.- The French charismatic movement, the Community of the Beatitudes, has admitted that its founder Gerard Croissant – also known by his religious name, Brother Ephraim - was a sexual abuser.
“The Community is deeply ashamed of Ephraim’s behavior and expresses its sympathy with all the people who have been abused by him,” read a statement on the movement’s website Nov. 16.
It explained how Croissant had committed “crimes against the morality of the Church” involving a number of “sisters” that lived in the community. The statement added that “his prestige as a charismatic founder, combined with the seduction of his words, led most of his victims to let themselves be abused.”
The document is signed by the man sent in by the Vatican in 2010 to head up the reform of the community, Father Henry Donneaud O.P., as well as by the community’s board.
It explains that the community “has been committed for years, and at the request of the Catholic authorities, in a process that is not just a process of explanation and purification but also a process of deep restructuring and rebirth.”
The Community of the Beatitudes was founded in France in 1973 by Croissant and his wife Jo along with another couple. At the time Croissant was not Catholic but converted in 1975 and was ordained a deacon in 1978. In 2008 he was expelled from the community and ordered to live a life of silence and penance by the Church.
The movement gathers together priests, nuns, married couples and single people – some consecrated and others not – into local groups who then share a common prayer and community life. It has a presence in 60 dioceses across the globe.
The statement comes just ahead of the trial of one of its senior members – Pierre-Etienne Albert – who stands accused of sexually abusing more than 50 children, aged between 5 and 13 years old, from 1985 to 2000. His trial begins in the French town of Rodez on Nov. 30.
It also claims that abuse was committed by Philippe Madre, Croissant’s brother-in-law, who was also expelled from the community in May 2010.
“The Community intends to acknowledge, with humbleness, lucidity and repentance, these serious crimes committed within it by a narrow circle of people,” it says.
“However, they should not result in the disavowal of the value of its identity, as recognized by the Church, nor of the quality of its spiritual, apostolic and humanitarian work, appreciated by all the bishops who host it in their dioceses.”
The community was officially recognized by the Vatican in 2002 but following its internal problems, Rome began to intervene in 2007. A pontifical commissioner, Fr. Donneaud, was appointed last year to head up the order and oversee the reform of its statutes.
The statement said the community still “confidently submits to the hands of the Catholic Church.”