Over the weekend, the Secretary General of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Evaristo Sada addressed members of the movement about moving forward following revelations of their founder's double life. The priest urged them to “assume the consequences” of their founder's actions and to correct the things within the Legion that need to be corrected.”
Fr. Sada's comments came during a meeting for the youth and families in Mexico City, which brought together 10,000 members of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement.
“With all my heart I want to ask the forgiveness of those who were affected by our founder because of the immoral acts of his personal life," Fr. Sada began emphasizing that both he and the movement's superior general, Father Alvar Corcuera, have asked for forgiveness repeatedly “because we sincerely regret that the Church and these people have suffered.”
Fr. Sada also remarked that the revelations of the Legion of Christ founder, Father Marcial Maciel, gave him a lesson in humility and helped him to “acknowledge that we have made mistakes.”
“We must identify the causes, assume the consequences, and correct what needs to be corrected with determination so that it never happens again.” He went on to explain that his own lesson in humility included accepting the truth about the life of Fr. Maciel. “I had to accept that when I lived with our founder, I did not see the negative things that we now know about. I didn’t see them, I was only able to see the good and I was unaware of the bad. God allowed it to be this way. Now that I have seen them, I feel great sorrow, I feel sorrow for the people who have suffered, and sorrow that this has brought scorn upon the Catholic priesthood.”
Speaking about Fr. Maciel, Fr. Sada said, “I pray for him, I pray a lot for him. I accept him also as part of my history although it hurts to be the target of suspicions and mistrust.” However, he noted, "I offer (the mistrust) to God in reparation...I offer it for all those who have suffered the most and who have felt misunderstood. I offer it for the Church, which has been harmed,” the priest said, adding that humility is needed in order to “recognize the great pain I feel when I realize that the instrument God used to give me so much good, also harmed others.”
Fr. Sada drew a parallel between the current crisis of the Legion and the scene of the painting "The Tempest" by Rembrandt: "The storm in which we have been involved could not have been imagined by anyone. It's tremendous," he said. "I understand that there is disappointment, sadness and bewilderment. And not without reason.” Still, "the most important thing is that Jesus is in the boat, he is trying to keep everyone on board, united and confident.
“He wants to bring us to the other shore, where is God the Father waiting with open arms."
The priest said that after struggling greatly with the issue, he came to the conclusion that “the boat is in the very hands of the Father.”
"In those hands I see the Legion and Regnum Christi, I see my life. We are safe and at peace in his hands.”
“It’s not about not being troubled,” because Mary was troubled, and Jesus felt anguish in Gethsemane. “Rather, it’s about learning to suffer with Jesus and in his way.”
Fr. Sada put the issue in the context of Lent and listed a number of things “we need to correct” and upon which the movement can improve.
He noted that “the person must be at the center, not the institution” and that “exquisite care must always be taken so nobody ever feels used or undervalued.”
“We must understand that commitment is gradual,” and that “people must be trusted more and controlled less,” Fr. Sada continued.
He then called on members of the movement to have a “greater sense of service,” a stronger dedication to pastoral care, and to “recognize that in the past we have gotten in over our heads” so we must “take measures of our strengths and cut back where necessary.”
“We must continue to learn to collaborate more in humility and simplicity with other institutions, with the dioceses, parishes and other initiatives of committed lay people.” “We must give greater attention to marriage and the family,” and we must have “more humility in our manner of relating to others.”
“We must be priests who are open, accessible, good listeners and good friends, with the kindness of Christ the Good Shepherd,” Father Sada said.
He also acknowledged that he has come to “a greater understanding of human weakness” and has learned “not to judge others.” “The new wine we need is the wine of forgiveness, of reconciliation, humility, mercy, and a life of love and reparation. Truly understanding the power of mercy can change our lives forever,” he said.
Fr. Sada ended by expressing his profound gratitude to the Holy Father and the Church for “the maternal hand that has been extended to the Legion at this stage in its history” through the Apostolic Visitation of the order which should be completed in March.