young women. His was only the most recent of the religious founders exposed as abusers. The Vatican is investigating seventy new groups whose founders are accused of some type of abuse. But the case of Vanier has opened the eyes of France to a secret world of heresy and abuse which the Vatican first encountered in the 1950s. Céline Hoyeau has documented and analyzed this world in La Trahison des Pères, based on her numerous articles in La Croix.

Abuse is sometimes multi-generational. The source of Vanier’s abuse can be traced back to the first part of the twentieth century. The Philippes were a large Catholic family (twelve children) in the north of France. The father went off to World War I and returned with what we now recognize at post-traumatic stress syndrome. His wife’s brother was Pierre Dehau (1870-1956), a Dominican, who took the name Thomas. He assisted in the restoration of the Dominican order in France and preached that mysticism was for everyone. His studies had made him almost blind, and he went to live with his sister’s family and became the substitute father and the tutor of the children. Dehau made obedience to God the center of Catholic life, and he as spiritual director incarnated God’s will. Dehau preached that the director and the one directed must fuse. Obedience is “to die to one’s personality, to the demands of our reason. Give up our judgment. Be a puppet, a toy of God, to abdicate all our human judgments.” This fusion and this rejection of human judgments could easily have, and did have, pernicious consequences. Of the twelve children, eight entered religious life or the priesthood, five to the Dominicans alone. One of the priests eventually had his ordination annulled on the grounds of family pressure.

Dehau developed an idiosyncratic and perhaps destructive interpretation of Thomas Aquinas. His influence on the children was bad. He was investigated by the Holy Office in the 1950s (as we shall see) but because of his age and illness was given only a warning. The files of his case remain closed, so we do not know whether his teaching or his actions, or both, were the cause of his punishment.

Henri Philippe (1912-2006) entered the Dominicans and took the name Marie-Dominique. In 1938 in Rome had an “illumination” in which he had a mystical marriage with the Virgin Mary. His teaching, according to his victims, stressed the physical union of Jesus and Mary to the point of blasphemy. His brother Jean Marie Joseph (1905-1993) also entered the Dominicans and took the name Thomas.

Immediately after World War II, Thomas Philippe, following the stress his mentor Dehau had placed on contemplation, founded a center, L’Eau vive, (The Living Water, the name of one of Dehau’s books) for the study of spirituality. It attracted Catholic luminaries, including Jacques and Raissa Maritain. In 1950 the twenty-two-year-old Jean Vanier arrived at the center and developed an intimate relationship (which was also physical, according to Antoine Paoli, spiritual director of L’Arche) with Philippe.

But in 1951 two women complained to the Dominicans about Thomas Philippe’s behavior. In 1952 he was ordered to leave the center and to go to Rome to be investigated by the Holy Office and was forbidden to keep in touch with anyone at the center. He put the very young Jean Vanier in charge of the center. After four years of investigation, Thomas Philippe was given the sentence of deposition: he was barred from any public or private ministry, including celebration of the sacraments, spiritual direction and preaching.

But why was he condemned? The Vatican’s files of the investigation are still closed, but from the files of the Dominicans and from the testimony of the Philippes’ victims, Hoyeau has reconstructed the charges: “Thomas Philippe was condemned for having entrapped women into sexual behavior through mystical justifications.” Thomas Philippe developed in a perverse fashion the tradition of erotic mysticism stemming primarily from commentaries on the Song of Songs. He also thought he could be exempted from the moral law, like Abraham who was ordered to kill his son. The Holy Office thought Philippe must be insane and sent him for psychiatric evaluation.

Marie-Dominique Philippe was also condemned for complicity with his brother Thomas’s actions. Marie-Dominique was forbidden to hear confessions, to give spiritual direction to female religious, to stay or to preach at their monasteries, and to teach spirituality. These sanctions were lifted in 1959. Their sister, Mère Cécile Philippe (1906-1986), prioress of the Dominican convent of Bouvines, was removed as prioress because of her enabling of her brother’s abuse and was sent to live in a convent under a different name.

The Vatican dissolved L’Eau vive and informed Vanier through several channels of the “unspeakable” actions of Philippe. The report by L’ Arche says: “Despite being categorically banned from doing so, Thomas Philippe continued to run l’Eau Vive clandestinely throughout the investigation period. The dozens of letters he sent to Jean Vanier during this period show that he advised and guided him in all the steps to be taken. Braving the ban (which he could not ignore as he later said), Jean Vanier met him many times during this period.”

