Sunday, May 2, 2010

Scandal-plagued Legionaries accept papal takeover

Last updated May 2, 2010 12:54 a.m. PT

Scandal-plagued Legionaries accept papal takeover
By NICOLE WINFIELD
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER


FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2004 file photo, Pope John Paul II gives his blessing to late father Marcial Maciel, founder of Christ's Legionaries, during a special audience the pontiff granted to about four thousand participants of the Regnum Christi movement, at the Vatican. Speaking at Rome daily La Repubblica, Rev. Luis Garza Medina, the No. 2 official in the Legionaries of Christ, has broken his silence on the eve of a Vatican meeting to discuss the fate of the order following revelations that its late founder led a double life, saying he only realized the accusations against Rev. Marciel Maciel were true in 2006, when the Vatican ordered the founder to spend the rest of his life in penance and prayer. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri, File)
The scandal-plagued Legionaries of Christ says it has accepted the pope's decision to appoint a personal delegate to lead and reform the order following revelations that its founder sexually abused seminarians and fathered at least one child.

In a statement posted on its website late Saturday, the Legionaries said its members "embrace his provisions with faith and obedience."

The statement was issued after the Vatican announced a crackdown on the conservative order once championed by Rome, saying a papal envoy would take over and reform it and that a special commission would study its founding constitutions.

The decisions were made after five Vatican investigators reported back to Pope Benedict XVI about their eight-month global inquiry into the order after its late founder was so thoroughly discredited by revelations of his double life.

In announcing the papal takeover, the Vatican excoriated the Rev. Marcial Maciel for creating a "system of power" built on silence, deceit and obedience that enabled him to lead a double life "devoid of any scruples and authentic sense of religion" and allowed him to abuse young boys unchecked.

"By pushing away and casting doubt upon all those who questioned his behavior, and the false belief that he wasn't doing harm to the good of the Legion, he created around him a defense mechanism that made him unassailable for a long period, making it difficult to know his true life," the Vatican said.

But rather than closing the order down, which some critics had called for, the Vatican assured the Legion's current 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.

In their brief statement, the Legionaries said they thanked the pope, accepted his provisions and said they appreciated the Vatican investigators' "hard work and dedication."

"And we are grateful for the prayers of so many people of goodwill who have supported us at this time," the order said.

The pope's response to the Maciel scandal is being closely watched because the Vatican is facing mounting pressure to aggressively confront clerical abuse. The Maciel case has long been seen as emblematic of Vatican inaction on abuse complaints, since Maciel's victims had tried in the 1990s to bring a canonical trial against him but were shut down by his supporters at the Vatican.

In the end, it was only in 2006 - a year into Benedict's papacy - that the Vatican ordered Maciel to lead a "reserved life of penance and prayer," making him a priest in name only. He died in 2008 at age 87.

The Vatican statement was remarkable in its tough denunciation of Maciel's crimes and deception, but it placed the blame almost entirely on him. It made no mention of any complicity on the part of Vatican officials who had held up Maciel as a model for the faithful and implied that most - albeit not all - of the Legionaries' members were kept in the dark.

The late Pope John Paul II had long championed the Legionaries for their orthodoxy and ability to bring in vocations and money. Recent reports in the U.S. Catholic publication National Catholic Reporter have documented how the late pope's secretary and No. 2 allegedly intervened to protect Maciel and accept donations on his behalf.

Critics of the Legionaries expressed disappointment that the statement didn't lay blame beyond Maciel.

Jason Berry, who co-authored the initial reports in 1997 in Connecticut's Hartford Courant newspaper detailing the allegations of abuse against Maciel, said the statement was strong but left unresolved whether Benedict would eventually confront Vatican complicity in Maciel's deceit.

In addition, he said, "The Legion is riddled with materialism and disinformation. Preserving the organization is clearly a risk," he said.

1 comment:

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