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Pope moves to take control of Legion of Christ

May 01, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI will appoint an apostolic delegate to supervise the Legionaries of Christ, the Vatican announced on May 1.

The Saturday announcement from the Vatican press office came a day after the five bishops who had conducted an apostolic visitation of the Legionaries presented their report. In a strongly worded statement, the Vatican indicated that the bishops had reached a "widely convergent evaluation and a shared opinion" on the need for "profound re-evaluation" of the religious order.

The details of that re-evaluation were not immediately disclosed. However, the Pope's delegate will assume control of the Legionaries, with the group's current leaders reporting to him. The Pope will also appoint a commission to study the constitution of the Legion, perhaps suggesting changes in internal rules. And the Pontiff will appoint a "visitor" to guide Regnum Christi, the lay movement affiliated with the Legion of Christ.

The Vatican intervention into the controversial religious order is intended to help members along "the path of purification that awaits them," the official statement state. The five bishops who conducted the apostolic visitation praised the zeal and dedication of many members of the Legion and Regnum Christi, and emphasized that the Church should support their commitment.

However, the gross misconduct of the late Father Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries, has created grave problems for the order the Vatican found. The May 1 statement suggested that the founder had developed a pattern of administration that protected him from discovery. Without criticizing any of the current leaders of the Legion, the statement said that the founder "had created around him a defense mechanism which made him untouchable for a long time." The statement decried "the lamentable disgracing and expulsion of those who doubted" Father Maciel's virtue.

The Vatican said:

The serious and objectively immoral behavior of Fr. Maciel, supported by incontrovertible evidence, at times constitutes real crimes, and manifests a life devoid of scruples and of genuine religious feeling. The large majority of Legionaries were unaware of that life, particularly because of the system of relations created by Fr. Maciel, who had skillfully managed to build up an alibi, to gain the trust, confidence and surrounding silence and strengthen his role as a charismatic founder.


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  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - May. 03, 2010 8:13 PM ET USA

    What was unique to the Legion of Christ: loyalty to its hierarchy, obedience, compartmentalization, secrecy -- needs to examined: Was this maintained for the glory of God, or to allow sin, corruption, and crime to flourish?

  • Posted by: LittleRedHen - May. 02, 2010 2:11 PM ET USA

    I don't wonder that this kind of supervision is what's in store for renegade sisters...

  • Posted by: - May. 02, 2010 9:25 AM ET USA

    "Pope moves to take control of U. S. Church "Pope Benedict XVI will appoint an apostolic delegate to supervise the U. S. Catholic Church and a commission to study the USCCB to reform or even abolish it. "In a strongly worded statement, the Vatican indicated that the bishops had reached a "widely convergent evaluation and a shared opinion" on the need for "profound re-evaluation of the U. S. Church." Praising the few faithful, the pope advises them to "hang in there" while reform takes place.

  • Posted by: - May. 02, 2010 9:13 AM ET USA

    I will be eternally grateful for the good that I found in this organization. Still, we come to the question: is loyalty more important than truth? God is truth, and loyalty to him requires focusing on that. LC/RC has been hardly unique in often choosing a false loyalty--and that is part of what allowed the scandal to happen.

  • Posted by: - May. 02, 2010 7:23 AM ET USA

    based on the track record of the founder, who appears to have suffered from a narcissistic personality disorder at the least and sociopath at the most, the members of the staff and upper echelon ought to receive psychological evaluations to weed out those chosen for their compatibility with Maciel.

  • Posted by: Mack - May. 01, 2010 3:33 PM ET USA

    I hope and pray that things work out for the Legionaries. From what I've experienced, most of their priests are of the highest calibre.