Status of the investigation in the Vatican Archives about Fr. Kentenich
Vatican Archives Closed
Fr. Eduardo Aguirre, postulator of the cause of canonization reports
Fr. Eduardo Aguirre, postulator of the cause of canonization of Fr. Joseph Kentenich, is in Rome studying the documents related to the visitations of Schoenstatt and Fr. Kentenich’s exile until 1958, when Pope Pius XII died, and whose archives were opened a few months ago. The priest reports that because of the increase of cases of covid in Italy, all archives and libraries have been closed. This is also the case in the Vatican such that since Monday, November 9th, he could no longer enter the Archives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). It is possible that he will not be able to return until next year. “I will be able to study the records of Fr. Kentenich’s cause in more detail, which includes hundreds of documents and thousands of pages,” says the postulator.
Regarding the analized documents, he expressed “in these three weeks, I managed to study some 360 documents, consisting of about 2,130 pages written in German, Latin, and Italian, and some in Spanish. Many of then are handwritten, especially the writings of Fr. Tromp, which are mostly in Latin.” He adds that “even though there are many more documents to study, from 1954 to 1958, the year which Pope Pius XII died. Therefore, this investigation has not been concluded yet.”
On the contents of the investigated files
In respect to the contents, the reasons for the visitation, and the confrontations with the CDF, Fr. Aguirre has found little new information and explains that “many documents that are found in the Archive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith were already known during the process of beatification of Fr. Kentenich and are present in the archives of the cause.”
The postulator explains that “therefore, the decrees, the main accusations, and denunciations against our Father and founder, against the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, against the Schoenstatt diocesan priests and Pallotine Fathers, against the ideas of Schoenstatt, and the Movement in general were already known, as well as the main accusers.” He adds that “naturally, I also found documents that were not known and that are not in the archives of the cause. They shed more light on the processes and actors of the visitation. But, in terms of the content, in general they do not contribute important unknown or surprising elements.”
Schoenstatt International interviewed Fr. Aguirre. The dialogue is transcribed below:
When will it be possible to have a clear vision of the content of the documents in these archives?
We will have to wait until we are able to access the study of the Archives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The date is not determined and depends on how the situation with the pandemic evolves in the coming months and on the measures that are taken in respect to it.
What implications does the Vatican archives closing have for the investigation?
Naturally, this implies a long delay in the study of these documents of the CDF, especially between 1954 and 1958, which are the years that I did not manage to study. But this does not mean that I cannot continue investigating the documents of the cause of the beatification of Fr. Kentenich, which comprises an enormous quantity of writings and which contains texts from close to 110 archives that have been consulted throughout the cause of Fr. Kentenich.
In this time in which you had access to the archives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has there been any important document that has not been studied in the process of beatification?
Of the documents that I have been able to see until now and that have not been considered in the cause, it seems to me that the most important ones are the reports around the Apostolic Visitation between 1951 and 1953, writings by the Visitator, Fr. Tromp. There are four reports that were presented internally to the CDF and that cover around 200 pages written in Latin. These reports have since been kept under wraps until now. Thus there are other internal texts of the CDF, which were not known, acts of deliberations, contributions, and opinions of other consulting theologians of the CDF.
Likewise, I was able to find a good number of writings that reached the CDF and even the Holy Father, Pius XII, in defense of the suitability of Fr. Kentenich, of his teachings and practices, as well as clarifications in relation to the spirituality and pedagogy of Schoenstatt, and of the significance of the person of the founder for the Family of Schoenstatt. Many of them do not exist in the documentation for the cause.
What consequences do you think that the publication of the accusations in question has caused?
With the investigation of these documents and with the controversy that has arisen as a result of the accusatory and infamous publications against Fr. Kentenich of these last months, the accusations and defamations that Fr. Kentenich suffered after the visitations and during the time of his exile have been revived, in part and to some extent.
I think that it can be said that, for the current generation of the Family of Schoenstatt, this situation is motivating and even demanding a more in-depth study of this stage of the history of Schoenstatt and of knowing and understanding the person, the life, and the charism of its founder more profoundly.
Likewise, all this controversy helps us to remember that Fr. Kentenich is a human being, who has limits, who was not infallible, who could make mistakes and sin (he confessed regularly), who did not always receive the results that he expected, and who could err in the judgement and understanding of some people who collaborated with him in founding Schoenstatt.
Obviously, Fr. Kentenich was not born a saint. And if he became a saint, it was through his path of life and through a rather hazardous history, in which he always struggled to allow himself to be guided by Divine Providence, to carry out the will of God, and to place himself in the hands of Mary, his mother and educator, aspiring to reach the ideal of sanctity. If he reached this ideal or not is what the Church must come to declare, after careful investigation of his life and work, through the process that is being carried out.
However, without ignoring that evidently Fr. Kentenich had limitations and erred like every human being, he was never accused by the CDF of acts of immorality or of abuse and violence against any person. Fr. Kentenich himself, insofar as he came to know some accusations and defamations in this regard, categorically denied them. And because of the confrontation that he had with the Supreme Tribunal of the Church, we can be sure that the CDF did not cover up or turn a “blind eye” to offenses of this type.
Finally, I think that we have to thank this current controversy which will help us to know and understand the person of Fr. Kentenich and his charism with greater realism, depth, and breadth.
Is any publication planned focusing on the investigated contents?
Naturally. A more complete, well-founded, and authoritative publication will probably take a long time. For this, we also have to await for the investigations of the Historical Commision, made up of experts, that is being constituted by the Bishop of Trier, who is responsible for the cause of beatification of Fr. Kentenich. This commission will also need time to study the archives of the CDF.
In what way can studying these documents contribute to the mission of the Church today, in the time of Pope Francis?
Without being able to enter now to make a pertinent analysis, but taking into account the accents that have been highlighted in Pope Francis’ pontificate, which promotes a renewal of the life of the Church and its mission, I think that its contribution goes in the sense of an evangelizing Church, open and that goes out, who wants to reach all people of good will and especially the weakest, a Church who values each person, who emphasizes the mercy of God, the reality of human smallness, and the value of human relationships of fraternity in a culture of encounter, to highlight some aspects.
I think it can be said that there is a great harmony with the charism and mission that Fr. Kentenich believed he received from God. Studying the spirituality of Schoenstatt, his pedagogy, his analysis of the present time, and, finally, his work, it can be clearly perceived that Fr. Kentenich gave his life and staked everything to promote a profound renewal of the life of the Church, in harmony with Vatican II, projecting it toward the third millennium, responding, and even anticipating, the profound cultural changes that our time is experiencing, to generate a new covenant culture.