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Papal delegate to Foyers de Charité resigns

The Vatican accepted Feb. 14 the resignation of the pontifical delegate for the Foyers de Charité, a troubled international association of the faithful co-founded by the French mystic Marthe Robin. 

Retired French Bishop Michel Dubost served as pontifical delegate for the Foyers de Charité from March 2022 to February 2024. © Peter Potrowl via Wikimedia (CC BY 3.0). 

The Foyers de Charité said in a Feb. 16 press release that Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life, had accepted the resignation of Bishop Michel Dubost, the 81-year-old bishop emeritus of Évry-Corbeil-Essonnes, almost two years after Dubost was appointed pontifical delegate.


The Foyers de Charité, which was co-founded in 1936 by the bed-bound mystic Marthe Robin and her spiritual director Fr. Georges Finet, was placed under the control of a pontifical delegate in February 2022. 

The Vatican often names pontifical delegates to oversee changes to groups that have governance problems or are struggling after revelations that their founders lived double lives.

Pope Benedict XVI, for example, asked the then Archbishop Velasio De Paolis to serve as pontifical delegate to the Legionaries of Christ in 2010, following the exposure of its founder Fr. Marcial Maciel.

After abuse allegations were aired in 2019 against Finet, who died in 1990, the Foyers de Charité established an independent commission to assess the claims. 

In May 2020, the association — which was founded in Châteauneuf-de-Galaure, southeastern France, and whose principal work is offering retreats — announced that the commission’s report revealed “seriously deviant acts committed by Fr. Finet.” 

It said that 26 women, mainly former pupils at a school in Châteauneuf-de-Galaure, reported being touched by Finet and subjected to intrusive questions about their sexuality in the confessional, when they were 10 to 14 years of age.

The Foyers de Charité said it was launching “a general audit of the Foyers and all of their activities.”

At the time, the association had 970 members who had made life-long commitments, based at 78 centers in four continents. As well as hosting retreats, some Foyers also run schools, dispensaries, and holiday accommodation. The association’s members include married couples and priests, as well as lay people consecrated to celibacy.

In a decree dated Feb. 3, 2022, Cardinal Farrell appointed Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, the retired Archbishop of Bordeaux, as pontifical delegate, with a “mission is to govern the association, temporarily, with full governmental powers.”

He said that Ricard would “accompany the members of the association in a review of the charism and a clarification of the ecclesiology that underlies the vocation of the Foyers, along with a consequent reform of the life, the formation and the government of the association at statutory level.”

Farrell also named Dubost and Laurent Landete, the director of the Collège des Bernardins in Paris and a member of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life, as pontifical vice-delegates.

Dubost was appointed pontifical delegate in March 2022, replacing Ricard, who was said at the time to have stepped aside for “health reasons.”

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In November of that year, Ricard admitted to abusing a 14-year-old girl in the late 1980s. The Vatican said that the cardinal would face a preliminary canonical investigation. 

The results of the probe have not been made public, but the French newspaper La Croix reported in September 2023 that the 79-year-old cardinal had been banned from public ministry for a renewable period of five years, except in the diocese where he lives.

When Dubost was named pontifical delegate, Sr. Christine Foulon, a member of the Religious of the Assumption, was appointed as vice-delegate, serving alongside Landete.

The Foyers de Charité said Feb. 16 that Foulon and Landete would succeed Dubost, serving as co-pontifical delegates.

“Their experience will make it possible to continue the work of reforming the Work begun in 2019, so that the charism of the Foyers, a ‘precious work of the Lord’ in the words of Cardinal Farrell, continues to unfold and to be placed at the service of the Church and the evangelization of the greatest number of people,” the association said.

In an interview published Feb. 16 by the French Catholic weekly La Vie, Foulon said: “The Holy See wants to send a signal to the Foyers de Charité with the appointment of a governance based on synodality. We are in a particular, new configuration as co-delegates. Our mission is to work together.”

Foulon explained that she, Landete, and Dubost were presented with “a precise roadmap” for the Foyers de Charité in December 2023. She and Landete “spontaneously agreed” to the proposal, but Dubost asked for time for reflection.

“We then learned of his resignation on Feb. 14,” Foulon said. “We had different methodologies, which could have created awkwardness or even injuries, but I will not speak of a ‘crisis.’”

Landete suggested that the appointment of co-pontifical delegates may “come from a desire for greater efficiency, with a certain increased transparency, and perhaps a new rigor.”

Foyers de Charité co-founder Marthe Robin was confined to her bed from the age of 21 until her death at the age of 78 in 1981. She reputedly bore the stigmata and for years had no other sustenance than the Eucharist.

Pope Francis recognized Robin’s heroic virtues in 2014. But in a book published in 2020 called “The Mystical Fraud of Marthe Robin,” the Belgian Carmelite Fr. Koen De Meester argued that the mystic was a plagiarist who claimed falsely to have survived only on the Eucharist.

Landete told La Vie that Dubost had been responsible for a commission examining the theological foundations of the Foyers de Charité, but that the commission’s mission needed to be clarified.

The Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life published a new charter of government for the Foyers de Charité on Oct. 18, 2023.

Landete explained that the roadmap presented by the dicastery would involve the association resuming responsibility for its own governance.

“We’re going to set up a provisional council made up largely of members of the Foyers de Charité alongside external figures,” said Foulon.

“We’re here to get the reform underway, but it’s the members of the Foyers who are going to make it happen.”

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