In 1963, Vanier helped Thomas Philippe to move into his house in Trosly-Breuil and joined him a few months later. Several women joined them. Vanier took the step of inviting two handicapped people to live with them. And so L’Arche was born. Ignoring the discipline imposed on him by the Vatican, Thomas Philippe resumed his priestly and apostolic activities, confessing and directing men and women. The Dominicans and the Vatican did nothing, although the Vatican kept track of Philippe. (John XXIII warned Vanier about Philippe.) Vanier learned seduction techniques from Philippe, some of which are documented in letters. Vanier has been accused of coercive and abusive sexual relations with at least six women.

The Dominican Marie-Dominque Philippe, Thomas’s brother, taught philosophy at various houses of study and at Fribourg, where his next-door neighbor was the now-Cardinal Schönborn. In 1975 Marie-Dominique met five students who asked him to help set up a rule of life. Marie-Dominique consulted the mystic Marthe Robin who, he claimed, told him he had to help them. The Community of Saint-Jean was born. The Community admitted in 2013 that Philippe had behaved “in ways that went against chastity” with several adult women.

In 2015 Golias, an anticlerical journal but one which may be accurate, claimed that not only women were the objects of Marie-Dominique Philippe’s attention. A former member of the Community of Saint-Jean said that in the late 1990s he had two encounters with Philippe’s behavior. One was during spiritual direction, during which Philippe kept caressing the young man’s hand. The other was during confession during which Philippe took the young man’s hand and gradually moved it to Philippe’s sexual organs. The young man was embarrassed and disgusted, but to whom could he complain? Philippe was in charge – and should therefore not under canon law have been hearing confessions of members.

In June 2016, Marie-Dominique Philippe was accused of ongoing sexual abuse by a former Carmelite nun who had received spiritual direction from him. Pope Francis spoke about a women’s religious community which Pope Benedict had dissolved (one that was part of the Community of Saint-Jean) saying that “a certain slavery of women had crept in, slavery to the point of sexual slavery on the part of clergy or the founder.” It was clarified by the Holy See Press Office, that the Pope did not mean “sexual slavery” but rather “manipulation.” A big difference, no doubt. Some members of the Community of Saint-Jean followed the example of their leader: in 2019 an investigative commission reported that 27 brothers of Saint-Jean abused adults, and six abused minors.

Marie-Dominique Philippe has not only been accused of abusive sexual relationships but also with having both a public and a secret doctrine. In his public teaching he developed the teaching of Aquinas that charity is a form of friendship. Friendship, as the classical world taught, either found or made friends equal. Aquinas also taught that marriage was a type of friendship. In addition to this public doctrine Marie-Dominique Philippe also taught another doctrine to his victims and disciples: friendship made one equal to God and, like God, one could dispense from the moral law; and friendship was a form of marriage, including the sexual aspect.

Hoyeau describes it:

This hidden doctrine depended notably of the idea that to certain privileged ‘contemplative souls’, it is given to live a ‘love of friendship’ such that it goes much further to a ‘union of hearts’ than married love. This love of friendship can be expressed by gestures of ‘tenderness’ – whatever they may be, provided there is not penetration. These gestures can sometimes conduce to slip-ups but there is no sin because that which is envisioned is tenderness, the desire to rejoin the person to show her that she is loved by God, and if the intention is pure, the act is also pure. And when a ‘contemplative soul’ is also in God and led by the Holy Spirit, it is above the common law just as is He, creator of the law, he is this because he is made a contemporary of God through the friendship with Him which is charity…Nonetheless, it is necessary to keep secret because others are not able to understand it.

I have translated the pronouns that refer to personne (f.) as feminine, because the victims were usually feminine. But not always. A brother entered the congregation of Saint-Jean at a very young age. The priest who taught him philosophy got a hold (emprise) on the brother and over the course of three years used this doctrine of the love of friendship to gain his end: oral sex. When the brothers went to Marie-Dominique Philippe for spiritual direction, he naïvely asked whether this was acceptable. Philippe replied evasively, because he was using the same line to have sex with the young women of the congregation.

