The Scandal of the Legionaries of Christ “John Paul II’s Greatest Failure?”
Calls for “Santo Subito!” or “Sainthood Immediately!” erupted during the 2005 funeral Mass for Pope John Paul II. More recently there have been questions raised regarding his record-fast beatification, even from some of his supporters, based on lingering concerns about the flaws of his papacy.
Nicole Winfield in a recent article for Associated Press writes that:
“Many Vatican watchers, priests and laymen alike point to the scandal of the Legionaries of Christ as perhaps the greatest failure. The pope held up the wealthy, conservative religious order as a model of orthodoxy. Yet for years, he and his advisers actively or passively ignored allegations that its founder was a pedophile who created a twisted cult-like movement so secretive and oppressive that his crimes went unchecked for decades.
Benedict has spent much of his first six years as pope trying to undo the damage from such failures,
prompting suggestions that it might have been wiser to wait longer before declaring that John Paul had lived a life of “heroic” Christian virtue, a key requirement for beatification”
ReGAIN recognizes John Paul II’s holiness, his powerful presence and the positive image he projected for the Roman Catholic Church throughout his papacy and he deservedly holds our admiration. At the same time, ReGAIN members are also painfully aware that for many years, the Legion flourished during John Paul II’s papacy based to a large degree on the Vatican and Papal <q>approval</q>? of the Legion and Regnum Christi. The Holy Father did promote Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legion and Regnum Christi as an efficacious example for young people. Based on the testimony of those who have been negatively affected by the Legion, Regnum Christi and revelations about the evil, deceptive and perverted lifestyle of their founder which have been publicized and generally acknowledged by the Vatican and by the Legion, there are now legitimate questions about the Pope’s positive statements about the Legion and the founder.
Is it possible that Pope John Paul II was unaware of the serious charges of Fr Maciel’s sexual abuse of his own teenage seminarians? Was he misinformed by his top advisors? Was he personally involved in the decision to block investigation into those charges which had been made by credible victims? Was the former Pope influenced by those around him to ignore legitimate cries for justice? What was his personal role in the policies of secrecy and cover-ups for the clerical sex abuse scandal that took place during his papacy? Many people would be better able to celebrate John Paul II’s elevation to sainthood if these questions were answered before the Church rushes ahead to remove any clouds of doubt.
During Pope John Paul II’s watch, the Legion claimed to be the fastest growing religious order of the Catholic Church and that they were fully approved by the Pope. In their fund raising and public relations promotions they made effective use of pictures that depicted a sense of personal friendship and closeness between the Pope and Fr Marcial Maciel. We expect that the personal relationship between these two men was probably not as close as the Legion claimed.
But whether fact or mostly fiction, the close association of John Paul II with the Legion founder is now detrimental to his cause for sainthood.