Do the Legion of Christ stand a chance of surviving? And may Pope Benedict save them from themselves? Part Two

Maybe it’s negative on both counts. Leading Catholic journalist, William Oddie, started a vital debate, ‘the superiors of the Legion of Christ are opposing change – why not sack the lot?’ William Oddie puts forth the following case.

The trouble is first that the entire spirituality of the Legion is based to a quite extreme extent on the supposed heroic sanctity of its founder. According to a former Legionary priest, Fr Stephen Fichter: “Maciel was this mythical hero who was put on a pedestal and had all the answers. When you become a Legionary, you have to read every letter Fr Maciel ever wrote, like 15 or 16 volumes. To hear he’s been having this double life on the side, I just don’t see how they’re going to continue.”

And what a double life. Sex abuse of minors. Six illegitimate children. Mistresses housed in luxury apartments bought with the Legion’s money. The list goes on.

Fr Fichter, once the chief financial officer for the order, said he informed the Vatican three years ago that every time Fr Maciel left Rome, “I always had to give him $10,000 in cash – $5,000 in American dollars and $5,000 in the currency of wherever he was going”. Fr Fichter added: “As Legionaries, we were taught a very strict poverty; if I went out of town and bought a Bic pen and a chocolate bar, I would have to turn in the receipts. And yet for Fr Maciel there was never any accounting. It was always cash, never any paper trail. And because he was this incredible hero to us, we never even questioned it for a second.”

Pope Benedict first ordered an Apostolic Visitation of the congregation, and then appointed Cardinal-designate Velasio De Paolis to set about reforming it. You would think, would you not, that this troubled body would want to co-operate with him, and get everything sorted out: but no. Cardinal De Paolis has come to the conclusion that there has to be major change, and that this has to begin at the top. The trouble is, according to the leading Vaticanologist,
Sandro Magister, “the superiors of the congregation, the most powerful of which is vicar general Luís Garza Medina, are by no means giving up on the idea of remaining in their positions of command, now and always…’

PS - On a previous occasion, I wrote a post about how I began to be wary of The Legionaries.


  1. Thanks for this and for your previous post on the subject.

    Sadly, the Legion aren't unique in their hostility towards the Classical Roman Rite - the culture among the majority of secular priests and religious in the UK (and I would imagine that the same is true in Ireland) still appears to be one of indifference (at best) or opposition (at worst) to Pope Benedict's attempts to extend the use of the Extraordinary Form and to re-sacralise (if that's the right word) the way in which the Ordinary Form is celebrated.

    Of course, in the case of the Legion the cult of personality with regard to the founder means that the opposition may well be ineradicable.

  2. Dear Mary, Of course the Legionaires will be saved. Scandals have rocked the world from the beginning of time in certain persons. In no way does this condemn the many faithful brothers and sisters who remain loyal to Christ. I am certain your own family history also possesses a few skeletons in the closet and you survived now didn't you? For those who are faithful, nothing can stand in the way of their graceful intentions.

  3. We are so lucky to have such a pope. I don't know enough about the situation to make a good prediction as to whether they'll survive this - esp since their very foundation was so flawed... but I do have total faith that the pope will do what is best for the Church.


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