Jean Vanier was only the best-known of the abusers because of his work in L’Arche. Many of the new groups that were founded in France were also revealed to have abusive founders, although the abuse was sometimes limited to psychological control rather than also proceeding to sexual abuse. Some founders seem to have been influenced directly by one or the other Philippe brothers.

George Finet (1898-1990) was ordained in 1923. In 1936 he met the mystic Marthe Robin (1902-1981) and became her spiritual director. She was paralyzed from the age of 16, and from 1930 until her death ate nothing, she claimed, but the consecrated Host, received the stigmata, and suffered the passion every Friday until her death. She received over 100,000 visitors (we shall meet a few). Although doctors expressed doubts about the miraculous nature of her condition, she was declared venerable by Pope Francis in 2014. Her biographer and the postulator of her cause, Bernard Peyrous, priest and member of the Emmanuel community, was disciplined in 2017 for sexual abuse of an adult. The Carmelite and expert on mysticism Koen De Meester wrote a book (published posthumously in 2020) which denounced Robin as a fraud.

She and Finet established the Foyers du charité, which, among other works, gave retreats. Marie-Dominque Philippe had for many years preached the retreats and was very close to Finet. In 2019, after the revelation of the sexual abuse of minors by priests, the Foyers began to receive complaints from women about the behavior of Finet during confession. The administration of the Foyers set up a commission which received 46 independent complaints which all described the same sexually abusive behavior by Finet in the confessional.

The Protestant Gerard Croissant became a Catholic in 1975 and was ordained a deacon in 1978, He took the name of Ephraim. He was one of the founders of a charismatic community, which first had the name The Community of the Lion of Judah and the Slain Lamb which was changed to the simpler The Community of the Beatitudes. It received its first official recognition by the Catholic hierarchy in 1979. It was later accused of being a cult because of its emphasis on extreme obedience to the point of infantilization but was defended by the French bishops. In 2008 one of the brothers of the community admitted to the sexual abuse of 50 children. In 2008 the Vatican removed Ephraim as head of the community. The Vatican sent an investigator who in 2011 announced that “the founder of the Community, former-Deacon Gérard (Ephraim) Croissant, had committed ‘crimes against the moral law of the church’ and had acknowledged ‘serious failures’ in sexual matters, particularly in regard to sisters in the community, and also an underage girl.” This abuse occurred during the Mystic Nights Ephraim held.

Marie-Dominique Philippe had been Ephraim’s spiritual director. Ephraim wrote to the community that he had told Philippe about his relations with young girls. Philippe did not correct him; instead, he gave Ephraim his blessing. The investigator said that Ephraim was zealous and generous, but, alas, “had fallen into the hands of a spiritual father, who, with the authority of a Dominican habit, had told him he could do that. ‘It’s a particular grace which is given to certain people to live an integral form of love.’ All the victims of Ephraim which I met eventually mentioned this mystical discourse.”

In 1964 the comedian Olivier Fenoy created a theatrical troop, the Office Culturel de Cluny (OCC), named after a café and the famous abbey. Fenoy wished to evangelize through art: the world would be saved through beauty. Fenoy visited Marthe Robin and claimed her support. Fenoy sought to be recognized canonically, but the hierarchy had doubts because he was both head of the organization and director of the consciences of its members, a combination canon law forbids. The members took vows of chastity, but Fenoy interpreted them loosely.

Members later described the atmosphere that Fenoy generated: “A pseudo-mysticism which magnified the so-called homosexuality of John, the disciple whom Jesus loved.” When Fenoy wanted sex, he announced that “he needed someone to sleep in his bed, because his back hurt.” Martin, who had a long-term sexual relationship with Fenoy, said Fenoy would use phrases such as “John the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and “You are beautiful; it is God who has given you to me, and you have a duty.” In 1996 two community members publicly accused Fenoy; he confessed and promised to repent. But OCC was the object of lawsuits and was dissolved.

Thierry de Roucy (1957- ) founded the Points-Coeur (Hearts Home) to bring the message of compassion to the lonely, the excluded, the marginal, the slums. It included both a lay group of volunteers and two religious congregations. De Roucy claimed Thomas Philippe was his inspiration. In 2011, a canonical court decided De Roucy was “guilty of abuse of ecclesiastical power and of absolution of an accomplice in the person of his assistant a young priest who, at his request, was released from the priesthood.” In 2018 after de Roucy had disobeyed various orders, he was dismissed from the priesthood. The Vatican suppressed the religious congregations and Points-Coeur transformed itself into an NGO.

