Suicide in the Legion of Christ or “Sudden Death of Br. Robert Wills” LC (27)

ReGAIN editor: there are always two versions of everything that happens and is said in and by the Legion of the Christ: the official version and… the truth

LC is quick to put out the official story: it attributes his passing to mental health problems, depression.


  • Why wasn’t better care taken of him and of the junior seminarian who committed suicide in the same seminary a few years ago?
  • Doesn’t this demonstrate lack of care or, perhaps, lack of training or expertise on the part of personnel at this seminary, neglect by his superiors?
  • Who was his superior and or his spiritual director? Was it one and the same person as often has happened in the Legion?
  • Why was he in Germany if he is an American and could receive better mental health services in his own language and culture in his own country?
  • Who was his mental health therapist? His prescribing psychiatrist?
  • Is anyone taking responsibility for this tragedy or are we going to cross our arms or stretch them out in prayer?

& & & & &

In an open letter to the Legionaries of Christ, P. Andreas Schöggl LC, the Territorial Director for Western and Central Europe announced the sudden death of a Legionary of Christ.

Bad Münstereifel, March 21, 2016

Dear fellow Legionaries, dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Today, on Monday of Holy Week, Robert Wills, our brother in Christ, died suddenly and unexpectedly. It seems he suffered a serious head injury after falling about 20 feet. After receiving first aid and the sacrament of the sick he passed away on his way to the hospital. We are all deeply saddened by this news and entrust him full of con-fidence in God’s Mercy. The authorities may still conduct a more detailed investigation of the circumstances surrounding his death. It does seem though that his death is related to a mental illness for which he had been in regular medical and psychological treatment over the past two years.

Br. Robert was born on August 5, 1988, in the United States of America as the youngest of five children. He grew up with his family near Washington, D.C. As he wrote in a personal testimony last year, in his youth he was a competitive wrestler, a dedicated musician (playing the oboe) and a successful student. He added that this over-load led to burnout and to bouts of depression. He sought to live a more balanced lifestyle and got new strength especially from his faith. He even eventually felt a call to religious life and to the priesthood, which he pursued.

After the novitiate, humanistic studies and finishing up a B.A. in philosophy he came to us in Germany for an internship in family and youth work as he continued to discern his call and suitability for religious life. He dedi-cated himself to learn German and exuded a great love for Christ, the Mother of God and for others. People liked to speak to him about spiritual themes. At the same time, however, he had to cut back on his activities and occasionally take time off as well as seek medical and therapeutic help. His fellow religious and his friends en-couraged him and accompanied and supported him.
After his sudden passing we are waiting for his mother and one of his brothers who are on their way to Germany from the United States. The time and place of the burial will be determined in the upcoming days and I will pass on this information to you once they are set. I ask you all to pray for Br. Robert’s family and his relatives.

In an article that Br. Robert wrote for this Lent, he concluded with the following lines:
“Jesus, open my heart as much as possible to your Mercy! Take away all my unfounded fears and my unneces-sary worries, which “wither” my heart and my hands. You wanted to die for me so as to convince me that your love and your mercy are limitless! Let me experience your mercy, so that it can flow through my hands and my unworthy heart to my neighbor. Finally I ask you: Make my heart like your heart and the heart of your mother, so that my neighbor can discover your image in me.”

May the Lord grant that he rest in peace!

United in hope,

P. Andreas Schöggl LC
Territorial Director
(Territory of Western and Central Europe)


26 thoughts on “Suicide in the Legion of Christ or “Sudden Death of Br. Robert Wills” LC (27)”

      1. I actually wondered that too. Sudden death from 20 ft fall, related to severe depression. The wording of that letter was so quirky trying to grease over that one way or another!

    1. Paul Lennon – Dubliner, Legionary of Christ [1961-84], mental health therapist living in the Washington DC are since 1985, bilingual Spanish, 13 years in Mexico, married to a pretty Guatemalan; I am "amateur writer", translator, co founder of REGAIN, INC,, Legionary of Christ "expert", member of International Cultic Studies Association.
      Da Man from Cabra West says:

      did not know about this. Seems a shame. There should be more compassion toward the victim and more accountability demanded of the superiors and so called ‘care-takers’

      1. Paul Lennon – Dubliner, Legionary of Christ [1961-84], mental health therapist living in the Washington DC are since 1985, bilingual Spanish, 13 years in Mexico, married to a pretty Guatemalan; I am "amateur writer", translator, co founder of REGAIN, INC,, Legionary of Christ "expert", member of International Cultic Studies Association.
        Anonymous says:

        “What is wrong”:
        IMHO lack of care by the superiors; lack of proper mental health treatment for members; superiors and so called spiritual directors lacking proper training; lack of pastoral counseling training; over-spiritualizing and neglecting human nature; a formation that is voluntaristic =will power over mind, body and emotions…

  1. it saddens me, how you judge a lot of people without knowing the details. Who gives you the right to hurt other people by accusing them? That`s really disrespectful to all who mourn.

