Does Pope Francis really Understand the Legion/Regnum Christi Phenomenon?

Dear Readers,
ReGAIN appreciates your interest in the previous article highlighting Pope Francis’ comments regarding the Fr. Maciel/Legion of Christ phenomenon. The present article is a probing commentary follow up.
The first investigation of the Founder in the years 1956-59 ended with Fr. Maciel’s reinstatement as General Director in ambiguous circumstances: the interregnum between the death of Pope Pius XII and the installation of Pope John XXIII. More recently, after Fr. Maciel’s death in 2008 at the age of 88, the Legion revealed that he had committed many sins/crimes and lived a double life. These revelations shocked many Catholics, including members of the Legion of Christ religious order and its Regnum Christi lay movement; a good number left and that time and the bleeding continues.
The outcry spurred a second Vatican “visitation”/investigation which later led to a period of Vatican oversight led by Cardinal Velasio de Paolis and an effort to “renew” the institution founded by the depraved founder. When interviewed about the Maciel case Pope Benedict XVI decried the founder’s sins but decided that the Legion was worth “saving.” In a nutshell that is the watershed moment. To confirm this notice how the words used in Vatican documents always used the term “renewal” and never “reform” of the Legion of Christ. So this fundamental decision by Pope Benedict would mark the whole Vatican “intervention” with the Legion: many superiors, trained and hand-picked by Maciel, were allowed to stay in the posts. There was some slight re-shuffling of certain superiors organized by the Vatican Delegate and the Legion superiors, but no disciplining or holding accountable for collusion with the corrupt founder during his more than sixty years at the head of the Legion.

It is difficult to understand why the Assistant Superior General, Fr. Luis Garza, was removed from key posts and sent to Mexico. Could it be that there he could be closer to his rich family and to the Legion’s riches? Some important figures during the Maciel administration, his lackeys and hatchet men, were sent away from the USA -where they might be sued- and sent to “safer” places such as Ireland, Rome, Mexico and South America…De Paolis and the Legion superiors chose too Maciel clones, Frs. Corcuera and Robles Gil -originally handpicked by Maciel to found the Regnum Christi youth section- to lead the renewal and the new Legion.

It appears that the Legionaries’ anxious period of Vatican oversight is coming to an end with the successful conclusion of the Extraordinary General Chapter and culminating with the approval of their new constitutions. Pope Francis signed off on those constitutions.
Mexican reporter Valentina Alazraki’s interview with Pope Francis brought up some of the old doubts about the Pope and the Vatican’s intervention of the Legion of Christ. Pope Francis distanced himself from Maciel and the Legion of Christ and “defended” Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XIV’s actions. All of this in a wide-ranging and almost casual conversation with allowed Pope Francis to be very vague and slide away from unpleasant issues. This writer expressed his opinion in a brief introduction to the interview’s Spanish language version. It said:
“As ReGAIN has so much interest in this subject, we want to say a couple of words about the Pope’s comments. Our first impression is that the Holy Father does not totally comprehend the full malice of Father Maciel and the disastrous effects he and the men formed by him have had on others. Those of us who have been close to the (sexual, psychological, physical and spiritual) victims have the feeling that the Pope (and his predecessors) just don’t get it.
It is just not enough to say that Fr. Maciel was “a very ill person” a pedophile or a pan-sexual abuser; or that he was “an enigmatic figure” with “a life out of moral bounds,” as Benedict XVI described him in Light of the World. J. Paul Lennon has written the only English profile of the personality of the founder (Marcial Maciel, Pedophile, Psychopath and…  In Spanish, Fernando Gonzalez produced an in-depth study of the personality, history of Maciel and the Legion: .

So there remains a profound question to be answered: how could such a corrupt, destructive, psychopathic person, totally lacking in faith, hope and charity found a religious order? Critical minds remain unconvinced by Church leaders’ “Deus ex machina” answer: Maciel bad, Legion of Christ good; “God writes straight on crooked lines.” “God can use an unworthy instrument to create His Work.” That is all well and good, if we can stretch our puny faith another mile. As educated and thinking Catholics we posit that both Benedict and Francis fail to grasp the depth of Maciel’s depravity and deceit and by so doing avoid radical questions and actions regarding the nature of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi.

