French cases lead Focolare to promise investigation of handling abuse claims

Caholic News Service via National Catholic Reporter

October 22, 2020

By Cindy Wooden

The president of Focolare has accepted the resignations of the lay movement’s top leaders in France and announced the group will ask an independent committee to investigate how allegations of the sexual abuse of minors have been handled.

“The task of this body will be to listen to the presumed victims and to gather further testimonies, as well as investigating eventual omissions, cover-ups or silence on the part of those responsible for the movement,” said a statement released Oct. 22 by the Focolare movement, which is headquartered outside of Rome.

“In the interest of the completeness of the investigation and to guarantee full transparency,” the statement said, Maria Voce, president of Focolare, accepted the resignations Oct. 21 of Bernard Brechet and Claude Goffinet, co-leaders of the Focolare movement in France, and of Henri-Louis Roche, leader of the movement’s Western Europe region.

In 2016, the Focolare movement dismissed a consecrated member of the group, identified only as JMM.

A young woman had alleged in 1994 that JMM had raped and sexually molested her in 1981 and 1982 when she was 15 and 16. The Focolare movement said they relieved JMM of his “responsibilities regarding young people” when the allegations were made.

In 1998, in a civil court case, he admitted to molesting her and was ordered to pay damages. He did not admit to raping her.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.