Sodalitium Christianae Vitae

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Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, better known in Spanish as the "Sodalicio de Vida Cristiana" ("Association, or Fellowship, of Christian Life" in English), is a Society of Apostolic Life founded by Luis Fernando Figari in Lima, Perú, in 1971 and approved by Pope John Paul II in 1997.

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV) is composed mainly of consecrated laymen but it also includes priests, who make promises of celibacy and obedience and who live in community. Married couples may also participate. The Sodalitium is closely associated with the Christian Life Movement and the Marian Community of Reconciliation for consecrated laywomen.

Society of Apostolic life[edit]

A Society of Apostolic Life is a group of men or women within the Catholic Church who have come together to live for a specific mission. Their members do not take religious vows, but instead make promises defined in the Code of Canon Law (731-755).

The institution of Societies of Apostolic Life can be directly traced to the Second Vatican Council. After the Second Vatican Council, the Church saw an opportunity to introduce this new form of Christian living as a response to contemporary culture.

After reading and reflecting upon the documents of Vatican II, Luis Fernando saw the creation of the SCV as a response to the Church's call after the Second Vatican Council.[citation needed]

While Societies of Apostolic Life are considered a new form of life in the Church, the idea of this way of living has roots that can be traced back as far as the 16th and 17th centuries with the foundations started by Philip Neri, Charles Borromeo, Pierre de Bérulle, Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Jean-Jacques Olier, Jean Eudes, and others. Members of these Societies undertake the goal of being fully dedicated to the apostolate and life in a fraternal community, with a formal commitment that order their lives to evangelize.[citation needed]

Luis Fernando has been quoted as saying, "The ecclesial movements, such as CLM —each with own traits and style— offer ambits of Christian life where people deepen their adhesion to the Lord Jesus. Therefore, in the CLM one can: deepen, live and celebrate one's faith, discover the wonders and gifts of God, express charitable solidarity, strive to give glory to God with one's everyday life, share paths and faith experiences with their peers who are searching —hungry for the Bread of Life, thirsting for the Living Water that satisfies the deepest longings of the human being. In the center of the CLM member's faith experience lies the aspiration (I) to live holiness, (II) to commit with ardor to the apostolate, and (III) to serve God and fellow brothers and sisters with generous and fraternal donation. These three dimensions are an expression of the vision of the Christian Life Movement for its way of living the faith of the Church, and its contribution to the construction of a Civilization of Love in the world."[citation needed]


The Sodalitium was started by Luis Fernando Figari in 1971. The group was formally consolidated during a ceremonial Mass in Lima, Peru.[1][2]

In 1972, after a meeting with the Luis Fernando Figari by the then Auxiliary Bishop of Lima, Most Reverend Germán Schmitz, Sodalitium was encouraged to freely thrive in the Archdiocese of Lima.

Later that same year, the Bishop of the Peruvian Andean Diocese of Huaraz, Most Reverend Fernando Vargas Ruiz de Somocurcio, promulgated a "Decree of Praise," inviting the members of Sodalitium to carry out apostolic missions in the territory of the diocese. This missionary experience is still practiced today and encouraged by Sodalitium members.

In 1977, Cardinal Landázuri promulgated a canonical Decree erecting Sodalitium Christianae Vitae as a Pious Society, according to the Code of Canon Law of 1917.

In 1988, through another decree, this time according to the new Canon Law Code, the Cardinal Archbishop approved the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae as an Association of Public Right within the Catholic Church.

Apostolic Society of Diocesan Right - In 1994, after obtaining the official nulla osta ("No obstacles") from the Holy See, the new Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Augusto Vargas Alzamora, formally erected the Sodalitium as a Society of Apostolic Life of Diocesan Right.

Three years later, in 1997 Pope John Paul II granted his Pontifical Approval to the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae as a Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right.

