The announcement was made on Saturday June 25 to the members of this community founded in 1986. The decision was taken after a canonical visit which confirmed the existence of “serious and systemic dysfunctions”.
The decision is radical and unexpected. The Community of the Word of Life, founded in 1986, will no longer exist as of July 1, 2023. Gathered at the Abbey of Andecy (Marne), the members of this community resulting from the charismatic renewal learned the news from the mouth of Cardinal Jozef de Kesel. The Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, guarantor of the community, took this decision on June 24 at the end of a canonical visitation which took place from January to April. This visit had been requested by the council of the community after the resignation of the general moderator in August 2021, indicates a press release published on June 25 on the website of the diocese of Châlons-en-Champagne.
Serious and systemic dysfunctions
” The three designated visitors listened to more than 200 people, specifies the document, and have found serious and systemic dysfunctions since the foundation “. Thus, more than 240 members have left the community in the space of thirty years. ” All the attempts to specify the charism, to give oneself a stable rule of life, to ensure a serene governance, and to guarantee within the Word of Life the respect of each one and the confidence, failed. “, Still assures the press release. The founders of the community, Georges and Marie-Josette Bonneval, have been accused of exercising spiritual abuse and control over several of the members. And the spiritual guide of the Word of Life, Jacques Marin, worker-priest, was accused by several women of sexual assault in the context of the sacrament of confession. The latter died in 2019, after a canonical trial a few years earlier.
Mgr François Touvet, bishop of Châlons, was appointed administrator of the Word of Life until its dissolution. Accompanied by five teams (spiritual accompaniment and consecrated life, psychological accompaniment, canonical and legal questions, administrative and financial questions, communication), he will govern the community in the weeks and months to come. ” Its primary concern is to listen to victims, and to offer each member individual support and places of hospitality to allow peaceful discernment and a new personal orientation. “, indicates the press release.
Listening to victims
Cardinal De Kesel and Bishop Touvet “ understand the pain and emotion of all those whom such a decision may surprise: residential and non-residential members, former members, members of the Alliance of the Word of Life, families, friends “, but they first think ” to those who have been victims of certain members and who demand justice “. They also heard the suffering of those who, members or not, have had to suffer serious dysfunctions brought to light by the canonical visitation, and remind them of their closeness and empathy “.
In a message addressed to the diocesan of Châlons, Mgr Touvet is aware of the shock of this decision while the abbey of Andecy is a very appreciated place in the diocese. ” Believe that this serious decision is taken for the good of the members of this community, even if you find it difficult to believe and understand that such dysfunctions could have taken place there “he wrote.