|Another group of recruiters is ordained for Grupo Integer---Oh wait, I mean priests for the Legion of Christ|
One of the Catholic stories I have featured prominently on this blog over the past seven years or so is the one concerning the Legion of Christ. I feature this story because the Legion story itself contains with in it a legion of other stories that seem to epitomize the very clericalism, corruption, sexual abuse, personality cult, and elitism that Pope Francis states he wishes to purge from the Church and it's leadership. So how is Pope Francis doing with regards to the Legion and it's legion of issues. Not so well so far. John Allen has a story about the Legion in his latest All Things Catholic article. It is now involved in another potential scandal which typifies how the Legion has historically done business. Allen refers to it as 'rigging competition for teaching positions' when it is better described as 'granting preferential treatment to the children of the rich and powerful'. After all, as far as I can see the only charism the Legion has ever had is catering to and then bilking the rich and powerful. And as usual the Legion is denying any such wrong doing.
Pope Francis and the Legionaries of today
The embattled Legionaries of Christ recently announced that a general chapter meeting will be held beginning Jan. 8, billing it as the next step in their recovery from the scandals surrounding their founder, the late Mexican Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado. (This would be an announcement from the same leadership that was in place when Maciel was the Legion's revered Nuestro Padre and could very well be the next leadership.)
This week, a new hiccup, albeit a relatively minor one, emerged with reports claiming that the former rector of a Legionaries university in Rome, Fr. Paolo Scarafoni, is among the persons of interest in an Italian civil investigation of rigging competitions for teaching positions. (The Legionaries issued a statement saying no one has informed them that he's a target.) (This is so typical. There is no denial in this, only that 'no one has informed them that their former rector is a target.)
To be honest, the situation has little to do with the Legionaries. The charge is that a network of influential Italian "wise men" conspired to make sure their protégés, in some cases their own children, got teaching positions at a series of universities despite the fact those jobs were supposed to be awarded on the basis of open competitions.
It's a juicy story for the Italians, mostly because five of those alleged "wise men" are also jurists tapped by Prime Minister Enrico Letta to advise the government on constitutional reform. Reportedly, prosecutors have wiretaps that reveal these VIPs putting in the fix.
One of the campuses allegedly involved is the European University of Rome, founded by the Legion of Christ in 2004. It remains to be seen whether the charges have any merit and to what extent Scarafoni, who stepped down as rector Sept. 11, may have been involved.
The Legion has pledged to cooperate fully with the Italian probe, and they'd probably be well advised to follow through. (The Legion has their own definition of 'full cooperation'.)
So far, Francis doesn't seem to have any prejudice against the order. On Aug. 30, he appointed a prominent Legionary named Fr. Fernando Vergez, previously the head of the Vatican's telecommunications department, as the new No. 2 official in the government of the Vatican City State. The pope made Vergez a bishop on Tuesday.
That benevolence could disappear, however, if Francis were to get the impression that the Legion's past isn't really in the past. (Maybe)
As far as I've been able to discern, not much has really changed in the Legion or in it's formation program. On the other hand, there has been some changes with the Regnum Christi movement in the area of transparency and in their statutes. The women's branch of Regnum Christi also experienced a group breaking off and forming their own program which probably helped loosen up some of the other aspects of the RC movement. The new group split with the blessings of Cardinal de Paolis, the Cardinal Pope Benedict placed in charge of LC/RC in 2010. RC leadership was not so sanguine. Cardinal de Paolis' mandate lasts until after the General Congregation in January 2014 when the Legion will once again be on it's own. Unfortunately Cardinal de Paolis does not seem to have effected much change in the Legion itself. especially in the areas of accountability and transparency. That's not real surprising given the man doesn't even speak Spanish. Makes one wonder if real reform was ever the intention.
Some of the non changes:
There are still too many victims of Maciel himself who have still not received any compensation from the Legion. (including Maciel's biological sons) There have been at least 8 Legion priests accused of sexual abuse, and this doesn't include the high profile case of Fr Thomas Williams who fathered a child with a consenting adult woman. He chose to leave the priesthood after his year sabbatical and is scheduled to marry the mother of his pre teen child. The Legion General Superior kept Williams indiscretion under wraps for years (Cardinal de Paolis was also aware of it) until Williams was exposed in the press. The same appears to be true for Fr John O'Reilly, the Legions' long time numero uno in Chile. As soon as child sexual abuse allegations hit the Chilean press the Legion took action and removed O'Reilly from the Legion school he headed. So too did the Vatican take action. They took the internal investigation of the charges out of the hands of the Legion and put the local bishop in charge. I cite these two events because they happened while the Legion was under the supervision of Cardinal de Paolis, which for some reason does not seem to have changed the Legion's modus operandi when it comes to covering up the sexual abuses of Legion members.
There have been no real changes in upper leadership while the Legion has been under Vatican supervision. Nor has the Vatican or de Paolis initiated any investigation of Maciel's history with the Legion nor initiated any internal investigation of the upper leadership. A leadership that included some who must have abetted Maciel's fraud, embezzlement, and double life. The same people are eligible for election to the same offices at the coming General Congregation. Excuse me?! How is it possible to reform a group when upper management has never been held accountable for any of the mismanagement necessitating all the reform? How could this be?
There is still no really well defined charism (unless it's a capacity for denial) and not much real reform of the constitutions, spiritual formation, or operating rules. I suppose this could happen at the General Congregation, but no one who is actively seeking reform is holding their breath about that possibility. In any event the systematic grooming and targeting of wealthy families and their children continues--and that is most likely the real charism the Legion enacts for the Church.
The same people are still in control of all the money and assets. Legion assets are controlled by an independent company Grupo Integer. It's stated reason for existence is as an advertising agency, but in fact it appears to be the accounting and investment arm of the Legion. It's officers are relatives or friends of high placed Legion priests, most notably Fr Luis Garza Medina and members of his family--a family that just happens to be one of the wealthiest in Mexico. Garza is currently the Director for the North American Region, which is sort of a demotion as Maciel appointed Garza as Vicar General of the Legion when Garza was quite young. In any event, while he is no longer listed as one of Grupo Integer's officers, he is still reputed to be the man behind the decisions made by Integer. In other words Varga is the man with all the security codes. To this day, there is no information that indicates anyone outside a select few actually has any idea what Legion assets are worth. Some estimates exceed 25 billion---which is close to 4 times the wealth controlled by the Vatican Bank-----and I would think, is the real reason there is no real change in the Legion or it's leadership and perhaps why the Vatican can afford to clean up their little bank and make it transparent. There is always Integer for other transactions.
In any case, what we seem to have with the Legion is a non reform of the reform. Pope Francis has a challenge in the Legion. He has already demonstrated he has no problem putting Legion and OD priests in very high places. If he does not seriously do something more substantial with the reform of the Legion he will have sent a very very interesting message about just how seriously thinking Catholics should take his talk. In any event, Maciel is slowly but surely making a comeback in Legion thinking and practice. From the ReGAIN website:
"Fr. Peter Byrne has advised ReGAIN that there was a Mass in Cotija celebrated by 40 Legionary priests around their founder's tomb. Father Byrne advised us that the whole problem of the victims has been a mess.
As always the Cardinal has not taken any direct responsibility.
The terrible truth is that the majority of the Legionaries do not know what we are talking about when we speak of victims, they have no idea of what happened. Now we face a future where the victims will be forgotten and the sociopath will be remembered.