Heavy drifts in an extraordinary school. For three days, from Monday, November 22, the Bourges criminal court will delve into the case of “Angelus”, an establishment out of contract in Cher where repeated educational violence would have taken place for seven years. On the dock: Father Régis Spinoza, 50, charismatic and controversial founder of the establishment, as well as two school supervisors. All three, presumed innocent, are notably accused of violence against the students for whom they were responsible.
“The Angelus adventure” began in 2009. Father Spinoza, traditionalist priest of the Institut du Bon-Pasteur wanted to found a boarding school for boys, inspired by the “Of divine pedagogy”. On the merits: courses “Totally overhauled” to allow students “To access Christian culture”. On the form, an education in ” hard “, semi-military where all authority is concentrated in his hands. In addition to his role as director, Father Spinoza is a teacher in several subjects, responsible for pastoral care and… confessor of the students.
The school opens its doors at the start of the 2010 school year and must operate according to the wishes of its founder, “Like a big family”. “A magnificent educational project on paper, but there was a deception in its execution. My 12 year old son was broken ”, will summarize a mother, who is a civil party in this case. It is by reporting parents that the school will definitively close its doors in June 2017, by order of the prefect.
What happened between the walls of the Angelus school? The police investigation to which The cross had access, described a violent closed door, under the exterior of an establishment ” old “. Under the pretext of welcoming young boys with difficult character (“Balls” who should have « dresser », in the words of a supervisor), a brutal system of discipline would have gradually replaced the pedagogy “Strict and benevolent” promised by the founder.
The various witnesses heard by the police depict students who are forced to do so, replacing a structural lack of maintenance staff. But also frequent deprivation of food, humiliating punishments, muscular physical corrections and forced isolation in the cold. Confronted with the testimonies of students describing repeated violence on his part, Father Spinoza denies or minimizes the facts and pleads that the various punishments were known to parents.
The out-of-contract establishment appears to have escaped almost all outside control during its seven years of existence. Because the school, admittedly linked to several institutions, has not been placed under the formal authority of any of them. The Angelus was first established as the school of the Institut du Bon-Pasteur, the society of traditionalist priests in which Father Spinoza was ordained. But the latter quickly seceded. He then appointed the father abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Randol to ensure “moral vigilance” … but without really defining the contours of his intervention. Finally, if the establishment obtained in 2016 a decree of recognition as a “Catholic school” from the diocese of Bourges, it remained, in practice, independent of the diocesan direction of education.
As early as 2012, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard pleaded with the former bishop of Bourges in a letter, for the establishment of more careful supervision: “The school remains too closely linked to the personality of Father Spinoza, to his temperament, his ideas”, warned the clergyman who was worried about the school extension project. And made this warning: “We must stop the machine before the disaster. “