what does the report reveal about the role of the dominicans?


► Why this book?

After the revelations concerning the sexual and spiritual abuses committed by the Dominican brothers Marie-Dominique and Thomas Philippe, the prior provincial of the province of France of the Dominicans, brother Nicolas Tixier, wished to shed light on “the role of the Dominican institution” in the treatment of these excesses, and more broadly what may have “to make possible their journey in the Church”.

On January 30, 2020, he commissioned the historian Tangi Cavalin, a specialist in the Church of France and a good connoisseur of the order of preachers. This was based on several researchers: Caroline Mangin-Lazarus, Sabine Rousseau, Charles Suaud and Nathalie Viet-Depaule. It is his report which is published this Monday, January 30 by Éditions du Cerf in the form of a “historical investigation” of 700 pages, entitled The case. The Dominicans face the scandal of the Philippe brothers. If the work “within the commission, was discussed and carried out collectively (…) giving rise to rich exchanges »the book was written entirely by Tangi Cavalin.

► How did the author work?

The objective is not to designate “responsible and guilty”specifies the author in the introduction, nor “quantify the number of people who declare themselves victims” of the Philippe brothers, but to understand the “conditions that are both individual, institutionsocial and more generally social factors which made these events possible”. “How were these practices possible, consideringsands, tolerated, even encouraged, understood or underestimated, denounced? »

To carry out his investigation, Tangi Cavalin of course had access to the archives of the Dominican order, as well as to other funds, but “other places of power did not wish to make their contribution to understanding, at least within the time limits imposed by the investigation”he says.

Using written documents, but also testimonies, the book studies the role of the family of the Philippe brothers in their itinerary, their “a very specific way of being Dominicans” before their deviations are revealed to their religious superiors “mystical-erotic” leading to the sanction by the Holy Office of Thomas Philippe in 1956, then that of his brother the following year. “These trials reveal to the authorities the many facets of their influence”, then raises the author, but “To avoid scandal, everything is done to ensure that a blanket of silence is established on this affair intended to produce oblivion in all the places where it has been spotted”.


The book then retraces the rest of their journey as founders (L’Arche for Thomas Philippe, Brothers of Saint-Jean for Marie-Dominique Philippe) and the ambiguity of their relationship with their order, which they did not however left until their death (in 1993 for the first, in 2006 for the second). Tangi Cavalin does not omit the “political” dimension of the “case”, and the protections they benefited from inside and outside their order. “The facts reproached today to the Philippe brothers have always been covered by the appearance of a strict orthodoxy, the construction of powerful networks of support and an undeniable apostolic dynamism which have aroused fascination”, he recalls.

► What are its conclusions?

“The (Dominican) Order, as a collective, failed to grasp what was going on in their way of being Dominicans,” writes Tangi Cavalin, for whom the only “geographical distance” of the two brothers with their convents of belonging from the years 1960-1970 is not enough to explain it. From the 1940s to the 1950s, a secular woman, Madeleine Guéroult, assaulted by Thomas Philippe in the Eau Vive house he runs, “sounds the alarm and succeeds in making responsible authorities hear that inaction is unacceptable”. It is also a Dominican, member of the Roman Curia, who compiles the file leading to his conviction. But “the Dominicans of Saulchoir d’Étiolles, a few hundred meters away, with whom contacts are frequent, saw nothing or wanted to see nothing”.

A second wave of denunciations, for the same reasons, would emerge in the mid-1980s, brought first by families of nuns, then by women themselves, before being relayed by the media and leading to the it is now called “the scandal of the Philippe brothers”. “It will therefore have taken more than three decades for them to be heard by the Order and the Dominican province of France”, observes Tangi Cavalin, who meticulously analyzes the reasons and manifestations of this “repression”.


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