.- Apostolic Visitors to the Legion of Christ condemned the "very serious and objectively immoral acts" of its founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, in a statement on Saturday. The results of meetings from the last two days include the call for a "profound revision" of the life and structure of the congregation.
The Holy See has released a statement from the meetings which took place between April 30 and May 1 at the Vatican. In addition to the five bishops involved in the Apostolic Visitation, the note recognizes that the Holy Father, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and three members of the Roman Curia were also involved in discussions.
The Visitors, reads the note, after an extensive investigation which took them to nearly every one of the religious order's houses, "have attested to having encountered a great number of exemplary, honest religious people, (who are) full of talent, many of whom are young, seek Christ with authentic zeal and offer their entire existence for the diffusion of the Kingdom of God." However, the statement continues, the Visitors were "able to verify that the conduct of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado caused serious consequences in the life and structure of the Legion, such that require a path of profound revision."
The "very serious and objectively immoral acts" of the late founder of the order, which were "confirmed by incontrovertible testimonies," represent "true crimes and manifest a life without scruples or authentic religious sentiment," the message states.
They acknowledge that "the great part of the Legionaries" had no knowledge of these facts because of Fr. Maciel's communications system and his ability to "create alibis, obtain trust, confidence and silence from those around him and reinforce his own role as charismatic founder."
The Visitors later observe that the "sincere zeal" of the majority of the members of the order and the appreciation of many for their good work propagated the belief that the accusations against the founder were nothing but "slander."
"Therefore, the discovery and the knowledge of the truth about the founder provoked surprise, bewilderment and profound sorrow in members of the Legion ..."
The members of the Visitation offer three recommendations for moving forward. Included are the necessity to “redefine the charism" of the Legionaries while "conserving the true nucleus" of the order that "distinguishes the apostolic and missionary action of the Church and that doesn't identify itself with efficiency at any cost."
The suggestion to "review the exercise of authority," accompanied by truth so as to "respect conscience and develop as authentic ecclesial service in the light of the Gospel" is also underlined by the statement.
The third element highlighted by the Visitors is "the necessity to conserve the enthusiasm of the faith of the young people and the missionary zeal, the apostolic dynamism, through an adequate formation." This, they add, must bear in mind that "the disappointment around the founder could put into question the vocation and that nucleus of charism that belongs to the Legionaries of Christ and is their own."
The message from the Holy See also outlines the Pope's reassurance that both the Legion and the associated "Regnum Christi" Movement will not be left alone. The Pope transmits the message that the Church “has the firm will to accompany them and help them in the path of purification that awaits them."
To the victims of abuse inside as well as outside of the congregation, the Holy Father offers his thoughts and prayers along with gratitude to those who acted with "courage and constancy to demand the truth," despite the difficulties.
The announcement also tentatively lists future actions resulting from the investigation. They are to include the nomination of a delegate and a commission to study the constitutions, as well as a Visitor for "Regnum Christi," upon their insistent request.
The statement concludes with words of encouragement from Pope Benedict XVI for the Legionaries, their families and lay faithful involved in the "Regnum Christi" movement "in this difficult moment for the Congregation and each of them.
He exhorts them "not to lose sight of their vocations," which he calls an "authentic gift of God, a wealth for the Church, the indestructible foundation upon which each of them can build their own future and that of the Legion."
The Apostolic Visitors are Bishop Ricardo Watti Urquidi of Tepic, Mexico; Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver; Bishop Giuseppe Versaldi of Alessandria, Italy; Archbishop Ricardo Ezzato Andrello of Concepción, Chile; and Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez of Bilbao, Spain.