The erotic mysticism which the abusive founders used to seduce victims permeates Western Christianity, as I have discussed in my books on masculinity. But it would not have resulted in sexual abuse without the precondition of spiritual abuse. This, as Hoyeau discusses, is not recognized as a crime in canon law, but was a tactic of the founders. Briefly, it is an emphasis on obedience such that the person under obedience is infantilized and loses all ability to develop independent judgment. The member is but a puppet to be manipulated by the founder, who claims to have a direct line to God, either though mystical or charismatic experiences. The founders demanded such obedience of their organization’s members, but they did their best to escape from supervision by bishops and the Vatican.

The secularization of France in the first part of the twentieth century made Catholics realize that the mass of people would not listen to someone because he held an office in the church but might be open to hearing the gospel if the life and personality of the proclaimer were attractive. This led first to the unsuccessful experiment of the worker priests. The collapse of the priesthood, seminaries, and religious orders in the aftermath of the Vatican Council made the French bishops desperate for signs of hope, and they thought they saw them in the new movements. The bishops were therefore willing to overlook problems or dismiss them as growing pains while the bishops sought to find a place in the structure of the church for these apparent movements of the Holy Spirit. The new movements exploited the division in the church between traditionalists and progressives. Progressives criticized the movements as too conservative, although the movements ignored all the safeguards that the Church had developed over two millennia of experience with a stubbornly fallen human nature.

The movements were encouraged by Pope John Paul II, who saw in them a springtime of the Church. He, a former actor, knew the power of a charismatic personality; he became a celebrity, a rock star, so people would listen to him when he proclaimed the Gospel. He thought that the founders of the new movements were doing the same thing, and he therefore chose not to listen to evidence of abuse. The most egregious case was that of Marciel Maciel—drug addict, pervert, incestuous pedophile—whom John Paul II proclaimed, even after both rumors and evidence had reached him, to be “an infallible guide to youth.” John Paul II chose to be blind to the evil because the fruits, the orthodoxy, the vocations, the work with the poor, were so good. And not only the pope. Everyone was dumbfounded by the revelations about Vanier. How could Vanier awaken such love and care for the handicapped while he himself seduced and abused women?

And that is a mystery. How could the founders accomplish such good things while doing such evil things? We want everything to be black and white, but the world and human organizations and people and ourselves are a mix of good and evil: we are fallen. As psychiatrists explained to Hoyeau: we all have psychopathic tendencies, but they may become active depending on the conditions we are in. Some abusive founders were full-blown psychopaths: they wanted to manipulate people to hurt them. Maciel exemplifies this. Others were merely narcissists, like the actor Fenoy, and the adulation went to his head. The combination of their good work and their abuse created an uncertainty in their followers in which the only point of reference was the will of the abuser: classic Stockholm Syndrome.

But they would not have such adulation, not be regarded as living saints, about whom people would hear no evil, unless people, including to some extent the adult victims, wanted to be infantilized, to escape the burden of discernment and judgment, by finding an infallible guru, whether mystic or pope or charismatic leader. Too often people don’t want to cope with the painful realization that human beings with great gifts, real gifts, whether artistic or literary or spiritual, can have a dark and evil side, as, to some extent, we all do.

People don’t like to grow up and take adult responsibility. I sometimes think that was the reason Jesus left the earth at the Ascension. He knew that if stayed around every decision great and small would be referred to him. He wanted his followers to become not babies, but mature, adult sons and daughters of God the Father. He is a father who does not manipulate and infantilize his children like the abusive fathers of the new movements, but a father who disciples his children so that they grow up. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide his followers, but not to replace their minds. As Jesus said, he does not want servants (much less puppets), but friends.

La Trahison des Pères (The Betrayal of the Fathers)
by Céline Hoyeau
Bayard, 2021
Paperback, 352 pages

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About Leon J. Podles 1 Article
Dr. Leon J. Podles is the author of The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity, Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, and Losing the Good Portion: Why Men Are Alienated from Christianity. He has published articles in Touchstone, Crisis, America, The American Spectator, The Antioch Review, and other periodicals. He is president of the Crossland Foundation and worked as a federal investigator for many years.


