The Legion of Christ today, May 1, received the statement of the Holy See regarding the apostolic visitation. The Legionaries thank the Holy Father and embrace his provisions with faith and obedience. We appreciate the hard work and dedication of the apostolic visitators. And we are grateful for the prayers of so many people of good will who have supported us at this time.
Removal of top Legionaries of Christ leadership is necessary and likely to attend actions following the apostolic visitation, Sandro Magister wrote in L’Espresso yesterday. It seems likely that “Vatican authorities will put the Legion under the command of an external commissioner endowed with full powers” over the organization, and findings suggest that the leadership must be replaced if renewal is to occur. For example:
According to some of the testimonies given to the apostolic visitors in recent months, some in this group knew about the founder’s double life, about the carnal acts he performed with many of his seminarians over the span of decades, about his lovers, his children, his drug use. But in spite of that, a fortress was built around Maciel in defense of his virtues, devotion to him was fostered among his followers, all of them unaware of the truth, his talents were emphasized, even among the upper hierarchy of the Church. This exaltation of the figure of the founder was so effective that even today it inspires the sense of belonging to the Legion among many of its priests and religious.
The cohesion of the leadership group, originating from its decades-long connection with Maciel, endures today in the bond that binds and subordinates everyone to Corcuera, and even more to [Luís Garza Medina, vicar general and director of the organization’s Italian province].
As a result, there are questions regarding whether to treat as “trustworthy” the “distancing of the Legion’s leaders from their founder, and in particular from the “sudden revelation” – or so they say – of his misdeeds?”
At the same time, the embedded leadership is taking steps to ensure its survival of the Pope’s installment of an external commissioner.
Freed from the annoyance of the visitors, and not yet subjected to the command of the commissioner, during this interim period which they are hoping will last for “several months” they are doing everything they can to consolidate their power and win the support of the majority of the 800 priests of the Legion, and of the other religious and lay members.
Maneuvering, reform and restoration? We will see.
The Legionaries of Christ’s leaders have apologized once again, and have in a formally constructed statement taken the extraordinary step of disowning their founder. On the Legion’s Web site, they said of their founder:
For his own mysterious reasons, God chose Fr Maciel as an instrument to found the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, and we thank God for the good he did. At the same time, we accept and regret that, given the gravity of his faults, we cannot take his person as a model of Christian or priestly life.
Christ condemns the sin but seeks to save the sinner. We take him as our model, convinced of the meaning and beauty of forgiveness, and we entrust our founder to God’s merciful love.
The language of the admissions seemed well calculated, like their well-timed admissions just over a year ago. For example, they said:
We had thought and hoped that the accusations brought against our founder were false and unfounded, since they conflicted with our experience of him personally and his work. However, on May 19, 2006, the Holy See’s Press Office issued a communiqué as the conclusion of a canonical investigation that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) had begun in 2004. At that time, the CDF reached sufficient moral certainty to impose serious canonical sanctions related to the accusations made against Fr Maciel, which included the sexual abuse of minor seminarians. Therefore, though it causes us consternation, we have to say that these acts did take place.
Indeed, “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, […], mindful of Father Maciel’s advanced age and his delicate health, decided to forgo a canonical hearing and ask him to retire to a private life of penance and prayer, giving up any form of public ministry. The Holy Father approved these decisions” (Communiqué of the Press Office of the Holy See, May 19, 2006).
We later came to know that Fr Maciel had fathered a daughter in the context of a prolonged and stable relationship with a woman, and committed other grave acts. After that, two other people surfaced, blood brothers who say they are his children from his relationship with another woman.
We find reprehensible these and all the actions in the life of Fr Maciel that were contrary to his Christian, religious, and priestly duties. We declare that they are not what we strive to live in the Legion of Christ and in the Regnum Christi Movement.
Their apology, however, was sweeping and inclusive. Most important was their commitment to provide continuing support to those who have been harmed:
It is also our Christian and priestly duty to continue reaching out to those who have been affected in any way. Our greatest concern is for them, and we continue to offer them whatever spiritual and pastoral help they need, hoping thus to contribute to the necessary Christian reconciliation. At the same time, we know that only Christ is able to bring definitive healing and “make all things new” (cf. Rev. 21:5).
