Allegations false against Schoenstatt founder says leader
The president of the General Presidium of Schoenstatt International Father Juan Pablo Catoggio released a detailed rebuttal of allegations of sexual abuse and abuse of power against the founder of the movement’s founder, Father Joseph Kentenich.
“We firmly reject the accusation that Joseph Kentenich was guilty of sexual abuse of members of the Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary,” wrote Father Catoggio in the 2 July statement.
“His behaviour toward other persons – especially women – was always marked by a pronounced reverence and esteem, as well as by the principle of physical intactness, which he also impressed upon his communities.”
Reports of the apostolic visitation made in the early 1950s written by Dutch Jesuit Father Sebastiaan Tromp were made known by German scholar Alexandra von Teuffenbach on 2 July after she wrote a letter regarding her discovery to German newspaper Die Tagespost and Italian journalist Sandro Magister.
Dr von Teuffenbach had uncovered the reports from the recently opened archives of the pontificate of Pope Pius XII.
“His behaviour toward other persons – especially women – was always marked by a pronounced reverence and esteem”
She said the testimonies, letters and conversations Father Tromp had with members of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, as well as Father Kentenich, revealed “a situation of complete subjugation of the nuns, concealed in a certain way by a sort of family structure applied to the work”.
In 1951 the Vatican exiled Fr Kentenich to the US stating it was for administrative, not punitive reasons, where he remained in Wisconsin for 14 years until the decree was reversed. Father Kentenich’s process of beatification was opened seven years after his death in 1968.
Father Catoggio said that the information contained in Ms Teuffenbach’s article was not news to the movement.
“It was fully included in the documentation about the Founder of Schoenstatt in connection with the temporary separation from his Work (1951-1965) and is being thoroughly studied by the ecclesiastical authorities in the context of the beatification process for Kentenich,” he wrote.
Historian adopted ‘negative’ interpretation
“It is astonishing that the author – based on the reports of Fr Tromp – makes his view of the community and its members completely her own. From this perspective, she interprets all the other documents, including the letters of some sisters to Pope Pius XII in defense of the exiled founder, negatively as ‘evidence of a pathological relationship with the founder’.
“These letters can also be understood as a sign of the courage of some of the members of the Institute at that time who, not at all weak, were women who stood up against measures of the Church that in their eyes had done wrong to the Founder and the entire Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt.
“That there were accusations from the ranks of the Sisters of Mary is not new to us,” he added. “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.”
Dr von Teuffenbach told media that in airing her claims, she did not intend to hurt the Schoenstatt movement “because they do many good things”.
The Marian and apostolic movement was founded in Germany in 1914 by Father Kentenich as a way “to help renew the church and society in the spirit of the Gospel” and is present in over 100 countries around the world, the movement’s website states. It includes priests, nuns and lay members.