  1. Frankly, I am getting tired of this constant drip drip drip of exposing Catholic priests and other celebrated Catholics as abusers. It makes me sad for the abused, angry that no one cared enough to stop them, and tired of hearing these stories. I have always held Catholic men, especially priests, to a higher moral standard, only to find they are no different from other men who are abusers. Why has the church allowed this go go on for generations? Why have these men not been refused Eucharist? Excommunicated? Did they not confess their acts because the did not see them as sinful? Or did their confessors absolve them time after time making no effort to get them exposed without breaking the seal of the confessional?
    This is just another disgraceful account of the way our Catholic leaders have behaved.
    No wonder so many are leaving the church, if our leaders can get away with repetitive sin.

    • Aren’t we all guilty of some variety of repetitive sin?
      The percentage of unfit priests is far lower than the percentage of school teachers who are unfit for the same reasons.
      Fallen human nature’s not something unique to Catholic clergy nor is the institutional response to protect the firm. But I agree we we should hold clergy to a higher standard. Goodness knows the Lord will when they face Him.

      • I think Pamela is 100% right. This ugly cycle needs to stop.

        Yes, we’re all sinners BUT the majority of us don’t start creepy sex cults, that seems to be the unique expertise of far too many of our clergy.

        Better screening and education needs to be implemented, and if any clergy are caught doing or hiding these horrible things the police must be called immediately and if found guilty they must be fired immediately.

        When I say “fired” I mean booted onto the street. That’s what would happen to any layperson who was caught doing or covering up such evil at their place of employment. No layperson would be whisked off to a plush retreat house or monastery to live out their days. The message must be sent that this behaviour will not be treated as some minor infraction, and that offenders will be completely booted.

        I’m so sick of these scandals and the double standards.

    • You are right that we need to spend more time focussing on the good than the bad. In the midst of this period of apostasy and the unveiling of the mystery of inquity, remember our Lord’s infallible promise that the gates of Hell do not prevail against the Church he built on Simon-Peter. Holy Mother Church is not responsible for the sins, betrayals, heresies, compromises of churchMEN with the Modern [ie. Free Masonic] World. She subsists pure and undefiled, in grace and in truth, in the person of Our Lady, the Church’s Mother and supreme model. In the end, the Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph. I gained this reasurrance from Fr John Saward, who celebrates the Roman Rite as handed down from the Apostles until 1962. Pope Benendict in his Moto Proprio liberated the Holy Spirit in the church, enabling priests one by one – without seeking permission from perhaps compromised bishops – to return to the Catholic religion as taught and celebrated in 1962. They can celebrate TLM 7 days a week from next Sunday. And for the last 10 years the movement has been growing steadily. It was the solution he provided, and the only option he had available. The World Changes, the Latin Mass and Holy Rosary remain to save us from it, and influence it. The tragedy of the modernist heresy, is that this vital spiritual process was inverted. It is the nature of heresies. Take heart from the Martyr-Pope Benedict’s latest published letter to Poland, read his beautiful texts published by Ignatius. The only Garden we can and should attend to is our own. That is where the battle to save the church of the apostles from the wolves in modernist clothing, and our own souls is won or lost. If it looks like a modernist catholic liberated from sacred tradition, we should discern that it possibly is and seek God’s kingdom rather in the faith of the fathers under the formats they provided as directed by the Holy Spirit through sacred tradition and not rupture over 2000 years. It does not mean inquity dissolves, but traditional catholics who fight the good fight for their own souls are at least protected spiritually at the foot of the cross with the Immaculate Heart of Mary to comfort and guide them. I do hope these words help. I discovered the tradition in my thirties, having abandonned the modernist church for years: Praise and Glory be our Lord Jesus Christ for Pope Benendict’s Moto Proprio and his sacrificial presence at the heart of Holy Mother Church.

  2. The common thread running through all of this is what Msgr. Ronald Knox called “enthusiasm” or “ultrasupernaturalism,” which he defined as “an excess of charity [that] threatens unity.” Twisting St. Paul’s words, enthusiasts consider that all things are lawful to the godly or the elect (themselves), and that the ungodly (anyone with whom they disagree) have no rights and anything can be done to them. This is why, for example, pacifist Quakers in Cromwell’s army could justify the slaughter of children, women and men who refused to submit or surrender. Socialism, modernism, as well as abuse and heresy, and a host of other things, become more understandable (although no less excusable) when seen as manifestations of enthusiasm.

