Rome, Italy, Jan 6, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Legion of Christ is not yet back on its feet, but signs are coming from Rome that a slow and certain renewal is taking place.
The religious congregation founded by Father Marcial Maciel in 1941 in Mexico City is known for its regimented brand of Catholicism and enthusiastic evangelization. After decades of building a large and respected international presence, the Legion has been reeling in recent years from revelations of its founder's "double life” — including grave sexual and financial abuses.
Next month, the Legion will begin a new phase in its ongoing rehabilitation under the watchful eyes of Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, a Vatican delegate specially appointed last July by Pope Benedict XVI.
February will see the launch of a series of detailed “community reflections,” in Legion communities, the congregation’s Rome-based spokesman, Father Andres Schoggl, told CNA on Jan. 5.
Fr. Schoggl said a commission appointed by Cardinal De Paolis is now preparing procedures and thematic introductions for these community-wide self-reflections, which he said will be "the core activity of the revision process."
The consultations are expected to go on for a period of several years, he added.
“The main short term goal is the active and constructive participation of all Legionaries in this renewal process,” Fr. Schoggl said.
Throughout the last year, Legion communities have been implementing reforms to address concerns about the Legion’s internal governance, and to safeguard against possible sexual abuse, among other issues.
Since the appointment of Cardinal De Paolis, information about the process of renewal has been scarce.
In an Oct. 19 letter, Cardinal De Paolis told the Legionaries that every one of them should be involved and take responsibility for the task. He said the renewal process will take "at least two or three years, or even more."
In December 2010, he appointed a commission to revise the congregation's constitutions.
Although it is a difficult time for the Legion, Fr. Schoggl said it is also "a time of great opportunity."
They are "moving forward on the way of renewal," he said, although he admitted it has taken time to recover from the "shock" and "quite traumatic experience" of their founder's double life.
"It is not an easy time, but by and large the congregation is sound – as Pope Benedict put it – and the Legionaries are ready to face the challenges."
The Legion has the opportunity to take a "deep, thorough look" at themselves and how they carry out their ministry, he said. Guided by the Pope and Cardinal De Paolis, they will be "changing what needs to be changed," the Legion spokesman said.
According to published reports, some Legion members believe these potential changes are coming about too slowly.
Critics point to the fact that the committee appointed by Cardinal De Paolis includes four Legionaries who were close confidants of the now disgraced Fr. Maciel.
True renewal, these critics charge, will only come if the Cardinal “make heads roll" in the upper echelons of the Legion hierarchy, according to a report by Sandro Magister, editor of the Rome-based website www.chiesa.espressonline.it.
Magister said that Cardinal De Paolis "knows where he's going" while he moves "at the snail's pace typical of the Roman curia, in which he is a perfect example of the old school ways." He predicted that more drastic changes would be seen in the hierarchy by Easter.
One of the heads Magister predicts will "roll," is that of Legion director general, Father Alvaro Corcuera, who recently published a set of guidelines that were aimed at removing the face of Fr. Maciel from the congregation.
The Legion's Rome spokesman explained that Fr. Corcuera's guidelines confirmed an already standard practice in the congregation.
He said leaders and members have been battling Fr. Maciel's memory for some time now.
In 2004, the Vatican began investigations into repeated allegations by former Legion seminarians of misconduct by the founder. After the inquiries into the charges made against Fr. Maciel were completed, Pope Benedict XVI made the rare call in 2006 to banish him to a life of seclusion and prayer.
Fr. Maciel died in 2008, two years ago this month. But the investigations were far from over.
An internal investigation carried out by the Legion in 2009 revealed that their charismatic founder had sexually abused seminarians and fathered several children. An official Vatican investigation, called an “apostolic visitation,” began in the same year to examine the state of the congregation he founded.
At its conclusion on May 1, 2010, the Holy See rebuked the "very grave and objectively immoral actions of Father Maciel” that “in some cases constitute real crimes and manifest a life devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning."
"Today," said Fr. Schoggl, "there is not a single Legionnaire who thinks that we can relate to our founder as if nothing had happened. On the other hand, this is not about artificially re-writing our history or re-inventing what the life and the mission of this congregation is all about."
