Pope Francis praised Catholic lay movements and associations for living out the Gospel in their everyday lives and for promoting education, social support and evangelization in the world’s peripheries.
They show how “we don’t have to wait for a priest to come, for the priest to evangelize or a missionary,” he said, applauding the way many movements have reawakened the understanding that all the baptized have the duty to evangelize and be a missionary church.
However, just like the world’s religious orders and congregations, the Pope said, lay movements and associations of the faithful are just as susceptible to abuses and problems, all of which stem from an abuse of power.
All associations, not just some or just the large ones, must learn what good governance entails, he added.
The Pope spoke Sept. 16 in the Vatican’s synod hall to people taking part — online and onsite in Rome — in a meeting organized by the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, focusing on the issue of responsible governance in lay movements and associations. Participants included “moderators” of associations of lay faithful, movements and new communities.
The Pope told them: “To govern is to serve. The exercise of governance within associations and movements is a topic that is particularly close to my heart, especially considering – what I said before – the cases of different kinds of abuse which have occurred in these situations, too, and that they always find their roots in the abuse of power.” “This is the cause — the abuse of power,” the pope said.
The issue of abuse of power and good governance is so close to his heart that the Pope’s already lengthy original talk of four pages became five pages as his off-the-cuff remarks expanded on particular points, offered explanations and provided colorful examples.
The study is showing that it has not just been happening with the larger groups, but also small institutes, he said, and that the scandals are not just the more well-known ones but include things groups “have done in order to feel like a separate church, they seem like saviors!” He said he knows of three religious institutes in his native country of Argentina that have already been suppressed after ending up in some “dirty” or dishonest situations.