At the risk of scandalizing our Catholic readers we request from our leaders a review of the late and lukewarm intervention of Church authorities in this case. Sadly, Pope Francis’ vagueness and hesitations seem like an effort to justify his predecessor’s omissions,” (writer later adde): “lack of oversight, due diligence and vigor in getting to the bottom of the Maciel/Legion murky mystery”.
These considerations lead to scary derivations:
• Could it be that three popes and their entourage were also deceived by the incredible con-man who portrayed himself as the founder of a new and healthy religious order? At this juncture there comes to mind the suggestion that Maciel’s powers of manipulation and deceit were well-nigh diabolical!
• If the popes and Vatican department were misled regarding the authenticity of the Maciel/Legion charisma, could they have erroneously approved the order in 1948, thus putting papal infallibility in jeopardy?
• Or, more fundamentally, is the Pope infallible when he decides to approve a religious order?
• More pointedly, did the pope/Vatican err in approving the Legion of Christ when Maciel played games with Vatican authorities and manipulated the bishop of Cuernavaca into canonically erecting the order back in 1948?


One reader, wise2, made the following comment to the previously posted Spanish language article which gives another twist to the discussion:
from your comments here, I’m not sure if you get it.
The issue is not so much how could Fr. Maciel found this order, but it is the profound effect of Maciel on the Legion and how that effect is being propagated in the heart of the Church around the world, including a few minutes from where I live. It seems so much easier to talk about Maciel and not Maciel’s effect on this order. The scandal that nobody is mentioning is thousands times larger than anyone, even you, apparently, will even talk about. The stones are crying out!”

Translation of Introduction to original Spanish language article:
Teniendo ReGAIN tanto interés y conocimiento del tema, nos permitimos dos palabras sobre los comentarios del Papa. La primera impresión de nuestros editores es que el Santo Padre no se percata de toda la malicia y los estragos causados por el Padre Maciel y por los hombres formados personalmente por él. A los que estamos cerca de las victimas del Padre Maciel y de los superiores legionarios nos da la impresión de que, como dicen los norteamericanos, “He just doesn’t get it.” No basta decir que el Padre Maciel fuera una persona “enferma” ni que fuera sólo un pederasta. Y queda por resolver la pregunta básica: ?Como pudo un hombre tan corrupto, tan destructor de vidas, un verdadero psicópata, y totalmente carente de fe, esperanza y caridad fundar una congregación religiosa? A nuestro humilde parecer como creyentes católicos sostenemos que tanto Benedicto como Francisco se quedan cortos y rehúyen de los interrogantes radicales y profundos acerca del fenómeno de la Legión de Cristo y del Regnum Christi. Esperamos no escandalizar a nuestros hermanos y hermanas al reclamar a nuestros líderes una revisión de la tardía y tibia actuación de las autoridades en el caso Maciel/Legión. Es muy triste constatar que el Papa Francisco parece estar justificando a sus predecesores su falta de vigilancia y vigor en el caso Maciel y no reconocer que ellos también fueron víctimas de su engaño.
Traducción castellana del comentario hecho en inglés:
Estimado Editor,
Por lo que Ud. escribe yo no estoy seguro que Ud. tampoco comprende de lo que se trate. El problema no es cómo pudo Maciel fundar la orden sino el efecto profundo que Maciel dejó en la Legión y cómo esos efectos siguen propagándose en el corazón de la Iglesia por todo el mundo, incluso a poca distancia de donde vivo yo. Como que es mucho más fácil hablar de Maciel mismo y no sobre su efecto en la orden. El escándalo que calla todo el mundo es mil veces más grande de lo que nadie, inclusive Ud., quiere abordar. !Las mismas piedras están clamando!
1. Editor
March 16, 2015 at 1:17 pm Edit
wise2, Tell us more. We find you comment well taken.

Does The Vatican Really Understand What Needs Reforming In The Legion?

As the reform of the Legionaries and Regnum Christi comes to an end after three years, we shake our heads and wonder whether or not it has even started. On December 16, 31 new Legionary priests were ordained in Rome. In his homily at this event, Click Here Cardinal DePaolis offered his praise for the faithfulness of the ones who remained in the Legion suggesting that they have remained, because they believe that they chose Christ. By his words, he took a sort of backhand shot at those who had left, saying that only the Lord can judge them. The tone of his homily made it clear that he felt the faithful ones who remained were good and that there was some weakness in the (unfaithful) ones who left. This attitude is consistent with other statements he has made in similar circumstances, e.g. when Malen Oriol and other 3gf ladies left to form Totus Tuus.

