Kentenich was born in 1885 and ordained a priest in 1910. In 1914, he founded a new ecclesial movement in a chapel in Schoenstatt, Germany.
The Holy See reportedly began to receive reports from alleged victims of the priest in the early 1950s, and dispatched an apostolic visitator, or Vatican observer, to assess the situation. According to von Teuffenbach, Kentenich was sent to the United States after that visitation, but no reforms of the community were subsequently enacted.
Kentenich went to the U.S. in 1951, and was permitted to return to Germany in October 1965. He died three years later. A beatification process for the priest began in 1975.
In July 2, Juan Pablo Catoggio, International President of the Schoenstatt Work, issued a statement on the allegations
"We firmly reject the accusation that Joseph Kentenich was guilty of sexual abuse of members of the Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary."
"His behavior toward other persons – especially women – was always marked by a pronounced reverence and esteem, as well as by the principle of physical integrity, which he also impressed upon his communities."
"That there were accusations from the ranks of the Sisters of Mary is not new to us. Fr. Kentenich himself gave a detailed account of his actions to his superior after an accusation became known. In this context, however, there was no mention of sexual abuse, neither literally nor in content," Catoggio said, citing the return of Kentenich to a leadership role in Schoenstatt as evidence the Vatican rejected the charges against him.
Catoggio said that before a beatification process can begin, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith must issue a "nihil obstat" based on its files. Any "well-founded suspicion of moral misconduct" would have prevented this, but the CDF granted the "nihil obstat."
"If doubt regarding the moral integrity of the Schoenstatt founder would have remained, his exile would not have finished and the Vatican would have not published a nihil obstat to open his process of beatification," Catoggio said in a separate statement.
Bishop Stephan Ackermann of the German diocese of Trier announced a commission of historians to review the beatification process July 7.
It will be the task of the commission "to reconcile the newly found material with what has already been gathered and evaluated from other archives by the previous commission. At the end of their work, the commission – including the results of the previous commission – will write a report in which a statement will also be made about the personality and spirituality of Fr. Josef Kentenich as depicted in the collected documents," a diocesan statement said in July.
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Catoggia said his community welcomed the work of the commission.
On July 8, he wrote to Schoenstatt community members, saying that "we very much welcome this decision of the bishop, since in this way the clarification of the questions regarding the person and actions of Father Kentenich."
"We understand that the Schoenstatt Family throughout the world expects initiatives from us that respond to the many justified questions, confusions and demands for transparency. You rightly expect that the history of Father Kentenich, the history of Schoenstatt, and the history of the Sisters be more openly and transparently processed and communicated to the Schoenstatt Family," Catoggio said.
"We recognize that we have held back for too long out of consideration and for the protection of persons and communities," he added.
The Schoenstatt movement, which now includes priests, consecrated women, and lay involvement, is active in 42 countries, and focused on spiritual formation and Marian spirituality.