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Controversies surrounding the Legion of Christ

There are several controversies surrounding the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, including its recruiting practices, perceived elitist theology, rampant sexual abuse by its founder and his confidants, and multi-million dollar offshore holdings in tax havens.

Restricted work in dioceses

In the United States, after the sexual scandal regarding the founder,[1] beginning in 2002 a few bishops restricted the Legion and Regnum Christi in Columbus, Ohio; St Paul-Minneapolis, Minnesota; Richmond, Virginia; and Miami, Florida.[2][3][4][5]

In June 2008, the former archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore began to require greater oversight of the Legion in his archdiocese.[6] 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 them 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 fully complied with his orders.[7]

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.[8]

Elitism and exclusivity

Legionary seminaries said that students were from a broad variety of backgrounds.[9] The congregation's mission was described as Christianizing society through the formation and evangelization of leaders.[10][11][12] 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."[13]

Sexual abuse scandal

The group's founder Father Marcial Maciel 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.[1]

In March, 2010, the Legion of Christ in a communique [citation needed] 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.[14]

Formal denunciation of Maciel by the Vatican

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.[15] The Vatican statement was remarkable in its tough denunciation of Maciel's crimes and deception.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18] 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."[19]

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.[20]

ReGAIN lawsuit

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 pleaded that the value of the alleged stolen property is "worth at least $750,000."[21]

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."[22]

At the conclusion of the lawsuit, the internet discussion board about the Legion and its activities was taken down.[23]

Apostolic visitation

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 on March 31, 2009, along with the text of a letter informing the Legionaries of the Pope's decision.[24]

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 were 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.[25][26]

Offshore Holdings in Tax Havens

The Legion of Christ's multi-million dollar offshore holdings, long the source of speculation given the order's studied cultivation of wealthy donors and fast expansion, were revealed in the so-called Paradise Papers leak in November 2017.[27]

Further cases of Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse by Fr. William Izquierdo admitted by the Legion

In December 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 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.

Sexual abuse accusations against Fr. Luis Garza and Fr. Jose Sabin

In October 2016, accusations against Fr. Luis Garza and Fr. Jose Sabin surfaced that they both sexually abused a teenage boy in the early 1990s at a Legion of Christ house of formation.[29]


  1. ^ a b Tuckman, Jo (April 29, 2008). "The Rev Marcial Maciel". The Guardian. London.
  2. ^ Diocese of Columbus. "Diocese of Columbus Bulletin for November 10, 2002". Archived from the original on June 19, 2006. Retrieved August 28, 2006.
  3. ^ J. Filteau, "Minnesota archbishop bars Legionaries from his archdiocese". Archived from the original on 2004-12-28. Retrieved 2009-05-12., Catholic News Service (December-22-2004)
  4. ^ S. Brewster, "Some critical of Cheshire order". Archived from the original on 2014-09-30. Retrieved 2009-05-12., Connecticut Record-Journal (September 18, 2004)
  5. ^ "ADOM :: Welcome". Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Kendra, Greg (11 August 2008). "Baltimore and the Legionaries of Christ: an update". BeliefNet. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  8. ^ "Vatican approves new statutes for scandal-plagued Legionaries of Christ". Crux. 2014-11-01. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  9. ^ "Where are you from? - Regnum Christi". Regnum Christi. 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  10. ^ "Forming leaders - Regnum Christi". Regnum Christi. 2011-04-18. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  11. ^ 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)
  12. ^ G. Renner, "Turmoil in Atlanta"., The National Catholic Reporter (November 3, 2000)
  13. ^ Regnum Christi Member Handbook, #26. This Handbook has been revised since.
  14. ^ "Money paved way for Maciel's influence in the Vatican". National Catholic Reporter. 2010-04-06. Archived from the original on 2011-10-21. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  15. ^ Pope names envoy, commission to reform Legionaries
  16. ^ [dead link]
  17. ^ "Fr. Maciel guilty, 'profound' revision of Legion needed, report Apostolic Visitors". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  18. ^ "Log In". Wall Street Journal. 3 May 2010. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  19. ^ Wilkinson, Tracy (2010-05-01). "Vatican orders overhaul of group after investigation of sexual abuse". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  20. ^ "Pope Benedict XVI Names Delegate for the Legion of Christ - Regnum Christi". Archived from the original on 2016-04-07. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  21. ^ "Verified Complaint, Petition in Detinue for Pretrial Seizure and Application for Injunction" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-02-27. Retrieved 2009-05-12.
  22. ^ "Controversial Catholic Group Alleges Critics Stole Inside Info". ABC News. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  23. ^ 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)
  24. ^ "CNS STORY: Vatican orders apostolic visitation of Legionaries of Christ". Archived from the original on 2009-04-03. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  25. ^ Desmont, los visitadores y su misión «; scrive, o a Marcial Maciel. "I Legionari sotto torchio. Nomi e incarichi dei visitatori apostolici". Settimo Cielo. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  26. ^ "Apostolic visit to Legionaries of Christ to begin July 15". Catholic News Agency. Archived from the original on 2009-09-07. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  27. ^ "Legion of Christ Acknowledges Financial Abuse". CruxNow. Retrieved 2017-11-16.
  28. ^ "Legion of Christ Acknowledges Abuse Committed at Connecticut Seminary". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  29. ^ ALTIMARI, DAVE. "New Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Filed Against Legionaries Of Christ". Retrieved 2017-07-11.
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Controversies surrounding the Legion of Christ
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