Controversies surrounding the Legion of Christ

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There are several controversies surrounding the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, including recruiting practices, alleged elitism, and sexual abuse scandals.

Restricted work in dioceses[edit]

In the United States, after the scandal regarding the founder, a few bishops restricted the Legion and Regnum Christi in St Paul-Minneapolis, Minnesota; Richmond, Virginia; Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana; Columbus, Ohio; and Miami, Florida.[1][2][3][4]

In June 2008, the former Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore began to require greater oversight of the Legion in his archdiocese.[5] He had particularly objected to its alleged practice of "blind allegiance", lack of "respect for human dignity for each of its members," and "heavily persuasive methods on young people, especially high schoolers, regarding vocations." He had since directed both groups to disclose all activities within the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and to refrain from spiritual direction with anyone under eighteen years of age. He later stated that the Legionaries have fully complied with his orders.[6]

Since the outbreak of the scandal of the founder, the Legion of Christ underwent a Vatican investigation. This led to a renewal of the congregation under Cardinal De Paolis. In 2014, the five-year process culminated in a new set of constitutions and new leadership.[7]

Alleged elitism[edit]

Legionary seminaries said that students were from a broad variety of backgrounds.[8] The congregation's mission was said to Christianize society through the formation and evangelization of leaders.[9][10][11] The old Regnum Christi Member Handbook stated "The Movement understands that for this action to be most effective it must give Christian formation to and apostolically mobilize the men and women that exercise greater leadership in society, in its religious, cultural, intellectual, social, economic, human, artistic and other sectors."[12]

Sexual abuse scandal[edit]

The sexual scandal of the group's founder, Father Marcial Maciel, involved accusations that he sexually abused minors and fathered children. Marciel was a Mexican priest and the leader of the Legion of Christ for many decades. The scandal was linked with the wider series of Catholic sex abuse cases affecting the Catholic church. There were criticisms that investigations by church authorities were exceedingly slow, perhaps because Maciel was close to Pope John Paul II and had many well-placed connections amongst senior clergy.[13]

In March, 2010, the Legion of Christ in a communique[14] acknowledged that "reprehensible actions" by Maciel, including sexual abuse actually happened. 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 made an official statement one way or the other.[15]

Formal denunciation of Maciel by the Vatican[edit]

In 2010 The Vatican named a delegate to review the Legionaries of Christ following revelations that the order's founder is suspected of abuse of minors and fathered at least three children. 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." The Vatican issued the statement after Pope Benedict XVI met with five bishops who investigated the Legion to determine its future.[16] The Vatican statement was remarkable in its tough denunciation of Maciel's crimes and deception.[17]

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.[18] The Vatican said Fr. Marcial Maciel created a "mechanism of defense" around himself to shield him from accusations of abuse. "It made him untouchable," the Vatican said. The statement decried "the lamentable disgracing and expulsion of those who doubted" Maciel's virtue. Actions taken by the current Legion leadership will be scrutinized; but no specific sanctions were mentioned.[19] 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."[20]

As a result of the visitation, Benedict XVI named Archbishop (now Cardinal) Velasio De Paolis as the Papal Delegate to oversee the Legion and its governance, and review the constitutions on July 9, 2010.[21]

Buying influence[edit]

The Legion was accused in 2010 of influence peddling to gain favors from the Vatican, and to protect it from allegations of impropriety.[15]

ReGAIN lawsuit[edit]

In August 2007, the Legion filed a lawsuit against ReGAIN, an organization founded by ex-Legionaries critical of Legion practices and its founder Marcial Maciel. The lawsuit alleges that written property of the Legion, including letters written by Maciel, and copies of unpublished principles and norms "intended only for dissemination and use by Legion members", were stolen and posted online "out of context... as part of a concerted effort to wage a malicious disinformation campaign against the Legion." The Legion has pled that the value of the alleged stolen property is "worth at least $750,000."[22]

The president of ReGAIN has asserted that, to the best of his knowledge, "nothing was obtained improperly", and expressed the opinion that the lawsuit request for information on anonymous message board posters was an action "proving that the Legion is a cult which controls information, stifles freedom of expression and goes after dissenters."[23]

At the conclusion of the lawsuit, the internet discussion board about the Legion and its activities was taken down.[24]

Apostolic visitation[edit]

