Legionaries of Christ at critical point
from The Journal News LoHud.com
August 2, 2009
by Gary Stern
As the Vatican begins an unprecedented investigation into the Legionaries of Christ, a once-powerful religious order whose late founder has been discredited for living a "double life," it remains to be seen how the order's local operations will be affected.
Lawyers for the Legion recently notified the town of Mount Pleasant that plans for a university in Thornwood will likely be scaled back.
In addition, the order hopes to expand activities at a retreat center in New Castle after last year withdrawing decade-old plans for a seminary.
Still, it is hard to know how the urgent and potentially debilitating challenges facing the Legion, an order known for its secrecy, might be coloring its day-to-day operations.
"I suspect they are scrambling to do anything that makes them look mainstream and not cultish," said Jason Berry, a New Orleans-based writer who first made public in 1997 accusations that former seminarians were sexually abused by the Rev. Marcial Maciel, who founded the Legion in Mexico in 1941.
Pope John Paul II, a strong supporter of Maciel and the Legion, would not address the allegations. But in May 2006, 13 months after the election of Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican announced Maciel would lead a "life of prayer and penance, renouncing every public ministry." Maciel died in January 2008.
Then early this year, word began to spread that the Legion had discovered Maciel fathered a child and led something of a double life. The Vatican announced it would begin a rare "apostolic visitation" on July 15 - assigning five bishops to investigate the Legion's worldwide operations.
Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput will look into the Legion's U.S. operations, based out of Cheshire, Conn.
At stake is the future of the Legion, which runs 150 schools and a dozen universities in nearly 20 countries, and its affiliated group for lay Catholics, Regnum Christi.