October 29, 2011

Members flee Legion of Christ as reforms stall

The collapse of the influential order has broader implications for the Catholic church.

By NICOLE WINFIELD The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, papal delegate for the Legionaries of Christ, said the Vatican asked him only to guide the Legion and help rewrite its norms.

The Associated Press

And earlier this month, the six editors of the Legion-affiliated Catholic news agency Zenit quit en masse, following the resignation of Zenit's founder. He had cited differences in editorial vision and a loss of trust with the Legion's superiors over the way they covered up Maciel's crimes.

The Rev. Richard Gill, a prominent U.S. Legion priest until he left the congregation in 2010 after 29 years, has openly criticized De Paolis' efforts, particularly his refusal to remove compromised superiors, saying "dismissals will be needed to restore some measure of confidence in the Legion."

He called for an investigation into the origins of the scandal and noted that for most of the 70-odd priests who have left, "loss of trust in the leadership has been the primary reason."

Claudia Madero left the movement in August after living like a nun for 35 years, citing the refusal of her Mexican superiors and De Paolis to embrace change.

"It's true there have been some changes, but these are incidental, not essential," she wrote in her resignation letter.

Benedict, however, gave De Paolis an unofficial vote of confidence last month when he kept him on as his Legion envoy while letting the 76-year-old Italian retire as head of the Vatican's economics office.

Benedict's spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, declined to say if the pope thought De Paolis' mandate should be changed given the exodus, saying the cardinal speaks for himself.

Legion spokesman the Rev. Andreas Schoeggl, meanwhile, gave De Paolis a thumbs up, saying his work had been "great," with all Legion priests helping rewrite the order's constitutions -- a shift from the past when decisions were made only at the top.

Yet if the current membership trends continue, the Legion may simply wither away as fewer people join a scandal-tainted congregation that the Vatican itself said has no clearly defined "charism" -- a church term for the essential spirit that inspires a religious order and makes it unique.

After all, what would happen to the Franciscans if St. Francis were discredited? The Missionaries of Charity if Mother Teresa were found to be a fraud?

De Paolis paused when asked to define the Legion's charism. "Bella domanda," he said -- "good question." Noting that it was a work in progress, De Paolis cited the Legion's evangelical zeal and insisted that even without a clearly defined charism, the vast majority of Legion members are happy, doing good work and serving the church.

"We're angry at the church for allowing this," said Peter Kingsland, a Catholic from Surrey, British Columbia, whose daughter was consecrated in 1992. "They could have claimed ignorance before, but they're no longer ignorant -- and now they're a party to it."

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)