    1. Avoiding the real story (obviously a FAR more sinister one) is what Maciel did. No one wants a repeat of that lack of transparency. The LC posted the story, so why avoid the questions that deserve to be asked and answered? Likely there are others with depression in the LC, and if something constructive can be drawn from this, it’s not insensitive to seek it.

  2. ah and you know the real Story, eh? That`s presumptuous.
    But I agree, that if there is a possibility to help other depressed LC`s, this help should be given. No one avoids any questions! why do you think, that someone wants to supress any questions or something else?! Maybe you can realize that things have changed although it seems unbelievable to you. It`s absolutely understandable for me, that after all what`s happend you are still very prejudiced against the Legion. But think about that changes are possible. “obviously a far more sinister one…” what do you think what has happened?

    1. First, why post as Anonymous? No one’s going to know your 1st name from Adam. No one’s here to get anybody.

      Second, the “far more sinister” part is what Maciel himself covered up (and what was subsequently not handled very well once it came to light, even if other LC’s were not to blame for Maciel’s charade). That comment is not tied to Br. Robert.

      My beef is that the original article was written in such a way that it basically doesn’t address a case of suicide. Saying that he took a bad fall, and that it was related to depression in some way, is not saying he took his own life.

      Now, I’m not in any way condemning Br. Robert or saying he shouldn’t be mourned. I’m very sad for the loss and for what he went through battling depression.

      Nevertheless, the handling of the Maciel case put the LC behind the curve on transparency though, and anything vague like this doesn’t help Br. Robert’s memory or the LC as a whole. It comes across as being ashamed of what happened, when it’s not even necessary.

    2. This is a display of LC tactics and mistakes, from start to finish. I have seen so many messages like yours, both from LCs and RCs.
      Tambien tu esfuerza pobre en utilizar ingles sugieren algo. Sabes ciertamente que la Legion ha cambiado? Que no existe el malo dentro de tu congregacion? Puedes decir seguramente que las intenciones de todos los legionarios son tan puro como tuyos? Como puedes saberlo? Hay que analizar el grupo y la estructura antes que aceptar la obligacion pesado de defender el grupo entero. Todos de nosotros, especialmente los que cometirseles a Dios, tenemos una obligacion primero y transcendiente a la VERDAD.

      Does everyone see the grave accent in place of an apostrophe? That is because the computer lab at the Legionary CES in Rome uses non-English keyboards, mostly interfaced for Spanish, but a few are designed for Italian, and all of them will be set on Spanish or Italian at any given time.
      The lack of proficiency in English and the constructions suggest Spanish-speaker. Since they do not use apostrophe in their possessive constructions, they are not familiar with the distinction between a grave and an apostrophe when typing.
      The time stamp is 11:45 AM – if it is registering EDT, then he was posting at 17:45 on a Sunday in Rome, which is generally a free time for bachelor’s students, a time often used to take care of computer work/outlook messages/time programs, etc.
      I have little doubt that this is a Legionary in formation, probably in bachelor’s philosophy, probably who was with Robert in an earlier stage of formation.

      I am not prejudiced against the Legion, and I can tell you with confidence that the change he’s talking about is a farce – it was a controlled feint to give the appearance of reform. His attempt at generalization “no one avoids any questions!” is an adequate indicator that the uncritical loyalty within the Legion has not been challenged by the restructuring or by the hierarchy.

      1. It looks like I was incorrect – mostly coincidence. Are you currently RC? RC members should know better than to say what you said, regardless of language. You sounded like a brainwashed Legionary-in-formation.

      2. @sleeper: guess what: I live in Germany, I am using a german keyboard, I am a mother of three. Very strange what kind of thoughts you developped- writing from Rome- ts ts ts….your investigations sound like a criminal story …LOL. Anyway: you can have your thoughts and point of views, I can have my thoughts and opinions. I wish you all the best and no: I won`t write God bless or something similiar, afraid of beeing accused brainwashed ;) It`s dangerous to show faith here- seems to be that every believer is brainwashed of the Legion

      3. Let me point out the difference. I made factual statements and based my conclusion on that.
        You initiated your points with an ad hominem attack of personal ridicule. You don’t seem German to me. I know some Germans, including German legionaries, and some of them are the best, sincerest, kindest people I know. Except for the rich and aristocratic ones, they impress me as a culturally earnest people.

        Your defense and line of questioning were based on unqualified statements and questioning of the character of the person posting and of their mental state – that is entirely in line with tactics used by legionaries. If you are so uncritical as to defend them wholesale when you yourself have never been a legionary, then you are betting on a horse you don’t know.

        While you may be secure in your relative anonymity, I would advise you never to give out personal information, such as being a mother, or how many children you have, on the internet, especially on a site that could be a hub for people hostile to “your” opinions. I doubt you increased risk a single percent, but why would you ever bother to mention it over something as useless as an internet conversation?

