Prominent Legionary Priest bids farewell to Regnum Christi [Addenda]
Father Richard Gill, who with other highly respected members of the Legionaires of Christ (LC) called in February for an authoritative intervention by the Holy See, has announced he is “leaving” his post as head of Regnum Christi (RC) in New York to become a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.
He writes that after 29 years with LC and “having “participated extensively” in the Apostolic Visitation:
I’m leaving more because the manner in which the Legion has handled the revelations since the Vatican took action against Fr. Maciel in 2006 has left me often frustrated and totally distracted. I’ve tried my best to communicate with the superiors over this past year, and they have been gracious and generous taking the time to listen. I believe I have had the opportunity to get my point of view across to them …
My conclusion is that the reforms needed in the Legion (which the scandals have made clear) simply won’t happen in the foreseeable future with the current leadership’s approach to the matter.
His loss of confidence is a marked change from February, Thomas Peters notes, when as Director of RC in New York he wrote:
I am confident that our superiors are working closely with the appropriate dicasteries of the Holy See to chart the best course forward for the Legion of Christ so it can be of better service to the Church and the Holy Father.
In that letter Gill also wrote, to his credit:
I am deeply sorry to the people who have suffered from these inexcusable and reprehensible actions of Fr. [Marcial] Maciel. No person should have to suffer abuse at the hands of a priest in whom they have put their trust. And his actions have damaged the holiness of the Church and contributed to the alienation many people feel due to similar scandals in the Church.
Gill’s exit was preceded by that of Fr. Thomas Berg, who in February in a letter to RC apologized to Maciel’s “alleged victims” and to all of the members of RC. He resigned in May, saying, “In my opinion, the serious issues within the congregation will require its thorough reformation if not a complete re-foundation.”
The final report of the Apostolic Visitation is due in March, and the roll kept by Exiting Legionaries of those who have left LC/RC, grows. Possibly more quickly as the prominent leave to pursue their priestly vocations elsewhere. And the possibility of meaningful action seems to grow ever more dim.
Patrick Madrid explains today that resignations like Gill’s have in the past been carefully hushed up:
Historically, the Legion has been very intent on preventing the news of defections from the order by its priests and seminarians from becoming known among the rank and file membership of the Legion and its lay affiliate, Regnum Christ. The euphemism that “Father So and So has been reassigned to a different front” has long been a standard opaque response given when someone inquires as to why a certain LC priest is suddenly no longer around.
But with Father Gill’s open letter explaining the reasons for his leaving to seek incardination as a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, there can be no doubt as to why he left and where he went. I suspect that more than a few of his LC confreres will follow his lead and that of other Legionaries who exited before him because the scandals and the mishandling of the scandals which have engulfed the order over the past year.
In a post written before Gill’s resignation, Gary Stern argued in effect that the strategy of ignoring and hushing up the issue as much as possible was succeeding:
Even Marj Silk doesn’t mention the surest proof that the [Catholic child sex abuse] scandal has faded from public consciousness: the lack of media coverage given the demise of the Legionaries of Christ.
In a small nutshell: Pope John Paul II was enamored with the Legionaries, a fast-growing, very traditional Catholic order of priests that was founded in 1941 in Mexico by Marcial Maciel. The pope ignored allegations by about a dozen former seminarians that Maciel had sexually abused them.
In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI publicaly retired Maciel from ministry, without saying why. But it was obvious.
This past February, the Legion itself disclosed that Maciel had fathered children and lived a “double life.” The Vatican is now investigating the order.
The whole story is set out in journalist Jason Berry’s video “Vows of Silence.”
One can argue that the tale of Maciel and the Legionaries is a microcosm of the larger sex-abuse scandal. Allegations of abuse were made and the church—in this case, the POPE—either looked the other way or ignored the evidence. What did he know? When did he know it?
. . .
The religion story of the decade still inspires curiosity, but no more.
Almost. Except that the inexorable drumbeat of events keeps driving the overarching story back to the surface.
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