Legion of Christ
|Motto||Adveniat Regnum Tuum!|
|Formation||January 3, 1941|
|Type||Catholic religious institute|
|Headquarters||General Directorate, Via Aurelia 677|
|Eduardo Robles Gil|
Marcial Maciel - Founder
Álvaro Corcuera - Previous General Director
Velasio de Paolis - Papal DelegateLuis Garza - Director in North America
The Legion of Christ (LC) is a Catholic congregation of pontifical right, made up of priests and seminarians studying for the priesthood. It is affiliated with the apostolic movement Regnum Christi which includes lay persons and diocesan priests and has branches of lay Consecrated Men and Regnum Christi Consecrated Women.
It was founded in Mexico in 1941, by Marcial Maciel, who directed the congregation as its general director until January 2005. Maciel, 84 at the time and marred by serious allegations of sexual abuse, was then succeeded by Álvaro Corcuera, LC, as general director of the Legion.
The Legion of Christ has founded religious communities in 22 countries, and had three bishops, 953 priests and 1,877 seminarians (including minor seminarians) as of the end of 2012. In the U.S. it operates nine schools (and assists at several others) and two of a small number of seminaries for teenage boys currently operating in the US.
Regnum Christi had approximately 70,000 members in 2009, and the youth branch ECyD has tens of thousands. Members of the lay movement, like the Legionaries, dedicate themselves to various apostolates such as education and spiritual direction in order to form the new man in Christ.
In 2006, Maciel was investigated by the Holy See and suspended from his ministry, initially over breaches of celibacy, and following public revelations later confirmed as sustained, over sexual abuse. Maciel died in Jacksonville, Florida, on January 30, 2008, aged 87, and was buried in his hometown of Cotija de la Paz, Michoacán, Mexico. After Maciel's death, and following more revelations, Pope Benedict XVI ordered an apostolic visitation in 2009. At the conclusion of the visitation, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis was delegated to examine the Legionaries’ constitutions and conduct a visitation of its lay affiliate Regnum Christi. On October 19, 2012, De Paolis published a cover letter for a summary of the Regnum Christi's charism which he had approved as a working document.
- 1 Ethos
- 2 Formation
- 3 Apostolates
- 4 History
- 5 Papal support
- 6 Leadership
- 7 Controversies
- 8 Apostolic visitation
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Members of the Legion take vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty. For a long time they additionally took a private vow of charity, promising never to criticize their superiors. This private vow was originally opposed by the Vatican when it chartered the Legion decades ago, but that opposition disappeared after a 1983 Vatican decision under Pope John Paul II. The vow was repealed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, following the revelations of extensive sexual abuse by the founder. Their private vow of humility remains intact.
Love for Christ is, for Legionaries, a personal experience. Through the Gospel, the cross, and the Eucharist, Legionaries come to know Christ intimately, and love him in a passionate way by embracing him as their model of holiness.
Love for Mary flows from imitating Christ; the Blessed Virgin is loved as both Mother of the Church and of the individual Legionary's vocation. Legionaries consecrate their spiritual and apostolic lives to her care, and seek to take on her virtues of faith, hope, charity, obedience, humility, and cooperation with Christ's plan of redemption.
Love for Souls is expressed in an ardent desire to spread Christ's kingdom in this world. Legionaries try to use every moment of their time to help the greatest number of souls know and love Christ. They want to be able to say when they get to Heaven that they never wasted one minute or one soul.
Finally, there is Legionaries' love for Church and Pope. The Church is loved because it is the Body of Christ, and the beginning of his Kingdom on earth. Legionaries see the Church both as she currently stands and as Christ wants her to be. Thus Legionaries honor her by faith, submit to her in obedience, win souls for her through evangelization, and put her above all other earthly things in their lives. This love of the Church leads many in the Legion to speak of being always in step with the Church, neither ahead nor behind: a commitment to Catholic Orthodoxy. It also explains the Legionaries' special affection for the pope, who is supported in his charism of primacy and magisterium. All bishops in communion with the Roman pontiff, as the Apostles' successors and teachers of the Catholic Faith, are likewise honored.