  3. What a sad state of affairs, not only the sexual abuse of those who used their charisma and status as religious leaders to sexually abuse others, but also the failure of the bishops and the Vatican to respond quickly and appropriately to such crimes, and to prevent the occurrence and recurrence of such immoral violations of God’s law and immoral violations of the minds, wills, and bodies of those looking for spiritual guidance, direction, healing, and support.

    Liked the article enough that I went out and purchased his books. Thanks.

  4. This is the most bizarre revelation caused by Modernism. To take what God says and re-interpret it to one’s personal advantage can lead to damnation. For 55 years we have seen these errors in action. And now even Rome is infected by this heresy that has caused grave damage to souls. In reading this article I find myself dumbfounded. I ask myself now, Am I sinning and justifying it with God’s word? From scripture, “Those of you who think you stand firm, take heed lest you fall. This article I hope will ever be etched in my mind, body, heart, and soul. God have Mercy upon us!

    • This has been going on long before Vatican II. All of these guys received pre-Vatican II formation. This rot has been in the Church for a very long time.

      • Andrew, What you say is a proven fact. In the early 1940s, Ven Pius Xll had this to say, “Though the Church has officially condemned Modernism, sadly it is still widespread in the Church today”. The Church was so infected, that Vatican ll became their icing on the cake. It is now a fact that the greatest names from the Council were in fact Modernist heretics who were Modernists long before the Council. The Modernists date back to the reign of Bl. Pope Pius lX and condemned by him, then Pope Leo Xlll condemned Modernism, finally, St. Pope Pius X in an infallible manner condemned this heresy. Pope Benedict XV who came after Pius X strongly confirmed the condemnation. At this time we are being programmed and forced to accept and live this heresy.

  5. In everything that exists, the potential for evil matches the potential for good.

    This is true of everything from pharmaceuticals to nuclear power, from cell phones to governments, from families to philosophies.

    So of course it’s going to be true of religion.

    We need always to be watchful. Clerics with charismatic, passionate personalities should always raise red flags among the faithful. Satan’s greatest victory is the perversion of Christ’s mission, and no one is better situated to accomplish this than a priest with an oversized and magnetic personality.

    We’ve all probably known at least one.

    Also, we need to be more grateful for priests who are not brilliant, who are not compelling, but who are stolid, faithful, modest and reliable.

    • brineyman,
      I agree with you, I’ve witnessed that too. But to be fair, there were also great saints who had the gift of preaching & some were charismatic. Perhaps Satan targets the gifted priests who can do him the most damage?

  6. Who is “Martin” who is mentioned once in the article – “Martin, who had a long-term sexual relationship with Fenoy…”?

  7. I read Céline Hoyeau’s book and it seems to me that Podles makes a confusion at times between Marie Dominique Philippe and Thomas Philippe. It was Thomas Philippe who said that he hat received a “mystical grace” in Rome in 1938 and who was spiritual adviser of Ephraim. This being said, those abuses are terrible and disgusting.

    • I tried to sort out the Philippe’s, Sorry if I confused them. But alas they were cut from the same cloth.

  8. Over the past 25-plus years, I have often been asked by students to write letters of recommendation for them, or otherwise assist them with entry into this or that French Catholic community, always charismatic and often open to both sexes. Each time I perused the groups’ information online, I got a distinctly creepy feeling about who they were and what they were all about. I have not heard a single positive thing that has come from these pseudo-religious orders appealing to new “dynamic” spiritualities.

