Legionaries of Christ visitation underway

  • September 8, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - A Vatican-led apostolic visitation of the Legionaries of Christ is underway in Canada and the United States to investigate allegations of sexual impropriety made against the order’s late founder.

Francois Tremblay, a member of Regnum Christi , the Legion of Christ’s lay movement, says he welcomes the visitation.

“People will have a better idea about the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi because the visitation will bring light to people about what the movement and the congregation do and who they are,” the 23-year-old student from Saguenay, Que., said in an online interview.

Tremblay added that his girlfriend, also a Regnum Christi member, sees the visitation as a sign of Pope Benedict XVI’s support for the movement.

Denver Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput is one of five bishops conducting the investigation in Canada and the United States.

Jeanette de Melo, the Denver archdiocese’s communications director told The Catholic Register, that the investigations are in the very early stages. She said the archdiocese is not publicly releasing Chaput’s schedule “for the privacy of the investigations so (Chaput) can conduct them in the best possible way.”

Chaput will submit a report to the Vatican after a year of visitations, she added.

The Vatican initiated the visitation years after allegations that the Legionaries of Christ’s founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, sexually abused some seminarians, had a mistress and fathered a child. Degollado retired in 2005 as the Legionaries’ superior general. He died last January at age 87.

Fr. Paolo Scarfoni, the Legionaries’ spokesperson in Rome, told Catholic News Service in a Feb. 9 interview that the sexual abuse allegations “have never been proven definitely,” although he said the group only recently found out about Maciel’s daughter.

There are eight to 12 Legion of Christ priests in Canada. They have a novitiate and apostolic school in Cornwall, Ont., along with a residence in Antigonish, N.S.

Worldwide, the group has more than 800 priests and 2,500 seminarians, with houses in 22 countries. There are an estimated 70,000 lay members.

Jim Fair, a spokesperson for the Legion of Christ told The Catholic Register that the group hopes “to get suggestions and recommendations to better serve the church.”

 “We’re confident that will happen,” he said from Chicago.

Fair said he has received very little information about the visitations because they are arranged by the Vatican.

Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi members are involved in Catholic education, evangelization and priest formation. In Canada, some of their ministries include Catholic Kids NET and the FAMILIA apostolate which works with married couples and families.

Apostolic visitations can be appointed by the Vatican to gain first-hand information about an institution, with the goal of informing the Holy See. The Vatican said in a 2006 communique that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had received accusations against Degollado, which he denied.

The late Pope John Paul II had asked then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to launch an investigation. But John Paul’s death and Pope Benedict XVI’s election meant the investigation was delayed but resumed this year under a new prefect, Cardinal William Levada.

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