Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Sandro Magister

3/16/2010 (4 years ago)

Chiesa (chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it)

Will a commissioner appointed by the Vatican take command of the Legionaries of Christ? This is the likely outcome of eight months of investigation.

Rebuilding from the ground up a congregation still deeply influenced by its disgraced founder will be an arduous enterprise.

Rebuilding from the ground up a congregation still deeply influenced by its disgraced founder will be an arduous enterprise.

Highlights

By Sandro Magister

Chiesa (chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it)

3/16/2010 (4 years ago)

Published in Europe


ROME, (Chiesa)  - In the thick of the storm rocking the Catholic Church on account of the sexual abuse committed against minors by priests, an end has come to the apostolic visit ordered by the Holy See among the Legionaries of Christ, the congregation founded by Marcial Maciel.

The Maciel case is extreme in every way. It pushes the contrast between image and reality to exaggerated limits. Between the beatified image of the priest founder of an ultra-orthodox, ascetical, devout religious congregation, flourishing with vocations, some of them exemplary, and the reality of a dissolute second life, made up of incessant violations not only of the vows but of the commandments, of continual sinful affairs with women, men, and minors of every age and condition, with children and lovers all over the world, their number still unknown.

A second life, that even at the moment of death appeared to sink deeper into the sulfurous fumes. Morbid stories have leaked out about Maciel's last days in Houston, at the end of January 2008, before his burial in Cotija, his birthplace, in Mexico.

The apostolic visit began on July 15, 2009. And the five bishop visitors  fulfilled their mandate halfway through this month of March, with the delivery of their report to the Vatican authorities. They were Ricardo Watti Urquidi, bishop of Tepic in Mexico; Charles J. Chaput, archbishop of Denver; Giuseppe Versaldi, bishop of Alessandria; Ricardo Ezzato Andrello, archbishop of Concepción in Chile; and Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, archbishop of Valladolid.

It will be the Vatican authorities who decide what to do. The three cardinals charged with the case are Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state, William J. Levada, prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, and Franc Rodé, prefect of the congregation for institutes of consecrated life.

But the last word will belong to Benedict XVI, the most prescient of all. Even before he was elected pope and when Maciel still had very powerful protectors in the Vatican, Joseph Ratzinger ordered an extensive investigation of the accusations against the founder of the Legionaries. And as pope, on May 19, 2006, he sentenced him to "a retired life of prayer and penance."

After this sentence, the congregation of the Legionaries bowed to the papal command. But it continued to show veneration to its founding "father," as an "innocent victim" of false accusations.

It was only after his death and the revelation of other scandals that the directors of the congregation acknowledged some of their founder's sins, but without denying the goodness of his work.

Still today, after the eight-month apostolic visit, Maciel's successor as director general of the congregation, Fr. Álvaro Corcuera, and vicar general Luis Garza Medina - who were also for decades, especially the latter of them, very close collaborators of the founder - show no intention of leaving their command. And neither do any of the other high and mid-level directors, central or peripheral.

Their defense is that they were always unaware of Maciel's second life, and that their fidelity to the Church and to the pope, in addition to their leadership experience, are the best guarantees for the congregation's continuity.

Last February 5, in "L'Osservatore Romano," Fr. Luis Garza Medina, unruffled, published an article describing the "virtuous life" of the ideal priest. He who more than anyone else lived side by side with Maciel, knowing all his secrets and managing his money, and who always held him up as a model.

But that the current leaders of the Legionaries should be left at the head of the congregation is entirely unlikely. The more probable decision is that the Holy See will appoint a fully empowered commissioner of its own, and will set the guidelines for a thorough reform, including the replacement of the current leaders.

But rebuilding from the ground up a congregation still deeply influenced by its disgraced founder will be an arduous enterprise.

Priests and seminarians who until very recently were steeped in the writings attributed to Maciel will have difficulty finding new sources of inspiration, not generic but specific to their order. The current leaders of the congregation aren't helping, either. On the contrary. One of Maciel's former personal secretaries, Fr. Felipe Castro, together with other priests of the Legion, has worked in recent months to select from among the founder's many letters a group of letters to be "saved" for the future, to keep a positive image of Maciel alive.

The dependence of the Legionaries on Maciel was - and for many still is - absolute. There wasn't a shred of daily life that escaped the rules he dictated. Absurdly exacting rules. Which prescribed, for example, how to sit at the table, how to use a napkin, how to swallow, how to eat chicken without using one's hands, how to debone a fish.

But this was nothing compared to the control exercised over consciences. The handbook for the examination of conscience at the end of the day was 332 pages long, with thousands of questions.

And then there were - and are - the statutes properly speaking. Much more extensive and detailed than those provided to the bishops of the dioceses in which the Legionaries have their houses. The five visitors went through a lot of trouble to obtain the statutes in their entirety.

From the statutes one gathers that in addition to the three classical vows of religious orders, of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the Legionaries were bound by two other vows - plus a third called "of fidelity and charity" for the select members of the congregation - which prohibited any kind of criticism and at the same time required telling the superiors about confreres seen violating the ban.

These extra vows were supposed to have been removed by order of the Holy See, in 2007. But the rank and file of the Legionaries do not seem to have been notified of this revocation.

The boundary between the spirit of obedience and the spirit of subjection is not always clear in the congregation founded by Maciel.

Among the Legionaries, the competition encouraged by the rules is to see who can make the most proselytes. And the novice immediately enters a collective machine that completely absorbs his individuality. Everything is meticulously overseen and regulated, in a thicket of limitations. From personal mail to reading material, from visits to travel.

