Lay movements ‘next frontier’ in abuse crisis, ex-Vatican official says
ROME - Rocio Figueroa Alvear is a theologian, an abuse survivor and a consecrated woman-turned-whistle-blower on scandals in her former community. After trying unsuccessfully to raise the alarm both in her order and in the Vatican, she left, and is now a researcher and activist pushing for a change in Church structures that allow abuse and cover-up to happen.
A former member of the Marian Community of Reconciliation (MCR), a pontifically-recognized Society of Apostolic Life, Figueroa said that while much discussion in the Church has so far focused on the abuse and cover-up by priests and bishops, lay movements are next on the list.
Asked whether lay movements are the “next frontier,” Figueroa said “absolutely,” and pinned part of the problem on the Church granting “too much power to lay movements.”
“They have lots of rights and no responsibilities, no accountability, so it’s very complicated,” she said, explaining that in her view, there need to be changes in canon law that better address the specific needs of lay movements which would also protect their members.
Speaking at a Nov. 27 Voices of Faith event in Rome, Figueroa recounted her story of entering the MCR after being abused by one of the high-ranking members of the male branch of the community, the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV), when she was 15.
At the time, the women’s branch of the SCV - established by Peruvian layman Luis Fernando Figari in 1971 - had not been established yet, and Figueroa met the group through her brother in 1983. Feeling a call to give herself to God, she began receiving spiritual direction from the order’s vicar general, German Doig, who would later be found guilty of sexually abusing multiple people, including minors.
Figueroa said she was “naïve” and didn’t understand what was happening when Doig began touching her during “exercises” to help her “manage her sexuality.” Convinced he had her best interests in mind but feeling uncomfortable, she asked him to stop and earnestly believed he had changed his behavior.