Vatican appoints overseers for scandal-ridden Peruvian lay organization


May 31, 2019

By Elise Harris

A troubled Peruvian lay group has received two new Vatican-appointed representatives to help oversee institutional reform as questions over the group’s identity and stability continue to hang in the air following public scandals involving high-ranking members.

Earlier this month the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life named Franciscan Father Guillermo Rodríguez as delegate ad nutum Sanctae Sedis, or “at the behest of the Holy See,” to the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV) to help implement reforms, and Jesuit Father GianFranco Ghirlanda to revamp the group’s formation process.

In 2017 the SCV’s founder, Peruvian layman Luis Fernando Figari, was sanctioned by the Vatican for abuses of power, conscience and sexuality within the community.

In 2018 the Vatican congregation tapped Colombian Bishop Noel Londoño of Jerico to serve as a “commissioner” for the group, essentially taking the reins and guiding the community as they sought to implement their reform.

When the SCV held its fifth general assembly in Aparecida, Brazil in January, Londoño voiced his conviction that his role was no longer needed, and that the SCV could move forward with its own leadership guiding the reform.

During the meeting Londoño also announced that a special Vatican-appointed delegate would be named in the following months to serve as a point of reference with the Vatican to assist the SCV government in continuing to implement changes.

In their roles, Rodríguez will advise SCV leadership on key decisions while Ghirlanda will assist in the revision of the rules guiding the group’s formation process and community life, help to ensure formators are well-prepared for the task, and that new members have the support they need, and develop plans for initial and ongoing formation.

Daniel Caledron, communications representative for the SCV, told Crux that since their nomination is ad nutum Sanctae Sedis, the assignment has no timeline, and for now is “indefinite.”

However, despite the positive review from Londoño, many have voiced skepticism over the depth of the SCV’s reform, with some victims arguing that Londoño’s tenure was ineffective given the fact that he oversees a diocese in Colombia, while the SCV is headquartered in Peru, making it difficult to keep track of the SCV’s progress.

Many victims complained that during his year as commissioner, Londoño never scheduled meetings with them, including those who were former members of the organization and could have offered advice for renewal.

Victims in November 2018 met with the leadership of the Peruvian bishops’ conference and subsequently sent Pope Francis a letter, which Crux obtained, asking him to resolve the situation, saying reform efforts had been poorly handled.

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