LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s attorney general has launched an investigation to determine whether the founder and former head of an elite Catholic society sexually and physically abused children and former members of the secretive group.
The two-month inquiry into Luis Fernando Figari follows the publication of a book by an investigative journalist, in which three unidentified former members of Sodalitium Christianae Vitae accuse Figari of rape and molestation when they were boys. Others, out of 30 interviewed for the book, describe being brainwashed and physically abused.
Sodalitium said Figari lives in Rome and has denied all accusations. Figari could not be located for comment.
But the organization said the accounts in the book were plausible. “It pains and shames us that acts like that could have been committed by Luis Fernando Figari,” Sodalitium said.
“A corresponding investigation is being opened and if it is found necessary to bring him here that will be done,” Attorney General Pablo Sanchez said.
The book by Pedro Salinas has shaken Peru, a deeply Catholic country where Sodalitium was founded in 1971 before expanding in Latin America, Italy and the United States.
It describes Sodalitium as a hermetic group that emphasizes obedience and whose leader, Figari, was treated as a mystical guru. Figari is not clergy but Sodalitium has pontifical approval. Members include businessmen, writers and politicians from Lima’s upper classes.
The accusations against Figari come as Pope Francis has promised to hold all sex abusers in the Church accountable.
But Salinas said no Church representative has contacted any of the alleged victims even though they formally accused Figari of sex abuse in Peru’s Ecclesiastical Court in 2011.
Documents seen by Reuters show that three people requested a canonical investigation into sexual abuse by Figari in 2011. One said he was regularly sodomized by Figari when he was 15 years old, before Mass.
Peru’s Ecclesiastical Court said late Thursday the Vatican was “acting” in response to the accusations. The Vatican could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
It is unclear if Figari, who retired as secretary general of Sodalitium in 2010, can be charged and tried for alleged abuse that took place decades ago.
The book has prompted revelations of similar experiences at Sodalitium.
Reporting by Mitra Taj, Edited by Rosalba O'Brien and Richard Chang