The Sodalitium is the first male religious society in the history of Peru to have received the approval of the Vicar of Christ. By 1997 there were already Sodalit communities in other countries. Five years later, in an Audience at Castelgandolfo in 2002, Pope John Paul II gave the Founder and Superior General a Letter of encouragement and praise.[3]

Pontifical Approval[edit]

The growth of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV) in different countries has been supported by many members of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.[4] Also, two of the SCV members have been ordained bishops. They are the Archbishop of Piura, Jose Antonio Eguren S.C.V.,[5] and the bishop of the Prelature of Ayaviri, Bishop Kay Schmalhausen S.C.V.,.[6] Parishes in the archdiocese of Lima[7] (Peru), diocese of Chosica[8] (Peru), archdiocese of Medellin (Colombia), archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro[9] (Brasil) and Archdiocese of Philadelphia[10] (USA) have been entrusted to the Sodalitium.

The Meaning behind the Name[edit]

Sodalitium Christianae Vitae is a Latin term which may be translated as "Fellowship of Christian Life".

The name was chosen by Luis Fernando Figari and some of his classmates at the Facultad de Teología Pontificia y Civil in Lima. Figari was then a student studying theology. A Jesuit priest, more advanced in Latin, helped compose the name Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, which reflected the ideas of Figari to start a new community that would maintain the characteristics of the consecrated lay life.[citation needed]

A Response to the Second Vatican Council[edit]

After the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, the ideas born out of the Council, especially the decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, about the apostolic work of the laity, began to influence Figari's spiritual director, Fr. Constancio Bollar.

Among other prescriptions, the Apostolicam Actuositatem suggests that:

1. the laity to "lead non-believers to the faith and to instruct, strengthen, and encourage the faithful to a more fervent life."

2. "modern conditions [require that the] apostolate [of the laity] be broadened and intensified…"

3. "the laity must take up the renewal of the temporal order as their own special obligation. Led by the light of the Gospel and the mind of the Church and motivated by Christian charity, they must act directly and in a definite way in the temporal sphere." 

4. A special emphasis be placed on the example given by the Virgin Mary as the model for the laity and their type of "spiritual and apostolic life".[citation needed]

The SCV believe that the Second Vatican Council (or Vatican II) has a great significance for the Catholic Church and the world in the 21st Century. They believe that contemporary society has a "culture of death", secularism and functional agnosticism that threaten humankind. The followers believe in addressing these issues through Christian-based solutions.[citation needed]


Formation for the consecrated life and priesthood has several stages. While these vary from community to community in name, length of time, and format, the following outline gives a general view of formation programs.[citation needed]


One may consider that formation begins with a preliminary stage of discernment. It is the time for searching for the answer to questions like, "What does God want of me?" A process of deepening the discernment is established. The aspirant has meetings and participates in certain activities while continuing his education or work. On a yearly basis, a person may be an aspirant for at least one to a maximum of three years.


A more formal relationship with the community occurs when a person becomes a candidate. It really is the proper beginning of the person's formative experience. It is a time of stronger commitment to Christian life and of discernment as to whether or not the consecrated life is God's call for him. At this stage candidates live with the community. This period enables the person involved to observe and participate in religious life from inside the community experience. It also gives the community an opportunity to see if the candidate has the characteristics, personal integrity and consistency required to live the Charism and the life of the community. The time span of this stage is two years.


This next stage of formation is called in some religious societies the novitiate. This is a special one to two year period which marks the person's official entrance into the community. Trainees spend time in study and prayer, learning more about themselves, the community, spirituality and their relationship with the Lord. Special periods of learning in practice are established to help make an assessment of the trainee's readiness and consistency. These periods are established with special attention to the trainee's requirements and to the principle of the convenience of change in environment in the formation process.

Marian Consecration[edit]

At the end of the main formative years, the Marian Consecration is a stage that prepares the person for temporary promises or vows.

Temporal Commitment[edit]

The person explicitly professes obedience, celibacy, as well as communication of goods and all other norms contained in the Constitutions approved by the Holy See. The temporal profession is renewed yearly. This period can have a duration of nine years. Final vows can be made after three years of temporary promises.

Perpetual Commitment[edit]

After this process of basic formation the person makes promises of obedience and celibacy perpetually in the Society, becoming a full member. A man studying for religious priesthood also has seminary training, where his time is spent studying theology, the Bible, the teachings of the church, and the skills he will need to be a priest.

Structure of the Sodalitium[edit]

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae is ruled by the Constitutions approved by the Holy See. The Constitutions establish the structure and the way the Sodalitium is governed. This structure is quite similar to other societies of consecrated life approved by the Holy See.

