One of the Apostolic Visitors to the Legionaries of Christ (an "Apostolic Visit" is a sort of ecclesiastical audit) spoke with reporters concerning some of his experiences. I think his remarks are helpful in terms of demystifying the Vatican process with regard to the Legion and in terms of promoting transparency for the many people affected by the double life of Fr. Maciel, the now disgraced founder. The Bishop does not reveal anything that we did not already know. What he says coincides with the appraisal of the Visitation that I heard a couple of weeks ago from a well-informed Legionary friend.
My memoirs, "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind" about my experiences with Fr. Maciel and the Legion, was sent to the publisher before the Apostolic Visitation took place. In the last chapter, I expressed my hopes for the future of the Legion and I am pleased to see that, so far, my hopes and predictions were not too far off the mark.
Bishop Ricardo Watty Urquidi of Tepic, Mexico, is one of the five bishops who carried out the Apostolic Visitation of the Legion of Christ. He discussed his experiences during the process and explained to reporters on Tuesday, May 18, that the results of the Vatican investigation would soon be released. The Bishop said he felt obliged to have a dialogue with reporters while he acknowledged the he couldn't discuss many details because Pope Benedict has reserved the right to be the spokespersons and implementer of the Vatican's decisions concerning the controversial Legionaries.
After interviewing 360 Legionaries, reading and reviewing numerous testimonies, and after meeting with Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone, William Levada and Franc Rode, Bishop Watty Urquidi said that “the Pope has five extensive reports to read, listen to and manage,” along with the team “he deems fit to put together.” This team would include the delegate the Vatican will appoint to oversee the Congregation and the Commission that will be convened to revise the rules and constitutions.
Bishop Watty lamented the double life of Father Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Commenting on the 43 communities he visited in Mexico and Central America during the investigation, Bishop Watty said that most of them “said they needed help.” He said that the members “have slowly learned that the way in which Fr. Maciel lived and acted affected what he began, which is the work of the Legionaries and its associated movement, Regnum Christi.”
The Mexican prelate added that Fr. Maciel was a very troubled individual who caused “much” harm. The apostolic visitors discovered in their findings “a very immoral person, who was not in accord with the Gospel, not even human dignity.”
“The positive aspects of his personality had an impact but so did the negative ones, and that is what the Church is concerned about right now.”
Bishop Watty said it is necessary to reach out to the victims of Maciel’s abuse, both inside and outside of the Legion.“This was how we felt, and the Pope was in agreement, as he has been courageously doing. In the name of the Church we must reach out to them.”
Bishop Watty asserted that the “entire structure of authority within the Congregation of the Legionaries needs to be rebuilt and made to be more in accord with way authority works in the Church, that is to say, more evangelical.” He also said that the Legion’s training program needs to be reviewed and revised.