Marthe Robin at the Heart of a Controversy

October 08, 2020
Marthe Robin (1902-1981)

In a posthumous work, an author recognized in matters of spirituality and brought in to investigate Marthe Robin, has denounced her as a “mystical fraud.” The supporters of the “mystic” are denouncing a “communication coup” intended to block the beatification of the “stigmatic of Châteauneuf-de-Galaure.”

Fr. Conrad de Meester, OCD (1936-2019) dedicated his life to the study of the great figures of contemporary spirituality: his works on St. Teresa of the Child Jesus and on Elisabeth of the Trinity are outstanding.

This is why his latest work entitled La fraud mystique de Marthe Robin - published on October 8, 2020, less than a year after the author’s death on December 5, 2019 - is likely to disturb many faithful, who see in the peasant woman of Drôme, an iconic figure of the charismatic nebula.

The book, published by Editions du Cerf, exposes the expertise of the Carmelite theologian, one of the 28 in a Roman beatification process, spread over ten years, which contains some seventeen thousand pages of investigation, and seven hundred testimonies.

A Favorable Investigator Turned Skeptical

In 1988, at the request of the Bishop of Valence, Mgr. Didier-Léon Marchand, Fr. de Meester began to investigate Marthe Robin. Fr. Carlos Noyen, who knew the author well, remembers that “he considered her a genuine mystic and was ready to help advance this cause of canonization.” But soon he began to doubt and formed a completely different opinion.

The conclusions formulated by Fr. de Meester, which reached the office of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, are severe, and without appeal: Marthe Robin was a “compulsive plagiarist,” a “deliberate forger.” And even a “manipulator” who made use of the “voluntary construction of a fiction.”

The report is a case of bad timing for the image of the founder of the Foyers de charité, already tarnished by the investigation into her spiritual director, Fr. Finet, who was accused of abuse within the young community.

Samuel Pruvot, editor-in-chief of Famille Chrétienne, from the charismatic movement, protested on September 25: he contested the methods of the Dominican publishing house, which “only puts the magnifying glass on one of the expert reports of the canonization process.” With the result “of presenting a very partial view of the case.”

According to the journalist, the Carmelite theologian would have finished by “becoming a prisoner of himself and of his own positions,” opposed in principle to the “mystic of Châteauneuf.”

In Rome, Fr. de Meester's advice was not followed: in 2014, the Sovereign Pontiff recognized Marthe Robin’s “heroic virtues,” paving the way for a beatification procedure that could prove to be compromised, or at least delayed by the publication of the posthumous work.

“If the Vatican thinks he (Conrad de Meester) was wrong, why not tell him?” asks Fr. Noyen. Because Rome has never, according to him, responded to the objections raised by the since published expert opinions.

According to him, two weeks before his death, Fr. Conrad confided in his community: “Publish the book; I can no longer do it for myself.”

Marthe Robin is presented as a mystic who lived in Châteauneuf-de-Galaure. Illness kept her bedridden and reclusive for most of her life. She had presented various mystical phenomena: visions, stigmata, and complete fasting from 1930. She founded the Foyers de Charité with Fr. Georges Finet, and was involved in many foundations of charismatic circles.