The Future of the Legionaries of Christ
Full Text of the Holy See’s Statement
The following is the official Vatican translation, published May 3, of the communiqué which the Holy See issued at the end of the May 1 meeting regarding the apostolic visitation to the Legionaries of Christ. The original is in Italian.
1. On April 30 and May 1, the cardinal secretary of state chaired a meeting at the Vatican with the five bishops in charge of the apostolic visitation of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ (Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid, Spain; Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput, OFM Cap, of Denver; Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, SDB, of Concepcion, Chile; Bishop Giuseppe Versaldi of Alexandria, Italy; and Bishop Ricardo Watty Urquidi, MSpS, of Tepic, Mexico). The meeting was also attended by the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and the substitute of the Section for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State.
The Holy Father was present at one of the sessions, at which the visitors presented a summary of their reports, which had already been previously delivered.
During the visitation, more than 1,000 Legionaries were interviewed, and hundreds of written testimonies examined. The visitors went to almost all the religious houses and many of the apostolic works run by the congregation. They heard, orally or in writing, the opinion of many diocesan bishops of the countries in which the congregation works. The visitors also met many members of the Regnum Christi movement — although it was not the subject of the visitation — especially consecrated men and women. They have also received a great amount of correspondence from laypeople and family members of those involved in the movement.
The five visitors spoke of the warm welcome they received and of the constructive spirit of cooperation shown by the congregation and the individual religious. Though each visitor acted independently, they came to substantial agreement and a shared viewpoint in their assessments. They testified to having met a great number of exemplary religious who are honest and talented, many of them young, who seek Christ with genuine zeal and are offering their entire lives to spread the Kingdom of God.
2. The apostolic visit was able to ascertain that the behavior of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado has had serious consequences for the life and structure of the Legion, such as to require a process of in-depth revision.
The very serious and objectively immoral behavior of Father Maciel, as incontrovertible evidence has confirmed, sometimes resulted in actual crimes, and manifests a life devoid of scruple and of genuine religious sentiment. The great majority of Legionaries were unaware of this life, above all because of the system of relationships created by Father Maciel, who had skillfully managed to build up alibis, to gain the trust, confidence and silence of those around him, and to strengthen his role as a charismatic founder.
Not infrequently, the lamentable discrediting and dismissal of whoever doubted the correctness of his behavior, coupled with the misguided conviction of not wanting to harm the good the Legion was doing, created a defense mechanism around Father Maciel that rendered him untouchable for a long time and made it very difficult to know his real life.
3. The sincere zeal of most Legionaries, which emerged in the visits to the houses of the congregation and to many of its widely appreciated apostolic works, has in the past led many people to believe that the allegations, which gradually became more insistent and widespread, could not have been anything other than calumnies.
Thus, discovering and coming to know the truth about the founder has caused the members of the Legion surprise, bewilderment and deep pain, as the visitors have made clear.
4. From the results of the apostolic visitation the following elements, among others, have become clear:
a) The need to redefine the charism of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, preserving its true core, that of the “militia Christi,” which characterizes the apostolic and missionary activity of the Church and which is not the same as efficiency at any cost.
b) The need to review the exercise of authority, which must be linked to truth, in order to respect conscience and develop in the light of the Gospel as authentic ecclesial service.
c) The need to preserve, through appropriate formation, the enthusiasm of the faith of young members, their missionary zeal and their apostolic dynamism. Disillusionment concerning the founder could call into question this vocation and the core of the charism which belongs to and distinguishes the Legionaries of Christ.
5. The Holy Father wishes to assure all Legionaries and members of the Regnum Christi movement that they will not be abandoned. The Church is firmly resolved to accompany them and help them on the path of purification that awaits them. This will also mean dealing sincerely with all of those who, within and outside the Legion, were victims of sexual abuse and of the power system devised by the founder. They are in the Holy Father’s thoughts and prayers at this time, along with his gratitude to those of them who, even in the midst of great difficulties, had the courage and constancy to demand the truth.
6. The Holy Father, in thanking the visitors for the sensitive task they have accomplished with skill, generosity and profound pastoral sensitivity, reserves to himself the task of soon instructing how this assistance will be organized, beginning with the appointment of a delegate of his own and a commission to study the Legion’s constitutions.
The Holy Father will send a visitor to the consecrated members of the Regnum Christi movement, who have insistently requested this.
7. Finally, the Pope renews his encouragement to all the Legionaries of Christ, to their families, and to all the laypeople involved in the Regnum Christi movement, during this difficult time for the congregation and for each of them. He urges them not to lose sight of the fact that their vocation, which originates in Christ’s call and is driven by the ideal of being witnesses of his love to the world, is a genuine gift from God, a treasure for the Church, and the indestructible foundation upon which each of them can build their own future and that of the Legion.