  9. Presumed cognoscenti have isolated the irrefutable response when asked, is it this, or that, or some other thing? With, it’s both, or perhaps all. Betrayal of intellectual integrity is commonplace simply because few have possession of faith in intransient principles, in permanence. Podles pulls the cover off the issue. “He wanted his followers to become not babies, but mature, adult sons and daughters of God the Father”. Evident as he depicts in the effusive naivete of John Paul II in the Marcial Maciel debacle. Michael Greeney gives it the coup d’etat. “Twisting St. Paul’s words, enthusiasts consider that all things are lawful to the godly or the elect” (Michael D Greeney). That destructive heresy often infects the ‘holy’, good men who do great work, then besmirch Christ’s mantle with their filth. Example. A veteran missionary said to me, Peter, a devoted Christian can’t sin. Soothing, but troubling. What then? It’s precisely the sin of Lucifer in his self exultation in his perfection who sought to distance himself from God, and precisely the ‘holiness’ he would inflict on others. And it’s precisely the temptation he draws the spiritually successful, to fall into a pattern of Satanic self indulgence presumed reserved for the triumphant elect. Always when we pay homage to ourselves, rather than humbly and consistently to Christ. Recognizing all good flows from him, that all good we possess is strictly his gift, that response to the gift must be servient obedience [where I disagree with Podles] to the donor. The true mark of innocent love.

  10. “Dehau made obedience to God the center of Catholic life, and he as spiritual director incarnated God’s will. Dehau preached that the director and the one directed must fuse. ”

    If taken absolutely, this seems erroneous, and there must be a distinction made between giving counsel and giving commands on the part of the spiritual father, and elaboration of when the latter might be appropriate. But I don’t know if there is a book in moral theology that goes into detail about spiritual fatherhood.

    Lord have mercy.

    • A difference Sol that distinguishes obeisance reserved to God and reasoned obedience to a spiritual director or any clergyman priest bishop or pope. The latter is our quandary when a pontiff, and those who support him assumes our obeisance outside the limits of divinely instituted authority.

      • This is something dissenting bishops should consider…obedience is owed to them only in so far as they are obedient to the Gospel and Church teaching.

        • Salve Andrew. Obedience to bishops became a reverse problem post Vat II priests pretty much doing what they wished presuming conscientious liberty. Response to that during John Paul II’s pontificate was an exaggerated form of obedience similar to obeisance. It seems that the matter should be correctly addressed in the seminary, and within the USCCB for presbyter consumption. Too many priests jettison justice when bishops impose restrictions on preaching the truth, especially on abortion before National elections, homosexuality, contraception. Reason why many laity say they rarely if ever hear priests address these from the pulpit. Contributing to why attendance keeps plummeting.

  11. Quite sad, I visited the Legionaries as a young man in the early 90s and thought something was off, and joined the Beatitudes in Denver from 2006-2007 just before the founder was desposed. They had an odd way of “provoking” but wouldn’t admit that was what they were doing. There was a “movie night” on Sundays and they would get some raunchy stuf, which I confronted the Superior about, but he scoffed and pointed to my own failures…some do not want to see reality.

  12. The words of our Lord – ‘if you have looked with lust at another , you have committed adultery ‘ .
    The darkness of the mind and heart , in attributing impurity to The Lord in any of His relationships – would that not be allowed as a measure of same in own life and heart to thus help same to be brought to The Cross , to the outpouring of The Precious Blood , to help put to death the carnal spirits that are behind such lies and contempt to ever be reborn in purity .

    Thank God that , through prayers and efforts of many , including that of St.John Paul 11 , who lived The Passion and its fruit of Mercy in holiness , we are given more help , such as the benefits on meditating on same , with more Oneness in the Heart of The Mother , to bring its goodness into many –

    The Lord – having both the Divine Will as well as the human will, the latter always serving The Father’s Will , to thus help free us from the rebellion of our self will , would have foreseen St.John as well as Magdalene at the foot of The Cross on the side of The Mother and inviting each of us too to be there , to take in , in gratitude the outpouring of Pure Loveas The Spirit , to purify us through The Heart of The Mother , to help us to requite The Love with which the Holy Trinity loves us as the antidote for the accusing enemy who can whisper the lies , leading persons to search for idolatrous relationships .

    Today , birthday of St.John Paul 11 , a birthday that almost would not have been and it is a Jewish doctor that supported the family through the decision , a gift from a culture that The Lord always tried to teach about the sacredness of life against the prevailing cultures and from whom was to come The Woman meant to crush the agent of lies and its pride –

    The manner of St.John Paul 11 having been allowed to suffer the humiliation and betrayal from those he trusted – ? ‘gift ‘ and mercy from The Lord , for the many others and occasions who too would face such and for all occasions when The lord as well as His Mother face same daily , in every communion that is received , without the intention to truly be in Oneness with His Will , to desire to live and help others to live in the holiness which He Wills for all , the wisdom to discern that every relationship , including marriage is a ‘gift ‘ meant to do same , to bring generational healing into all aspects of same . The intention when it is the opposite to serve the lies and carnality can also multiply to bring the stench of pig pens and its despair that we are warned is also very much in the culture and its fruits as warns and all too –

    May His mercy and prayers of all holy saints and holy angels protect and help us all !

