Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Mgr Jordi Bertomeu of the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) arrived in Peru on 25 July to investigate accusations of sexual abuse in the Sodality of Christian Life.
Archbishop Scicluna led the 2018 investigation into sexual abuse in the Church in Chile that forced Pope Francis to accept accusations of sexual abuse against Fr Fernando Karadima, and have him laicised.
The new investigation has been welcomed by the Peruvian bishops’ conference.
The Sodality of Christian Life, which has no connection with the Sodalities of Our Lady familiar in the English-speaking world, was founded in Lima in 1971 by Luis Fernando Figari and supported by the then Archbishop of Lima, Juan Landázuri.
In 1990 Archbishop Alfonso López Trujillo of Medellín in Colombia invited the group to take charge of a parish there. It also spread to Brazil, Chile and Ecuador.
Pope John Paul II confirmed the sodality as a lay institute of consecrated life in 1997.
The first accusations of abuse came in 2000 from the Peruvian journalist José Enrique Escardó Stack, a former member of the sodality. In 2007, Chilean police discovered a member of the Sodality, Daniel Murguía Ward, in a Santiago hotel preparing to take nude photographs of an 11-year-old boy.
In 2010 the beatification process for the group’s vicar-general, Germán Doig, who died in 2001, was halted after accusations of abuse emerged against him. The sodality described these as “very serious” and said that Doig had lived “a double life”.
In 2015 the Peruvian journalists Pedro Salinas and Paola Ugaz published a book, Mitad Monjes, Mitad Soldados (“Half Monks, Half Soldiers”) in which they accused leading members, including Figari, of 30 cases of sexual abuse.
Figari has since been banned from any contact with members of the sodality and currently lives in Rome.
The president of the Peruvian bishops’ conference, Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos of Trujillo, said: “I think it’s excellent that this matter is thoroughly investigated, that the people involved are listened to, and I am sure that the report will be fair and objective for the benefit of everyone.”