The Legionaries survive

The Legionaries of Christ will not be closed down but face a "path of purification" says the Vatican in the wake of a detailed report.

Revelations that the order's Mexican founder, Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, was a serial paedophile who secretly fathered children, have shattered the Legionaries and raised questions about whether the order can or should be allowed to continue. 


The answer is "yes" -- but it faces a root-and-branch reform under a new head appointed by the Pope, according to a Vatican statement put out after a two-day meeting between the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and the five bishops appointed to carry out a thorough investigation of the order. The "Visitation" involved interviews with more than 1,000 Legionaries and hundreds of written testimonies.

The stern statement begins by acknowledging that "the behavior of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado has had serious consequences for the life and structure of the Legion, such as to require a process of in-depth revision". But Legionaries did not know of this behavior, it says, because Maciel was "untouchable":

The very serious and objectively immoral behavior of Father Maciel, as incontrovertible evidence has confirmed, sometimes resulted in actual crimes, and manifests a life devoid of scruples and of genuine religious sentiment. The great majority of Legionaries were unaware of this life, above all because of the system of relationships built by Father Maciel, who had skillfully managed to build up alibis, to gain the trust, the confidence and the silence of those around him, and to strengthen his role as a charismatic founder.

Not infrequently, the lamentable discrediting and dismissal of whoever doubted his behavior was upright, as well as the misguided conviction of those who did not want to harm the good that the Legion was doing, created around him a defense mechanism that made him untouchable for a long time, making it very difficult to know his real life.

Discovering the truth about the founder "has caused the members of the Legion to experience surprise, bewilderment and deep pain", the statement goes on.

But it avoids implicating the Legion's current leaders in Maciel's double-life. While it is obvious that almost all Legionaries were ignorant, it strains credulity to believe that Maciel's close companions were. Many had taken vows of loyalty to him, vowing never to speak badly of him. 

But that is the line that Fr Luis Garza Medina, the Legionaries' vicar general, was sticking to in an interview last week with La Repubblica: he was not aware of the abuse until after Father Maciel was punished in 2006, and did not believe it until the evidence was overwhelming. Even if that were true, however, Fr Garza's contention that "the Founder's behavior seemed impeccable" is rather hard to square with Jason Berry's recent revelations -- or with the Visitors' description above of Maciel as "devoid of scruples and of genuine religious sentiment".  Did no one around him really notice nothing? And whose confidence and silence did Maciel not gain, if not those of the order's leaders?

The other issue carefully avoided by the statement is any examination of how Maciel could carry on the way he did for so long because of the powerful patronage of Pope John Paul II and top Vatican officials such as Cardinal Sodano. Whether or not this was looked at by the five bishops is something we shall probably never know.

The visitors have identified three areas for attention:

a) the need to redefine the charism of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, preserving its true core, that of the “militia Christi” that characterizes the apostolic and missionary activity of the Church and is not the same as prizing efficiency at any cost;

b) the need to review the exercise of authority, which must be joined to the truth, to respect the conscience, and develop itself in the light of the Gospel as authentic ecclesial service;

c) the need to preserve through appropriate formation the enthusiasm of the faith of young members, their missionary zeal and their apostolic dynamism. In fact, the disappointment about the founder could call into question this vocation and the core of the charism which belongs to the Legionaries of Christ and is their own.

These suggest deep flaws in the Legion's internal culture which have long been pointed out by the Legion's critics. The first is the way it can appear to mimic an efficient corporation or militia, making an idol of loyalty and discipline. The second refers to the authoritarian culture of the organization, hostile to conscience and freedom of thought. The third makes the point that the attractiveness of the order to young people raises the question of how deep their enthusiasm goes.

Pope Benedict, the statement concludes,

wishes to assure all Legionaries and members of the Regnum Christi Movement that they will not be left on their own: the Church is firmly resolved to accompany them and help them on the path of purification that awaits them. It will also mean dealing sincerely with all of those who, within and outside the Legion, were victims of sexual abuse and of the power system devised by the founder: They are in the Holy Father’s thoughts and prayers at this time, along with his gratitude to those of them who, even in the midst of great difficulties, had the courage and constancy to demand the truth.

This is an important acknowledgement, for the Legion's ex-seminarians who first stepped forward to allege they had been sexually abused by Maciel faced enormous hostility and have had to wait many years for their vindication. The Vatican is grateful for their "courage and constancy to demand the truth". 

The truth -- and a reminder that the "indestructible foundation" of the Legion is the call of Christ -- hold out the possibility of the order's renewal. 

But more will need to come out. And further action taken.

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John Raymer
8 years 8 months ago
Jesus said "Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit nor can a bad tree bear good fruit."

Organizations are rooted in the vision of their founder. The vision of the founder remains even after the founder is gone. That founding vision cannot be undone without completely tearing down and rebuilding the organization.

The Legionaries will never overcome the evil vision of Marciel and will remain plagued by Marciel's evil for ever. The Church would have been well advised to completely disband the organization, sell all the assests on the secular market or to secular authorities, and then allow the individual members to repent and apply to other organizations within the Church or become laicized.

"Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

The only reason the Catholic Church has survived for 2000 years is that it is rooted in the vision of its Founder, in spite of all our efforts to overcome that vision.
8 years 8 months ago
A sure way for the Vatican to go further under water is to embrace the Legion with some pious claptrap. I see it coming too by the ones heading the 'INVESTIGATION'..gurgle gurgle then surface and yell help !!! 'it's  the media'.    
8 years 8 months ago
How much of a ''root-and-branch'' reform can there be with Pople Benedict leaving the entire upper level of authority in place?

Is this indicative of what Benedict has in mind for the European Church?

