Legion of Christ Head Takes Leave for Health Reasons

Father Sylvester Heereman, the order’s vicar general, will assume Father Alvaro Corcuera’s role until the next general chapter.

Fr. Alvaro Corcuera (L), general director of the Legion of Christ, and Cardinal Velasio De Paolis at a press conference.
Fr. Alvaro Corcuera (L), general director of the Legion of Christ, and Cardinal Velasio De Paolis at a press conference. (photo: Photo provided by Legion of Christ.)

ROME — Father Alvaro Corcuera, general director of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, announced that he is handing over his responsibilities for the sake of his health.

“I have seen before God that I do not have the health and energy necessary to face responsibly the demands of the general governance in the present time in the history of the Legion and Regnum Christi,” he wrote Oct. 9 in a letter to his brother Legionaries and the members of Regnum Christi.

Father Corcuera has been general director of the Legion since January 2005, taking over from Father Marcial Maciel, who was denounced by the Vatican “for serious and objectively immoral behavior.” Maciel, who died in 2008, was accused of sexually abusing seminarians and leading a double life.

The Legion has been overseen since 2010 by Cardinal Velasio de Paolis, after an apostolic visitation determined that the order needed “profound re-evaluation.”

Father Sylvester Heereman, the order’s vicar general, will assume his new responsibilities on Oct. 15; his responsibilities will last until the convocation of the order’s next general chapter meeting in late 2013 or early 2014. Father Heereman succeeded Father Luis Garza as vicar general in 2011. 

Father Heereman, 38, was appointed vicar general by Cardinal de Paolis on Feb. 16.

Reflecting on his decision to step aside, Father Corcuera wrote, “I can see that the Legion and Regnum Christi are working their way forward on the path of renewal. It is path of suffering, still difficult and complex, but full of hope.

“In recent months, I have felt the great support of the general council, which has begun to take on an increasingly active role. Cardinal de Paolis has been close to us with his guidance, very wise, giving us his energies and his time.”

Following conversations with the cardinal and reflecting on the Legion’s constitutions, Father Corcuera, 55, decided that while he is not gravely ill, “someone who is in full health” is needed to act as general director. The decision is a measure to ensure his health will not be definitely compromised.

The decisions of the general directorate will continue to be “reserved to the papal delegate,” Cardinal de Paolis said in an Oct. 10 letter sent to Legion and Regnum Christi members.

Though Father Corcuera will not be exercising his office, he remains the general director of the Legion. He told his fellow Legionaries that he will “continue to offer you my closeness and company, with all my heart, to promote with you and advance together with you along the path of renewal on which we have set out.”

He exhorted them to give Cardinal de Paolis “dedication and adherence” and Father Heereman “obedience and closeness.”

In his Oct. 10 letter, Cardinal de Paolis acknowledged Father Corcuera’s generous self-gift as general director. He announced that the next chapter meeting of the Legion will elect new superiors, and “approve the new constitutions, which by desire of the Holy Father are now in the process of revision.”

It was mentioned in the cardinal’s letter that the idea for Father Corcuera to make “something in the order of a sabbatical year” came from the cardinal.

The decision was made, the letter said, for “the good of the Legion and Father Alvaro himself.”