Spirit of Apostolic Action
The Legion has stated that their actions are designed for the establishing of the Kingdom of Christ. According to the North American Action Plan, the Legion's apostolic action is summarized as "we form those apostles who can exercise greater Christian leadership and influence others."
The North American Action Plan also states that the Legion does this with the local Church and for the sake of both the local and universal Church. Their methodology is given as: "We form these apostles by bringing God’s love to them, inspiring them to fall in love with Jesus Christ especially through prayer and the sacramental life, helping them come to know better the truths of the Catholic Faith and inviting them to participate actively in the evangelization of culture and society."
As a whole, the Legion is dedicated to advancing the Church's mission in the world, and to this end submits candidates to a rigorous formation of four dimensions: human, spiritual, intellectual and apostolic. This formation has caused critics to accuse the Legion of producing priests and religious who all speak and behave in the same way. In fact, the Legion has been called a cult by these critics. But, the Legion's defenders argue as members of a family receive similar upbringing, so the members of the Legion are formed in like ways, but still respecting the freedom of the individual.
Contact with the family is controlled, so as to not interfere with their mission, although they are allowed more contact with their families than monks in past centuries. If they live in the same country as their parents, the religious and priests are permitted to visit their families once a year at a time that this does not inhibit their individual assignments. In addition, they are permitted to visit for landmark anniversaries of parents and grandparents and, their families are encouraged to visit them normally two or three times a year. However, the novices do not go home during their two-year novitiate, but their families may visit. The high school seminarians are permitted to go home several times a year such as vacation in the summer, Thanksgiving, and Christmas along with familial dates.
All members of the congregation are required to write their families every two weeks, for the high school seminarians, every week. Periodic phone calls, encouraged to be around an hour, are also permitted: once a week for the high school seminarians, three times a year for novices, and roughly once a month for religious and priests. The above are the usual, but each individual case is seen with the superior.
Stages of formation
Apostolic School: Those who join before they finish high school, attend an Apostolic School where they complete high school in a boarding school aided by Legionary priests. In the US, the Legion has Immaculate Conception Apostolic School in New Hampshire and Sacred Heart Apostolic School in Indiana.
Novitiate: Legionaries describe the Novitiate as the university where they study Christ. They learn prayer and the spirit of the community. The motto of the novitiate is "Christus Vita Vestra" ("Christ Your Life"). The United States Novitiate is in Cheshire, CT, while another one existed for French speakers in Cornwall, ON, Canada but was closed in the summer of 2013.
Vows: After Novitiate, Legionaries profess their first vows for three years. Usually these are renewed once for three years and then final vows are made.
Philosophy: All Legionaries study Philosophy in Rome at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum which is directed by the Legion. While Studying they live either at the General Directorate or the Center for Higher Studies.
Apostolic Internship: Each Legionary spends 2 to 4 years of his formation out in the field learning the art of apostolate hands on.
Theology: All Legionaries return to Regina Apostolorum for Theology, living in the same two centers as for philosophy. Many do a Licentiate (similar to an American M.A. degree) in Philosophy before beginning Theology.
Ordination: After all this formation. Legionaries are generally ordained in big groups once a year in Rome.
- Education and teaching at all levels.
- Pastoral attention to youth and families.
- Catechesis and preaching of retreats and spiritual exercises.
- Evangelization and mission work (especially in the Mexican State of Quintana Roo in the Yucatán Peninsula).
- Attention to the underprivileged, especially those groups that undergo the greatest spiritual, moral or material privation.
- Works of Christian charity and mercy.
- Supporting bishops in the formation of diocesan seminarians and in the ongoing formation of their priests.
- Spiritual attention to Regnum Christi members and accompanying them in their formation.
In the US, the congregation runs several schools. In 2012, all three of its high schools (Everest Collegiate High School, The Highlands School and Pinecrest Academy) were named in the list of top 50 Catholic High Schools developed by the Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic group dedicated to promoting the teaching of Pope John Paul II in his 1990 Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae. In Mexico, the Legionaries administer the Anahuac University Network. It operates centers of education (minor seminaries, seminaries, schools and/or universities) in Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Israel, Korea, Poland, Ireland, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, and the Philippines.
