In a letter to Regnum Christi members and friends of the Legion of Christ, two territorial directors of the religious organization have expressed regret for the victims of their founder’s sexual misconduct and announced the recent steps taken to move forward.
The letter, dated September 1 was signed by Fr. Scott Reilly, LC, territorial director of Atlanta and Fr. Julio Martí, LC, territorial director of New York. The authenticity of the letter was confirmed to CNA by Jim Fair, U.S. spokesman for the Legion of Christ. The priests explain the purpose of their letter is to share the thoughts and recommendations of the Legion’s General Director, Father Alvaro Corcuera, for the future of the Legion and Regnum Christi.
“As priests,” Reilly and Marti write, “our hearts go out to all those who have been harmed or scandalized” by the actions of Father Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ who passed away in 2008. It was revealed last winter that Fr. Maciel lived a double life and fathered children.
“To all we extend a special apology on behalf of the Legion and our General Director, Father Alvaro Corcuera, who has, in fact, begun to reach out personally and in private to those he knows may have suffered most, offering his heartfelt apology and consolation, and will continue to do so.”
In reaction to the announcement by the Mexican lawyer José Bonilla Sada that six more people in Mexico are claiming to be children of Fr. Maciel, the letter acknowledges “more recently, there have been allegations of other relationships and other children,” but it also says that “given the partial nature of the information available and the impossibility to evaluate immediately and in a definitive manner these complex allegations, the Legion of Christ cannot, at this time, make a statement regarding them.”
The letter also explains that the wide range of emotions, along with “the vast tangle of information, supposition, speculation and opinion, the different cultural sensitivities, and the Christian duty not to publicize the sins of others, have made it difficult to publish the sort of direct statement that many expected of us.”
“Added to this,” Fr. Reilly and Fr. Martí say, “is the fact that we did not know the whole truth, we may not know it yet, and new information may well continue to come to light. What we do learn, we will address, respecting the privacy of those who request it of us.”
The Image of Fr. Maciel
“We wish to be close to anyone who has suffered in any way, and at the same time ask them to live the Christian virtue of pardon from the depth of their hearts,” the letter adds.
Revealing that many Regnum Christi members “have rightly asked if the Legion has made or will make changes in its life,” the letter responds, “Yes…we have, we are and we will,” before listing some of the policies recently implemented.
“One of the questions that come to mind refers to the ‘safe environment and child protection.’” In this regard, the Legion is currently “in the process of accreditation by Praesidium, a risk management organization now helping a great number of religious institutions in North America.”
“Praesidium is conducting a full review of our internal rules and policies, as well as our training of all those who deal with minors. They will shortly be conducting on-site visitation of several of our institutions to verify that what is on paper is being applied,” the priests explain.
Fr. Reilly and Fr. Martí also reveal that in the U.S., the Legion has also “set up an external review board so that in the event of allegations of sexual abuse, we have the advantage of ‘outside eyes’ to weigh the evidence, issues and provide us with recommendations.”
On the financial side, the letter notes that in recent years, “due to the growth of our operations, we have put in place a still more professional system of business management through the services of Integer Group. Staffed by lay professionals, Integer has further improved our operating and management processes to ensure the integrity of all our operations.”
A critical area of adjustment, the letter explains, is “the way we refer to Father Maciel in the Legion and Regnum Christi.”
“While we cannot deny that Father Maciel was our founder and did much good,” the letter says, “neither can we deny the reality of what has recently come to light and his grave human failings.”
The priests then say that “progressive steps” have been taken to ensure “there is no inappropriate reference to Father Maciel,” by removing pictures of him from their center, editing the Legion and Regnum Christi websites and creating new editions of writings and brochures.
According to Fr. Reilly and Fr. Martí, this is “an ongoing and difficult process given the need to discern his person from the solid Catholic doctrine that he transmitted and the legitimate institutional aspects of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christ.”
Regarding the visitation ordained by the Holy See, Fr. Reilly and Fr. Martí say that “Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput of Denver has been appointed as Visitor for the Legion in the United States and Canada. Archbishop Chaput will visit our seminaries and religious houses, see our life up close and interview whomever he wants.”
“His mandate,” it continues, “will be to question, probe and assess with depth and objectivity. Legionaries are free to speak and write to him with all their comments and questions. He sets his own timetable and the points he wishes to probe, and he will present his findings and recommendations directly to the Holy See.”
Changes in Legion Formation
Two other major issues are addressed in the six-page long letter. The first change involves the “private vow of charity” which was professed in the Legion. In their letter, the priests say that the vow was created “to ensure that the grievances one could have with his superior were brought to those who could resolve them and thus avoid irresponsible criticism or internal factions that degrade unity.”
The vow had been approved by the Church and had been in place since 1957, but, the letter explains, Pope Benedict XVI asked them to remove it two years ago – a request which the religious organization followed.
The letter also addressed the practice of superiors being spiritual directors or confessors of their subjects. This policy was also abandoned upon the request of Benedict XVI. “We are seeing positive fruits from this change of practice,” the priests report.
Though some members of the Legion and Regnum Christi have opted to separate themselves from the organization, others are evaluating whether or not they will stay following the Apostolic Visitation, and yet others have decided that they will remain part of the community.
Fr. Reilly and Fr. Martí called on members and friends of the Legion and Regnum Christi to “have great Christian understanding and respect for all. Each of us must presume the best and purest intention in the other, pray for each other, and recognize that each one of us suffers and recovers in different ways and at different times.”
“As tragic as the failings of our founder are, they should not cause us to diminish our efforts to bring souls to Christ, and to serve him and the Church selflessly in all our brothers and sisters,” the letter concludes, announcing that “we enter now into a new chapter of our history which must be focused on the pursuit of holiness and love for souls.”