06 July 2022, The Tablet

French Catholic association shut down for 'mismanagement'

Officials insist the association was shut down due to dysfunction, not abuse.

French Catholic association shut down for 'mismanagement'

Veterans and dignitaries gather at a service during a British D-Day commemoration ceremony June 6 at the Bayeux Cathedral in Bayeux, France
CNS photo/Leon Neal, Pool via Reuters

Mission Thérésienne, a French canonical association of the faithful active in about 20 countries, has been shut down by the bishop of Bayeux-Lisieux for "substantial dysfunctions" in its management.

The association, named after Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, encourages children and their families to pray for vocations and for about 6,500 priests and religious they have adopted. It promptly closed its website and its five magazines for young Catholics, promising to refund the subscriptions.

The shutdown was the latest community closure or diocesan inspection in France, where Church management has come under increasing scrutiny after the country’s two top archbishops, in Paris and Lyon, quit over the past two years. 

New communities in France, often charismatic or traditional groups that have grown in recent decades as vocations to the diocesan clergy fall, have received special attention. Pope Francis announced in mid-June that bishops now needed Vatican support before approving any new canonical associations. 

Over the past month, ordinations have been suspended in a diocese judged overly friendly to new communities, a charismatic community was dissolved, and an apostolic visitation was announced for Strasbourg archdiocese amid charges of mismanagement. 

The Bayeux-Lisieux diocese insists the problem lies in "dysfunctions ... in internal and external fora” and not other types of abuse.

Bishop Jacques Habert launched an inquiry into the mission, which was recognised in 1992, after he took over in 2020, said diocesan spokesman Fr Laurent Berthout. “We have here the example of a bishop who exercises vigilance,” he said. 

Fr Berthout insisted that the dissolution was not linked to mission founder and spiritual counsellor Fr Bruno Thévenin. Sexual abuse accusations against him were investigated without result before Bishop Habert arrived, the spokesman told the weekly Famille Chrétienne

While the canonical association was shut down, other activities supporting vocations may continue under a civil association that continues in the diocese.

Cyrille Chartier-Kastler, head of the civil association that continues to work with the diocese, said: “As soon as our project is stabilised, we will present it to the members of the civil association Mission Thérésienne.”

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