NEW YORK, SEPT. 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the letter sent Sept. 1 to the members and friends of Regnum Christi in the New York and Atlanta territories. The letter was signed by Legionary of Christ fathers Julio Martí and Scott Reilly, the respective directors of the New York and Atlanta territories.
A similar letter was sent today to the members and friends of Regnum Christi in Germany, signed by the respective territorial director, Father Sylvester Heereman.
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To Regnum Christi Members and Friends
Atlanta and New York Territories
Dear friends in Christ,
In Atlanta, we recently enjoyed a visit from our General Director, Father Alvaro Corcuera. He celebrated Mass for Regnum Christi members and friends at the Pinecrest Academy chapel. During his homily he touched on important points in reference to the difficulties we have all experienced during these past months, shedding light upon them from the Gospel. He invited us to discover God’s mysterious design also within the realities we are living, which we never would have expected to experience. It was an intense moment of prayer and unity, gathered around Christ.
He has also traveled to Cheshire, Connecticut, to preside over the ceremony of the profession of vows of a group of novices and religious on August 29. With this important step, these brothers continue their path to the priesthood in the Legion of Christ, at the service of the Church, by dedicating themselves to a mission that “is of fundamental importance and is worth devoting oneself to with broadmindedness and an unsullied heart…” (Letter of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to Father Alvaro Corcuera, March 10, 2009).
We are grateful to God for the gift of his leadership, full of Christian prudence and charity. We are confident that the Lord assists him with his grace in the difficult task he has at this time.
With this letter we would like to share with you some of the thoughts and recommendations that he has been offering to members of the Legion of Christ and consecrated members of Regnum Christi through his talks, homilies and letters over these past months. We are sure they can also be of help to you.
We also hope to remedy some of our shortcomings in communication -- for which we are sorry -- so that together we can continue walking what will surely be a long path of healing and reconciliation with those who have been hurt by the misdeeds of Father Maciel.
As priests, our hearts go out to all those who have been harmed or scandalized by his actions. To all we extend a special apology on behalf of the Legion and our General Director, Father Alvaro Corcuera, who has, in fact, begun to reach out personally and in private to those he knows may have suffered most, offering his heartfelt apology and consolation, and will continue to do so. As he wrote in his March 29 letter: “We are deeply saddened and sorry, and we sincerely ask for forgiveness from God and from those who have been hurt through this.” We also regret that our inability to detect, and thus accept and remedy, Father Maciel’s failings has caused even more suffering.
In the recent past, after Father Marcial Maciel had retired, we came to know that he had had a relationship with a woman and fathered a child. Even more recently, there have been allegations of other relationships and other children. Given the partial nature of the information available and the impossibility to evaluate immediately and in a definitive manner these complex allegations, the Legion of Christ cannot, at this time, make a statement regarding them.
All this leads us to value even more the wisdom and pastoral approach of the Holy See concerning the allegations of past sexual abuse against Father Maciel that had surfaced. As it was stated in the communiqué published on May 19, 2006, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith investigated these issues and invited him to a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing all public ministry.
As an institution, as a family and as individuals, this unexpected turn of events has been traumatic. Being weak humans, even if reacting with Christian virtue, many of us have gone through experiences of shock, anger, disbelief, denial and fear, both humanly and spiritually.
These emotions, the vast tangle of information, supposition, speculation and opinion, the different cultural sensitivities, and the Christian duty not to publicize the sins of others, have made it difficult to publish the sort of direct statement that many expected of us.
Added to this, is the fact that we did not know the whole truth, we may not know it yet, and new information may well continue to come to light. What we do learn, we will address, respecting the privacy of those who request it of us.
As Legionaries, consecrated members of Regnum Christi and Regnum Christi members of all walks of life, we too have been experiencing a deep struggle. We are all wounded by this news, and need the comfort and support of each other. We want to thank all those who have understood the depth of our suffering, and offered their understanding and kindness. As we have just mentioned, we wish to be close to anyone who has suffered in any way, and at the same time ask them to live the Christian virtue of pardon from the depth of their hearts.
1. This brings us to a key point in relation to you, our friends. It is clear that all these facts lead us to think about the past, the present and the future. Many of you have rightly asked if the Legion has made or will make changes in its life. Yes…we have, we are and we will. Some examples:
a. One of the questions that come to mind refers to the “safe environment and child protection” measures in our communities and apostolates. Our Constitutions, other norms and many elements of our discipline have always helped us to be particularly careful in the dealing with minors. More recently we are in the process of accreditation by Praesidium, a risk management organization now helping a great number of religious institutions in North America. Praesidium is conducting a full review of our internal rules and policies, as well as our training of all those who deal with minors. They will shortly be conducting on-site visitation of several of our institutions to verify that what is on paper is being applied. There are twenty-five accreditation standards to meet, covering the areas of prevention, response and supervision. Here in the U.S. we have also set up an external review board so that in the event of allegations of sexual abuse, we have the advantage of “outside eyes” to weigh the evidence, issues and provide us with recommendations. Praesidium accreditation is being promoted by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, which links all the male religious orders in this country.