  13. “Twisting St. Paul’s words, enthusiasts consider that all things are lawful to the godly or the elect” THIS defines the sickness I have always encountered in the charismatic movement. I can honestly say that I have NEVER met a charismatic Catholic whom I found to be trustworthy. Even among themselves, the daggers always come out, sooner or later.

  14. It should be noted that the L’Arche organization did NOT cover anything up and has been completely honest about Vanier’s behaviour. They have been totally transparent.

    L’Arche continues to do amazing, life transforming work, with those who have intellectually disabled. They really are a wonderful organization that should not be punished because of Vanier’s unacceptable behaviour.

    Check them out:

    PS: I’m NOT affiliated with L’Arche. However, I have witnessed firsthand the great work that they do.

    • You are correct. L’Arche has been transparent. Traditional Catholic teaching is that charisms are given for the benefit of others, not as a reward for or a sign of sanctity.
      Vanier had a true charism, and it has borne fruit, although he was corrupt.

  15. Mr. Podles, thank you for this article. Readers here would do well to look at the book “Sacrilege,” by Leon Podles, a painful but accurate look at clerical abuse in America.

  16. I enjoyed this article, but this line towards the end rubbed me the wrong way:
    “But they would not have such adulation, not be regarded as living saints, about whom people would hear no evil, unless people, including to some extent the adult victims, wanted to be infantilized, to escape the burden of discernment and judgment, by finding an infallible guru, whether mystic or pope or charismatic leader.”

    This sounds a little bit too much like victim-blaming, and trying to cast abuse survivors as complicit in their own abuse. Which is a -shall we say- really miserable and old-fashioned way to look at it. Looking over the essayists’ other titles, maybe it’s not the “feminization” of church teaching that has rotted the church, if it even has.

  17. I was in the Communauté des Beatitudes in the early 1990s and drew attention to the abuse that was taking place. I wrote to the Nuncio from the Beatitudes house in Saint Martin du Canigou. I received NO REPLY. I would be happy to explain my experience to any investigation.

  18. Hi, thank you for this article. I spent some time as a novice with the community of st john but left because something felt ‘off’. I have a couple of questions: the article mentions that Cardinal Schönborn was marie-dominique’s neighbour in Fribourg, has the cardinal commented on father philippe? how do we know he was a neighbour?
    Also, the article mentions letters between thomas philippe and vanier, are this available somewhere to be read?
    Thanks for your work!

  19. A well-written article that illuminates the twists and turns of the entire Philippe family debacle, a story of which I am only too familiar from within and without. The public revelations are only the tip of the iceberg. The twisting of Church doctrines to accommodate sexual ends reached very far and very deep.

  20. I spent years in close contact with the Beatitudes in France and have also visited their house in Denver. Their spirit of deep charismatic worship is real. Their commitment to serve those to whom they minister is real. Abusers within their midst have been few in number, have been identified and disciplined. This is not unlike many other communities in the long history of the Catholic church. None of us is without sin, and it might almost be said, none of us is without some sexual sin We are all prone to temptation, even in the midst of doing great work for God. While I have always been a great fan of Pope John Paul II, it seems indisputable that he was either unable to counter, or unwilling to counter, the epidemic of sexual abuse among clergy in the U.S., Europe and even Africa (I know little about such abuse in Asia). It is speculated, with reason, that Benedict XVI gave up his papacy because he too felt inadequate to the task of coping with the abuse crisis. Many criticize Pope Francis as being “too liberal, etc.,” but indeed from my observations he has done far better in dealing with the abuse crisis than either John Paul II or Benedict XVI. And his recent railing against “trans ideology” was clear cut and uncompromising and beyond anything I think we would have gotten from either John Paul II or Benedict. Clarity is a little touted and terribly underestimated quality that I would equate to a virtue, and clarity in moral judgments and moral pronouncements is something to be appreciated, and prayed for. Clarity that springs from a rich life of prayer and meditation and intimate familiarity with our Biblical and apostolic traditions.

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