ReGAIN readers are aware that the Legion and Regnum Christi leaders past and present have been known to use controversial highly aggressive tactics to recruit and retain members and have not respected the freedom of conscience. A reference to this important issue of freedom of conscience was included in the May 2010 Vatican communique. Click Here So why would an Apostolic Delegate not do everything in his power to ensure that Legionary and Regnum Christi members were provided with every opportunity to take time to discern what their true calling from God was? Why would he be more concerned about the numbers of people who remained in this congregation, which has been already proven to be an unhealthy part of the Church than he is about helping people to discover where they can best serve God and where God wishes them to be?

He also shows concern about the sins of the Legion filling the media throughout the world, obviously seeing this as a bad thing. His statement showed more concern about the image of the Legion and the Church than remorse about the wrongs that were done. If the sins were not truthful, then we would share his concern. If the information published in the media happens to be the truth, then we feel it should be a good thing to expose false prophets in the Church. It is the truth that sets us free. Regarding this issue, there have been obvious and deliberate efforts made to suppress the truth about who aided and abetted the Legion and Regnum Christi founder in his deceitful life. Shouldn’t the Church of all organizations be willing to see justice for those who have been wronged by some of its own religious orders? The tone of the homily seemed to favor blind obedience and trust, even when people are aware that some of the leaders are not trustworthy. If in fact all of the current leaders really were trustworthy and all of the fraud and deception was committed by Father Marcial Maciel acting alone, should not everyone involved want to have an opportunity to have their names cleared? The message from this is that the image of the Church and its leaders is more important than the truth.

Any shocking story about the Legionaries was taken as indisputable truth

The tone of this statement is eerily similar to the old days when Father Maciel would blame those evil detractors (including ReGAIN) for making up false accusations against him. The information we have brought to light remains here on this website for all to see and we have made a sincere effort to publish only true facts. Is the Apostolic Delegate suggesting that the new Legionary priests should shut down their critical judgment skills? We hope not. Based on numerous articles in this website and others and credible news agency articles, deceit in the Legion continued after the death of its founder. Legion leaders have been forced to admit that they knew things about Father Maciel and about Father Williams while by their actions and statements they pretended to be unaware. The new Legionary priests should have a right to know the truth about their own organization. History has shown that those who believed they were being deceived by their leaders had good reason to believe so. When he said You have seen whether they were true or not. we wonder what information they were allowed to have to discern and judge whether things were true or not.

In his homily, Cardinal DePaolis said they said that they were betrayed by the founder and by the superiors who covered up for him, or did not reveal the truth to them in a satisfactory manner, as if that were a wrong thing to conclude, while the (good) ones who stayed believed that they chose Christ. Is there an implication here that the (bad) ones who left failed to choose Christ? We believe that even those who left the priesthood after discernment could just as well be choosing Christ and could find their true vocation outside the priesthood. .Forced vocations have not proven to be effective.

The statement about suffering and bearing the shame of other Legionaries again reminds us of Father Maciel’s tactics of making comparisons to Jesus. The Legion founder pretended that he had been innocently condemned just like Jesus. The statement here provides an image of the current Legionary trainees suffering for the sins of others (just like Jesus). Perhaps this comparison is unintended and if so we apologize for drawing attention.

There is considerable mention in the homily of the suffering of the Legionaries but only token reference to the suffering of others caused by the founder and some others. However, to this day, there have been extremely few details of what specific harm by the founder and other leaders acknowledged by the Legion. Normally, any expression of remorse by the Legion spokespersons have been general statements such as we are sorry for the wrongs that our founder did. That is like going to confession and saying Father I am sorry for everything I have done since my last confession and not providing any details. To date, several victims of the founder and of other LC abusers known to ReGAIN are still waiting for significant acknowledgement of what was done to them and there has not been significant efforts made for restorative justice. There seems to be a hidden Macielistic lesson to the newly ordained priests that their own suffering outweighs the suffering of those outsiders who may be hurt by them and their organization and to put their own needs ahead of others.

As an opinion, we would say that the words spoken have shown that there is a lack of true understanding about what it is in the Legion that needs to be reformed. Although there have been superficial changes made to the structure and methodology, the old guard leaders and their attitudes remain; a valid charism remains unidentified; the aggressive recruiting continues; information is suppressed and the members continue to be manipulated to the benefit of the same old people who stand to gain the same old money and power from the members’ efforts.

