Legionaries' future in the balance
The result of Rome's investigation (known as an "apostolic visitation") into the Legionaries of Christ will result in either the dissolution or the re-founding of the order, according to sources close to the Legionaries in Spain. There, a Basque bishop, Ricardo Blazquez, is in charge of the visitation; in the US, it is being led by the Archbishop of Denver, Charles Chaput. Their main task, apparently, is to assess whether the order's members will be accepting of whatever Rome decides.
Dissolution would mean the houses, universities and other properties of the Legionaries would pass into the hands of the dioceses where they are located.A new institute could then be founded.
Fr Marcial Maciel founded the Legionaries of Christ in Mexico in 1941. The Legionaries have 3,250 male members, of whom 850 are priests. The order also has about 1,000 consecrated women, and some 60,000 members of Regnum Christi, the lay branch.
According to a former Legionary quoted by the Spanish religious journalist Jose Vidal, the ordinary priests and members of Regnum Christi, want a root-and-branch reform --if necessary, by means of a dissolution -- in order to give a new institute a fighting chance. But the order's leaders are fighting a defensive rearguard action, arguing that they knew nothing of the double life led by Maciel, and were therefore neither accomplices in his abuses nor did they attempt to cover them up.
While the leaders admit that Maciel had a mistress and a child, and are keen to distance themselves and the order from him, they are treading carefully, aware that no order has ever survived the repudiation of its founder.
There seems to be a difference between the Americans and the Spaniards. The Americans want to get at the root of the problem quickly: they favor sacking the current leadership and making amends with Maciel's victims. The Spaniards, on the other hand, are more inclined to defend their current leaders.
If Pope Benedict decides to re-found the Legionaries, he would be unlikely to keep the current leaders in post. However ignorant or otherwise they were of what Maciel was up to, they bear responsibility for what happened -- and for the cult of personality which enabled it to happen.
The fear of rank-and-file Legionaries, according to this ex-member, is that the Pope fails to get at the root of the problem. Keeping on the current leaders, they believe, would send the opposite message.
And then there's Pope Benedict's need to be seen to dealing with clerical violations of the sixth commandment. This, after all, was among the best publicized and most damaging.