An explosive new book has accused French ‘mystic’ Marthe Robin of fraud.

– Flemish Carmelite says world-famous mystical experiences all fake

The allegations against Robin (1902-81) – who became famous the world over in her lifetime for her ecstatic experiences, the weekly appearances of the wounds of Christ on her body and her reputed fifty-year diet of nothing but the Eucharist – are contained in a new book out October 8, as Hendro Munsterman reports in the Nederlands Dagblad.

The title of the new book – published by prestigious Catholic theological publisher Editions du Cerf – translates in English as The mystical fraud of Marthe Robin.

Though the 416-page work is not yet available to the public, Munsterman said he had access to a 158-page Dutch summary – Marthe Robin. Mystic or Hysteric? – that will be published by the Flemish Carmelites on October 8, the same day as the French book.

Calling the new book a “bomb” soon to drop in the Catholic world, Munsterman writes that the author of the work is Father Koen De Meester, a Flemish Carmelite expert on mysticism who before he died in 2019 also authored books on great female saints such as Thérèse of Lisieux, Elizabeth of the Trinity and Edith Stein.

– Accusations of plagiarism, simulation of blindness and paralysis, faking the stigmata…

De Meester’s investigation of Robin’s life began in 1988, when the then-Bishop of Valence in France – the diocese to which Robin belonged – asked De Meester to study more than 4,000 typed pages the ‘mystic’ left behind in her lifetime, in the context of her then-newly-launched cause for sainthood.

It is that study of Robin’s life that has now fed into De Meester’s posthumous book, but it was a disappointing experience, to judge by what the Flemish Carmelite writes in the final sentence of the work: “Nothing of my years of positive judgement on the mystic Marthe Robin remains”.

The harsh judgment De Meester passes on Robin is based on accusations of her plagiarising other spiritual authors, simulating blindness and paralysis, secretly writing texts herself that she claimed were dictated to secretaries and faking signs of the stigmata.

– “Cunning and devilish” or humble and modest? Foyers de Charité members defend their founder

De Meester’s new book is sure to come as a heavy blow to the Foyers de Charité movement Robin founded in 1936, which today brings together priests and laymen and women in 42 countries around the world in communities devoted to the new evangelisation.

The movement is still reeling from the results of an internal commission that found in May last year that priest Georges Finet – who mentored Robin for many years and co-founded the Foyers de Charité with her – sexually abused at least 26 underage girls.

But the Foyers de Charité members that the Nederlands Dagblad spoke to were reluctant to believe De Meester’s claims about Robin.

Yvonne Willemse of the Foyer de Charité Marthe Robin in Thorn, in Limburg in the south of the Netherlands, said that De Meester’s investigations only formed a small part of an extensive beatification process for Robin that yielded 17,000 pages of paperwork.

Moreover, De Meester’s objections to Robin’s cause have since been investigated and “sorted out”, Willemse insisted.

Willemse also recalled that all those who knew Robin in life praised her for her modesty, simplicity and humour. But those are not exactly the adjectives De Meester uses to describe the ‘mystic’, preferring instead labels such as “shrewd”, “cunning” and even “devilish” due to the extent of her alleged fraud.

The postulator of Robin’s cause for sainthood, Sophie Guex, reminded the Nederlands Dagblad that De Meester was just one of 28 experts invited to investigate the life of the mystic in the diocesan phase of the beatification process.

Insisting that De Meester’s conclusions have been “taken into account” in Robin’s path to possible sainthood – and that explanations to his searching questions have been forthcoming – Guex explained the plagiarism accusations in terms of a “progression” in Robin’s life.

While during her youth Robin still “use[d] the words of others” to describe her mystical experiences, after 1948 – “when she reached her spiritual maturity” – she no longer did so, according to Guex.

– A headache for the author… and for the Vatican

Pope Francis recognised Robin’s heroic virtues in 2014 and at that point declared her ‘Venerable’, one of the stepping stones along the road to sainthood.

But that was over the objections of De Meester, who adapted his book from the document he sent both to the Valence diocese and to Rome, receiving no official response from the latter.

According to Ghent Carmelite Father Carlos Noyen – who collaborated on the French and Dutch-language editions of the new book on Robin – it was “very difficult for De Meester… to discover the truth’ about the ‘mystic’, but the author felt that the truth had to be told.

Two weeks before De Meester’s death, he said to his fellow Carmelites: “Publish that book, I can’t do it anymore”.

That suffering De Meester endured is likely now to be replicated both in the Foyers de Charité communities and also in the Vatican, where Robin has long been touted as an inspirational potential saint.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.