Archbishop Velasio DePaolis Named As Vatican Delegate to Lead Reconstitution of the Legion

The Holy See Press Office, Vatican Information Services has issued a statement confirming the anticipated appointment by Pope Benedict XVI of Italian Archbishop Velasco De Paolis as a special delegate to take over the Legionaries of Christ.

Archbishop De Paolis is a top official in charge of managing Vatican finances,
Knowledgeable Vatican observers have noted the significance of selecting a person with financial as well as legal expertise. (The Legion has reportedly accumulated approximately
$ 30,000,000,000 over the last several decades).

Based on an article by the New York Times, Marco Tosatti, a veteran Vatican correspondent with the newspaper La Stampa has commented that the new Vatican delegate has a particular understanding of the organization of religious orders.

Mr. Tosatti likened the Legionaries to a company that has gone bankrupt and added that a great deal of restructuring would go on and that he expects the current leadership to soon be out.

To see Vatican Information Services press release:
Click Here

To see the New York Times article:
Click Here

Human Damage From Abusive Practices in Groups Such As the Legionaries of Christ

Georges Pontier, Archbishop of Marseille, President of the Conference of Bishops of France, recently responded to calls for recognition of the human damage caused by ecclesial movements such as the Legionaries of Christ and others that are guilty of abusive practices. Click Here

The archbishop was responding to a group of forty victims of various abuses suffered as members of Roman Catholic ecclesial movements and religious orders they had formerly belonged to. One of the three leaders of the group addressing the archbishop was Xavier Leger, a former member of the Legionaries of Christ, who has posted several articles on ReGAIN.

The letter that was submitted by the victims in French may be seen at Click Here The Archbishop’s response is included with the above letter from the victims.

The article stated that::
Critics of the several new ecclesiastical communities had complained of the ‘destruction of personalities’ by cult-like practices. The complaints had centered on groups such as the Legion of Christ, the Beatitudes community, and the Community of St. John – all of which had seen formal charges of misconduct lodged against their founders.

The Archbishop, while warning against the dangers of generalization, did acknowledge difficulties with some groups, involving the manipulation of individual consciences, adding that French bishops oppose such practices, and that the Gospel of Christ, which we seek to serve, is a school of spiritual freedom.

Archbishop Pontier, in his address to the French bishops, gathered in a plenary session issued a call to denounce the human damage that the forty victims had suffered as a result of their membership in the religious orders and movements involved. Such damage he said included depression to suicide or destruction of personalities.

What was new in this case was not the reporting of sexual abuse that plaintiffs have suffered but the spiritual abuse that they suffered. The article referred to the way that founders of these groups have used their spiritual power on young impressionable people and how they take advantage of people by making them become dependent, thus creating an imbalance of power in some cases leading to destruction of personalities.

Another new issue in this case is that it is the first time that such a group of the new religious movements that have been seen as symbols of the new evangelization have been lumped together in these types of circumstances.

In his letter, Archbishop Pontier clarified in his letter that his main concern was the issue of spiritual freedom i.e. manipulation of consciences. He went on to explain that The gospel of Christ we want to serve is a school of spiritual freedom.

He said that in the past, some bishops have warned the public and families about certain groups but he now wishes all bishops to do a better job of listening to accusations from those claiming to be victims. Archbishop Pontier said that there needs to be respect for canon law regarding freedom of conscience.

ReGAIN Comment

We heartily endorse the work of Xavier Leger and the others who presented their testimonies and we are absolutely delighted to hear a member of the Roman Catholic hierarchy recognize that some groups, including the Legionaries of Christ do spiritual damage to some of their members. This is the message that ReGAIN and several others who have pounded away at for years, without positive acknowledgement from the Legion leaders or from the Vatican. It is obvious that until problems of spiritual abuse, manipulation of conscience and abuse of power and the resulting destruction of personalities that can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts are recognized and acknowledged, there will be no progress.

Perhaps if Cardinal DePaolis had dug a little deeper and spoken to ex members and some of Father Maciel’s victims during his three years as Apostolic Delegate, he might have become more aware of the extent of all the damage that has been done and is still being done by Legion leaders other than just the founder.