We also fully comply with all diocesan standards, which vary from place to place.
b. On the financial side, for a long time now we have had yearly audits done by outside accounting firms. We could not have acquired the loans we needed to purchase our seminaries and found the many works of apostolate undertaken during these years without systems in place of strict accountability and responsible financial management.
In recent years, due to the growth of our operations, we have put in place a still more professional system of business management through the services of Integer Group.
Staffed by lay professionals, Integer has further improved our operating and management processes to ensure the integrity of all our operations.
c. A further area of adjustment which has begun and continues in process is the way we refer to Father Maciel in the Legion and Regnum Christi. While we cannot deny that Father Maciel was our founder and did much good, neither can we deny the reality of what has recently come to light and his grave human failings. We have taken progressive steps to make sure that there is no inappropriate reference to Father Maciel (we have, for example, removed pictures of him from our center; we have extensively edited our websites; we are in the process of reviewing new editions of other writings, brochures, etc.). All this has led us to what is most essential: to center our life, even more, in Jesus Christ.
This is an ongoing and difficult process given the need to discern his person from the solid Catholic doctrine that he transmitted and the legitimate institutional aspects of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christ. This discernment is not something that can be done lightly or overnight. Father Alvaro has and will seek the advice and guidance of learned and prudent men of the Church to enlighten this difficult question seeking not to lose God’s gifts to the Legion and Regnum Christi.
2. We are also receiving enormous help from the Church, especially from the Holy Father, Pope
Benedict XVI, to whom we are truly grateful.
a. You know that he has mandated an Apostolic Visitation of the Legion. Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput of Denver has been appointed as Visitor for the Legion in the United States and Canada. Archbishop Chaput will visit our seminaries and religious houses, see our life up close and interview whomever he wants. His mandate will be to question, probe and assess with depth and objectivity. Legionaries are free to speak and write to him with all their comments and questions. He sets his own timetable and the points he wishes to probe, and he will present his findings and recommendations directly to the Holy See. For the moment, the Legion cannot make any specific statements regarding the content or development of the Visitation, since this would interfere with the work of the Visitors.
b. Questions and comments have also been raised regarding the “private vow of charity” that was professed in the Legion. The rationale of this vow was to ensure that the grievances one could have with his superior were brought to those who could resolve them and thus avoid irresponsible criticism or internal factions that degrade unity. This vow had been in place since 1957 and was approved by the Church. Pope Benedict XVI, who has the power to bind and loose, asked the Legion to remove it, which we did two years ago.
c. In the past two years, also following the indications we received from the Holy Father, we changed our general practice of superiors being the spiritual directors of their subjects. This practice was based on one of the century-old monastic traditions that view the superior as Spiritual Father and Mentor of his community. We are seeing positive fruits from this change of practice.
d. There also have been changes in the Legion regarding sacramental confession. In the past, members were free to go to the Ordinary or Extraordinary confessors (assigned by the General Director for each community). They were also free to go to any other Catholic priest with faculties for confession. Members often asked to go to confession with their own superiors.
Following the instructions of the Holy See, today superiors are no longer habitual confessors for those under their authority.
e. We would finally like to mention that our general director is in frequent contact with our superiors in the Holy See and also with the Apostolic Visitors to speak about these and other complex issues.
These are some of the significant steps the Legion of Christ has taken. And as we said, we expect more will come in time, with judgment and prudence.
Understandably, in the midst of the present circumstances there have been a few of our members who have felt that they can serve God better by separating themselves from the Legion and Regnum Christi; others have opted temporarily to step aside to see and evaluate, waiting also to see the outcome of the Visitation. The vast majority has opted to continue doing as much good as they can from where they are, knowing that our time here on earth is limited, and trusting that with the guidance of the Church whatever needs to be corrected in time, and whatever is good will be confirmed. Each one has made his or her choice before God, moved by their love for him and their desire to serve him to the best of their ability, and for no other consideration. Let us have great Christian understanding and respect for all. Each of us must presume the best and purest intention in the other, pray for each other, and recognize that each one of us suffers and recovers in different ways and at different times.
As Father Álvaro told us in his homily, in Cheshire, St. John Chrysostom teaches us fives ways to reach reconciliation: asking for pardon, forgiving others, prayer, almsgiving and humility (cf. ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, Homilies, PG 49, 263-264). Let us ask the Lord to grant us the grace to walk this path, inasmuch as each one of us needs it, for his greater glory.
Loving, serving, and building together –that has been our life in the Legion and Regnum Christi. As tragic as the failings of our founder are, they should not cause us to diminish our efforts to bring souls to Christ, and to serve him and the Church selflessly in all our brothers and sisters.
You have worked so hard to create apostolates, build schools, run youth clubs, form people in the Catholic faith – and those efforts are good and real. Let nothing distract you from loving and serving God in your neighbor. We enter now into a new chapter of our history which must be focused on the pursuit of holiness and love for souls.
May we take inspiration from our Blessed Mother who “meditated all these things in her heart” (cf. Lk 2:51). She will lead us along the path of God’s will and help us to respond as she did: “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
May Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians inspire us during these challenging times:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
You remain in our prayers, and we depend on yours.
Yours in Christ our Lord,
Fr Julio Martí, LC
New York Territory
Fr Scott Reilly, LC