Has the Vatican Reform of the Legion of Christ been Botched?

Has the Vatican Reform of the Legion Been Botched?

Cardinal DePaolis’ three year term as Vatican Apostolic Delegate is almost over and during the next few months, the Legion and Regnum Christi will hold their general assemblies to present and review their new constitutions and statutes. When these new documents have been approved and accepted by the Vatican the reform process is likely to be considered complete. That is unless Pope Francis takes a personal interest in this situation and decides to dig a little deeper.

Has the reform been botched? We might ask whether or not there was a genuine intent by the Legion’s elite leaders and some (cooperative) members of the Vatican hierarchy to identify what really needed to be reformed and to follow through with the appropriate follow-up actions or whether or not the reformwas simply an exercise to buy time.

One difficulty in assessing the reform process is that different parties involved held different objectives and essential information was withheld from those participants who genuinely wanted to reform.

The May 1, 2010 Vatican communique, although vague on details of any wrongdoing by the Legionary founder or his upper echelon identified that there had been serious consequences for the life and structure of the Legion The communique identified a need to improve in the following areas:

1. Redefine the charism

2. Review the exercise of authority, which must be linked to truth, in order to respect conscience.

ReGAIN has assembled comments since 2010 from a sampling of those whose lives were directly affected by their involvement with the Legion or Regnum Christi regarding the success or failure of the reform to achieve their expectations. In each case ReGAIN has provided the source for reference to the full article for those who wish to obtain the entire context of what is being quoted.

Fr. Peter Francis Byrne July 27, 2010

Click Here 8/31/2010

  • the figure of Maciel continues to have visibility and weight in the daily life of their communities all over the world.
  • Moreover, if it is true that full powers in the governance of the Legion today belong only to the papal delegate, Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, the fact remains that yesterday’s leaders are still in place, and maintain an extremely strong influence over many of the religious, on account of the complete communion of life that they shared with the founder.
  • They continue to say that they were always unaware of Maciel’s disgraceful behavior, until after his death in 2008.
  • images of Maciel continue to appear everywhere and that his birthplace, Cotija de la Paz, continues to be a destination connected to his memory.
  • I have also noticed that in Mexico, meetings are still being held among the leaders with the infamous lists that divide persons and families into triple-A, double-A, etcetera, and show the names of the priests charged with grooming these families and then tapping into their money.

Fr. Byrne concluded that: the structures of power imposed by Maciel still remain in force today.

Father Richard Gill: Chiesa – Sandro Magister Feb 9 2011

Former Legionary priest, Father Richard Gill posed his Ten Questions which was publicized in an article in Chiesa Click Here

  • The Legion recently began to install in all computers very aggressive industrial spyware to monitor all email and internet traffic of the membership.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • it is common knowledge within the Legion that strongly dissenting voices are still regularly marginalized.
  • There remains great deal of ignorance about what happened and how the scandal lasted over so many decades.
  • A second difficulty occasioned by Cardinal De Paolis was the apparent decision to put aside calls for a fuller investigation into the whole Maciel scandal than what was accomplished by the Apostolic Visitators in 2009-10. The Cardinal has made it clear on more than one occasion his task is that of overseeing reform efforts rather than in further forensic work.
  • For the most part, the same groups of superiors who were appointed by Maciel and who presided over the attempts to cover for him in the aftermath of his condemnation by the Holy See in 2006 are still at the helm.
  • A third weakness in the current approach is the apparent lack of concern for holding individuals accountable for their role in keeping secret from Church authorities what they knew of Maciel’s behavior, or if they even collaborated with Maciel by formal cooperation in those crimes.
  • Fr. Gill referred to: the extent to which, for lack of a better term, a Latino mentality pervades the Legion.
  • Father Gill concluded that for the Legion to flourish it would need to find outstanding spiritual leaders within who could with the help of the Holy Spirit articulate a new charism and a new vision for the future

Nelly Ramirez February 25, 2011

Nelly Ramirez, a former consecrated member of Regnum Christi for 12 years wrote a book in Spanish about her experience. Click Here

She was pessimistic about the likelihood of success by the Vatican?s intervention: what I believe will happen, according to the mentality of the institution, is that a few new statutes will have been created beforehand, there will be a simulation in which supposedly all are able to voice their opinion but on subjects that are already well developed. From there supposedly new rules will result and it is all over.

Nelly Ramirez when asked: What is the reaction among Legionaries about her book’s publication? replied: It varies. There is one group that wants to see a renewal, that is aware of the realities, and another that is steadfast, that thinks any change is an affront to God. I believe that, within the culture of the Legion, a book like this is seen as an act of aggression, which it is not. It is simply a proposal for change, and my objective is to facilitate an internal dialogue. They also told me that they would ask God to forgive me for writing this book.

Father James Farfaglia March 20, 2011

On a blog
<a href=
Click Here Former Legionary priest, Father James Farfaglia wrote:

  • I have to conclude the following: we need much more accountability within the Catholic Church. When a priest lives on his own; when a priest has a lot of money behind him; and when a priest is very popular in my personal view, questions need to be asked and
  • the problems within the Catholic Church, are in my personal opinion, apocalyptic in nature.
  • No matter what happens to the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, it really does not matter. Integer owns everything and seemingly pulls all of the strings. And it does not matter what position Luis Garza has in the Legionaries of Christ because it appears that he is the man behind the curtain.

Fr. Juan Pedro Oriol May 31, 2011

When Father Juan Pedro Oriol, a well-known and highly regarded Legionary priest decided to leave the Legion, he publicly announced his decision. Click Here

The reasons given for their (Father Juan Pedro Oriol and his brothers) decision to leave relate to their dissatisfaction with the process of reform and to the lack of transparency of the Apostolic Delegate Cardinal Velasio de Paolis and Legionary leadership.

