This humble website exists to offer you information about the Focolare movement, information that you cannot find on the official website. As long as the people who have had problems with the Focolare are not heard and do not have a voice on the official website, this website will provide a platform. Here people can share their experiences, ask questions and give their opinions freely.
"In fact, the
intermingling of the sphere of governance and the sphere of
conscience gives rise to abuses of power and the other
abuses we have witnessed, once the cauldron of these
unpleasant problems has been uncovered." (Pope
On Saturday the 6th of February, Pope Francis gave a very useful and clear advice to the General Assembly of the Focolare movement. We are hopeful that this will help the movement to deal with the abuses of power that have happened in the past.
Soon we will publish on
this website the stories of some people who have
experienced a certain level of abuse.
Margaret Karram (58) is the
new president of the Focolare movement.
We sincerely wish her
wisdom and strength in the challenges that are in front of
her and the movement. The people of this website would be
happy to start a fresh new dialogue with the new president
about the process of healing and respect for all the
people who have been hurt in any way by the Focolare
movement or by individuals in the movement.
For the first time in history, the Focolare movement has offered its apologies for victims of abuse. " we would like to take this opportunity of a worldwide link to ask for forgiveness wholeheartedly, sincerely, of all the people who have been victims of any form of abuse" . (Jesus Moran).
This is only the first
step. People with complaints need to address a Central
Commission and follow a set of complicated
guidelines (19 pages). We hope that this will not
build another barrier for those who want to file a complaint.
Please let us know if we can be of any help.
If you speak Italian,
please look at this website:
Focolari e abusi for more information about the Focolare movement and Chiara Lubich.
Please visit our Guestbook,
to read what our visitors wrote and to leave your own
reaction. Thank you!
One of the letters we received in our guestbook recently:
My family was very active in the Focolare movement. Finally all the members of my family except me, who was rather hostile to it. It made me feel very isolated and marginal, and sometimes even judged, in my own family. I've been through a lot.
My parents became acquainted with the Focolare movement the year I was born and took me to the meetings of the movement as a child. I didn't like it, but I had no choice. After a few years, we settled close to a focolare and, from that moment on, the movement invaded our entire family-life. Everything, absolutely everything, revolved around religion, the Church, the pope, and above all the Focolaremovement, Chiara and its ideal. Members of the movement passed by almost every day. Meetings of the movement were sometimes held in our house. Chiara was completely adored. But above all, my father did not tolerate any thought that did not correspond to Catholic thought,the precepts of the pope or the ideology of Chiara. When we dared to evoke another opinion or any doubt, he reacted violently, with loud indignant cries and a sanctimonious speech imposing on us what to believe. As he was regarded as a good and respectable man on the outside, he became a true despot in our family. No dialogue was possible. Finally, the fear of expressing something he didn't like created a permanent tension. We couldn't, we didn't dare to express ourselves freely.
My parents had little contact with the outside world outside of their professional life. They were almost just people of the movement. The outside world was presented as evil, especially by my father who saw evil and temptation everywhere. As a teenager, all my contacts with the outside world were controlled and, very often, forbidden. We didn't have television. I was not allowed to listen to music in my room. There were only Catholic newspapers entering the house. My readings, music, film outings or other cultural, sports and leisure outings with classmates were severely controlled, censored and, more often than not, banned. The reasons for the refusals were not always clear to me: the organization was not Catholic; the activity, book or film was immoral; I could meet boys; the host was a man... Finally, it took courage to ask for an exit permit, as conflict and refusal were almost systematic. I remember, among other things, and for example, the virulent oppositions I encountered when, at the age of 16, I wanted to go to a concert by Alain Souchon and, at 22, enroll in an art school where I was going to draw nudes. In both cases, the attitude of my parents caused me such an internal conflict that I was sick of it.
Sexuality was taboo. My parents didn't talk about it at all, except in negative and reproachful terms tinged with a lot of mystery. I couldn't date boys. Love between man and woman was not addressed, only the love of neighbor and God. No flirtation allowed, pace boyfriend before graduation, no pre-marriage sex, no contraception. For my father, it was the woman who led the man into carnal sin. Men, on the other hand, were presented as poor being victims of their instincts and can hardly control them. All female coquettishness was therefore forbidden: no miniskirt, no bikini, no clothing that could be considered suggestive or provocative. Everything about the body was suspicious, its pleasures doomed. You couldn't hang out in the bathroom or in bed. In our family, physical contact was avoided. We didn't touch each other, we didn't kiss, we didn't hug each other. There was no physical display of affection.
