Schonstatt movement founder accused of abuse in U.S.

ROME (CNS) -- The Diocese of Trier released a summary of a report detailing allegations of abuse made in the United States against the founder of the Schonstatt movement, Father Joseph Kentenich.

According to the summary of the report, which was released by the diocese July 7, the victim, known by the alias, "John Doe," accused Father Kentenich of repeatedly sexually abusing him between 1958 to 1962.

The summary stated that "circumstantial evidence reviewed as part of the report both supports and contradicts certain aspects of the allegations" and that "because of the passage of time and deaths of key witnesses, 'conclusiveness' could not be ascertained."

According to the German Catholic news agency KNA, the Diocese of Trier chose to not publish the 47-page report "for data protection and privacy reasons."

The report also looked into the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's investigation from 1994 to 1995 into Doe's accusations. The archdiocese concluded that the allegations made by Doe were not credible.

While praising its diligence in investigating the accusations, the report stated that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee made no effort "to interview those living and working with Father Kentenich in Milwaukee to ascertain their direct observations of Father Kentenich interacting with" Doe.

Therefore, the report said, "the 1994-95 investigation should not be considered sufficient, according to today's criteria for reviewing such allegations, especially since additional allegations against Father Kentenich from his time in South America have been made public in the interim."

In 2020, German scholar Alexandra von Teuffenbach uncovered documents from the archives of the pontificate of Pope Pius XII that revealed reports of an apostolic visitation made in the early 1950s; the reports were written by Dutch Jesuit Father Sebastiaan Tromp, who died in 1975.

The visitation was ordered after allegations of sexual abuse and abuse of power were made by members of the Schonstatt Sisters of Mary against Father Kentenich. After the investigation, Father Kentenich was sent in exile to Milwaukee in 1951 where he lived until 1965.

Despite the abuse allegations, the process for the beatification and canonization of Father Kentenich was opened seven years after his death in 1968.

After von Teuffenbach revealed the allegations, Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier delayed Father Kentenich's sainthood cause and ordered an investigation into the documents as well as the accusations made by Doe.

In May, Bishop Ackermann suspended the proceedings for the sainthood cause, in consultation with the Vatican, KNA reported.

Bishop Ackermann also called for further research into Father Kentenich's life and actions, stating that the diocese would not be involved in it, the agency reported.

"I think that the discussions of the last two years, as well as the release of newly available documents, show that we have not yet finished what there is to say about the life, work and spirituality of Father Kentenich," Bishop Ackermann said in an interview German Catholic news agency katholisch.de published May 5. "Much more research needs to be done. At the same time, I cannot continue a beatification process for a person against whom there are allegations that cannot be refuted at this time."

The Schonstatt movement was founded in Germany in 1914 by Father Kentenich as a way "to help renew the church and society in the spirit of the Gospel" and is present in over 100 countries around the world, the movement's website states. It includes priests, nuns and lay members.

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