  3. first: no more anonymous :)
    second: I agree that it wasn`t handled very well, once it came to light (Father Maciel)
    third: I think that at the time the letter was written, the official investigations weren`t finished at this time. I think it`s good to write only about the known facts. And I think it was pretty good, that this letter was written very soon to inform all and not to wait. It`s difficult: If they reacted later, for sure some people would have said, that they want to hide something, that`s not transparent…
    I think after all what`s happened in the Legion it`s not easy to handle such things for the superiors. I found it very positive that this letter was written soon after the incident, I found that everything was transparent and that there `s always the possibility to ask or to talk to the resposible persons.
    fourthly: sorry, I know that my english isn`t the best, hopefully everthing is understandable

    1. The letter was written by Andreas Schoggl – he used to be head of communications for the entire Legion. The awkwardness of the communication corresponds directly to the nature of the situation, not at all to his inability to process or adequately communicate it. If he says that it was connected to Robert’s mental illness, it means he committed suicide. If he leaves any room for doubt in his language while still mentioning the mental illness, it means that it was suicide or that there was foul play with the need for a scapegoat by revealing inappropriate information to imply suicide.
      Schoggl knew exactly what he was doing, and if there is controversy to what he said, it is because it was unavoidable and that it was less of a risk to the Legion to disclose it than to hide it. I seriously doubt there was foul play – so the only likely conclusion is suicide. That itself is controversial, and that’s the point. This is one case among many of neglect that has demonstrated a lack of professionalism and sincere priority within this organization.

    2. I never thought about the legal aspect – you don’t want to say more than is already out there in a sense until you’re officially clear. But yes, the issue of awkward or absent communication is what led to a ton of folks leaving the LC/RC in the first place. Hope they learn from this experience to maybe employ more thorough and more periodic psychological examinations for members. Would be win-win with the stress that naturally goes with the religious life, even if it means these members go home to get the full-time help they need.

  4. I’m just now seeing these messages. Br. Robert was my brother in law.
    He did receive the treatment he needed. He was cared for very well, he had the ability to come back to the States if he wanted to. But he chose to stay in Germany, he wanted to stay.
    The message was stated the way it was to protect Br. Robert – and his family’s dignity. That is my personal belief. Don’t hack apart this situation like it’s nothing. This was someone’s son and brother. Show respect for both he and his family who mourns him very deeply.
    You just have no idea what you are talking about.

    1. Saying we have no idea is a little short-sighted, with all due respect. 1) I’m sure a lot of people here know and/or are related to people with mental illness and are aware of the sensitivity of the issue. 2). I’m sure a lot of people here are very familiar, probably first hand, with the past communication/leadership “mistakes” of the LC which made innocent members look like fools, because they had no idea of what was going on (not implying this situation was in any way a case of legal wrong-doing like Maciel’s clearly was). 3) No one is judging Br. Robert or his family – if they are they are out of line.

      A briefer letter promising a follow-up or one that was written after the legalities were concluded would have been better. US news is notoriously non-international and I never would have known about this if not for the Legion itself publishing that. If legal confidentiality is required for a short time (or the whole time) it’s not a big deal. I seriously doubt anyone thought there was foul play at all, so it could have stayed a private matter without issue.

    2. My condolences as well, Virginia. As i mentioned, I’m not unfamiliar with mental health issues – it’s never easy at any stage.

  5. I am sorry to read about this case, which I just found out about here. Depression has to do with a loss of hope. One wonders what made him depressed. The atmosphere in the Legion would certainly not help and also the fact of being away from home in a foreign country and with a foreign language. He was probably on anti-depressants. I recommend looking up Dr. Peter Breggin who has written some 20 books on the matter, has intervened in court cases as well as giving evidence in Congressional hearings. He also has a series of videos on Youtube. It may well be that anti-depressants such as Prozac had a lot to do with his rather obvious suicide and of course the Legion’s modus operandi in such cases.

  6. I met Brother Robert while visiting the provincial a few weeks before he “fell.” He was a beautiful human being. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the priests who lived with him. Even sadder is the fact that the only person answerable has now been offered the role of General Secretary in Rome. It must be hard to occupy such a position without faith.

    1. Paul Lennon – Dubliner, Legionary of Christ [1961-84], mental health therapist living in the Washington DC are since 1985, bilingual Spanish, 13 years in Mexico, married to a pretty Guatemalan; I am "amateur writer", translator, co founder of REGAIN, INC,, Legionary of Christ "expert", member of International Cultic Studies Association.
      Da Man from Cabra West says:

      As a matter of fact it might be easier to occupy that position without faith, and without a basic moral conscience which would tell us that the end (the advancement of the Kingdom) does not always justify the means.

Leave a ReplyCancel reply

Translate »