Wednesday 28 February 2024

Cardinal reinstates lay charismatic leader who admitted abuse

Cardinal Jean Pierre Kutwa of Ivory Coast suspended Do Oulaï Franklin Delaneaux, founder of a lay apostolate, in 2020 after the man partially admitted committing various types of abuse

Cardinal Jean Pierre Kutwa of Abidjan in Ivory Coast, one of the senior Catholic Church leaders in Africa, has reinstated the charismatic founder of a lay apostolate in his Archdiocese of Abidjan more than three years after suspending the man over abuse allegations.

“I hereby lift, here and now, the suspension of all activities taken against this son of the Church, Mr. Do Oulaï Franklin Delaneaux, called Abraham Marie Pio, founder of the Catholic apostolate Royal Priesthood,” declared the 78-year-old cardinal in in a decree dated February 9, but not made public until February 22.

In the decree, the cardinal also designates two priests from the Abidjan archdiocese, one a canon lawyer, to assist Pio and offer him “guidance in order to preserve the integrity of faith and morals in exercising his ministry”.

The layman founded the Royal Priesthood apostolate in the archdiocese on July 10, 2010. A charismatic leader, he gathered thousands of followers on Fridays and Sundays in the nearby suburbs of Cocody and Yopougon.

The community, mostly composed of young students and workers active on social media, also had branches in France, the United States, and Canada. Many Catholic priests and even some bishops participated in the large quarterly prayer sessions called Kairos (“the right moment”), advertised with great fanfare.

But Cardinal Kutwa suspended Abraham Marie Pio on June 12, 2020 after several members of the layman’s community accused him of sexual abuse, extortion of funds, and psychological manipulation. The cardinal set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the allegations.

“He acknowledged and regretted the facts” 

While the Archdiocese of Abidjan has not revealed the conclusions of the investigation, Cardinal Kutwa assured in his February 9 decree that Abraham Marie Pio had “acknowledged and regretted the facts attributed to him, all things considered.” The cardinal did not elaborate on these facts.

He said Pio also made “the commitment to serve our mother Church in the future with more prudence”. 

The cardinal said the lay leader made that promise to him in a February 2 letter which he “humbly requested his reinstatement and the resumption of his activities and those of his apostolate”.

Cardinal Kutwa also emphasized that Pio “made use of this time of suspension by participating in spiritual retreats, taking courses in theological, pastoral, and psychological training” and that he is “mentored by a spiritual father, a member of the clergy of the Archdiocese of Abidjan”.

“And what about the victims?” 

“In this Lenten season when we are invited to forgiveness and reconciliation, receive from the Lord comfort, peace of heart, and courage for the journey together,” the cardinal said in a message to Catholics affected by the alleged instances of abuse.

His message quickly went viral on social media. Many Catholics praised the cardinal, highlighting the “obedience and patience” that was reportedly shown by Abraham Marie Pio, a very popular figure among Catholic youth before his suspension.

“And the victims?” asked an one local Catholic in a comment posted on social media. “I hope you have followed him closely and that he will not return to victimize again,” the person warned.

“The cardinal admits that he acknowledged these rape accusations and authorizes him to resume his activities under the pretext that he took theology courses?” posted another. 

“If he acknowledged these mistakes, it is up to the court to decide. I hope the people affected will take legal action to find out more.”