Fr. Juan Pedro Oriol is a well-known and highly regarded priest in the Legionaries of Christ. It seems that his brothers Santiago, Ignacio and Alfonso, also priests in the Legion of Christ, have abandoned the Congregation or are in the "process" of leaving. Santiago made a public announcement about his own departure. Juan Pablo, likewise has just communicated his decision publicly in a letter to a major Mexican newspaper where he has been a frequent contributor. The Oriol brothers are from a well known Spanish family; their public departures from the beleaguered Legionaries is not without significant public relations consequences for the Order. Malen their sister still remains a senior member of the Regnum Christi lay movement.
Juan Pedro is a well liked priest who has had great success in the recruitment of new Legionaries in Mexico. He says he will continue as a priest, working in the diocese of Guadalajara, Mexico.
The departure of these high profile Legionaries is significant. Like so many of their peers they were clearly upset when the awful revelations about the Legion's founder came to light. It seems they struggled to find meaning in the scandal and that they tried to help reform the Congregation. However, the reasons given for their decision to leave relate to their dissatisfaction with the process of reform and to the lack of transparency of the Apostolic Delegate Cardinal Velasio de Paolis and Legionary leadership. This is not a good sign.
Comments I have heard and internal documents that I have seen support the perception that Cardinal De Paolis and the Legionary superiors are moving far too slowly and indecisively in the face of the magnitude of the scandal. I understand that the Vatican moves slowly and that the Legion must convoke a General Chapter in order to institute the reforms Pope Benedict has asked for. However, the powers that be are feeding the fires of speculation that it is "business as usual" in Rome; the "old boys network" continues to call the shots.
I support those Legionaries who chose to remain and implement reform. And I wish those who choose to leave every success. Time will tell how effectively former Legionary priests will transition to diocesan life if they choose that route. Based on my personal experience of Legionary formation and mindset I am not at all optimistic. No doubt some will transition nicely and the Church will retain some great priests. Others are not doing so well in the diocesan priesthood. It is by no means an easy transition. Personally, I don't think many of them will survive. I hope I am wrong.
If I am correct, most Legionary priests and seminarians who are advanced in their formation, know this. Where are they supposed to go if the Legion fails? What are they supposed to do? They face an awful dilemma - to continue with a group whose leadership is taking too long to implement urgent reforms or to leave and face difficulties in their adjustment for which they are ill prepared.
In the past, former Legionaries (especially priests) have been considered as traitors by those who remained. Former companions are effectively ostracized and ill informed speculation about their reasons for leaving is subtly encouraged. Departures and the true motivation of those who leave is not discussed publicly. I once met a former companion of mine, still a Legionary priest, who twenty years after I left claimed to believe that I was still working in Africa! I suspect that is why Juan Pedro Oriol "went public" in the Mexican press so that he could retain some "control" over his story and his reasons for leaving.
Once more, I wish him and all Legionaries well. Meanwhile, the slowness of Cardinal De Paolis and the current Legionary leadership does not bode well for the future of many excellent priests and seminarians. Readers of this blog know that I have been patient and have advocated patience with the process. Given the snail's pace at which the reforms are proceeding it is very hard to believe that current leadership is embracing the changes advocated by the Pope. Cardinal De Paolis is acting like a consummate Vatican "insider" while senior Legionary leadership "makes hay while the sun shines".
If I am right about the difficulties Legionaries who attempt to transition to diocesan priesthood will face, both the Cardinal and the leadership are playing an extremely ill-advised game in which more good men will be manipulated, private leadership agendas will prevail and many souls will be hurt. Pope Benedict will have a lot of explaining to do since it seems his lieutenants do not share his concern nor his sense of urgency. Perhaps naively I expected far more from the Legion's leaders. They are fulfilling the most pessimistic prophecies of the naysayers. It's way past time to wake up; the coffee is already burnt. The Church continues to suffer from the lack of decisiveness and transparency of its leaders.