What will we learn tomorrow? Not a day goes by without a tough new decision arising in the Church of France. Comes the turn of the Thérésienne Mission, after the suspension of ordinations in the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, the announcement of an apostolic visit to the diocese of Strasbourg, or even the dissolution of the community of the Word of Life.
Created in 1975, the Teresian Mission which invited children and families to pray for the Church in more than twenty countries, has just had its status as a canonical association of the faithful withdrawn on May 30 by the Bishop of Bayeux-Lisieux, Mgr Jacques Habert, on whom it depended. It was one of his predecessors who in 1992 granted official recognition to this association, whose headquarters were in Lisieux.
A decision motivated by “lasting dysfunctions”
What are the reasons for such a decision? It comes after an investigation “commissioned by Bishop Jacques Habert just after his arrival in the diocese in 2020 to better understand the functioning of the Thérésienne Missionexplains to Famille Chrétienne Father Laurent Berthout, episcopal delegate for information of the diocese of Bayeux-Lisieux. We have here the example of a bishop who exercises his vigilance”. For his part, in a letter addressed to subscribers of the various magazines that the association distributes (Petit Berger, Cinq Pains Deux Poissons, Vianney, Mission Thérésienne), its president Cyrille Chartier-Kastler does not give any details on the causes. It only indicates that the various numbers to come will be reimbursed and that the civil association – which was attached to the canonical association recognized by the bishop since 1992 – “will continue the work in collaboration with the diocese of Bayeux-Lisieux”.
Information confirmed to Famille Chrétienne by Father Laurent Berthout, who assures: “Our bishop’s decision concerns only the association, but not its purpose. The project is very commendable and Bishop Habert is already working to allow new perspectives”. If the bishop put an end to the recognition of the Theresian Mission, it is because of “lasting and significant dysfunctions of the association”, continued his spokesperson. What malfunctions? Simply stating that these are problems of ” governance “ the diocese does not wish to provide further details for the moment.
Charges against the founder
The diocesan spokesperson nevertheless confirms the information collected by Famille Chrétienne reporting complaints against the founder of the Thérésienne Mission, Father Bruno Thévenin. The latter would have been accused of spiritual and sexual abuse by several women. “There was a filing of complaints, followed by an investigation, without follow-up, before the installation of Bishop Habert. The case of Father Bruno Thévenin is to be dissociated from the problems which concerned the association strictly speaking, and which motivated the bishop’s decision to put an end to its recognition.insists Father Laurent Berthout. “Father Bruno Thévenin is also reaching retirement age and the abolition of the canonical association of the faithful means that he is no longer its spiritual adviser”.
For now, the civil association Mission Thérésienne is already thinking about what to do next. “We wish to remain in fidelity to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and to prayer by families for priests, says Cyrille Chartier-Kastler to Famille Chrétienne. Monsignor Jacques Habert invited our Board of Directors to work on the continuation of the work (and its probable renovation) in connection with the Sanctuary of Lisieux. This project motivates us. As soon as our project is stabilized, we will present it to the members of the civil association. We have ideas for a range of new initiatives. »
The association extended until then in more than twenty countries, in particular in Belgium, in Italy, in Poland, in Lithuania, in Hungary, in Bulgaria, in China, in the United States, in Mexico, in Angola. “More than 6,500 priests and religious are personally entrusted to the prayer of the children of Mission Thérésienne in France: the child is then the godfather of a priest or a religious”, indicates the association on its website. It also provided retreats and pilgrimages, and owed its fame in part to the publication of its five magazines to teach the faith adapted to different age groups. The canonical association carried more the pastoral dimension, while the civil association managed more the various activities.