Antoinism : Divorce and Cults

Report on the placement of the children of an Antoinist mother in an open environment for educational assistance (*)

In May of 1996, Monsieur Eddy Timbert left his wife and family and moved in with his mother. Later he filed for a divorce. The divorce was pronounced on 23rd September 1999 with blame equally apportioned to both parties. The ex-wife, Sandrine Dremière, appealed that decision in cassation but she lost the case. Her ex-husband had apparently stated that his wife was an Antoinist. (1).

On the 16th December 1999, the children’s judge, Françoise Dupuis, ordered that the children be educated in an open environment by an association which provides specialised services for children and teenagers in difficulty (ADSSEAD) for a year, starting from the following day, the 17th December 1999. There were various reasons for this ; firstly the educational assistant questioned the mother’s actual ability to take into account the needs of the children , and she wanted to leave sufficient time to provoke the parents into trusting and communicating with each other. At the same time, the judge ordered a medical and psychological investigation of the children to determine how their education should best be directed.

The teachers submitted their report on the 12th March 2001. The children were removed from their family and placed under the authority of the ADSSEAD. Until June 2001, they were only allowed to visit their mother at home for two hours every fortnight.

In June 2001, following a case at the appeal court of Douai aimed at getting back the children, visitation rights were extended, and alternating visits with the father were arranged. The educational assistant who promised to return the children within four months was transferred to another place.

At the end of September 2001, the ex-husband made a written request to the children’s judge that the children be returned to their mother.

According to the children’s grandmother who got in contact with me, the educational assistants, the social worker (Madam Delplanque) and the psychologist (Monsieur Berquet) all played a role in the placement of the children. She explained that when they visited her home, they met Monsieur Fosse (deceased 11th May 2001), who had been the priest in charge of the Antoinist temple of Valenciennes, who was present, but was not interviewed by them. She also stated that the educational assistant, Madame Dens, whose son went to the same school as Cindy and Céline (Institution Ste Marie), had been told by the social worker about the mother’s religion and that she went to get more information from the headmistress of the school.

In a letter which was passed to the mother’s solicitor and transmitted to the judge, the headmistress of Ste Marie assured that the children were good students and that she would gladly have them back at her school.

According to the grandmother, the children are in a closed environment. The educational assistant Mr. Teneur realised that something was not normal; hence his transfer. He is the children’s referent.

The mother’s solicitor has had the case reopened and a referent educational assistant is to be appointed. She will carry out an enquiry, following which the judge will make a decision.

The children are driven each day to their schools in Rumegies and Sebourg by the teachers. The parents have not received any school report. The children’s mother has asked for a psychological examination of the children, who are very disturbed and asking what is happening to them.

The grandmother had originally naively written to a French association called ADFI (Association for the Defense of the Family and the Individual) to ask its advice, as she believed that the association protected families. ADFI sent her the list of dangerous cults which had been drawn up by the French parliamentary commission into cults, and included a mention of Antoinism as a healing cult. However, Antoinism is a recognised religion in France (Law of 1905-1097).

The children were not going to the temple, and the grandmother says she is followed in the street when she goes to the temple.

(*) This was a first report compiled after an interview with the grandmother before the other parties had been interviewed.

(**) Head lecturer in social psychology at the University of Lille

Member of the board of directors of Human Rights Without Frontiers International

Régis Dericquebourg, Les Antoinistes, Maredsous, Brepols, 1993

ADFI, Association for the Defense of the Family and the Individual (an anti-cult movement)