Pope Francis Ponders Dissolving Sodalitium Christianae Vitae — Peruvian Sect With Ties to Quasi-Fugitive Irish Olympic Swimming Coach George Gibney

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by Irvin Muchnick

Wracked by the kidnapping, sexual abuse, and physical violence scandals of its founder, who is now secluded in Rome, the Peruvian Catholic sect Sodalitium Chrisitianae Vitae (SCV) — suspected of sponsoring the Colorado church-based children’s eye clinic mission to Peru of molester former Irish Olympic swimming coach George Gibney in the late 1990s — is in danger of being dissolved, Vatican watchers say.

According to reports in the Catholic news media, Pope Francis is sympathetic to the move, but Vatican officials are taking the proposal slowly because of multiple administrative and legal challenges.

The first Catholic leader to publicly suggest withdrawing recognition of SCV was Cardinal Pedro Barreto of Peru. In a March radio interview, Barreto said, “My personal opinion, which I believe is shared by some, is that I insist that this religious organization should be dissolved and that those who are inside can be definitively helped to live with an authenticity of life.”

Barreto added that this proposal, endorsed by his country’s bishops, is being met with full consideration at the Vatican, but with some concern that the central church might not have appropriate jurisdiction for a group consisting only of lay followers. However, Barreto “is widely viewed to have the Pope’s ear,” wrote Elise Ann Allen of Crux, a progressive Catholic news site. See https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-americas/2020/03/peruvian-cardinal-says-vatican-pondering-dissolution-of-scandal-ridden-lay-group/.

As explained in my ebook last year, THE GEORGE GIBNEY CHRONICLES: What the Hunt For the Most Notorious At-Large Sex Criminal in the History of Global Sports Has Told Us About the Sports Establishments and Governments on Two Continents, the much better-known and more powerful Opus Dei is what’s called a “personal prelature” under Catholic law and has clergy functionaries. By contrast, the Sodalitium is a “society of apostolic life,” started by a fascist-tinged lay organizer, Luis Fernando Figari, who has been sheltering in Italy ever since the early 2010s, when Peruvian journalists began uncovering in earnest stories of his and other SCV leaders’ heinous abuses, which have led to a volley of litigation by victims.

In 2017, the Vatican forbade Figari from having further contact with the organization. SCV commissioned an independent investigation that concluded he and top aides had committed sexual abuse and other crimes, and the group proceeded to write Figari out of its official history.

Both Opus Dei and SCV have been named as entities that possibly assisted Gibney. But the latter is unique for its potential role in Gibney’s nefarious activities after he moved to the U.S., with a diversity lottery visa, following the 1994 quashing by the Irish Supreme Court, on technical grounds, of his indictment on 27 counts of indecent carnal knowledge of youth swimmers he had coached.

Gibney’s travel to Peru as chair of the “International Peru Eye Clinic Foundation” — documented in a job application to his Colorado employer — coincided with missionary work already underway in that country under the auspices of a Colorado chapter of SCV’s related female humanitarian group, the Marian Community of Reconciliation. This flurry of activity came just before the sect’s official institutional inroads into the Archidiocese of Denver.

SCV’s expansion into the U.S. was driven by a desire to dilute Peruvian-based assets in anticipation of a torrent of civil lawsuits. The welcoming of the group to Colorado was spearheaded by Cardinal James Stafford and his successor as archbishop of Denver, Charles Chaput. (Pope Francis earlier this year forced the resignation of Chaput from his subsequent post as archbishop of Philadelphia.)

The breakthrough in the uncovering of historical abuse at the Sodalitium was publication of the 2015 book Mitad Monjes, Mitad Soldados (“Half Monks, Half Soldiers”) by Peruvian journalists Pedro Salinas and Paola Ugaz. A turning point in the public campaign against SCV was a pair of 2018 defamation lawsuits against the authors by an archbishop, Jose Antonion Eguren Anselmi, which were widely denounced as veiled and SCV-directed harassment. Anselmi withdrew his allegations, but Salinas and Ugaz remain under effective investigation by the government of Peru.

In respect to the prospective dissolution of the Sodalitium, Vatican watchers say the main perceived obstacle is over how it might be managed. Complications include what to do with former members; the resolution of insurance coverage through the ongoing wave of victims’ lawsuits; the future of schools run by SCV and the Marian Community; and, generally, the employment of those in affiliated community and service projects.

The Denver archdiocese would confront these complications with its Sheridan, Colorado, parish, Holy Name, an SCV affiliate. The pastor there, Father Daniel Cardó (who has exchanged emails with Concussion Inc. disavowing knowledge of or involvement in the sect’s past abuses), son of a former Peruvian government cabinet minister, is described as representative of the generation of followers who wish to move on from the group’s negative legacy.

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Both the American and the Irish media have been almost uniformly silent on Gibney’s Peru connection and on a related investigation of him by a human trafficking finance specialist at the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington. The only outlets that so far have picked up Concussion Inc.’s reports on this aspect of the Gibney story are the Irish online news outlet Broadsheet and the Newstalk network’s Off the Ball podcast.

The other major Irish sports podcaster, Second Captains, announced early this year a documentary series on Gibney in partnership with the British Broadcasting Corporation’s BBC Sounds. They recently announced that the release of Where Is George Gibney? has been delayed.After this reporter pressed the Irish Examiner to follow up for its readers (to whom the newspaper had directed pre-broadcast publicity as recently as April), the Examiner published an item yesterday, which merely transcribed the producers’ unconvincing explanation that the delay was “due to the global pandemic.”

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PREVIOUSLY:

“DOJ Human Trafficking Office Investigation of George Gibney Closes In — Which Means the Saga of the Most Notorious At-Large Sex Criminal in the History of Global Sports Is Climaxing, With a Bang or a Whimper,” February 9, 2020, https://concussioninc.net/?p=14173

“Muchnick on Ireland’s ‘Off the Ball’: We Have Everything on George Gibney ‘Except the Shoe Dropping’,” February 12, 2020, https://concussioninc.net/?p=14182

“BBC Says George Gibney Podcast Series Delayed Until August ‘Due to the Current Global Pandemic.’ Huh?”, June 4, 2020, https://concussioninc.net/?p=14512

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THE GEORGE GIBNEY CHRONICLES: What the Hunt For the Most Notorious At-Large Sex Criminal in the History of Global Sports Has Told Us About the Sports Establishments and Governments on Two Continents — order the ebook at Amazon Kindle, https://www.amazon.com/George-Gibney-Chronicles-Establishments-Governments-ebook/dp/B07NZ6S3PJ, or get an emailed PDF copy by remitting US $3.49 via PayPal to paypal@muchnick.net.

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