Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Legion of Christ fights against its past and prepares for the future
In a letter addressed to all members of the Legion of Christ, Fr. Sylvester Heereman talked about the progress made and explained the guide lines the Congregation has adopted to ensure transparency in cases of sex abuse committed by members of the clergy. He also described the measures taken to prevent such acts from being committed. 

The letter was published after Cardinal O’Malley announced the creation of a special commission for the protection of minors in the Holy See.

The dark past left behind by the Legion’s founder, Marcial Maciel Degollado remains a reminder of the trauma and suffering caused by the paedophilia plague. With this in mind, the Legion is preparing for the next General Chapter due to be held in January next year. 

In view of this Chapter, the new Vicar General decided to present the measures the Congregation’s leaders have taken to combat sex abuse and collaborate with the civil authorities in a spirit of complete transparency. 

The central government has required that, wherever we have a presence, the appropriate steps are taken to protect the integrity of the minors entrusted to our pastoral care and to respond promptly and professionally to any accusation of sexual abuse,” Fr. Heereman writes.

The Congregation is doing all that it can to respond to the Holy See’s call for greater determination to be shown in putting an end to sex abuse crimes. This call was made during Benedict XVI’s pontificate and continues during Francis’ pontificate. 

Fr. Heereman explained that over the past few years the congregation has implemented some very precise plans to ensure a safe environment for children, including reviews of its structures, improved training for the congregation’s members and the adoption of a strict code of conduct. 

But he pointed out that “the prevention of future occurrences and the healing of victims (known and possibly unknown) are a priority. For this reason, at times it may be necessary for the superiors of the congregation to disclose the fact that an allegation has been received and, as well, the results of an investigation.” 

This is just what the Legion’s territorial director of North America, Fr. Luis Garza, did this evening. He informed about the case of 85-year-old Fr. Guillermo Izquierdo, who sexually abused a novice in Cheshire, Connecticut in the US, during the 90s. 

The Legion not only informed the local authorities, it asked Praesidium, Inc. To carry out an independent investigation into the case, which was concluded in August 2013. The results were presented and carefully analysed by the Legion of the Territory of North America’s advisory council on sexual abuse in October 2013.

“After reviewing the information, we have no reason to doubt that sexual abuse with a minor actually occurred,” Fr Garza said, adding that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was informed of the case. Finally, the over-80-year-old paedophile gave up his priestly ministry in 2008 and was diagnosed with advances senile dementia and was admitted to a care home.

“As painful as this revelation is, I feel it is a necessary step in the healing process and in the protection of those under our care and guidance,” Fr. Garza said in conclusion. “I want to again emphasize to our members, their parents and families that the Legion of Christ is totally committed to providing safe environments in its schools, seminaries and youth activities.”

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