Over the eight months of the apostolic visit, this control was relaxed only in part. Some priests told the visitors about the things they believed were wrong. Others have left the congregation and been incardinated into the diocesan clergy. Others have continued to defend Maciel's legacy. Others feel lost. Still others, finally, have faith in the rebuilding on new foundations of a religious congregation that is part of their lives and that they continue to love.



 

---

Chiesa is a wonderful source on all things Catholic in Europe. It is skillfully edited by Sandro Magister. SANDRO MAGISTER was born on the feast of the Guardian Angels in 1943, in the town of Busto Arsizio in the archdiocese of Milan. The following day he was baptized into the Catholic Church. His wife’s name is Anna, and he has two daughters, Sara and Marta. He lives in Rome.



Comments


More Europe

Meriam Ibraham is Free! The Living God Has Heard the Cry of His People! Jesus Christ is Lord! Watch

Image of Meriam receives the blessing and the gratitude of the successor of Peter, Francis.- What should be front and center in every Christian news report on this remarkable story is that God intervened on behalf of Meriam and her family. The God whom we profess is real and His power is greater than any regime or any form of opposition. Yes, He used men and women, and even government leaders, to accomplish His deliverance. He often does. But it was His Love and Mercy which broke the shackles of evil. He deserves all the praise.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The photo of Pope Francis blessing Meriam Ibrahim and her little daughter Maya in the Casa Santa Marta on Thursday, July 24, 2014, reciving a blessing from a smiling Pope Francis, made millions of hearts leap for joy. The God of love answers the prayers of His ... continue reading


'A negative act necessarily must be condemned:' Vatican revising law on abuse penalties Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In regards to canonical law regarding acts of sexual misconduct, according to law ended up being too vague, Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta says, church sanctions were being applied so haphazardly that the church appeared to be divided. In response, the Vatican is ... continue reading


VILE: Somali girl smuggled into United Kingdom for organ harvesting Watch

Image of In perhaps the most horrific recent case, law enforcement learned that a Somali girl had been brought to England for the express purpose of harvesting her organs for transplant.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There has been a noticeable uptick of cases of human trafficking in the United Kingdom. In perhaps the most horrific recent case, law enforcement learned that a Somali girl had been brought to England for the express purpose of harvesting her organs for ... continue reading


HORRIFIC ABUSE: 18-year-old girl coerced into group sex while being recorded on cell phone Watch

Image of The incident is being called an example of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An 18-year-old girl performed explicit sex acts on 24 men on a dance floor with the promise of a holiday - which never arrived. Presented with a mixed drink for her acts of indecency, the sordid episode was recorded on a cell phone camera - for the world to ... continue reading


Female genital mutilation threatens young females in England, Wales Watch

Image of The Department of Health has ordered hospitals to report signs of genital mutilation. The first statistics aren't due until September.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Far away from Africa and parts of Asia, girls and young women are still at risk for female genital mutilation, or FGM within the United Kingdom. The barbaric practice, FGM, is still carried out among various immigrant females in both Great Britain and Wales. ... continue reading


Putin vs. the World: One plane crash may spell the end for Russian president's ambitious plan of conquest Watch

Image of Russian backed separatists stand around wreckage from the downed Malaysian Airlines plane.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

World opinion continues to oppose Russian President Vladimir Putin, with the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine being the most notable and recent example of Russian interference in Ukraine. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Time and evidence ... continue reading


Prophetic Pope Does It Again: Words to an Economic Conference Make Waves Watch

Image of Pope Francis is absolutely correct. It is not

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

On July 12, 2014, this prophetic Pope made waves again. He addressed participants in an international conference entitled - The Global Common Good: Towards A More Inclusive Economy. The conference was convened in Rome and sponsored by the Pontifical Council for ... continue reading


Sting nabs 600 pedos across UK, Scotland, Northen Ireland Watch

Image of Heightened awareness of child sexual abuse in the United Kingdom came in the wake of shocking revelations of predatory sexual behavior by late TV host Jimmy Savile.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An Internet sting operation targeting pedophiles has led to the arrest of 660 individuals in the United Kingdom. Among those arrested were teachers, doctors, scout leaders, social care workers and former police officers. The six-month investigation was ... continue reading


MYSTERIOUS BISHOP: Father of British science to be honored Watch

Image of Bishop Robert Grosseteste was one of England's foremost scientific scholars, back in the 13th century.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A theologian from Bishop Grosseteste University in the city of Lincoln has called for the erection of a statue of Bishop Robert Grosseteste, the medieval thinker, in his home city of Lincoln. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Dr. Jack Cunningham said that a ... continue reading


Faithful at Istanbul church rattled after Muslim attack Watch

Image of The attacks reopened psychological wounds in light of fatal attacks on Catholics and other Christians in Turkey. Members of the Christian minority here fear that things will only get worse.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The faithful at Saint Stephanos Church in Istanbul, Turkey are feeling rattled after an attack was carried out there by Muslims. Attackers verbally assaulted and threatened them during a baptismal service. Muslims have also destroyed church property in the last ... continue reading


All Europe News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Sirach 44:1, 10-15
1 Next let us praise illustrious men, our ancestors ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 132:11, 13-14, 17-18
11 Yahweh has sworn to David, and will always remain ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:16-17
16 'But blessed are your eyes because they see, your ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 26th, 2014 Image

Sts. Joachim and Anne
July 26: By tradition Joachim and Anne are considered to be the names of ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter