An Audit for the Legionnaires & Regnum Christi?

George Weigel argues that a papal delegate should be appointed to audit the Legionnaires and Regnum Christi. This is a rather drastic step, but, I think, a necessary one. An excerpt:

Assuming, as we can and must, that this remains the Holy See’s intention, it must now move without delay to address the accelerating train-wreck-heading-toward-the-cliff that the Legion and Regnum Christi have become over the past ten days, as credible reports appeared in the blogosphere that Fr. Maciel had lived a life of sexual and financial scandal, probably for decades.

The reports have emanated from those who had been advised of the Legion’s own investigation of Maciel, but there is still no formal statement from the leadership of the Legion as to what its internal investigations have uncovered. There has been no full disclosure of what is known about Fr. Maciel’s corruptions. There has been no disclosure as to the nature and extent of the web of deceit he must have spun within the Legion of Christ, and beyond. And there has been no public recognition of what faithful, orthodox, morally upright Legionary priests believe have been grave corruptions of the institutional culture of their community.

The letter from Fr. Alvaro Corcuera to the faithful of Regnum Christi, distributed last week and immediately available online, was completely inadequate in naming these sins for what they were. Public statements by Legion spokesmen in Rome and in America have been just as bad, due largely to failures by Legion leadership and to an institutionalized culture of defensiveness.

Two courageous Legionary priests, Fr. Thomas Berg and Fr. Richard Gill, have issued personal statements that face the facts as we know them, while not shying away from their implications in respect of any assessment of Fr. Maciel. Another Legionary priest, Fr. Thomas Williams, manfully confronted the truth of this wickedness on EWTN this past Friday night. Fathers Berg, Gill, and Williams have also conceded, admirably, their own failures to see through the web of deceit spun by Fr. Maciel. Their words reconfirm what those of us who have benefitted from the friendship of Legionary priests have known for years—there is great good here, as there is among the faithful members of Regnum Christi.

The question now is, how shall that good be saved?

It can only be saved if there is full, public disclosure of Fr. Maciel’s perfidies and if there is a root-and-branch examination of possible complicity in those perfidies within the Legion of Christ. That examination must be combined with a brutally frank analysis of the institutional culture in which those perfidies and that complicity unfolded. Only after that kind of moral and institutional audit has been conducted, and has been seen publicly to be a clean audit, can the Legion of Christ, and the broader Church, face the questions of the Legion’s future—which are, candidly, open questions:

• Can the good that has come from the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi be disentangled from the person and legacy of Fr. Maciel?

• Can the Legion be reformed from within, after those complicit in the Maciel web of deceit have been dismissed?

• Must the Legion be dissolved, with perhaps a core group of incontestably honest former Legionaries re-forming a religious congregation dedicated to the ideals that have been fouled by Fr. Maciel’s sins and by a manifestly wounded institutional culture?

None of these questions can be thoughtfully or prayerfully answered until there is a full audit.

And, as the flailings and failures of the past ten days have made clear, that audit cannot be conducted by the Legion leadership, which is likely beset by a maelstrom of internal and external pressures. It must be mandated by the pope, and it must be conducted by someone responsible to the pope alone—not responsible to the relevant parts of the Vatican bureaucracy, not responsible to the cardinal secretary of state, but responsible to the pope alone. There is simply no other way open to an accounting that will be both scrupulously honest and publicly credible.

To take an image from corporate law, the Legion of Christ must be immediately put into receivership: A personal delegate, appointed by the pope, must be empowered to take over the governance of the Legion of Christ and to conduct the moral and institutional audit required. The papal delegate would be instructed to report his findings, both interim and final, to the pope alone, and he would be instructed to make recommendations (again, to the pope alone) addressing the possible futures, including dissolution or dissolution-and-reconstitution, of the Legion.

Read the rest here.

Update: Here is an open letter from Dr. Germain Grisez, proposing the “orderly termination of the existing Institute, election of a small group to serve as founders of its replacement, and the preparation of an entirely new and reformed body of particular law for the new institute.” This is a more dramatic proposal, but it warrants serious consideration. Thanks to commenter Mark DeFrancisis for posting the text in the comments.