We sincerely hope and pray that Archbishop Pontier, who seems to have an understanding about human damage done by cult like practices will pass this information on to members of the Holy See and to the Pope so that they might become aware that a reform for a group such as the Legion requires more than superficial changes to their legal documents.

The Catholic Church’s neglect of the sexual abuse problems and failure to deal effectively with it resulted in horrendous consequences including additional suffering for victims, billions of dollars of settlements and loss of millions of Church members, who expected better of the One True Church established by Jesus Christ. We expect that if the Catholic Church continues to enable cult groups such as the Legionaries of Christ to flourish, while they are causing spiritual, psychological and emotional damage and if the Church fails to act, there could be another tsunami of shipwrecked souls, lost membership and further billions of dollars in costs. Can the Church afford for this to happen or can they find a more effective way to stop the spiritual bleeding of people who have a genuine desire to serve God and their Church?

What would Jesus want His representatives in His Church to do?

Ex Legionaries Thoughts About LC Reform and Current Situation

Tension has been building all over as Vatican watchers wait to see how the apostolic delegate and now Cardinal-designate DePaolis will use his sweeping powers. The month of October was a manic depressive?s delight up one day and down the next on both sides of the fence.

The October 19 letter had something for everybody. The letter seemed to be mostly positive regarding the Legion status and even about the clarity of the Legion charism (huh?)

But similar to the fine print in a contract there were some strong hints and references, indicating that all was not peaches and cream. Sandro Magister claimed that the papal delegate De Paolis is issuing an ultimatum: either they change, or it will be “disaster” for all and went on to say that Fr. Garza has been asked to give up the main offices that he holds in the Legion and that a chill developed between the two when he refused. Such disharmony between a Cardinal-designate and a Catholic religious order leader indicates that there is a real struggle going on for big stakes. The Legion has always claimed to be absolutely loyal to Rome. The letter did make reference to the possibility that the existing leaders knew about and concealed some of the bad things that were happening.

ReGAIN contacted some ex Legionary and RC members to see what they thought and felt about recent events. Here are some comments that were expressed:

I have been told that there are many prelates of the Vatican who are disagreeing with the decision of Pope Benedict to save the Legion. Many were expecting him to dissolve the order.

I was hoping for dissolution. I am very disappointed (commenting on the letter.)

Sandro’s letter has given me hope, but it’s only that a long-term strangulation is in process — which does nothing for the wounded. Flowery platitudes are manipulated by the Legion and disheartening to those who deserve better
I cannot see what can be done apart from what appears to be sniping or grumbling. Three years is a long time to wait for them to close up shop, and wastes valuable time for those who want to get on with their lives — in that sense, it’s almost better to ignore it and move on.
Of course those with loved ones inside can’t do that. What else can be done that brings healing and resolution?

…the letter from De Paolis is a pile of crap. I wonder how much it cost the Legion.

What strikes me most is the undermining of the media which is wholly irresponsible because the LCs and followers have ALL been kept in the dark continuously and they still are unknowing of the true history of Maciel.

What a remarkably crazy response from the Vatican. When he wrote, ?Yet it not only survives, but is almost intact in its vitality? I felt like I was reading zombie literature. This is a thing that just won’t die.

He brings up some good points, but almost sounds like an LC at the end. I think they need to completely get rid of ALL current leadership, at bare minimum. I am curious to see what actually takes place at the General Counsel (anyone know when this would take place?). Interesting is how he is already talking about his work with the LC taking years, and how the LC leadership wants to rush it along . . .

It does sound like he has a brain and while I don’t agree with everything there are some things I do agree with. He also appears to be trying to parameterize his involvement. I suspect that he got mail from every single LC and was overwhelmed. However, that said, I think the one huge mistake is that of leaving the superiors in place. While we don’t know who did what, or know about what, there is sufficient circumstantial evidence that maybe the Legion should hold some sort of court marshal type of tribunals and also include ex members. Again, de Paolis is missing the ex factor in his plans. We are part of the cure.

ReGAIN Comment:
Is it time to laugh or cry?
One common trait throughout several of the above comments is that there is disharmony at several levels, between the Vatican and Legion leadership and even within the Vatican hierarchy. ReGAIN testimonies and articles have documented such disharmony that has existed among family members, Legionary and Regnum Christi members among themselves and between them and many bishops. The delegate has recognized that the reform process will take at least three years. Will the Vatican be able to make a silk purse from the proverbial sow?s ear? We will have to wait a long time to find out.

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