There was little or no room for joy, lightness, laughter, humor, spontaneity, self-deprecation. Everything was taken seriously. The suffering was magnified, it allowed us to live 'Jesus forsaken'. We were educated with, continuously, Chiara's speeches that we must renounce ourselves, sacrifice ourselves, deny ourselves, ignore ourselves. You had to suppress your emotions, always smile, pretend everything was fine. It was God's will to be nothing, to want nothing, to live only in the service of God and others. We were just talking about love. But what love when I didn't get room to exist? I was a very happy little girl but, from my teens,I felt more and more crushed by the dark and heavy atmosphere that prevailed within our family. I was withering.
In 1980, I was present in Rome at Genfest. Just as the pope or Chiara (I don't know) shouted to the cheering crowd of young people, "So you are all ready to sacrifice for each other!" the crowd said yes, gloating. And I thought, "No, I don't want to sacrifice myself! I haven't experienced anything yet and I'm not allowed anything. I have nothing to sacrifice: I have already been sacrificed." Besides, who has the right to ask a young person to sacrifice himself?
So I wasn't in favor of the movement and as a teenager I went less and less to meetings. At the age of 14, I didn't want to go to Mass anymore. I was considered by my parents to be in a state of mortal sin, in perdition. The pressure was terrible. I went back until I was 16, stopped again, went back, and gave up for good when I was 18. But I felt bad in my own family.
One day, at the age of 19, I made the 'effort' of making pancakes on a Good Friday while my parents and sister were at the service. I wanted to celebrate the first night of the Easter holidays happily with my family. The pancakes were categorically refused because they had to fast. I found myself alone with my preparations in the kitchen, my parents having retreated to the living room in an accusatory silence and my sister having climbed into her room. I was devastated. And I was wondering, is this God's will? I dreamed of a Jesus knocking on the door, coming in and saying, 'Are there pancakes here?' and sitting down at my table to share them with me. I felt rejected and sacrificed by my parents in the name of their God, their religion and their ideal.
At the age when teenage girls discover the world, I lived locked up, deprived of all freedom, of all autonomy, of any possibility of expression, in absolute solitude, with parents for whom religion came first. I always felt them in judgment, repression and reproach. I had no one to confide in. I didn't dare talk about what was going on at home to my classmates,I was ashamed. And then I always thought maybe I was the problem. I thought I was mean and bad. I was doing everything I could to 'look' normal. I thought I would run away but I was too shy and the outside world scared me. I became an insomniac. I woke up at night with panic attacks because I felt like I had no power over my life, that I had no place to exist. I felt like 'life' and lots of opportunities were passing through my fingers. I became depressed. I begged God to take my life back. I thought about suicide, but I was afraid to go to hell. I was afraid of going crazy. I felt something was wrong, but was it me where my parents? I was in total confusion. Not so long ago, a psychotherapist told me that it was psychological abuse, that my parents had done everything to prevent me from being myself and that I had been lucky not to have fallen into psychosis.
When I finally left the family home, I was very bad in my skin. I didn't know who I was. I lived cut off from myself, my body, my emotions, my desires,my needs. I didn't dare trust what I felt, express my opinion or make a decision. I felt uncomfortable in society, did not know how to behave and take my place. I had never felt satisfied my parents and felt their love for who I really was. The outside world,the others, the men and the sexuality scared me. As for God's love, I thought I no longer deserved it. I lived in infinite solitude, locked in myself.
Furious with my parents, I stayed several months without contacting them. I had to do a lot of therapy, but there's still irreversible damage. How do you live when your wings have been cut off at an age when they are being deployed? Feelings of anger, sadness and guilt still regularly overwhelm me. More than the Focolare movement, I blame my parents for allowing themselves to indulge in such extreme and destructive behaviors. I would have wanted only one thing: to be able to be myself and receive their love, their listening, their benevolence, their trust and their support to discover the world and to flourish serenely.