ROME — The papal delegate to the Legion of Christ ended a three-year period of reform Tuesday, declaring the congregation “reconciled with themselves, with their history, with the world and the Church.”
Closing the Legion’s Extraordinary General Chapter, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis said the congregation had “looked inside themselves with a new and purified glance” and examined their current situation “in order to single out potential traces of pollution left by the founder of the Legion in their identity and action, in their legislation and way of working.”
He added that in “renewing their vocations, their self-giving to Christ and to one another, they have been freed of the burden that weighed on their backs. They have gone out of themselves and have found their place within the whole Regnum Christi movement.”
In 2010, Benedict XVI appointed the Italian cardinal to help oversee reform of the congregation, after a Vatican investigation revealed widespread corruption and abuse by its founder, Father Marcial Maciel.
On Feb. 6, the Legionaries of Christ released a statement that condemned the actions of their founder, apologized to his victims and set a new course for the congregation’s future.
Cardinal De Paolis said the Legion had accomplished the two principal tasks of the Extraordinary General Chapter: to give the congregation a new central government and to revise its constitutions. The constitutions have now been sent to the Holy See for review.
Pope Francis must now decide whether to sign the new constitutions. The Vatican has already intervened in the elections of the Legion’s new governing body, choosing a deputy director and one of the general counselors.
Addressing Father Maciel’s Transgressions
Cardinal De Paolis said the chapter fathers “quickly brought forward questions to which Legionaries throughout the world expected answers.” Most importantly, he said, “great strides” had been made on dealing with issues related to Father Maciel — “the one issue to which all the rest of the questions were connected.”
The papal delegate said the Legion’s assessment of the founder was “broad, objective and serene — almost detached,” recognizing his transgressions and thankful to the Church for helping the congregation heal the wounds after “penance and purification.”
He said the Legion itself could be considered a “victim” of Father Maciel’s crimes, even though some superiors bore responsibility “in particular for the delays in which they operated.” Cardinal De Paolis said the chapter asks forgiveness from Father Maciel’s victims, but also “recognizes that the Legionaries are called to take on the consequences of his faults, like our Lord Jesus Christ, who took the sin of the world upon himself, in order to atone for them insofar as possible.”
“In light of this renewal,” he said, the Legion can “once again take up its mission within Regnum Christi and the life of the Church. At the same time, the chapter fathers invoked God’s mercy on the founder.”
Cardinal De Paolis said the chapter had drafted a path for the central government to follow “in the next six years” and added that the two-month meeting had provided “an ample examination of conscience that has deeply considered the life of the Legion, propelling it towards a future full of hope.”
The chapter “necessitated a salutary spiritual journey,” he said, and helped the chapter fathers to renew their Yes to their Legionary vocations.
“Looking back over this spiritual journey in all of its breadth, one should be filled with wonder,” Cardinal De Paolis said. “The question comes up: Who has done all of this? The answer is already on your lips because you have meditated on it in your hearts. This is the moment to thank the Lord with the sentiments that filled Mary’s heart.”
Legion of Christ Statement
In an accompanying statement signed by the chapter fathers Tuesday, the Legion summarized the chapter’s achievements and expressed copious thanks to those involved in the reform.
The new text of the constitutions “expresses, protects and promotes the charism” of the Legion, the statement said. It noted that a new central government has been elected, and themes relating to “identity and charism” were reflected upon. The statement did not define the charism.
Both Cardinal De Paolis and the chapter fathers stressed that, as far as they are concerned, the charism is conclusively addressed by the draft of the constitutions that has been submitted to the Holy Father for approval. The chapter fathers said the constitutions express, protect and promote the Legion’s charism.
They recalled that the Legion has “asked for pardon from God and from those who have suffered because of these events, and we have renewed our commitment to do what is necessary to ensure that such events are not repeated in the future.”
The new constitutions, they added, offer “guidelines and principles that will orient us in living our vocation.”
“At the end of one stage and the beginning of another, our spirit overflows with gratitude,” the chapter fathers said, and they offered thanks “first of all to Jesus Christ.” They then thanked all those who helped in the reform, starting with Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. And they expressed gratitude to all members of the Legion and Regnum Christi and asked that they continue to accompany the congregation in “prayer as the journey of renewal continues.”
The chapter fathers also remembered “with affection those who have left the Legion” and thanked them for the good they had done during their time in the congregation.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.