General Assembly[edit]

The General Assembly is the highest authority in the Sodalitium.

  • Superior General - Elected by the General Assembly.
  • Vicar General - Cooperates in the functions of service in authority with the Superior General, as well as in the duties of spiritual animation of the Society.

Superior Council[edit]

There are five Assistant Generals. They are elected by the General Assembly and each one of them is responsible of one of the Departments and Organisms in which the life and apostolic service of the Sodalitium is divided.

  • Regional Superior - For administrative reasons the Sodalitium is divided in Regions and Territories, which can be compared to that which most religious societies call Provinces and Regions. Responsible for exercising the service of authority in each Region is the Regional Superior, named with the consent of the Superior Council.
  • Regional Council - It's analogous to the Superior Council for each Region.
  • Superior of a Center - Centers are minor jurisdictions that may include one or more communities of common and apostolic life. Responsible for each Center is the local Superior.
  • Member in Charge of a community - The figure of the Member in Charge is inspired in the figure of the monastic orders and other societies of religious life that have followed them; they have a Prior with responsibilities in the service of authority in a community. The Sodalit communities usually have a member in charge, who helps the local Superior in the service to the brothers and the apostolate.[citation needed]

Apostolic Work[edit]

The basic elements of the Sodalitium's apostolic work include: apostolate with the youth, charity to the poor and persons in need, evangelization of culture, and the promotion of traditional family life.[11] According to the SCV, these works attempt to encompass all essential human realities for the proclamation of the Gospel.[citation needed]

Apostolate with the Youth[edit]

Since 1977, the Sodalitium and the Christian Life Movement have sponsored an International Youth Congress called Convivio. The Congress is for Catholic Youth who travel from around the world to experience an intense weekend, to reflect upon contemporary society, share their experiences, and explore the problems and challenges of their lives.[citation needed]

In 2010 Convivio Congresses were held in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, England, Peru, Angola, the Philippines and the United States in a total of 16 cities, reaching all continents. In total, tens of thousands of youth have attended these Congresses.[12]

Solidarity in Action and Charity Work[edit]

Solidaridad en Marcha (Solidarity in Action) is a social program and charity branch of the SCV. Its goals are human development and poverty eradication. Through third-party support, Solidaridad en Marcha runs social projects in health care, education, and community development. Some of their works include urban infrastructure development, the construction of water systems, transportation systems, community kitchens, parks and playgrounds, schools, daycare centers, chapels, community centers, and medical clinics.They also conduct a number of campaigns throughout the year that focus on assisting the poor and evangelization.[13]

As mentioned above, the SCV are concerned with what they call "solidarity with the poor", which includes apostolic work around the world to meet this concern.[14][15][16][17]

Evangelization of Culture and Youth[edit]

The Sodalitium shares the views of Pope Benedict XVI about the financial, environmental, and moral crises facing the world of today.[citation needed] Luis Fernando Figari believes that "this crisis has not arisen as a surprise," but that it is the "consequence of a process that has been building up for some centuries."[citation needed]

The Sodalit views the effects of nominalism, subjectivism, and relativism as key philosophies that have laid the foundation for this crisis.[citation needed]

According to Figari, the Sodalit sees the youth of today "immersed in a materialistic, superficial and consumerist world. They are aggressively bombarded by the sensual and agnostic messages of mass media. They are the children of the information and technological era," but believes that the Church is experiencing a "process of renewal" that considers the "unique characteristics of today's world" which must "make the Gospel accessible to the men and women of today."[citation needed]

The New Evangelization[edit]

For the Sodalitium, "has to be a very clear proclamation of the absolute singularity of the Eternal Word, incarnated in the womb of the Virgin Mary." They acknowledge that the "truth is the same today as it was yesterday, as the Lord Jesus is the same today and always." For them, a key component is humanization, which can be seen in both Gaudium et spes and Ecclesia in America that speak directly about the fulfillment of the human person that the Lord Jesus brings.[citation needed]

Figari and the Sodalitium believe that "the theme of Evangelization of Culture, [is] a core dimension of the process of the New Evangelization."[citation needed]

The Sodalit Family[edit]

The Sodalitium constitutes the nucleus of a spiritual family extended over four continents. Just as there are many members in an extended family, this particular Church reality has several branches which have come into being as a consequence of its development. Besides the Sodalitium, some of the different expressions of this spiritual family are:

Christian Life Movement[edit]

The Christian Life Movement is an international ecclesial lay Movement that is open to people of all ages. It was approved by the Holy See in 1994. With more than forty thousand members, it is by far the biggest branch of the Sodalit Spiritual Family.

