Presentation at the International Cultic Studies Association annual conference in Triest, Italy, July 2013
Former vicar of Maciel removed from post
The religious congregation of the Legionaries of Christ removed Luis Garza Medina from his position as territorial director for North America, putting aside a man who became the most powerful figure in that religious institution.The general director of the congregation, Eduardo Robles Gil, named father John Connor as the new territorial director, starting May 1.
The announcement was made on April 12 in a letter to all North American legionaries.
Even if the letter did not mention the removal of Garza, the maneuver was held only three years after he was named territorial director and was not made after the usual consultation with the members of the congregation.
The document did not mention a new position for Garza, just that his “new post will be announced later”.
Garza left his post as general vicar of the Legion on August 2011, and was transferred as superior to the U.S., even if by that time he was one of the most questioned characters in the congregation.
In fact, until a few months ago he was the most powerful member of the Legion, keeping his post as vicar since 1992, when he was a member of the leadership headed by controversial founder Marcial Maciel Degollado, keeping many key positions and controlling the financial aspects of the organization.
Mexican priest Maciel Degollado (1920–2008) was revealed to have abused boys and maintained relationships with at least two women, fathering up to six children, two of whom he allegedly abused as well.
In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI removed Maciel from ministry and he was ordered to spend the rest of his days in prayer and penance, while the Pope Cardinal Velasio De Paolis as his delegate to examine the Legionaries’ constitution.
In January 2014, a United Nations committee has called on the Vatican to remove all child abusers from its ranks, report them to law enforcement and open the church’s archives so that bishops and other officials who concealed crimes could be held accountable. Reportedly, the UN committee singled out the Legion and its founder in a scathing report that accused the Church of ignoring child abuse by priests.
The UN report included the following wording:
The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.?
The UN panel has called on the church to report back on its progress in 2017
Meanwhile the Legionaries of Christ have officially denounced their founder, Father Marcial Maciel. They have issued a statement as reported by Catholic Culture http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=20420 apologizing to the victims of their late founder Father Marcial Maciel and acknowledging that the order was guilty of
excessive exaltation of him. The statement acknowledges the damage that Father Maciel did, and mentions
the arbitrary use of his authority and of material goods, the indiscriminate consumption of addictive medicines and the act of presenting writings published by third parties as his own. They went on to say that
the behavior of the founder, who maintained an appearance of piety while engaging in grossly immoral behavior, was ‘incomprehensible.’
Anyone who is familiar with the Legionaries of Christ would realize how much it has taken for them as an organization to renounce their founder. Even after his double life had been exposed by a number of credible journalists and even by a Vatican investigation in 2005 – 2006, the Legion leaders (many of whom were fully aware of Maciel’s double life) pretended for years that he was innocent and was being falsely accused.
So, has there been a change of heart among the Legion leaders?
We would suggest that one should keep track of their actions rather than their words. The Legion has been given a golden opportunity to review their past, to make amends as much as possible and to come up with a plan to move forward and perhaps develop into a religious order with some kind of mission to serve God.
However, their choice of a new director general has indicated to the world that the Legion would like to go back to their inglorious past. Fr Eduardo Robles Gil, the man they have chosen has been described as
a Mexican long-time collaborator of the Legion’s disgraced late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel.
Rev. John Stegnicki, a former Legion priest now working in the archdiocese of Brasilia, the (capital of Brazil,) said the outcome of the election was
disappointing but predictable, given the priests voting were by and large Maciel confidants or their protégés.
Who else could they choose from? All of them are entrenched in Legion-think, he said.
With this mounting pressure coming from the United Nations, the Legionaries of Christ and Marcial Maciel situation is becoming more than just an embarrassment to the Vatican and the Pope. Is the Catholic Church willing to needlessly suffer further loss of credibility and respect by continuing to prop up and defend an organization that never seems to waver from wanting to carry on its old Macielistic cult like methodology? We hope not.
Now that the new leaders are in place and the new constitutions are being finalized to submit to the Holy See for approval, Cardinal DePaolis’ role has ended. The renewal ( unfortunately not really a reform) for the time being has been completed.
In his letter last June, 2013, http://understandingthelegion.blogspot.ca/2013/12/letter-of-pope-francis-re-reform-of.html Pope Francis indicated that the election of new leaders and the constitutions will be
fundamental steps towards the authentic and profound renewal of the Legion
Among the many who will be carefully watching to see what further action the Vatican will take include panel members from the United Nations, ex Legionaries, victims of the Legionary founder and members of SNAP – Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and many members of the news media. The stakes have increased and the if the Vatican opts to give the Legion a free pass once again there may be more serious consequences compared to what has happened historically.