ROME, FEB. 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Some aspects of the life of Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, were incompatible with the priesthood, according to a spokesman for the congregation.
“We are pained and grieved for any offenses that Father Maciel’s actions have inflicted on the Church and her members. We apologize for the scandal this has caused,” Jim Fair said in a statement today to ZENIT.
Jim Fair, the spokesman for the Legionaries of Christ in the United States, told reporters: “We have learned some things about our founder’s life that are surprising and difficult for us to understand.”
Beginning Tuesday, reports in the media affirmed that the Mexican priest, who died last year and was buried in his native Cotija, Mexico, had a relationship with a woman and fathered a daughter.
The Legion’s Rome spokesman, Father Paolo Scarafoni, said: “We cannot deny the existence of these facts but we can’t go into detail because we have to respect the privacy of people involved.”
In response to reporters’ questions whether or not the Legion will renounce Father Maciel as its founder, Fair said that there was no intent to rewrite history: “He is the founder and he always will be the founder of the order. Whatever Father Maciel’s human failings, we remain grateful for the charism we received through him. One of the mysteries that we all see in life is that God does good works with less than perfect human instruments.”
Pete Vere, canon lawyer and author of several books on the Code of Canon Law, told ZENIT that there is no need for the Legion to leave aside its founder.
“Being honest about the founder, and saying that the founder made mistakes and that maybe the founder did things for the wrong reasons, and maybe some of the things he did were wrong … I think that type of openness and transparency will allow [the Legion] to go on,” he said. “Obviously given the size and given the effect they’ve had on the Church, there is something good there.”
Father Marcial Macial founded the Legionaries of Christi in 1941 and declined re-election as superior-general in 2005. Father Álvaro Corcuera was elected as his successor.
In May 2006, after having investigated accusations against Father Maciel, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “decided — bearing in mind Father Maciel´s advanced age and his delicate health — to forgo a canonical hearing and to invite the father to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry.”
The Vatican note at that time recognized “the distinguished apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ and of Regnum Christi,” saying they were “acknowledged with gratitude.”