"For me, nonassociation with the founder is a very important issue," Connor added, while emphasizing his hope that the order would commit to greater transparency.
Connor has faced criticism for his handling of misconduct allegations against a priest in the Legion, Fr. Michael Sullivan. In 2017 Sullivan was accused of "showing affection and favoritism" toward two young women; in one case the behavior was alleged to have begun when the woman was a high-school student, according to a 2019 letter from Connor.
Sullivan, who said he had not crossed "emotional or physical boundaries with any minors," was sent for a psychological assessment and then continued in ministry. In late 2019, "another person came forward indicating that Fr. Sullivan crossed over the emotional and physical boundaries of a pastoral relationship with her and others," the Legion said.
Sullivan was subsequently removed from ministry and admitted to some forms of sexual misconduct with adults, which "mainly affected young women."
Once Sullivan was removed from ministry, a spokesperson for the Legionaries of Christ said that the priest should have been subject to restrictions on his ministry.
In December 2019, the spokesperson told KBTX that while the order does not believe Sullivan broke any laws, "in hindsight, we now understand that additional restrictions should have been placed on Fr. Sullivan prior to returning to ministry" in 2017.
The spokesperson added that "Fr. Connor has been meeting with those most closely affected, including the women who have come forward with claims in 2017 and most recently."
In a 2018 letter to Legionaries and Regnum Christi members, Connor reflected on the scandal that has plagued his religious community.
"Over these last years of our renewal, I have been moved often in prayer by the fact that the Risen Jesus kept his wounds. You would think that a glorified body would be perfect and unmarred. But Jesus kept his wounds. There is a lesson in this for all of us," the priest wrote.
"In the Legion's 2014 General Chapter we had conversations about whether or not to change our congregation's name: to definitively put our past history behind us and get a fresh start with a new name. Many were shocked the Legion did not change its name and formally separate itself from her scarred and wounded history. At the time I kept thinking, I am proud to be a Legionary; we cannot forget our history. The wounds we suffered in the past – as well as those we inflicted – are part of us. They are part of our story."
Connor added that "as your territorial director, I have a tremendous desire for this gift of merciful healing for our entire spiritual family, extending also to those who no longer participate in it. I desire this healing because I know that wounds exist. Most hurts were not intended, but resulted from human weakness combined with imbalances in our past ways of thinking and operating from which our Lord continues to purify us."
"I want to express my own sorrow for hurts I may have caused. I know that in the past I have been convinced of my own opinions and the direction I wanted to go and have often not stopped to listen to others, take their opinions to heart, or communicate the reasons why I make certain decisions," he added in that letter.
There are fewer than 1,000 priests in the Legionaries of Christ, and the religious order runs schools in South and North America, and in Europe.