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SCHOENSTATT: POSITION ON THE ACCUSATIONS AGAINST FATHER JOSEPH KENTENICH
Interview with Father Eduardo Aguirre, postulator of the cause of canonization
Published by Zenit Español - Translation
The International Schoenstatt Presidium issued a statement on July 2, 2020, motivated by the accusations expressed against the founder of the Schoenstatt Work, Father Joseph Kentenich, first in an article by Alexandra von Teuffenbach in the weekly periodical Die Tagespost on July 2, 2020, and then in the press releases that followed throughout the world.
The information contained in the mentioned article, which supposedly "has not yet been evaluated" - as Father Juan Pablo Catoggio writes on behalf of the Schoenstatt Presidium - "is not new to us; it was fully included in the documentation about the Founder of Schoenstatt in connection with the temporary separation from his Work (1951-1965) and is being thoroughly studied by the ecclesiastical authorities in the context of the beatification process for Kentenich."
Two articles have just been published in the German press, written by researcher Alexandra von Teuffenbach, who claims that she has brought to light documents that are part of the cause of beatification and canonization of Father Joseph Kentenich, in which members of the Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary accuse him of abuse of authority, of being manipulative, and of systematically impeding the sisters' freedom of conscience. There is also an accusation of sexual abuse.
Even though these accusations are about information known for well over half a century, today they are presented as if they were new, and as if because of this they have the strength to question the moral reputation of the father and founder of the Schoenstatt Movement.
Some media outlets have taken advantage of the occasion to expose the case as if they were questions which were unknown until now, inclining to support the position of the possible commission of abuse on the part of Fr. Joseph Kentenich, without "giving him the opportunity to defend himself," that is, without taking into account the arguments of the priest and the evaluation of the Church and its conclusions in this regard.
Interview with Fr. Aguirre, Postulator of the Cause of Canonization
Zenit has consulted Father Eduardo Aguirre, postulator of the cause of canonization of Fr. Joseph Kentenich, in order to know his version of this topic and the position of the Church on the serious accusations mentioned.
Zenit: Fr. Aguirre, were the accusations that now come to light about Fr. Kentenich known?
Fr. Aguirre: Yes, these accusations were collected and examined during the diocesan process of Fr. Kentenich's cause, several years ago, and during this process they were answered and clarified. Therefore, the claims which Von Teuffenbach makes appear as something new that has just come out publicly, but they are not.
These accusations were made before the Visitator, Bishop Stein, in February 1949, during the Canonical Visitation that he carried out in Schoenstatt. Afterwards, these accusations had an important influence on the Apostolic Visitation that was later carried out by the Holy Office, which after the Second Vatican Council ceased to exist and was transformed into the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and which determined, as an administrative measure, Father Kentenich's exile in Milwaukee, United States, for 14 years, until he was rehabilitated by Pope Paul VI in 1965 and could return to Schoenstatt.
After the visitation, Father Kentenich wrote a letter to the German bishops in which he denounced a mechanistic thinking in the Church, which is opposed to an organic thinking, loving, and living, which he promoted in his communities. A Church from the time before Vatican Council II was not prepared to understand this presentation, and this letter seriously influenced Fr. Kentenich's being sent into exile.
Zenit: Why is this coming to light now?
Fr. Aguirre: The processes of beatification and canonization must be carried out under secrecy; that is, the investigations into the life and work of the Servant of God whose cause is underway cannot be disclosed. Both the postulator and the members of the ecclesiastical authorities appointed by the bishop who is instructing the cause (episcopal delegate, promoter of justice, theologians, members of the historical commission, notary, etc.) must take an oath to keep the contents of the process secret. Therefore, the testimony of the witnesses and what is being investigated in the case could not be disclosed.
Alexandra von Teuffenbach, independently of the process being conducted in the diocese of Trier, and as a result of personal investigations in the recently opened archives of the Holy Office, analyzes the documents that have to do with Fr. Kentenich's cause. She announces them as news to the public, as if these accusations were not known. This does not correspond to the reality of the cause. I don't know why she puts things in this way. I suppose it is because she did not know about the process, and that is why she thinks they are new.
Thorough investigation: no legal case opened
In view of the concern that the accusations against Fr. Kentenich had not been seriously investigated by the Church, we have consulted Fr. Angel Strada, former postulator of the cause of canonization of the priest, who says that "the Church's investigation was exhaustive and concentrated on analyzing the person and the pastoral practice of Fr. Kentenich. First Bishop Stein did it, starting in February 1949, then Fr. Tromp, starting in 1951, and later, with less intensity, Father Albers (1963), appointed by the Congregation for Religious.
The Congregation for the Cause of the Saints and the Secretariat of State also had to investigate him, in order to give the nihil obstat to the opening of the process of canonization on February 10, 1975, and this investigation is precisely the goal of the process of canonization. Dozens of witnesses are called to testify for and against the process, all the documentation in the archives is collected, and a historical commission studies the life and virtues of the candidate for canonization. Yes, undoubtedly, from every point of view, the investigation was profound and exhaustive."
And in conclusion, as Father Eduardo Aguirre affirms, "no formal accusation was made of alleged crimes against Father Kentenich. Therefore, the Holy Office did not carry out any trial against him and there was no sentence or punishment”.