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John Henry

Don't call me Nueman.


  1. The whole organization should be disbanded.

    Too may leaders were complicit in a prolonged coverup of the founder’s grave misdeeds and remain inside.

    Combine this with the mythical accounts of Maciel’s “saintly” life that were ’til this very week the everyday ‘spiritual nourishment’ for LC-RC members, and the center of everything the LC-RC is/was about, and we still have a disaster only waiting to get worse.

    Too many good lives have be ruined and are in the process of ruining, as attachment to the Maciel myth and the cadre of its knowing, complicit perpetrators persist.

  2. Mark,

    this would most certainly NOT serve the interest of saving souls, I’m sure the Holy Father would reject it out of hand. If we’re going to treat them so harshly, considering that they are very orthodox and loyal to the Holy Father, then perhaps we should disband the Jesuits, and a whole lot of other orders that have lost their Faith.

    I’m not fan of the LC-RC, but they need reform, not banishment (same with the Jesuits).

  3. I think the jury is still out on what the best approach forward is. As Matt notes, there are some very good, faithful Catholics in these organizations. As Mark notes, there are good reasons to suspect that the entire organizational culture is corrupt.

    I think Weigel’s proposal warrants serious consideration: Let an outside source evaluate the organizations. I would probably prefer a committee to one individual, but I think it’s a necessary step in the process. Disbanding the organizations without this step might hurt a lot of innocent people; on the other hand, the current leadership cannot be trusted. An independent evaluation is necessary (although I would expect membership to drop precipitously in any case after the recent disclosures).

  4. An open letter to the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi, by Dr. Germain Grisez, Flynn Professor of Christian Ethics at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

    This morning I found the attached Catholic News Service report posted on the National Catholic Register website, which suffices to convince me that the report’s content is substantially accurate. I attach it so that you may know exactly what has moved me to write this message to you, who are the only Legionaries of Christ I know well and regard as friends.

    I hope that you will realize without my saying so that nothing true of Father Maciel could ever lessen my admiration and affection for you, my readiness to associate with you, and my desire to cooperate with you whenever our different vocations make doing so appropriate. As your friend, I am thinking about your plight, and wish to offer the help I can give you.

    You must be feeling great pain at your spiritual father’s betrayal of Jesus, of his Church, and of you and all your good and faithful confreres. You also must be feeling great anxiety at the dimmed prospects for the unfolding of your vocations to priestly life and service. I try to imagine and do sympathize with those feelings and pray that the Holy Spirit will console you and strengthen you to console your good and faithful confreres.

    In my draft of chapter three of my volume on clerical and consecrated service and life, I wrote:

    While good close collaborators never renege on their total self-gift, some do leave the diocese or institute to which they first committed themselves in order to enter another, form an entirely new institute, or undertake a different sort of consecrated life. But they only undertake such a change if convinced that God is calling them to make it. Many saints have discerned such a calling and responded. Their example makes it clear that their commitment to and membership in particular dioceses or institutes is a stable but not always unalterable way of carrying out their fundamental commitment, namely, their self-gift to Jesus and his Church.
    If I were you, I would bear in mind that your fundamental commitment is to Jesus and his Church. The question that should be uppermost in your minds is how to continue carrying out that commitment most faithfully and fruitfully.

    You and all your good and faithful confreres share a common good that includes realities of great value: your communio with one another, your experience and habits of working together, and material means of carrying on your common service and life. All that should be protected, salvaged, and, if possible, kept intact. I do not think that good end can be realized by the juridical person, the Legionaries of Christ, and its present leadership.

    Sex-abuse involving diocesan clerics and members of religious institutes has been dealt with up to now solely by sanctions against those guilty of abusive activities and by measures to prevent such activities. The bishops, religious superiors, and others who were guilty—of complicity in such wrongdoing, lying about it, irresponsibility toward victims, and so on—have in general not honestly admitted, much less rectified, what they did and failed to do. For that reason, the injury to the Church continues to fester. Still, those past experiences might seem to some Legionaries to provide a model by which your present plight can be overcome.