In 2006, the Legion launched a test phase of Mission Network, in the United States. Catholic Mission Network, Inc., is the umbrella organization which oversees and approves Legionary-endorsed apostolates that are not stand alone like a school or retreat center. Its purpose is to provide both 1) structure and supervision of the apostolates, and 2) An overview as to what the Legion/Regnum Christi does as a whole, with brand-name-type recognition.
The youth wing of Regnum Christi offering spirituality for youth 11 to 16 is called ECYD. The commitments in ECYD vary over time, adapting to the ages of the members. Most ECYD members are involved in clubs run or overseen by Legionaries or consecrated members of Regnum Christi.
January 3, 1941: The Legion of Christ is founded in Mexico City
November 26, 1944: The first priest and founder, Marcial Maciel is ordained
1950: First House in Rome
1954: The first apostolate of the congregation, the Cumbres Institute is established
February 1965: The Legion becomes a congregation of pontifical right.
1993: The Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum begins in Rome
June 9, 2010: Velasio De Paolis is named as papal delgate to guide the Legionaries through a renewal.
Expansion around the world
The Legion began in Mexico where its biggest base remains. Houses of studies were established in Spain and Italy within the first decade of existence. In the 1960s, expansion was made into Ireland and the United States. in the 1970s and 80s the congregation expanded throughout Latin America. In the 90s it expanded to France and Central Europe.
Several popes expressed support for the Legion. When Maciel visited Rome in 1946, Pope Pius XII expressed a keen interest in the undertaking and gave it his personal blessing. In light of what were believed to be the congregation's achievements, particularly in education, Pope Paul VI awarded it the "Decree of Praise" in 1965. The most enthusiastic support was that of Pope John Paul II, who in an address, picked out the qualities which he said had made the Legion so successful: Pope Benedict XVI, during his papacy, continued to ask God to support the Legionaries in their ministry.
Marcial Maciel was born in Cotija, Michoacán on March 10, 1920, into a devout Catholic family during a time in which the Mexican government was fiercely anticlerical. He became a priest after a troubled youth.
Maciel was expelled from two seminaries for reasons that have never been explained. He became a priest only when one of his uncles ordained him after private studies.
On June 19, 1936, Maciel felt called to establish a new religious institute and in 1941, with the support of the bishop of Cuernavaca, Francisco González Arias, he founded the Legion of Christ, which was originally known as the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Sorrows. The name was eventually changed because Maciel saw a likeness of his missionaries in the legions of Rome. Coupled to this was also the militancy of the Christian life found in the Pauline epistles. He claims he received his final inspiration concerning the name through Pope Pius XII when the pope quoted the Song of Solomon when addressing a group of Legionaries: "Sicut acies castrorum ordinata" (Like an army in battle array). Maciel was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop González Arias in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City on November 26, 1944, after which he continued to build up the Legion and its lay counterpart, Regnum Christi.
Maciel's influence reached its apex under Pope John Paul II, who asked him to accompany him on his visits to Mexico in 1979, 1990, and 1993, and appointed him to the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the formation of Candidates for the Priesthood in Actual Circumstances (1991). He was a member of the Interdicasterial Commission for a Just Distribution of Clergy (1991), the IV General Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM) (1992), the Synod of Bishops on Consecrated Life and Their Mission in the Church and the World (1993), the Synod of Bishops´ Special Assembly for America (1997) and, since 1994, a permanent consultant to the Congregation for the Clergy. The golden anniversary of his priestly ordination was celebrated on 26 November 1994, with 57 Legionary priests ordained on the anniversary's eve. Fr. Marcial Maciel also served as chancellor of the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, which is based in Rome.
According to the Wall Street Journal, "The Legion of Christ...became a global phenomenon in Catholicism over the past few decades by joining a devotion to orthodoxy and secrecy with an equal fidelity to the Legion's charismatic founder, Father Marcial Maciel, who helped his community's cause by liberally dispensing funds to hierarchs in Rome. Other bishops complained of the Legion's cult-like aspects, but it was only in 2006, when the truth of Maciel's extensive record of sexual abuse and financial shenanigans was finally acknowledged, that the Vatican forced the elderly priest from ministry and launched an investigation."