The results of not asking for the resignations of a number of enabling bishops in the U.S., from Mahony in Los Angeles to Murphy and McCormack in New England, all of whom have been documented as complicit in the enabling and covering up for close to 6,000, by their own count, clerical sexual predators, has been seen all over the country.

The tree, the Legion of Chirst, is rotten and by ''their fruits'' that fact is self evident.


Professor Marci Hamilton and Sister Maureen Paul Turlish on NPR's Radio Times on WHYY in Philadelphia, April 12, 2010

Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
Victims' Advocate
New Castle, Delaware
Gloria Sullivan
8 years 8 months ago
The only reason for the Legion to survive, is for the Vatican to get it's hands on their money and keep the money coming.  That's all they want and could care less what's been going on.  This is their MO in everthing they do.  Read the THIRD  SECRET OF FATIMA ''  before they change it. again.  Google the real 3rd Secret of Fatima.  The Vatican has an adulterated version, nothing like the REAL 3rd Secret. Better late than never.  The Apostasy, etc.  I'ts REAL all right!  Get out while you still have your soul.
h harvat
8 years 8 months ago
Quel relief!! The gravy train will continue. (As we all knew it would. -:) )
Jim McCrea
8 years 8 months ago
Agreed, hrh:
Let’s get real, folks. Until the Vatican can find geese that will lay more golden eggs at its doorsteps than have the LC and RC, there is not way they will be disbanded.
Anyone who doesn’t believe that money talks where the episcopacy walks is simply naive.
Carolyn Disco
8 years 8 months ago
All that money, those hyper-obedient seminarians, and RC members are just too much to pass up, as others note.
Survivor Jose Barba calls for a lay panel investigation of the Vatican's handling of the whole Maciel case, but of course we will never get that examination of conscience.
I am sure the visitators were enthralled with the promises of fidelity and obedience from  LC/RC, but they should have experienced what Archbishop O'Brien of Baltimore did with the Legion: all the pious words and promises meant nothing in action when the Legion went about its business as usual, much to O'Brien's dismay. The visitators were taken in, delighted I am sure, with all the obsequious deference on display.
Here is O'Brien on his experience with the Legion (visitators take note):
O’Brien: But what goes on in the one-on-one counseling … there seems to be a tendency to say, ‘We represent God. You can tell us anything, and you better believe that what we tell you is from God too. If your parents disagree, we know better. We’re in the God business, and they’re really not.’ This is a caricature, but it’s there.
They sponsor father/son weekends. The father drives 14 hours, brings the kid up to New Hampshire and drops the kid off at 11:00 at night. Where’s the father going to stay? Well, there’s a place about 40 miles away you can stay, so the father’s sleeping in the car overnight. Next day they’re ready for the hike, but no, the fathers don’t go, it’s just the counselors and the kids. That’s the tendency.
Who’s in charge of this? Who’s responsible? Each time you meet with an official, [they say], ‘Oh, no, that didn’t happen, did it? You should have let us know right away. That’s not right.’ But it happens over and over again.
Have you spoken with other bishops who have had experiences with the Legionaries and with Regnum Christi?
I did, briefly. Our chancellor has called, I guess, maybe half a dozen other chanceries involved. They can almost finish the sentence, every sentence. It’s the exact same tactic everywhere. It gets me, because these are good, solid clergy I’m speaking with in the Legionaries, but they all seem to be so surprised all the time. Now if they’re really convinced that they have been misled, there’s something about their judgment that has to be called into question.
Read the whole interview at
What happens with those dioceses that have banned the Legion? Minneapolis-St. Paul, Columbus OH? Do they have to accept the Legion going forward? You do NOT changes stripes with such a group - a militia, no less.
Carolyn Disco
8 years 8 months ago
There is a very lively thread about this same subject on dotCommonweal for those interested:
Dale Rodrigue
8 years 8 months ago
Does anybody think a conservative B16 will disband a conservative organization?
Come on now, let's be real!. 
It will be up to the next  pope to slowly dismember that powerful organization.  I read where they controlled the personal hygiene of seminarians even insisting they part their hair on a particular side.
Carolyn Disco
8 years 8 months ago
Larry Mulligan,
Thanks for your inside view of USCCB audits, to which I heartily doubt Cupich will respond. Congratulations for resigning to avoid participation in deception.
Perhaps our experience in NH can help clarify what you report. We had a unique situation where truly independent audits were done for four years by the state attorney general's office. They were part of a plea bargain non-prosecution agreement between state and diocese, not to indict the diocese for criminally endangering children, with perjury as part of the indictment.
Obstruction by the diocese began immediately. Bishop John McCormack took the state to court to challenge the type of audit to be done. He wanted a “compliance” audit, similar to a checklist where you indicate whether a program exists or not. The state wanted a “performance” audit where evaluations were done to determine not only that something existed, but that adopted measures were effective. (McCormack had been Law's delegate for sexual misconduct in Boston; was Cupich's predecessor at the USCCB c’tee.) The diocese lost in court, but state audits had been delayed 1½ to two years.
The results of the USCCB and state audits went forward separately but simultaneously. Comparing the bishops' audits to those by the AG was like night and day. See a partial review ''The bishops claim one thing, the state finds something very different...'' at
Where the USCCB audits found full compliance, often with commendation, the state found “critical gaps and issues which need to be rectified” and a need for “improvement in the program’s senior leadership’s demonstrable tone.”
Dioceses were in USCCB compliance one year if they had just selected a training program; no implementation until succeeding years. It took five years for USCCB auditors to have the right to see priest personnel files.
Larry’s distrust is well earned.
Carolyn Disco
8 years 8 months ago
Apologies, above comment re Larry Mulligan's post should be deleted here. Wrong thread; too many pages open at once.


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