Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Troubled Legionaries get to work on new constitution in bid to leave past scandals behind

The scandal-scarred Legion of Christ today began a general chapter at its Rome headquarters aimed at re-writing the constitution of the conservative men’s order and electing a new superior general.

Today’s meetings were attended by 61 priest-delegates from 22 countries where the order is present.

Their main task will be to write a new charter for the religious community and then begin voting on 20 January for a new superior and his assistants.

The sessions could last for up to two months.

The Legion was thrown into scandal in 2008 when it was confirmed that its late founder, Marcial Maciel, a key fundraiser for the Church during the papacy of John Paul II, had long been sexually abusing young seminarians and had even had children.

Pope Benedict XVI ordered Maciel to lead a “life of prayer and penance” in 2006, just two years before his death. Benedict XVI went on to appoint a cardinal-delegate in July 2010 to help “renew and purify” the order, which was founded in 1941. 

The Legion hopes that Pope Francis approves their new constitution, which would mark an end to the three-year period that the order has been under Vatican oversight. 

There have been concerns that proposed reforms have been resisted and have not gone far enough.

Moral theologian Germain Grisez, who in 2009 publicly urged his friends in the Legion to leave the movement and serve the Church in other ways, told the Associated Press that he didn’t know if the reform process had accomplished what he had recommended.

"I don't think this is ideal," he said. "It may be that the process has been virtually the re-founding that I thought was necessary. But I don't know that that was the case."

The Legion has some 950 priests and nearly the same number of vowed brothers and seminarians.

It also includes some 954 adolescents in minor seminaries or candidate programmes.

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