He said that they are "moving on, together, with much mutual respect and attentive discernment of the spiritual patrimony of our congregation."
Further steps include a visitation of the consecrated members of the Legion's lay movement, Regnum Christi. Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez of Valladolid, Spain will begin carrying out on-site visits this month for that effort.
The consecrated men and women "view this as a time of great opportunity to improve how they live out their commitment to the Church," said the spokesman.
Another sign of new life came on Christmas Eve when 61 deacons were ordained to the priesthood in Rome. Men who experienced the rise and fall of the Legion through more than a decade of formation made their permanent vows to the priesthood and the congregation.
Fr. Schoggl said "their total commitment to the congregation at this point of our history is still a strong sign of hope."
While they have slowed, new vocations are far from drying up completely. The Legion had 143 young men enter first-year formation internationally in 2010, just 19 fewer than in 2009.
"Realistically speaking," said Fr. Schoggl, "we will not be able to maintain our growth rate of the last two decades, but I am confident that also in the future many young men will follow Christ and serve the Church in our congregation."
2011 promises to be one of great change for the Legion under Cardinal De Paolis' direction. It is also a milestone for the congregation, which is observing the 70th anniversary of its foundation.
At the anniversary Mass in Rome on Jan. 3, Fr. Schoggl witnessed "a lot of gratitude and confidence" in the congregation. Cardinal De Paolis presided over the Mass during which he reminded them that a congregation's foundation is a gift of God for the Church.
"Yes, at this stage of our life we need purification and renewal, but," remembered Fr. Schoggl, "he also told us that this process will strengthen us and will lead us to fulfill our mission in the Church in a better way."
Vatican City, Jan 6, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - As the magi saw God's path by following the light of the star, Christians today find their way by the light of sacred Scriptures, Pope Benedict XVI told a large crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square today.
The Pope made his remarks following the celebration of Mass Jan. 6 for the solemnity of the Epiphany. Epiphany recalls the biblical story of the oriental kings who followed the star to Bethlehem to adore the newborn Jesus Christ.
In his homily at the Mass, the Pope said the image of the magi should remind believers to seek their direction in life through meditation and prayer.
"They were certain that in creation there exists that which we could define as the 'signature' of God, a signature that man can and must attempt to discover and decipher," he said.
On their route they found Herod, who saw God as "a rival," said the Pope.
"Perhaps, do we too sometimes see God as some sort of rival?" he asked. “When we see God in this way we end up feeling dissatisfied and unhappy, because do not we let ourselves be guided by him who is the foundation of all things.”
He added: "We must remove from our minds and our hearts the idea of rivalry, the idea that giving space to God means imposing a limit for ourselves; we must open ourselves to the certainty that God is omnipotent love who takes nothing away – (He is) no threat, indeed, He is the only one capable of offering us the opportunity to live fully, to experience real joy."
He said the magi’s trust in the star testifies to their faith that God gives signs of himself in creation.
As "wise men," he explained, "they knew well that it was not with just any telescope, but with the profound eyes of reason in search of the ultimate meaning of reality ... that is possible to find Him, actually it makes it possible for God to come closer to us.”
"The world is not the result of chance as some would like to make us believe," the Pope said.
In creation, we can see "the wisdom of the Creator, the inexhaustible fantasy of God and his infinite love for us," he said.
Pope Benedict urged people to not allow their minds be limited by theories that "if we look closely, are not at all in competition with the faith, but are not able to explain the ultimate meaning of reality."
The "language of creation" can only take a person so far on his walk towards God, he said. For the magi, "it was indispensable to hear the voice of the Sacred Scriptures: only those (words) could indicate their way," the Pope said referring to how the wise men consulted the Jewish leaders for direction.
"The Word of God is the true star, which in the uncertainty of human discourse offers us the immense splendor of the divine truth, walking with the Church, where the Word has put up its tent. Our path will always be illuminated by a light that no other sign can give us. And we also will be able to become stars for others, reflections of that light that Christ made shine in us."
Following the Mass, the Pope sent a special greeting to the "brothers and sisters of the oriental Churches," who celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7. He asked that the goodness of God strengthen them in faith, hope and charity and comfort them in difficult times.
He also thanked the children of the world participating in World Day for Missionary Childhood and said their prayer and commitment representents a "real contribution" to the Church's mission.
