Maciel can no longer be considered a Christian model
In a statement published by the Legion’s leaders yesterday, they said:
For his own mysterious reasons, God chose Fr Maciel as an instrument to found the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, and we thank God for the good he did. At the same time, we accept and regret that, given the gravity of his faults, we cannot take his person as a model of Christian or priestly life.
Christ condemns the sin but seeks to save the sinner. We take him as our model, convinced of the meaning and beauty of forgiveness, and we entrust our founder to God’s merciful love.
The Legion’s leaders said they were grateful for the Apostolic Visitation which Pope Benedict launched into the order last year, apologised again for their founder’s misconduct and acknowleded the facts.
The Apostolic Visitation of the beleagured Legion of Christ drew to a close in the middle of this month as the Catholic News Service reports here. Five bishops were given the task of looking into the order’s workings, its founder Marcial Maciel’s sexual misconduct, whether the founder’s charism was too tied up with the order and so on. They submitted their report on March 15.
The Legionaries statement also said:
We had thought and hoped that the accusations brought against our founder were false and unfounded, since they conflicted with our experience of him personally and his work. However, on May 19, 2006, the Holy See’s Press Office issued a communiqué as the conclusion of a canonical investigation that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) had begun in 2004. At that time, the CDF reached sufficient moral certainty to impose serious canonical sanctions related to the accusations made against Fr Maciel, which included the sexual abuse of minor seminarians. Therefore, though it causes us consternation, we have to say that these acts did take place.
Indeed, “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, […], mindful of Father Maciel’s advanced age and his delicate health, decided to forgo a canonical hearing and ask him to retire to a private life of penance and prayer, giving up any form of public ministry. The Holy Father approved these decisions” (Communiqué of the Press Office of the Holy See, May 19, 2006).
We later came to know that Fr Maciel had fathered a daughter in the context of a prolonged and stable relationship with a woman, and committed other grave acts. After that, two other people surfaced, blood brothers who say they are his children from his relationship with another woman.
We find reprehensible these and all the actions in the life of Fr Maciel that were contrary to his Christian, religious, and priestly duties. We declare that they are not what we strive to live in the Legion of Christ and in the Regnum Christi Movement.
They apologised to those who had been harmed by Fr Maciel, asking for forgiveness from those people they disregarded, or failed to listen to.
The statement said:
“We share in the suffering this scandal has caused the Church, and it grieves and hurts us deeply.
We ask all those who accused him in the past to forgive us, those whom we did not believe or were incapable of giving a hearing to, since at the time we could not imagine that such behavior took place. If it turns out that anyone culpably cooperated in his misdeeds we will act according to the principles of Christian justice and charity, holding these people responsible for their actions.
Looking towards the future, the Legion’s leaders said that they were grateful for the visitation and hopeful about the recommendations the visitators will make. They said:
We face the future with hope, knowing that our one support is God. We trust totally in him and in his all-powerful love which, as St Paul says, “makes all things work for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28). We know that as we follow this path we will be aided by the Holy Spirit and the Church’s motherly guidance.
Our purpose as individuals and as an institution is to love Christ, live his Gospel, and extend throughout the world his Kingdom of peace and love. We know that if we are to do this we must constantly renew ourselves as individuals and as a community, in fidelity to the tradition of consecrated life, the better to serve the Church and society. The past months have helped us to reflect on our identity and mission, and they have also moved us to review various aspects of our institutional life, humbly and in all simplicity.
We are resolved, among other things, to:
– Continue seeking reconciliation and reaching out to those who have suffered,
– Honor the truth about our history
– Continue offering safety, especially for minors, in our institutions and activities, both in environments and in procedures
– Grow in a spirit of unselfish service to the Church and people
– Cooperate better with all the bishops and with other institutions in the Church.
– Improve our communication
– Continue our oversight to insure that our administrative controls and procedures are implemented on all levels, and to continue demanding proper accountability
– Redouble our dedication to the mission of offering Christ’s Gospel to as many people as possible
– And above all, seek holiness with renewed effort, guided by the Church.
At the heart of the matter lies the question, will the Legionaries of Christ be disbanded, supressed or reformed?