Legion of Christ: The Ten Questions of Fr. Richard Gill
Can the Legion of Christ be repaired, rescued and restored?
They concern the still obscure points of the "mystery" of Marcial Maciel. But there are other obstacles to the rescue of the Legion of Christ. The report of one of its former leaders, now a priest of the archdiocese of New York.
ROME, Italy (Chiesa) - The operation to rescue the Legion of Christ from the abyss into which it was hurled by its founder, Marcial Maciel, has seen two new developments in recent days.
On January 31, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the delegate to whom Benedict XVI has given full authority, brought from four to six the number of members of the congregation's general council.
The councilors who were already in office still include two of the most prominent members of the leadership group set up by Maciel, and very closely connected to him: the director general, Álvaro Corcuera, and the vicar general, Luís Garza Medina, both Mexican.
The two new councilors appointed by the papal delegate are Spanish: Juan José Arrieta Ibarrechebea, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Roman parish entrusted to the care of the Legionaries; and Jesús Villagrasa, professor of philosophy at the pontifical university "Regina Apostolorum."
Cardinal De Paolis chose them from among the fifteen most voted for by all the priests and religious under perpetual vows in the congregation, who were asked to indicate their preferences.
Some see this move as a small step forward - with the snail's pace typical of the papal delegate, slow but inexorable - toward replacing the leadership group of the Legion.
The second new development is the institution on the part of Cardinal De Paolis of an "Outreach Commission."
Its task will be to provide access for the victims of acts of abuse on the part of Maciel, and to receive their requests. And then to present a report to the papal delegate, who will decide what to do.
The commission is headed by Monsignor Mario Marchesi, vicar general of the diocese of Cremona and adviser to the papal delegate, and is composed of four members. Two of them belong to the Legion: Florencio Sánchez, chaplain of the Universidad Francisco de Vitoria in Madrid, and Eduardo Robles-Gil, director of "Regnum Christi" in Mexico City. And two have been brought in from outside: Silverio Nieto Nuñez, a priest of the archdiocese of Madrid and director of civil law services for the Spanish episcopal conference, and Jorge Adame Goddard, member of a legal research institute and professor of law at the Universidad Panamericana in Mexico.
The website of the Legionaries of Christ has published the postal and e-mail addresses that can be used by Maciel's victims who want to be heard.
Some see the creation of this commission as another step forward in freeing the Legion from the consequences of its founder's misdeeds.
Naturally, however, the ultimate success of the operation to rescue the Legion of Christ remains highly uncertain, despite the efforts of the Holy See.
For an evaluation of the pros and cons in this first phase, the following is the assessment of a highly noteworthy observer.
He is Richard Gill, for twenty-nine years a priest of the Legionaries of Christ and a longtime director of "Regnum Christi" in the United States, who left the Legion a year ago and is now incardinated in the Archdiocese of New York.
Gill's analysis is of great interest. In particular where he shows that Maciel's legacy continues to weigh negatively on the Legion through the superiors who were connected to him and still lead the congregation.
The full letter from Father Richard Gill is entitled "Can the Legion of Christ be Repaired" and can be read in it's entirety here: Here is an excerpt:
CAN THE LEGION OF CHRIST BE REPAIRED?
by Fr. Richard Gill
Just over a year ago, I decided that in good conscience I could no longer continue as a member of the Legionaries of Christ, and took action to incardinate in the Archdiocese of New York as a diocesan priest. The revelations about the sordid double life of the man who began the Legion of Christ, the late Fr. Marcial Maciel, are widely known. His lifetime of deviant sexual behavior, corruption, abuse and deception of several popes raised serious questions about how any valid charism could be transmitted by such a man. Those questions still remain largely unresolved. Although the Holy See has made an extraordinary effort and large investment of personnel to reform the Legion over the next several years in the hopes of saving it, a group of Vatican investigators referred to him as "a man without religious sentiment" and the Holy Father himself called Maciel a "false prophet". It is no exaggeration to say that Marcial Maciel was by far the most despicable character in the twentieth century Catholic Church, inflicting more damage on her reputation and evangelizing mission than any other single Church leader.
What weighed on me even more than the scandals of Fr. Maciel however, was the manner in which the current superiors of the Legion, once they knew of the scandals, had failed to act, or acted in ways that consistently misled the membership. They sought to maintain an external unity at the expense of trust, honesty, needed reforms, and transparency. In the aftermath of the revelations about Maciel, they led a systematic effort to deny and minimize the facts about Fr. Maciel and thus revealed a profoundly disturbing attitude of paternalism toward their own religious. It was as if the priests and religious had no right to know of serious matters that affected their future, their freedom, and the commitment of their lives to the Congregation. I came to recognize that this pattern of activity was fruit of an internal culture Fr. Maciel had created and which would be extremely difficult to change, even with the assistance of the Holy See.
I write now as an outsider observing what is going on, but obviously I retain a great interest in the Legionaries with whom I served for 29 years. The Legionaries in my generation and afterwards were idealistic young men who saw in the Legion a great force for renewal of the Church and for collaboration with Pope John Paul II in the new springtime of evangelization. What we signed on for, motivated by true zeal and youthful hope has turned out a devastating demonstration of the human side of the Church, leaving many disillusioned beyond measure. I sincerely hope the project of reform will succeed, as I know from experience the Legion is populated by many very talented, intelligent, enterprising and holy priests who have much to offer the Church if properly channeled...
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.
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