    That would be a grave mistake for two reasons.

    First, no matter how corrupt the hierarchy may be, faithful Catholics cannot do without it, but we can do without any particular religious institute. Everyone realizes that Father Maciel’s double life required the complicity of associates, some of whom surely are still members of the institute, and some of whom probably are functioning as superiors. Unless those who shared in the betrayal are identified and faithful Legionaries cleanly separate from them, the latter group’s common good will not continue receiving the support of faithful Catholics, and will not be preserved.

    Second, when a bishop dies, the diocese’s priests cease cooperating with him. But even after the death of an institute’s saintly founder, its members’ service and life continue as cooperation with him or her. Regardless of Father Maciel’s subjective moral responsibility—which only God knows—the evidence of his objective betrayal of his commitment makes it impossible for you and other good and faithful Legionaries any longer to carry on your service and life as cooperation with him. Unless you and your confreres proceed as quickly as possible to terminate the juridical person, the Legionaries of Christ, and reorganize yourselves into a new institute, the common good you now share will begin to decompose: very few new men will join you, many in formation will leave, some professed members will separate, and the collaboration and support of the lay faithful will shrink.

    The Pope is the ultimate superior on earth of every religious institute. Only the Pope can oversee the termination of the Legionaries of Christ, the salvaging of its faithful members and other assets, and their reconstitution into a new institute. Therefore, if I were you, I would at once appeal to the Pope to fulfill his responsibility toward you, to appoint two or three prelates—members neither of the Legionaries nor of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life—as an ad hoc papal commission to conduct a thorough visitation, identify those complicit in Father Maciel’s wrongdoing and its concealment until now, and work closely with faithful, professed members in carrying out an orderly termination of the existing Institute, election of a small group to serve as founders of its replacement, and the preparation of an entirely new and reformed body of particular law for the new institute.

    Some of your good and faithful confreres undoubtedly will tell you that following my advice would violate your vow of obedience and constitute grave disloyalty to your superiors. Those sincere men will be mistaken. Your vow is to obey morally acceptable precepts. In the present disaster, it is, in my judgment, your grave moral duty to appeal to the Pope, as your superior, to save the common good of the faithful members of the Legionaries of Christ by terminating the present juridical person, and seeing to the formation of a new institute. I am sure that most who were complicit in Father Maciel’s wrongdoing were constrained by a false sense of loyalty. Do not follow their bad and disastrous example. Remember instead your responsibility to Jesus and to his Church—to all those whose souls are still to be saved by your service and that of the members of the new foundation

  5. Henry,

    As I said, I understand your concerns, and there are differences of opinion among the contributors here. But this thread is not intended as a place to discuss those differences, and honestly I don’t feel that VN contributors are in the best position to cry foul given their own rhetorical excesses. Feel free to either post on this at your blog or discuss differences via e-mail. Any future comments on this thread unrelated to the topic of the thread will be deleted.

  6. I suspect that something on the scale of what Weigal or Grisez suggest will be necessary, and I hope that the Vatican exceeds its usual speed in doing something sooner rather than later.

    I would assume that a large portion of the 800 LC priests around the world are good men who knew nothing about all this, and finding a positive direction to channel their energies rather than leaving them in freefall under a leadership now in question would seem an important move.

  7. I think disbanding them is too drastic and leaves too many adrift, as has been ably noted above. But a decapitation of the upper echelon of the leadership would not be. The rot is both too pervasive and too obvious to avoid a serious housecleaning.

  8. The adulation of Maciel was so excessively unhealthy. I remember, for example, how some LC leaders shared gleefully with me a story of how during a Maciel visit Nuestro Padre went onto a soccer field during a game and put his hand up to signal a stoppage of action,.One LCer either did not see Maciel’s action, or. in the passion of the game ignored the signal, kicking the soccer ball. As a result, Maciel banned soccer in all LC facilities for at least a few years, as seminarian/priestly recreation. As the story was told, everyone at the table was all smiles about how Maciel issued such orders despotically, and how all then showed such willing, unconditional obedience.

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