The controversies stem from the order's late founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel. The Vatican has ordered an apostolic visitation of the institutions of the Legionaries of Christ following disclosures of sexual impropriety by Fr. Marcial Maciel. The announcement of the unusual investigation by the Vatican was posted on the Web site of the Legionaries of Christ March 31, 2009 along with the text of a letter informing the Legionaries of the Pope's decision.[25]

On June 27, 2009, according to Vatican commentator, Sandro Magister, Vatican authorities named five bishops from five different countries, each one in charge of investigating the Legionaries in a particular part of the world. They are Bishops Ricardo Watti Urquidi of Mexico, Charles J. Chaput of the United States, Giuseppe Versaldi of Italy, Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Chile, and Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, (es:Ricardo Blázquez) of Spain.[26][27]

Sexual Abuse by William Izquierdo admitted by the Legion[edit]

In December of 2013, the National Catholic Register published a report on a statement by the Legion, admitting that an investigation concluded that Fr. Guillermo "William" Izquierdo LC had sexually abused a minor while director of novices at its center in Cheshire, CT, between 1982 and 1994. The minor involved was a novice under his guidance, and charges were not conclusively investigated until Fr. Luis Garza Medina LC, then Territorial Director of North America, was informed in July of 2012.[28]

Garza stated that Izquierdo's health had declined since 2008, through dementia, and that he was "unable to respond to questions about the allegations."

Izquierdo was one of the first seminarians recruited from Spain, along with an identical twin brother who as of 2013 was still in active ministry in South America. Sources inside the Legion say that both had been close to Maciel in the early years of the congregation and loyal to him during his removal on allegations of drug abuse, though it is not known if Maciel sexually abused them.

Guillermo Izquierdo has also been accused of another instance of sexual abuse, though not of a minor. The alleged victim was also a novice under his guidance in Connecticut.


  1. ^ J. Filteau, "Minnesota archbishop bars Legionaries from his archdiocese". , Catholic News Service (December-22-2004)
  2. ^ Diocese of Columbus. "Diocese of Columbus Bulletin for November 10, 2002". Retrieved August 28, 2006. 
  3. ^ S. Brewster, "Some critical of Cheshire order". , Connecticut Record-Journal (September 18, 2004)
  4. ^ Miami Archdiocesan Website
  5. ^ Allen, Jr., John Allen (2008-06-12). "Baltimore archbishop demands greater accountability from Legionaries of Christ". National Catholic Reporter. ; Matysek, Jr., George P (2009-02-25). "Baltimore archbp concerned about Legionaries". National Catholic Reporter. ; Allen, Jr., John Allen (2009-04-03). "Abolition of Legionaries should be 'on the table'". National Catholic Reporter. 
  6. ^ Kendra, Greg. "Baltimore and the Legionaries of Christ: an update". BeliefNet. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Where Are You From - Regnum Christi Live
  9. ^ Forming Leaders - Regnum Christi Live
  10. ^ Jose de Cordoba, de Cordoba, Jose (January 23, 2006). "With elite backing, Catholic order has pull in Mexico". Wall Street Journal. , The Wall Street Journal (January 23, 2006)
  11. ^ G. Renner, "Turmoil in Atlanta". , The National Catholic Reporter (November 3, 2000)
  12. ^ Regnum Christi Member Handbook, #26. This Handbook has been revised since.
  13. ^ Tuckman, Jo (April 29, 2008). "The Rev Marcial Maciel". The Guardian (London). 
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ Pope names envoy, commission to reform Legionaries
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ Fr. Maciel guilty, 'profound' revision of Legion needed, report Apostolic Visitors
  19. ^ Pope Benedict to Overhaul Legion of Christ
  20. ^ Vatican orders overhaul in Mexico after investigation of sexual abuse - Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2010)
  21. ^ Pope Benedict XVI Names Delegate for the Legion of Christ
  22. ^ "Verified Complaint, Petition in Detinue for Pretrial Seizure and Application for Injunction" (PDF). 
  23. ^ The Blotter: Controversial Catholic Group Alleges Critics Stole Inside Info
  24. ^ Daniela Deane, Deane, Daniela (September 6, 2007). "Outspoken Ex-Priest Sued Over Documents". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 30, 2010. , The Washington Post (September 6, 2007)
  25. ^ Vatican orders apostolic visitation of Legionaries of Christ
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^