Miami, Fla., Jan 6, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Radio Paz, a ministry of the Archdiocese of Miami, has become the newest radio affiliate of the EWTN Global Catholic Network.
The station will expand the amount of programming from EWTN’s Spanish-language network, Radio Católica Mundial, from three hours per day to up to 12 hours per day. Radio Paz has had a 13-year relationship with the global media network.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami commented on the change, saying:
“As Radio Paz and EWTN move forward as a team, I know you will enjoy and appreciate the new productions.”
EWTN president and CEO Michael P. Warsaw said that many people are aware of the network’s English-language radio feed, broadcast by 148 affiliates. But EWTN also has two Spanish radio networks as well as a Spanish television network.
“We are especially pleased to include the Miami Archdiocese as part of our family,” Warsaw said.
Almost 85 percent of U.S. Catholic radio stations use programming from EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network or Radio Católica Mundial. This programming is supplied to affiliates free of charge.
Warsaw credited the growth of Catholic radio in the U.S. to EWTN foundress Mother Angelica.
“Mother launched the world’s largest privately-owned shortwave radio facility on Dec. 28, 1992,” he noted. “Approximately three years later, on Feb. 27, 1996, EWTN launched a worldwide AM/FM radio service. Mother’s vision was to build Catholic radio in this country, and around the world, by offering quality Catholic programming and advice free of charge.”
EWTN began its Hispanic outreach on Feb. 1, 1989 with a three-hour block of programming. The network’s round-the-clock Spanish-language television and radio has been available in Latin America and Spain since 1996 and in the U.S. since 1999.
There were fewer than 10 Catholic-formatted radio stations in the U.S. in 1996, according to Warsaw. Now 148 out of 175 Catholic AM/FM radio stations in the country are EWTN affiliates. EWTN Catholic radio can also be heard on Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 160 and on the internet.
San Diego, Calif., Jan 6, 2011 (CNA) - The Mount Soledad Memorial Cross is unconstitutional because it conveys the message of “state-endorsed religion,” a federal appeals court ruled on Jan. 4.
The 29-foot cross, located in a San Diego public park near the suburb of La Jolla, was dedicated in 1954 to honor veterans of the Korean War.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ unanimous ruling said the decision was in no way “meant to undermine the importance of honoring our veterans.”
"Indeed, there are countless ways that we can and should honor them, but without the imprimatur of state-endorsed religion."
The court said modifications could be made to render the cross constitutional, but it did not specify those changes.
Joe Infranco, senior counsel of the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, criticized the ruling.
“It's tragic that the court chose a twisted and tired interpretation of the First Amendment over the common sense idea that the families of fallen American troops should be allowed to honor these heroes as they choose,” he said.
The legal battle over the cross began in 1989 when Vietnam veteran Philip Paulson, an atheist, sued the city of San Diego. He argued that the cross excludes veterans who aren’t Christian. A Jewish veterans’ group has also been a plaintiff in the case, as has the American Civil Liberties Union.
Both state and federal courts have ordered the cross removed. In 2005, San Diego residents overwhelmingly approved a measure to preserve the cross by donating the land on which it sits to the federal government.
While the land transfer eventually took place, the courts have ruled that this did not protect the cross from the constitutional dispute.
David Blair-Loy of the ACLU in San Diego County defended the decision.
“We honor those who have served, but the Constitution does not allow the government to exclude non-Christians by endorsing a clearly religious symbol,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
Jimmie L. Foster, national commander of the American Legion, called on Attorney General Eric Holder to appeal the “regrettable decision” to the Supreme Court.
“The sanctity of this cross is about the right to honor our nation's veterans in a manner which the overwhelming majority supports,” he commented in a Jan. 5 statement. “The American Legion strongly believes the public has a right to protect its memorials.”
Rev. John Fredericksen, a 56-year-old Christian pastor from Orlando, Fla., was a Jan 3. visitor to the Mount Soledad cross who was critical of the court ruling.
“For those who are offended, they can move or look somewhere else,” he told the AP. “Christians are not asking every mosque or synagogue to be torn down. Why tear down a symbol of Christianity? Let them find or make their own memorial.”
