John Paul Receiving Members of the Community of the Beatitudes

Jesus said, “By your fruits you shall know them,” but sometimes very bad men can bear seemingly good fruit.

Many Catholics dislike the Legion of Christ, and do not see it as a good fruit of the psychopathic con artist incestuous abuser Maciel. But I have always wondered how such a many could found an organization. If an ordinary, decent Catholic tried to found a religious order, he or she would get nowhere. But a moral monster tries and succeeds.

Another community, far less controversial, has had a similar experience. The Community of the Beatitudes is France is a one of the new ecclesial movements:

Situated in the charismatic renewal movement, the Community gathered priests, nuns and singles (consecrated or not) as well as married couples into local groups. Its spirituality is Eucharistic and Marian, inspired by the Carmelite tradition and living out the spirit of the Beatitudes (Matt: 5). It gathers together the faithful of all states of life (families, single people, priests and consecrated brothers and sisters), who share, in common, a vocation of prayer and fraternal communion, combining a marked contemplative dimension (adoration of the Blessed Sacrament) with numerous apostolic and missionary activities (parishes, hospital and health care, Marian sanctuaries, retreat centers, taking care of the poor, contemplative houses, etc.)

Few would object to such a community. But alas

In February 2008, one of the brothers of the community, accused himself of sexual abuse on 50 children aged from five to fourteen years. According to an article by Le Nouvel Observateur, some testimonies confirmed the absence of reaction of the leadership towards this case of pedophilia. Four members of the community who revealed the case were evicted, and, in a press release in July 2008, asked the bishops to intervene. This case is currently examined by a court. Since October 2008, searches and police custody were held within the community. The Direction centrale de la police judiciaire investigated after complaints of brainwashing, sexual abuses and suicides by teenagers. In 2008 Gérard Croissant was relieved from the exercise of diaconal ministry and forced to leave the community in 2008. At that time he was asked to withdraw in silence to prayer and penance. In October 2010 the Holy See sent Father Henry Donneaud as Pontifical Commissioner to replace the existing government of the community. In November 2011 Father Donneaud confirmed sexual abuse allegations against both the community’s founder, Gérard Croissant, and his brother, Pierre-Etienne Albert.


Gérard Croissant

And now the community must deal with the fact that abusers were at the foundation and core of the community.

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.”

Note that the Vatican seems to have acted properly. Also, without ultimate oversight from the Vatican it might have been impossible to set the community on the way to reform. The universal pastorate of the pope has serious practical advantages (and also disadvantages).

As a fancier of heresies, I also suspect that in many sectors of the Church Quietism is still influential in a quiet and destructive way: The perfect can do no wrong; therefore anything the perfect do cannot be wrong.

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