Sunday, April 13, 2008
So this is what the Brits are thinking. From Damian Thompson's Blog on the Telegraph Website:
Crisis for the Legionaries of Christ
Posted by Damian Thompson on 18 Dec 2007 at 17:12
Something weird is going on behind the scenes of the Legionaries of Christ, the congregation of super-smooth conservative priests whose Mexican founder, Fr Marcial Maciel, was accused of being a sex abuser in 2006.
It has been revealed that Pope Benedict has “derogated” (repealed) the private vows intended to protect the congregation’s privacy. What can that mean?
The Rorate Caeli blog quotes the Mexican newspaper La Jornada as follows: “Pope Benedict XVI had personally asked for the repeal of the private vows professed by the seminarians and priests of the Legionaries of Christ. These were oaths, related to the internal life of the congregation, which assured its secrecy and impermeability: the first [oath of charity] prevented any kind of criticism of superiors and their decisions by members, while the second [oath of humility] forbade the religious men from aspiring to positions within it.”
The Legion is famous in Rome for the fact that its seminarians are spookily good-looking, in a Stepford sort of way. They all part their hair in 1950s style and tend to have perfect teeth – to say nothing of their New Improved Extra-White Fidelity to the Magisterium (in tests, beats even Opus Dei!). Fr Z was speculating the other day that they might actually be Cylons (the cybernetic aliens from Battlestar Galactica).
The Legionaries’ website provides a biography of their 87-year-old founder, Fr Maciel, which ends with Pope John Paul II congratulating the old boy on the golden jubilee of his ordination. Not mentioned in the article is the fact that in 2006 the Vatican ordered Maciel to retire to “a life of prayer and penitence” following repeated allegations that he abused other members of the Legion. (He was judged too frail to face criminal charges.) Time magazine commented at the time:
“In a now-famous homily shortly before his election, Benedict decried ‘filth’ within his church, but doubts have lingered as to whether, even now, he truly ‘got’ the abuse crisis, or whether the put-down was aimed at homosexual priests. The Maciel decision suggests that Benedict gets the crisis well enough to take down one of his predecessor’s favourite sons.”
So, what do we make of this latest decision? Does the Vatican think there are more Legionary scandals to be uncovered? What I do find strange is the way the congregation is behaving as if it is business as usual, and continuing its phenomenally successful recruitment – it has around 700 priests and 2,500 seminarians, an amazing ratio.
We haven’t heard the last of this.