The court ruling rejected the notion that the cross was intended solely as a war memorial. It said that for most of its history the cross served as a site for annual Easter services. A plaque designating it as a war memorial was not added until the legal controversy began in the late 1980s.
The cross was dedicated not only to fallen soldiers, but also to Jesus Christ with the hope that it would be “a symbol in this pleasant land of Thy great love and sacrifice for all mankind.” The ruling also described cross supporters’ “starkly religious message” and the religious characterizations of their campaign.
The court said that La Jolla has “a history of anti-Semitism that reinforces the Memorial’s sectarian effect.” It cited local housing discrimination against Jews until the late 1950s and testimony that local residents of the time believed without thinking that being religious meant being Christian.
Foster said the American Legion intends to file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of an appeal.
“Frankly, after having read the decision, I would say that it will take either the wisdom of King Solomon or the Supreme Court to resolve the issue,” he said.
Washington D.C., Jan 6, 2011 (CNA) - The new president of the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, announced Jan. 5 that he appointed Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, California as chairman of the conference's Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage.
Bishop Cordileone succeeds Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who was elected vice president of the conference at the bishops' assembly in Baltimore this past November.
“I am grateful for the leadership of Archbishop Kurtz and humbled by this opportunity to serve the bishops of the United States, the Church and our country on this most vital and defining issue of our day,” Bishop Cordileone said.
“Marriage and the family are the essential coordinates for society. How well we as a society protect and promote marriage and the family is the measure of how well we stand for the inviolable dignity and good of every individual in our society, without exception.”
Bishop Cordileone also serves as a member of the bishops' Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance.
During his time as the Bishop of Oakland he has worked to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. His work has been high profile because of the adoption of Proposition 8—the successful ballot initiative that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman—and subsequent legal efforts to overturn it.
“The consequences for our future – especially that of our nation’s children – cannot be greater and must not be ignored,” Bishop Cordileone said on Jan. 5.
The Ad Hoc Committee was founded in 2008 with the help of the fraternal Catholic organization the Knights of Columbus. At the bishops' 2010 fall meeting, former conference president Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said that the Defense of Marriage group would move into a subcommittee under the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth during the first half of 2011.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 6, 2011 (CNA) - The association Professionals for Ethics in Spain announced that 3,000 Spaniards have written to the country's Minister of Health, Leire Pajin, demanding that she respect the right of health care workers to object to abortion and euthanasia.
Leonor Tamayo, a spokesman for Professional for Ethics, stated on Jan. 4 that the 3,000 emails were the result of a campaign asking Pajin to support Resolution 1763. The resolution was approved in October 2010 by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, recognizing the “right to conscientious objection in medical care.”
The resolution recommends that “no person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia or any act which could cause the death of a human fetus or embryo, for any reason.”
Resolutions of the Council of Europe are not legally binding, but have considerable influence on the policies of EU member states.
Tamayo remarked that he is confident the number of emails to Pajin as well as to regional health ministers will increase in the coming weeks.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 6, 2011 (CNA) - A new policy in Spain has put the country in last place among members of the European Union in the amount of aid given to families.
The policy eliminated a $3,200 subsidy per child for families in the country. It went into effect Jan. 1.
Luxembourg, Denmark and Austria provide the most assistance to families, reported the Institute for Family Policy.
The institute uses 10 indicators to analyze aid programs for families in the European Union, including the percentage of the GDP earmarked for such aid, subsidies per child, the length of maternity leave and the flexibility allowed in work schedules.
The institute’s president, Eduardo Hertfelder, denounced the new policy in a Dec. 30 statement and said it exposes the Socialist government’s “profound insensitivity and contempt” for families.
Hertfelder stated that a change of direction is needed as “aid for families is the most basic kind (of aid) a society needs.”
“It is the family that supports the social framework and prevents a social crisis of incalculable consequences. Without the family and the social functions it carries out, the huge levels of unemployment would have dramatically crushed our social structures,” he added.
The pro-life leader warned that if the current policies are not corrected, 2011 will be “an even darker year” for the family.
Decisions such as the elimination of the child subsidy prove that the basic cell of society has been “abandoned,” Hertfelder stated.
It is obvious that the government “has no political will to help families. In fact, we can say that the family in Spain is being punished by the government,” he concluded.