Redefinition of Legionaries charism needed – Vatican
A life devoid of scruples and of genuine religious feeling is how the Vatican has described Fr Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, in its communiqué on the future of the disgraced order.
In its statement, the Vatican said on Saturday that a papal envoy and special commission would be named to overhaul the conservative order following revelations that its founder sexually abused seminarians and fathered a number of children and was addicted to drugs.
The statement lambasted Fr Marcial Maciel for creating a “system of power” built on silence and obedience which enabled him to lead a double life “devoid of scruples and authentic religious sentiment” and allowed him to abuse young boys for decades unchecked.
The Apostolic Visitation appointed by the Pope to investigate the order ascertained that the behaviour of Fr Maciel caused serious consequences in the life and structure of the Legion, so much so, as to require a journey of profound re-evaluation, the Vatican said in its statement.
The “serious and objectively immoral behaviour of Fr Maciel at times constitutes real crimes, and manifests a life devoid of scruples and of genuine religious feeling” the Vatican said.
The visitors acknowledged that the large majority of Legionaries were unaware of that life on account of the “system of relations created by Fr Maciel, who had skilfully managed to build up an alibi, to gain the trust, confidence and surrounding silence and strengthen his role as a charismatic founder”.
In a strongly worded statement, the Vatican condemned the culture of secrecy which made Maciel “untouchable for a long time, thus rendering knowledge of his real life difficult”.
The communiqué highlighted the plight of whistleblowers in the order.
“Not infrequently the lamentable disgracing and expulsion of those who doubted his upright conduct” all contributed to Maciel being made untouchable, the Vatican underlined.
The results of the Apostolic Visitation show the need to redefine the charism of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ; the need to review the exercise of authority, which must be conjoined to the truth, in respect of conscience and to develop in light of the Gospel as an authentic ecclesial service; and the need to preserve young people’s enthusiasm of faith, the missionary zeal, the apostolic dynamism, through appropriate formation, the Vatican communiqué said.
The statement added, “Indeed, disappointment about the founder could call into question the core of this vocation and charism that belongs and is specific to the Legionaries of Christ.”
During the visitation over 1,000 Legionnaires were met in person and hundreds of written documents were examined.
The Visitors have visited almost all the religious houses and many of the works of the apostolate directed by the Congregation.
They heard, orally or in writing, the opinion of many diocesan bishops of the countries where the congregation operates. The Visitors also met several members of the “Regnum Christi” Movement, although it was not the subject of the visit, especially men and women religious. They have also received considerable correspondence from laity and family members of the Movement.
The Vatican assured the Legion’s members that it would help them “purify” what good remains in the order and would not be left alone as they undergo the “profound revision” necessary to carry on.
The late Pope John Paul II had long championed the Legionaries for their orthodoxy and ability to bring in vocations and money.
In 2006, Pope Benedict ordered Maciel to a life of penitence and contemplation.
The five bishops who conducted the visitation between July 2009 and March 2010 are: Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver; Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Concepcion, Chile; Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid, Spain; Bishop Ricardo Watty Urquidi of Tepic, Mexico; and Bishop Giuseppe Versaldi of Alessandria, Italy.