Lest anyone wonder about the pope’s ability to impose the decisions he bases upon the apostolic visitation, they promised to accept those, whatever they are:
We will embrace with filial obedience whatever indications and recommendations the Holy Father gives us as a result of the apostolic visitation, and we are committed to putting them into practice.
Altogether the letter seemed not so much a dodge as a necessity, dictated by their circumstances, as they said.
For those who would swear that the Legion is fundamentally flawed at its very root and cannot be salvaged (and there are a good many in this camp), I would suggest they take careful note of the difference between the Legion and the women religious in the United States as to how each group has responded to their respective current apostolic visitations. A large number of communities of women religious are in open rebellion against Rome, resisting the visitation, and revealing their desire to do without the Petrine ministry, the male priesthood, and the “patriarchal” dogmatic theology of the Church, including the traditional definition of the Holy Trinity. In contrast, the Legion has turned confidently toward the See of Peter as to Our Lord Himself. It is not too much to say that the one thing necessary to fruitful ministry is an ongoing willingness to make the mind of the Church one’s own. If the Legion can do that—as a number of female religious congregations apparently cannot—then there are many, even among its just opponents, who would be well-advised to hold their fire.
Something about that comparison rankles.
The last Legionnaires’ apostolic visitation (1956-1959) & predicted March 2010 outcome [Updated: Plagiarism]
Cassandra Jones explains:
. . . it concluded obscurely and Father Maciel and the Legionaries were able to misrepresent it for fifty years afterward. But the visitation did occur and actually concluded that Maciel needed to be removed from office and that the Legionaries needed reform. The Legionaries defeated that first apostolic visitation with untruth, appetizing presentation, and the help of curial friends. This is something that anyone interested in the honest outcome of today’s visitation needs to be aware of.
Attending the article is an instrucitive timeline.
- Visitators will submit in their reports in mid-March, 2010.
- The order will not be dissolved but reaction will be stern and dismissals are expected.
- Current Legion leaders “are trying to disengage completely from the figure of” Maciel because Benedict has declared “zero tolerance” for pedophiles:
The Pope was visibly shaken by everything that he has learned about the life of the founder of the Legion of Christ, and the responsibility not only Maciel, but many of his colleagues, who are now trying to avoid its responsibility by ignorance and apologizing.
- The seminaries will be restructured.
- Many top leaders will be asked to resign, among them probably Alvaro Corcuera, the current General Director, whom many accuse of having “instigated” the silence around Maciel for many years.
Does all of that remind you of Ireland, where after decades of systematically concealed abuse is revealed in a stunning report, the pope is outraged and an Irish bishop’s resignation is accepted but thus far no one is going to jail? Nor, it seems, is the pope going to visit Ireland to apologize.
Just make some changes in top management, tidy up the offices and move on.
“El Salterio de mis días” (The Psalter of my Days), popular and long-venerated by members of the Legion of Christ as a work of Fr. Marcial Maciel’s spirituality, was plagiarized from a book by Spanish Catholic politician, Luis Lucía.
According to the Catholic News Agency, the plagiarism was disclosed in a recent, internally circulated Legion of Christ memorandum whose purpose was to further distance current members of the Legion from its founder.
The original book was “El Salterio de mis horas” (The Psalter of my Hours).
CNA reports that in it Lucía, a Spanish Christian Democrat, “reflected on his experience of being persecuted both by the Communist government during Spain’s civil war (1936-1939), and the Nationalist government of Francisco Franco, who condemned him to death, but later changed the sentence to life in prison.”
Investigators of the Legion of Christ (LC) and their lay organization, Regnum Christi (RC), were summoned to Rome in late October to give Benedict XVI a report on their investigation, according to the Spanish news agency eFe.
The investigation, called an “apostolic visitation,” is being conducted by Basque Bishop Ricardo Blazquez in Spain and by Archbishop of Denver Charles Chaput in the United States. It was provoked by the sexual and financial wrongdoings of RC founder Marcial Maciel and related events.