Father Pablo Perez – September 29, 2011

Click Here
Pablo Perez Guajardo, who had served for seven years in the Legion mission in Cancun publicly dissented from the way superiors handled the Maciel debacle and the so-called Reform of the Legion and he was dismissed. The local bishop, his LC superior, said he did not want him around disturbing the peace

Father Pablo Perez included the following remark as he was leaving:
We must all have the same opinions, just as our founder, Fr. Maciel, taught us.

Malen Oriol February 12, 2012

Click Here
According to an Associated Press article, Malen Oriol, the former head of the consecrated women in Regnum Christi revealed that:

a group of consecrated women had decided to leave the movement and live out their vocations under the authority of local bishops, a blow to the Legion that suggests that groups of reformers are now stepping outside the movement because their superiors are refusing to change.

Andres Beltramo Alvarez May 6, 2012

In an article in the Vatican Insider Click Here Andres Beltramo Alvarez said that:

One of Montan and De Paolis’ biggest concerns seems to be to avoid a further exodus of religious. For this reason, Montan stressed that without unraveling the bonds of prayer and friendship, the consecrated women of Regnum Christi, at this historic time, will avoid attending or soliciting invitations to attend meetings (of ‘Totus Tuus’).
(Father Montan had served as a temporary Superior of the consecrated after the resignation of Malen Oriol).

This advice is in addition to another recommendation by De Paolis, who in a February letter asks former consecrated to avoid proselytizing among women who chose to remain in the movement. According to several witnesses, the superiors of some Regnum houses have interpreted these directions as if they were orders, prohibiting any contact with old friends.

There is the story of a young woman who was almost expelled from her community after attending a meeting with her friends from ‘Totus Tuus’: the superior would have allowed her to get her things, but not to sleep for a final night in the residence where she had lived just a few hours before.

Father Thomas Berg June 22, 2012

In his article in First Things, Click Here
Father Thomas Berg commented:

  • The Cardinal has chosen to forego a thorough and independent investigation into whether any present or former members of the congregation knowingly abetted Maciel.
  • DePaolis doesn’t speak Spanish.
  • Legionary superiors, meanwhile, have fostered a culture of institutional opposition to the radical reform that is truly required.
  • . embrace and foster a culture of cover-up and lack of transparency.
  • continued signs of an institutional resistance to the vocational discernment so necessary to each of the priests and the seminarians who remain in the congregation.

Xavier Leger> – March 31, 2013

In his letter to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, Former Legionary member Xavier Leger included the following statements:

  • Today, all the signs lead us to believe that the Apostolic Visitation was not intended to really search for truth and justice but to save the Legion and prevent Legionaries from jumping ship.
  • Holy Father, the same mistake that had exonerated Fr. Maciel in 1958, at the end of the first Apostolic Visitation, was made again in 2010.
  • I beseech you to start the investigation of the Legion all over again, radically changing the investigative method; we have to begin by spelling out very clearly the real story of Maciel and the congregation and this involves using independent outside experts, as well as psychologists well versed in the cult phenomenon.

ReGAIN Comment

Does there seem to be any change of heart among the Legion leaders? Have any of the Legion leaders demonstrated the genuine religious sentiment that their founder was found to be lacking? Have these leaders provided authentic dynamic spiritual leadership and enthusiasm for getting to the root of the problem areas and changing Father Maciel’s creations into something pleasing to God? If this is the case then it is not evident, at least to those of us on the outside.

To date the emphasis by the Vatican Delegate and by the Legionary leaders seems to have been limited mainly to developing a new legal framework, including the development of new statutes. These legal documents are necessary of course, especially for the consecrated persons in Regnum Christi. A commenter on life-after-rc Click Here has offered an opinion that:

it was never a process of reform to begin with, as we now see, which is why the insistence of business as usual for DePaolis was insisted upon from the get go. Rather, it is best described as a process of justification.. justification of a charism, of the approvals it received and avoidance of all the embarrassment the opposite supposed…no not a reform at all.

However, as the sampling of statements above indicate, it appears doubtful at this late stage whether the types of issues that relate to the exercise of authority, which must be linked to truth, in order to respect conscience as required by the Vatican communique have been addressed in a satisfactory manner.

There has been a lack effort in facilitating true discernment and re-assessment of vocations for the Legionary priests and the consecrated women. The Delegate has even expressed concern about the loss of numbers from the consecrated women when Totus Tuus was formed.

The Vatican and the Legion leadership have not allowed real time out to assess the individual vocations, much less to assess the Legion’s recruitment and training systems. Nobody seems to have hesitated or thought twice about whether or not the Legion and Regnum Christi actually possess a God-given charism, or whether or not the Legion/Regnum should have been founded in the first place (much Maciel trickery was involved in that process!) It appears that rank and file Legionaries have simply reacted to the Vatican intervention, either for or against.

There has been no stopping of business as usual. The Legion ship has not been taken out of the water and put in dry dock for a full overhaul. Thus changes have remained cosmetic. To use another metaphor, the Apostolic Delegate and Legion superiors have done some bodywork on the Legion but the engine and transmission systems have not been analyzed. There is no dirt on the Legion superiors’ hands or cassocks. And no mud on their face.

After so many decades, a golden opportunity to re-establish the Legion and Regnum Christi as something other than highly profitable businesses appears to once again be slipping through the Vatican’s fingers. In the meantime, the aggressive recruitment and fund raising have never missed a beat.

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