VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is denying it is protecting the founder of a Peru-based conservative Catholic community who is accused of sexual and psychological abuse against minors and is being sought by Peruvian prosecutors.

A letter from the Vatican's office of religious orders acknowledged it had instructed Luis Figari to stay away from the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae community and required him to seek permission before leaving Rome, but said it never impeded his return to face charges.

Figari has been living in relative seclusion in Rome for years. An independent investigation concluded he was a paranoid narcissist obsessed with sex and watching his underlings endure pain and humiliation.

The Vatican in January took over Sodalitium, a conservative movement that has some 20,000 members and chapters throughout South America and the U.S.