Former Legionaries applaud Vatican action allowing internal criticism

Church investigators are sought to monitor compliance with the new decree.
By Eugenia Jiminez


November 21, 2007


According to former legionaries, the decision of Pope Benedict XVI to suspend the private vows of the Legion of Christ will put an end to the chain of silence? to which the congregation’s seminarians and priests have been subjected for decades. But they warn that the Vatican will have to designate visitators (church investigators) to monitor the congregation’s internal compliance with the Pontiff’s decree.

The ex-legionaries who accused the legion’s founder, Marcial Maciel, of sexual abuse and of absolution of accomplices, said that it has taken them many years to be able to put aside these vows for fear of being excommunicated if they did not adhere to them.

Former legionary, Jose Barba, said he is happy with the pope’s decision because it will cut a long chain of structural silence within the Legion’s organization. He explained that they have been called secret vows since the 1950 and that he took them one by one in a chapel in front of the order’s superior. He noted that later they came to be called private vows because the term secret vows suggested a hint of something strange. He said it was decided later to refer to these as vows of charity, adding that this was deceptive since every Christian must practice charity without having to take a vow, because doing so is intrinsic to being a practicing Christian. This fallacy, he said, made him and others fall victim to Marcial Maciel’s coverup, which confused us for years and which we did not denounce for fear of being excommunicated.?

The Legion’s vows were written in 1956 by an ex-legionary, Jose Dominguez Moreno, who has acknowledged that he knew nothing about canon law.
Antonio Roquez, a canonist, said that they did not have the appropriate legal theological documentation.

Saul Barrales, another ex-legionary, noted that, by doing away with these two vows, the pope eliminates the mistakes that they caused, adding that it is a favorable development for making legionary attitudes more transparent. He adds that the vows violate human rights because they do not allow people to act freely. He warned, however, that it is important to see if the Legion actually abides by the pontiff’s decision, noting that its internal structure will not allow them to fully accept it.

Former legionary, Jose Antonio Perez Olvera, said that the decision is late in coming and questioned the willingness of the Legion to implement it, noting that they are already accustomed to acting in a certain way and it will be difficult for them to change.?

The office of the Legionaries of Christ in Mexico said that they will issue no public announcement since it is an internal document that affects only the lives of its seminarians and priests, adding that it is a decision that has been in effect for several months.

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