Marian Community of Reconciliation[edit]

The Marian Community of Reconciliation are also known as the "Fraternas", who were erected as a Society of Apostolic Life of Diocesan Right in the Archdiocese of Lima in 2011.[18]

Servants of the Plan of God[edit]

The Servants of the Plan of God is a canonical society of consecrated women who wear a habit. They are also in the process of becoming a Society of Apostolic Life.

Controversies and Criticisms[edit]

Sodalitium Christianae Vitae as a conservative movement[edit]

Sodalitium Christianae Vitae is widely considered to be a conservative organization because of its strong stance against liberalism, secularism and Marxism, and its promotion of official Catholic doctrine in all matters, including issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. SCV has been strongly supported by members of the hierarchy including Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope John Paul II, Franciscan Cardinal Juan Landazuri Ricketts, Jesuit Cardinal Augusto Vargas Alzamora, Opus Dei Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, as well as from many other bishops.[19][20] Sodalitium Christanae Vitae has been criticized for its mobilization against Liberation Theology within the Catholic Church in Latin America, which was particularly influential during the 70's and 80's.[21]

In Peru, the Vatican's appointment of two bishops from the Sodalitium, in 2002 and 2006, together with the presence of 10 bishops affiliated to Opus Dei, has been seen as a notable boost to the conservative influence in the Catholic Church in the country.[22] On 2007, precisely when the legalization of therapeutic abortion was on the legislative agenda of the country, one of Sodalitium bishops, then President of the Peruvian Bishops Commission on Family, Childhood and Life, did direct lobbying for pro-life with the Peruvian government on abortion issues.[23] Earlier that year, there was great controversy when Bishop Kay Schmalhausen, member of SCV and Prelate of Ayaviri, removed from the prelature a priest committed to tenets of liberation theology with great outrage by many local priests.[24][25]

Internal discipline and recruiting practices[edit]

There are multiple allegations of psychological abuse, deprivation and questionable ascetical discipline, for testing the faith of young members of the SCV or recruiting them. An article about the Sodalitium in Caretas Magazine shows SCV members denying such rumors.[26] Pedro Salinas, a former member, describes during his membership to the SCV in the 1980s that he was "subject to absurd orders". Salinas "assumes that now the Sodalicios have learned from their errors and have evolved" but that when he was a member of the movement they had "sectarian characteristics".[27]

In November 2001, Peruvian TV program La ventana indiscreta featured a report featuring former members who claimed they had been the victims of psychological abuse and questionable recruiting practices.[28] Two days later, the report was reproduced online by Agencia Peru.[29] In it, former member Luis Eduardo Cisneros made similar claims about unorthodox disciplining measures, and "hardly ethical psychological methods for recruitment". Eduardo Alt alleged that his child has also been captured by the SCV at 16 years of age, developing hostilities towards his parents for their agnosticism and choice to marry young. Alt accused the SCV of recruiting him at an age far too young to make such an important decision in his life. Another former member, Jose Enrique Escardó Steck, highlighted extreme cases of abuse. In line with questions of extremism, Escardó cites that in the SCV one learns to be "half-monk" and "half-soldier". He cites being psychologically abused during his stay in the communal house. On many nights Escardó says he was forced to sleep on marble stairs. In one instance he had a knife pressed against his throat and was told to "push against it" to the point of breaking down in tears before being taken to an image of the Virgin Mary and being asked why he didn't have more faith in his superiors. Escardó stated also that he was made to hide in the bathroom when his mother tried to visit him.[30]

