Céline Hoyeau’s “Betrayal of the Fathers”: spiritual abuse, a shared responsibility

The Betrayal of the Fathers. Control and abuse of the founders of new communities

by Céline Hoyeau

Bayard, 354 p., € 19.90

In recent years, revelations of spiritual abuse, sometimes even sexual abuse, have brought down many prominent charismatic figures from their pedestal. These facts are hard to hear. As evidenced by the letters from readers addressed to The cross whenever an article is published on the subject.

Céline Hoyeau knows it: journalist in the religion service of The cross, she is responsible for monitoring this file. A file all the more painful since she frequented during her early youth many places where intervened those who later turned out to be abusers. She was not a victim herself, but it was part of her own journey of faith that was called into question, as she explains at the beginning of this book with the terrible title: The Betrayal of the Fathers.

But the journalist from the “John Paul II generation”, who says he loves the Church, could not remain about the feeling of having been betrayed in his youthful ideals. She wanted to understand how we got there. And it is the synthesis of several months of investigations that it delivers here, making speak victims and specialists of the subject.

“Providential men” in a Church in crisis

His investigation begins by retracing the post-conciliar context which saw the emergence of these “Providential men” able to “Save the Church” which some considered she was going downhill. The genius of these founders is to have known “To join the spiritual quest and the collective aspiration to a lofty ideal of a generation which had not found to satisfy them elsewhere in the Church”, Céline Hoyeau analysis. “These founders, like Jean Vanier or Father Thomas Philippe, Ephraïm or Thierry de Roucy, will embody not only a reassuring spiritual authority, but also a new way of believing, which gives way to emotion, affectivity, tenderness, to the body, to welcoming its vulnerability ”, she wrote again. And all these will find in John Paul II “Not only a model and a guarantee, but also an unconditional support”.

But we must push the investigation further. How could these often brilliant figures become abusers and deceive their world for so long? It is often “Double-faced personalities”, underlines Céline Hoyeau: “Their seduction, their aura which gives them power over others are not bad in themselves, but become so to the extent that they will use it to hide their dark side, hypnotize those around them, lull their feelings to sleep. conscience and abuse with impunity ”, explains the journalist who describes how “The grip becomes a well-established mechanism”.

REPORT. Sexual and spiritual abuse, the diocese of Strasbourg associates the laity

A good number of founders were “Very emotional personalities and captivated by this affectivity”, to the point of making their victims dependent, dispossessing them of themselves, depersonalizing them, to do with them what they wanted, to the point of spiritual abuse, and even sexual abuse: “These founders claimed the place of God which they ended up occupying in the relationship with their victims”, justifying their abusive practices by a misguided theological or spiritual discourse, by manipulating the Scriptures or the mystical tradition.

A collective responsibility

But if these abuses were able to last over time without being denounced, it is also the fault “From a whole ecosystem” : “These founders could not have prospered if they had not had admiring and influenced disciples in front of them, who did not see or did not want to see, and were allowed to be deceived in every sense of the word. “. Disciples in search of fathers and benchmarks “Who gave themselves up to these spiritual masters like little children, often resigning from their responsibility as adults and from their critical mind”, deplores the author who also underlines the failings of the hierarchy, the too great fascination of the faithful as of the media for the “spiritual masters”, or the delay of theologians on these questions of abuse which are however not new.

→ TRIBUNE. Abuse in the Church, “We are called to the adjustment between what we say and what we do”

Each of these actors therefore bears some responsibility for the abuse crisis. And they all have a role to play in helping the Church out. A fascinating and salutary book on a serious subject.


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