A letter regarded with some skepticism by critics has been sent to the members and friends of Regnum Christi, the lay group associated with the Legionaries of Christ. It extends “a special apology on behalf of the Legion” to victims of their founder’s sexual misconduct, and announces recent efforts to move forward.
The letter comes less than a month after reports that Legionaries of Christ founder Marcial Maciel fathered perhaps six children. Not merely the one revealed on Feb. 3. And those revelations were attended by news that some are pursuing legal action seeking compensation from the $250-million-a-year organization.
The American Papist argues that the allegations suggest several conclusions:
- Fr. Maciel was an extraordinary, calculating fraud and he ought to be acknowledged as such by the leaders of the Legion and Regnum Christi alike.
- The breadth of Fr. Maciel’s crimes makes it nearly impossible that other members of the Legion did not know of them, and they ought to be brought to justice.
- The serious financial infraction of misusing lay resources (money, property, etc) for the upkeep of Fr. Maciel’s mistress and his other escapades demands restitution.
- The ongoing revelations about Fr. Maciel and his enablers requires an intense examination, person-by-person, of those still charged with the movement’s leadership.
Coverup has long been the the Legion’s approach. An earlier, incomplete letter. Well-time revelations. Those preceded legal actions to silence former members and suppress documents. But some documents affirming the Legion’s cult-like practices still leaked out and are available for download.
The implosion of the Legionaries of Christ is “unique in modern church history,” writes Jason Berry of New Orleans for the Hartford Courant. This is the result of issues which date to the 1950s, Berry explains in the Hartford Courant:
In 1997, Gerald Renner and I reported in The Courant on sex abuse accusations against Maciel by nine men who had been Legion seminarians in Spain and Rome in the 1950s. Juan Vaca, who said his abuse began at age 12, produced documents he sent to the Vatican in the 1970s and in 1989, to Pope John Paul II. Each time, the Vatican failed to act.
There is now a Vatican inquiry under way. As we have suggested since February, Maciel’s history of predation and his cult leadership style shaped the order’s culture. An outside investigation was required. What of changes in leadership, which are plainly also needed?