Translated, the eFe report says:
According to information provided to Efe by Legionary priests who are still within the religious congregation, but who disagree with the attitude of “secrecy” of their superiors, the apostolic visit is almost complete.
However, the visitors continue to work as some schools are lacking a visit, as in the case of Spain, and because there are still many people, especially the RC laity and consecrated persons, who have requested to be received by the visitors and give their testimony.
Apparently the Vatican was very interested in issues associated with taking control of the order’s assets, and with the willingness of LC members to obey Rome’s orders when action is taken:
[In addition to Maciel’s wrondoings] being investigated with emphasis are: “if the Legion’s constitutions correspond to those adopted at the time by the Holy See, on the financial issue and ownership of properties and facilities and, by express mandate of the Pope, in possible ‘coercion and control’ you bring back to consciousness of them in the consecrated members of the Legión,” sources told EFE.
The story portrays an organization whipsawed by distrust and dismay, awaiting action:
A Legionary priest, who occupies an important position in the LC and is still inside pending the decision of the Holy See at the end apostolic visit, summarized the situation to Efe:
“In the LC and RC at the moment there are three types of attitudes: those who still think that everything is false and that this is further proof that Christ calls us; those who have left and have gone out; and us who live with a tremendous frustration because of the secrecy of our superiors and are waiting on what the Pope decides and whether we convene a General Chapter.
“Everything that has been said is true,” says this priest, “and has been known to some LC superiors and to the Holy See for at least twenty years as acknowledged by the Vicar General, Luis Garza,pronounced at internal conferences this summer. ”
Apparently, eFe sources cast no light on exactly how the question of whether to dissolve, or refound LC/RC will be answered.
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?
Legionaires face no intervention from the Vatican, CathNews reports. An official from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life told Catholic News Agency that it is “too early” to tell if the Legion of Christ leadership can work through the issue.
Besides, the Vatican is too busy with controversy over holocaust-denying Bishop Williamson – one of the four schismatic bishops whose excommunication was lifted by the pope.
John Desmond, a well-regarded and widely-published Catholic journalist, reports that the Legionaries carefully timed their admission of the sexually predatory behavior of founder Fr Marcial Maciel:
My contacts assert that the convergence of these two big news events–the outrage prompted by the Bishop Willliamson affair, followed shortly afterwards by the new revelations regarding Father Maciel’s “double life” — was no accident: the order’s superiors and their ecclesial allies took advantage of the crisis surrounding Bishop Williamson to minimize the impact of the new disclosures regarding Maciel. The Mexican superiors, I’m told, believe the present tempest will blow over and the Legion will pull itself together and go on as before.
If that strategy works Maciel accomplices will not be detected.
Instead there will be, and there already is, denial.
Denial reported by the American Papist who attended a Mass celebrated last Sunday in this country, a Mass led by the head of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr Alvaro Corcuera. Attended by members of Regnum Christi, the lay group associated with the Legion of Christ, that Mass Fr Corcuera said:
On the topic of abuse, Fr Alvaro said that he does not have any specific access to information, and one cannot know what is true and isn’t (here, and at other points I will note, the exact content of his meaning wasn’t always clear – I was listening very carefully for what would be admitted, etc., but coming away it’s still hazy to me exactly what was said. Things were said, but often not in a definitive way.)
The same Mass concluded with a prayer which included the words:
Since the Legion and the Movement will be vigorous and will flourish as long as the spirit of our founder is present and active in our lives and behavior, we ask you to open our eyes to the urgency of learning, assimilating and passing on the doctrine, spirit, apostolic methods, genuine traditions, discipline and lifestyle of the Legion and Regnum Christi, just as our founder has made them known to us, since this is our responsibility.
Finally, I encourage you to speak to Legionary leadership, and even in the form of petition letters, demand nothing less than full transparency regarding the case of Fr. Maciel.
Demand that [Legionaries General Director] Fr. Alvaro seek an independent third party investigation (perhaps in the form of a temporary review board or Visitation team from the Holy See) into uncovering any Legionaries who may have been accomplices to Maciel.
Demand that a similar body guide Legionary leadership in introducing any needed reforms into the internal culture, methods and religious discipline of the Legion.