In January 2005, Maciel, at age 84 and under investigation for sexual improprieties, was succeeded by Álvaro Corcuera, LC, as general director of the Legion. Maciel died in Jacksonville, Florida, on January 30, 2008, aged 87, and was buried in his hometown of Cotija de la Paz, Michoacán, Mexico.
Maciel had been accused of sexual misconduct in the 1950s, 1970s and 1990s; in 2005 the charges were reopened by the Vatican and Maciel was instructed to retire to a life of "prayer and penitence" in 2006. The Vatican had concluded that Maciel was guilty of sexual abuse of teen seminarians.
In July 2009, media in Spain published an interview with a woman who had a child with Maciel over 20 years ago and lived in a luxury apartment in Madrid which Maciel purchased for her. The woman, Norma Hilda Baños, says that she was abused by Maciel as a minor and later was impregnated by him and she bore him a daughter, Norma Hilda Rivas. At least one source claims that Rivas is an alias that Maciel used repeatedly during his life.
A day later, Mexican media reported that an attorney, José Bonilla, will represent three of a possible total of six of Maciel's children in a civil suit to recover Maciel's estate. The lawyer claims that there are several properties in Mexico and around the world which Maciel owned in his own name. In March 2010, Bonilla announced that he would no longer represent the three reputed children of Maciel, since one of them admitted to asking the Legion of Christ for $26 million USD in exchange for silence.
In March 2010, the Legion of Christ in a communiqué acknowledged as factual "reprehensible actions" by Maciel, including sexual abuse. The communique stated that "given the gravity of his faults, we cannot take his person as a model of Christian or priestly life." At first the Legion had denied allegations and since 2006 had not stated officially one way or the other.
Luis Garza became vicar general in 1992 and remained in that position till 2011. He led efforts to investigate charges of breaking his vow of celibacy brought against Legionaries founder Marcial Maciel. After serving as vicar general, Garza was named as the director of the Legion's US territory
On April 13, 1975, Álvaro Corcuera became one of the first members of the Regnum Christi Consecrated Men. For many years he was the rector of the Legion's Center for Higher Studies; he thus oversaw the final years of formation for most legionaries. In the 2005 General Chapter, Corcuera was elected the new General Director. In October 2012, he was granted a sabbatical by Papal Delegate Velasio De Paolis, for health reasons. In January 2013 he began cancer treatment.
Velasio De Paolis and assistants
Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez, Archbishop of Valladolid, Spain, headed the probe into the consecrated women of the Legion's lay movement, Regnum Christi. Archbishop Blazquez, 68, is a former theology professor and former Bishop of Bilbao. He presided over the Spanish Episcopal Conference from 2005 to 2008 and before that presidency he headed the Spanish conference's commission for the doctrine of the faith from 1993 to 2003. He assisted in the earlier investigation of the congregation's centers and institutes in Europe outside of Italy. He concluded his visitation on June 7, 2011 but as of June 16 was still working on the final report.
The Vatican also named several clergy as assistants to Archbishop de Paolis in his work leading the commission. Bishop Brian Farrell, 66, a member of the Legionaries who was ordained a priest for the congregation in 1969, is a Dublin native and presently is the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (from 1970 to 1976 he served as director of the Legionaries' U.S. novitiate in Orange, Connecticut). In addition, there are three canon lawyers: Jesuit FatherGianfranco Ghirlanda, S.J., a former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome; Sacred Heart Father Agostino Montan (a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus), who is the episcopal vicar of the Rome Diocese's office for consecrated life and a professor of canon law at Rome's Pontifical Lateran University; and Monsignor Mario Marchesi, who is the vicar general of the Diocese of Cremona and who has taught canon law at the Legionaries' Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome. Archbishop de Paolis, Father Ghirlanda, and Father Montan are consultors to the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Monsignor Marchesi and Fathers Ghirlanda and Montan serve as consultors to the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Archbishop de Paolis and Father Ghirlanda also are members of the Vatican's highest legislative body outside of the pope, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts.
In February 2012, Sylvester Heerman was named the vicar general of the Legion of Christ. With Alvaro Corcuera's sabbatical, from October 15, 2012 he has been the acting general director of the Legion.
Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, then archbishop of Baltimore, banned the Legion of Christ from counseling people under the age of 18 in his jurisdiction. O’Brien banned the Legion and Regnum based on concerns that they practice “heavily persuasive methods on young people, especially high schoolers, regarding vocations.”
Archbishop O’Brien further wrote among other matters, “I want to ensure that encouragement of vocations is carried out in a way that respects the rights of parents in the upbringing of their children and the rights of young persons themselves to be able to make free and fully informed decisions about their futures.”
Fr. Thomas Williams, one of the most prominent spokesmen for the Legion of Christ, resigned in 2012 after acknowledging he had fathered a child some time before 2005. In 2013, he married the mother of the child, Elizabeth Lev, who is the daughter of Mary Ann Glendon and a columnist for Zenit which Williams formerly published.
On March 31, 2009, the Legionaries of Christ and the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI has ordered an apostolic visitation (a type of Vatican directed investigation) of the Legion of Christ. The Legion of Christ has acknowledged that its founder fathered a child and is also responding to claims that the founder molested seminarians. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, said church leaders will visit, investigate, and evaluate all seminaries, schools and other institutions run by the Legion worldwide. The announcement of the unusual investigation was posted on the website of the Legionaries of Christ March 31, 2009 along with the text of a letter informing the Legionaries of the pope's decision.
Vatican authorities named five bishops from five different countries, each one in charge of investigating the Legionaries in a particular part of the world. Their report was given to the pope in late April 2010.
Ricardo Watti Urquidi, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tepic, Mexico, is in charge of the Vatican's oversight of the Legionaries in Mexico and Central America, where the congregation has 44 houses, 250 priests, and 115-120 seminarians; Charles J. Chaput, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is in charge of the Vatican's oversight of the Legionaries in the United States and Canada, where the congregation has 24 houses, 130 priests, and 260 seminarians; Giuseppe Versaldi, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Alessandria della Paglia, is in charge of the Vatican's oversight of the Legionaries in Italy, Israel, the Philippines, and South Korea, where the Legion has 16 houses, 200 priests and 420 religious seminarians (in Italy itself there are 13 houses, 168 priests, and 418 seminarians); Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Concepción, Chile, is in charge of the Vatican's oversight of the Legionaries in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela, where the Legion has 20 houses, 122 priests and 122 religious seminarians; Ricardo Blázquez Pérez es:Ricardo Blázquez, formerly the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bilbao and now the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Valladolid, both in Spain, is in charge of the Vatican's oversight of the Legionaries in Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Austria, and Hungary - the rest of Europe outside Italy- where the Legion has 20 houses, 105 priests, and 160 seminarians.
Formal denunciation of Fr Maciel by the Vatican
On May 1, 2010 the Vatican said that the pope would name a delegate and appoint a commission to review the Legionaries of Christ following revelations that the congregation's founder sexually abused numerous underage seminarians and fathered at least three children with two women. In a statement, the Vatican denounced the Rev. Marciel Maciel for creating a "system of power" that enabled him to lead an "immoral" double life "devoid of scruples and authentic religious sentiment" and allowed him to abuse young boys for decades unchecked. The Vatican issued the statement after Pope Benedict XVI met with five bishops who investigated the Legion to determine its future. The Vatican statement was remarkable in its tough denunciation of Maciel's crimes and deception.[dead link]
The "very serious and objectively immoral acts" of Fr. Marcial Maciel, which were "confirmed by incontrovertible testimonies" represent "true crimes and manifest a life without scruples or authentic religious sentiment," the Vatican said. The Vatican said the Legion created a "mechanism of defense" around Maciel to shield him from accusations and suppress damaging witnesses from reporting abuse. "It made him untouchable," the Vatican said. The statement decried "the lamentable disgracing and expulsion of those who doubted" Maciel's virtue. The Vatican statement did not address whether the Legion's current leadership will face any sanctions. Actions taken by the current Legion leadership will be scrutinized; but no specific sanctions were mentioned, amid suspicion that at least some of the current leaders must have been aware of Maciel's sins. The Vatican acknowledged the "hardships" faced by Maciel's accusers through the years when they were ostracized or ridiculed, and commended their "courage and perseverance to demand the truth."
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- Legion of Christ
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- Mission Network (Programs sponsored by the Legion of Christ)
- Papal Delegate