The newspaper El Comercio published an opinion piece by psychiatrist Manuel Fábrega claiming that the statements made in the report were 'opinions' regarding the SCV. He refuted the claims of harsh discipline on the grounds that athletes and soldiers must make sacrifices and be disciplined too, and suggested that SCV recruits were free to leave at any time. He considered the report was "aimed at damaging SCV image" and criticized the media for not "focusing on the good that SCV and other religious orders offer".[31] Also, in a letter to the director of 'La ventana indiscreta' and to the director of newspaper Expreso, Jesuit bishop Ricardo Durand Flórez, who had a long-standing relationship with SCV Vicar General German Doig "working on diverse projects" in the Catholic Church,[32] deplored the way SCV was treated in the report, which he considered stated 'so many hurting things, so far from truth'. Durand asked that, if possible, 'this damage may be repaired on TV'.[33][34] In the following issue of 'La ventana indiscreta', the report was then completed with an interview to an SCV member[35] (not reproduced online by Agencia Peru).

Another complaint against the SCV was filed to the Peruvian government in 2003 by a woman alleging that her 21-year-old daughter had been kidnapped by the SCV.[36] This complaint was dismissed by the Peruvian authorities after a due investigative process, in which they found that the daughter had not been deprived of her freedom at any time, that she lived in the same residence since she left her mother's house two years before the demand, that she had a regular job at the Peruvian British Cultural Association, that she also attended university classes, that she was an outstanding student of Architecture, that she was not part of any religious group, that she did not even consider herself a practicing Catholic. Moreover, the investigation verified that the mother suffered from psychological problems, that she had previously filed similar demands against other five people, that all of these were unrelated to SCV, that all those demands had also proved to be false, that they were caused by the mother's personal problems and by the fact that the daughter had left her parents residence at age 19 in 2001 with the intention of becoming independent, and that the daughter had been psychologically abused by the mother repeatedly.[37]

Relation to Political and Economic Power and the Dilution of Complaints[edit]

- According to Congressman Javier Diez Canseco, prominent leader of a Peruvian Socialist Party, the SCV, like other conservative movements within the church, are close to economic and political power. Likewise Diez Canseco has alleged that the SCV have a large list of complaints against them that have "always been diluted".[38]

Sex Scandals[edit]

The first one happened when consecrated lay man, Daniel Murguia Ward was caught in a motel in downtown Lima taking pictures to a naked minor in exchange for Pokémon pictures. The scandal was the first one within this community. Other pictures of minors were found in Murguia's camera. Murguia was sent to jail and expulsed from the community for sexual abuse and misconduct involving a minor.[39]

The second high profile scandal came years later. The SCV reveled that German Doig Klinge, who was second in the line when he died, had been guilt of sexual misconduct. These allegations were reveled by the SCV in a press release and the beatification process of Doig was stopped.[40]


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  22. ^ Jimenez, Beatriz (2008). "El Opus Dei copa obispados y arzobispados a nivel nacional". La República. Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
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  24. ^ "Ayaviri: Hostias Con Ají". Caretas (1960). 2007. 
  25. ^ "Nos Escriben". Caretas. 2007. Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  26. ^ "Los Once Mil Castos". Caretas (in Spanish) (1763). 2003. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  27. ^ "Los Once Mil Castos". Caretas (in Spanish) (1763). 2003. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  28. ^ 'La ventana indiscreta', Canal N, November 18, 2001.
  29. ^ "Los Misterios del Sodalicio". Agencia Peru (in Spanish). 2001. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  30. ^ "Los Misterios del Sodalicio". Agencia Peru (in Spanish). 2001. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  31. ^ Fábrega, Manuel (2001). "La verdad siempre se impone" (in Spanish). El Comercio. 
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  33. ^ Diario Expreso, Lima, Peru, November 24, 2001.
  34. ^ "Ex Obispo del Callao rechaza afirmaciones sobre comunidad del Sodalicio de Vida Cristiana" (in Spanish). RPP. 2001. 
  35. ^ 'La ventana indiscreta', Canal N, November 25, 2001.
  36. ^ "N/A url=". Congress of Peru. 
  37. ^ Peruvian National Police report 466-2003
  38. ^ Diez Canseco, Javier (2010). "Santos y pederastas" (in Spanish). La Republica. Retrieved March 17, 2010. 
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