Statement by Brother Alois

Ascertaining the Truth

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

At a time when society and the Church are attempting to shed light on sexual abuses and assaults, notably towards minors and fragile persons, my brothers and I have judged it necessary to speak out as well. For decades now at Taizé we have been welcoming, week after week, thousands of young and not-so-young people from Europe and from the whole world.

Aware of our responsibility and the trust that is shown to us by these young people, their families and their group-leaders, we have always tried to ensure that this welcome takes place in the best conditions possible, with respect for the convictions of each person and deeply attentive to the safety and integrity of all.

Among the participants in the meetings, however, whether between young people or between young people and adults, violations of integrity have taken place. When we are informed of this, we make a point of listening to those violated, and also of informing the competent authorities, both judicial and ecclesial.

Among other measures, since 2010 a page of our website (in May 2020, this was extensively revised and can be found here) has been dedicated to the protection of individuals and an email address set up to facilitate a possible reporting of offenses. At Taizé itself, a brother and other persons outside the community are responsible for listening to any person aware of an assault that is sexual in nature or any other form of violence, particularly concerning a minor. This is included in the information given to all the participants upon their arrival.

If I am speaking out today, this is because I have become aware with deep sadness of cases involving our brothers and, even if these cases are old, we have felt, in community, that we had to speak about them. There were five cases of sexual assault upon minors, in the years from the 1950s to the 1980s, by three different brothers, two of whom have been deceased for over fifteen years (in link with this, please see the note updated in March 2020).

When I was informed of these accusations, my first concern was to listen, with other brothers, to the survivors*, in an absolute respect for their words, to hear their suffering and to remain alongside them to the best of our ability.

In recent years, in the society and in the Church, an understanding of the gravity of every violation of a person’s integrity has fortunately deepened. This finds an echo in the evolution of French law, which requires that every case be reported, independently of the date on which the acts were committed.

To continue our work of establishing the truth, and after having spoken beforehand with the survivors, I have just informed the public prosecutor of these five situations.

We recognize that these assaults committed in the past by brothers are also part of our history. For us, this reporting is part of an attempt to ascertain the truth that had already begun by listening to the survivors and, still today, our first thoughts go out to them; in hearing what they experienced and suffered, we feel shame and deep sorrow. It is possible that this statement may encourage other possible survivors to make themselves known. We will listen to them and will remain alongside them in the steps that they choose to take.

We are convinced that it is only by bringing to light these acts that, with the assistance of persons outside the community, we will help to protect effectively all those who show us their trust by coming to Taizé. If I am speaking today, it is because we owe this to the survivors, to those close to them, and to all those who seek at Taizé a space of trust, safety and truth.

Brother Alois

*Following current English usage, we have translated "personnes victimes" by "survivors".

Every act of aggression, old or more recent, committed against a minor or an adult, whether by a brother abusing his moral ascendancy or by any other person, can be reported to the address protection taize.fr, to a survivors’ association or to national hotlines given on the Taizé website [http://www.taize.fr/en_article27905.html].


Note updated | July 2019

Following the statement by Brother Alois on June 4th, several people have written to the address protection taize.fr, leading Brother Alois to inform the public prosecutor of two new accusations of sexual assault upon minors which took place in the 1960s and 1970s, by a brother who has been dead for over twenty years and another brother who left the community more than forty years ago. In addition, further testimonies have been received implicating a brother who died over fifteen years ago, who was mentioned in the original statement, describing sexual assault in the form of inappropriate touching of young people over the age of majority.


Note updated | October 2019

Since publishing his letter of June 4th, “Ascertaining the Truth”, Brother Alois recently received the testimony of a woman describing a strong dominance exerted on her by a brother, accusing him of manipulation and spiritual, psychological and sexual harassment lasting several years up until this summer. According to her account, this dominance began in 2003, when she took part in the international meetings in Taizé as a young adult.

Brother Alois immediately notified the relevant authorities and the police received the testimony of the victim. The brother in question has been charged with "rape and sexual assault" and remanded in custody. It is now up to the courts to establish the facts and to determine their legal status.

Brother Alois declared: “My brothers and I are in a state of shock. We want everything to be brought to light. Any kind of dominance or ascendancy over others is totally incompatible with our life. I stand alongside the survivor and we will do all we can to support her.”

To continue this work of ascertaining the truth, the Community reiterates that various measures have been set up to receive any further reports, including the email address protection taize.fr.

___

Note updated | March 2020

Last June, we reported several allegations of sexual assault, two of which involved a brother who is still alive. Since that initial statement, other testimonies involving this same brother have reached the community, also relating sexual assaults on minors, in the form of inappropriate touching. These testimonies have been submitted to the authorities in charge of the investigation.

It is for the judicial authorities alone to qualify the facts in law and to assess the legal consequences in view of the lapse of time since their alleged perpetration. However, there is no reason to doubt the testimony of the victims-survivors, whose suffering remains present after so many years. In view of the seriousness of the acts of which this brother is accused, and their incompatibility with the commitments undertaken by the brothers, Brother Alois has informed him that it was better for him to leave the community. He will live elsewhere and, because of his age, a brother will live with him and others will help to accompany him during this period of his life.

Brother Alois adds: “I know all that with my brothers we have received from him and we are deeply distressed by this. I hope that these decisions, the impact and seriousness of which I fully understand, will help us – and him too – to move forward on this path of ascertaining the truth.”

Note updated | June 2020

Last October, a brother was remanded in custody (see the above note for October 2019). He was released, under judicial supervision, at the beginning of May this year. The investigation is continuing, pending the judicial decision that will be made. Irrespective of the outcome of the judicial proceedings, and by mutual agreement with him, it has been decided to terminate his membership of the community.

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Printed from: http://www.taize.fr/en_article26170.html - 11 August 2020
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