Legionaries of Christ present annual report on sexual abuse of minors by priests

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The Legionaries of Christ have published for the third consecutive year the “Annual Report: Truth, Justice, and Healing,” which gives an account of the commitments made regarding victims of abuse by the congregation and the creation of safe spaces.

According to data provided by the Legionaries of Christ, over the years 1941–2022 at least 27 priests sexually abused minors, which represents 1.9% of their priests.

Since the publication of the historical “Report 1941-2019,” 11 complaints involving new cases have been received. In three of them “it has not been possible to verify the sexual abuse of a minor.”

Of the rest, one priest was laicized, two priests are waiting for their civil and canonical trials to conclude, and another one awaits the conclusion of his ecclesiastical trial. Another four are under canonical investigation prior to an eventual canonical trial.

Care for the victims

Regarding care for the victims, 42 are being accompanied through Eshmá, an independent specialized institution. Of them, 29 were subjected to sexual abuse while they were minors and two of them when they were adults. In addition, 11 reported the abuse of power and conscience.

Direct contact has been maintained “with more than 60” of the 170 known victims of priests, which represents 35% of the total.

In addition, the third Annual Report presented by the Legionaries of Christ notes that in 2023 the creation of a commission is planned to deal “in a global and systematic way” with the phenomenon of abuse of authority and conscience.

Financial compensation

In 2022, an international reparation program was established. During the last year, committees have been set up for this purpose in the territories of Mexico and Spain, and 11 cases have been dealt with.

“The congregation is aware that no amount of reparations can compensate for or make the damage caused by abuse disappear.” Nevertheless, the report says, “it seeks to offer complete reparation to help restore justice and ease the healing process for the victim.”

Since 2010, 32 victims of sexual abuse have received financial compensation from the Legionaries of Christ.

The religious institution offers four types of reparation: support for rehabilitation, financial compensation, subsidies for living expenses, and other institutional support such as restorative encounters.

All are offered without conditions to those affected and are calculated based on the severity of the abuse, the age of the victim, and the negligence verified by the institution.

Canonical processes

In the past year, four of the six ongoing canonical processes have concluded. In one of them, dismissal from the clerical state was decreed and in two others public priestly ministry was prohibited. The fourth case, involving a priest who no longer belongs to the congregation, was closed.

In that same period, seven more processes have been initiated, so there are nine active in total. All implicated priests have restrictions on their ministry until the facts are clarified.

More in Americas

The Legion of Christ states that “all known cases of priests who have committed abuse” and remain in the congregation have been submitted to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Cover-up and negligence

Throughout 2022, an independent investigation was concluded “on the actions of major superiors” in relation to a case of abuse that occurred prior to 1992.

The objective was to “determine possible personal responsibilities on the part of the authorities of the congregation” other than that of the founder, Marcial Maciel.

The conclusions of the investigator, a judge of a diocesan canonical court in Mexico, have been presented to the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and to the director of the Legionaries of Christ.

Regarding safe spaces, six of the nine territories of the institution have been accredited by the specialized organization Praesidium.

In addition, a new international director has been appointed for this area and each territory has a coordinator.

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Irrevocable commitment

Father Javier Cerceda, LC, territorial director for Spain, reiterated in a letter the “total availability” of the institution to the victims with whom it maintains contact and offered “To those who, due to whatever circumstances, have not been able to take the step, we want to say that we are at your disposal. That we want to listen to them, that we respect when it is their time and their processes, and that we want to meet them.”

“Our own history can only be restored based on truth, justice, and the healing of the victims who are part of it, and to whom we owe ourselves,” he continued.

Addressing “all the people who have suffered the horror of abuse by our brothers,” the religious stressed that “aware that we cannot erase the past, we are irrevocably committed to accompanying them on their path of healing.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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