A year after assuming duties as pontifical delegate for the Legion of Christ, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis gave a speech evaluating the current situation of the religious congregation. He sharply criticized “dissidents” within the order who create division and internal tensions.
Cardinal De Paolis gave a “provisional assessment” of the task of rebuilding the order in a July 3 speech delivered at the Legion’s Center for Higher Learning in Rome. He explained that the order has already implemented “one-third” of the preparations to be completed before the Legion's general chapter meeting.
The meeting could be held as soon as 2013.
Leaders of the order are expected to then vote on major changes and revisions to the Legion’s constitutions.
“This period has provided an opportunity for greater serenity within the congregation and for a strengthening of renewed fidelity of the members to the congregation,” the cardinal explained.
“While it is true that in 2010 the institute suffered its greatest losses, it is also true that the exodus has been contained with regard to priests,” he said.
However, regarding the abandonment of the order by its youngest members, Cardinal De Paolis noted “the negative influence exercised by some companions who, upon entering the process of renewal, have adopted an absolutely critical attitude towards the path of renewal.”
“From the beginning, a group of members have joined together and has been described, by whom I don’t know, as ‘dissidents’,” the cardinal continued.
“In reality it is not a very large group, as there are very few people leading it. In emphasizing a ‘structural contamination’ of the congregation, they have manifested a radical lack of confidence in the continuation and renewal of the congregation. And in every way they have become antagonistic towards the legitimate superiors, seeing themselves almost as custodians of the orthodoxy of the road that must be traveled. They are using the internet extensively, with a network that extends to perhaps 200 or more people, including Legionaries, ex-Legionaries or friends of Legionaries with whom they usually meet,” Cardinal De Paolis stated.
The pontifical delegate said these “dissidents” act like “depositories of a prophetic mission in which some think they have a particular vocation to take the place of their superiors, to set themselves up as masters of the spiritual life and masters of sound doctrine.” They exercise “negative influence on the youngest members.
"This kind of information for some is the reason why the youngest members abandon the Legion,” he continued.
“Some of the leaders of this group are unsure about their vocations and share their doubts with others for no good purpose,” he said.
“As they are stuck on the harm suffered by the congregation, they seem to enjoy looking at the wounds and continuously reopening them, instead of looking toward the future with greater depth and hope, working for true renewal and taking the true path of conversion,” he added.
“We do indeed need to recognize that we are sinners. But to stop there is death! If that is a time for realizing that we need God, then it is a grace, and grace is what comes to meet us,” the cardinal said.
“The community, or our group of interest, is not an instrument for venting our frustrations or finding justifications. Our community is a not a ‘spit bowl.’ And we should feel humiliated when we are used like this,” he said.
Cardinal de Paolis also discussed the changes that are taking place within the Legion of Christ, including the work done by commissions looking at the order’s economic situation, financial settlements and the work of the European University of Rome.
“The work carried out by me and my advisors has been done, above all, in conjunction with the superiors in their service of authority, which is particularly delicate during this period. We believed it was appropriate to broaden the general council with two new advisors named after consulting the entire congregation,” the cardinal said.
“We have addressed various problems that have come up with greater urgency, such as that of defining the figure of the founder and his writings in the life of the congregation; legislation on internal and external jurisdiction; on the relationship between superior-spiritual director-confessor, with regards to religious in particular; there has also been a review of Regnum Christi, in particular the consecrated branch, especially the consecrated women, which included an apostolic visitation that concluded just recently.
“We will carefully examine the question when the visitor presents his conclusions,” he said.
“But the most important issue the Pope has given us is that of revising the constitutions, inasmuch as they mold your lifestyle, your spirituality, your apostolate; they contain your charism and the instruments for living it,” Cardinal De Paolis said.
“We have tried to avoid as much as possible, making any immediate changes to the constitutions, preferring instead that definitive decisions be made by the chapter,” he added.