(The Vatican Press Office released the following communiqué today, May 19, 2006. This is an English translation of the Italian original.)
COMMUNIQUE OF THE PRESS OFFICE OF THE HOLY SEE
In reference to news reports diffused concerning the person of the Founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the Reverend Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the Press Office of the Holy See communicates the following:
Beginning in 1998, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith received accusations, already in part made public, against the Reverend Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, for offenses reserved to the exclusive competence of the dicastery. In 2002, the Reverend Maciel published a declaration for denying the accusations and for expressing his displeasure at the offense provoked by some ex-members of the Legionaries of Christ. In 2005, for reasons of advanced age, the Reverend Maciel withdrew himself from the office of Superior General of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ.
All these elements were the object of mature examination on the part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and, in accordance with the motu proprio “Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela” promulgated April 30, 2001, by the Servant of God John Paul II, the then-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, authorized an investigation of the accusations. In the meantime, the death of Pope John Paul II happened and the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as the new Pontiff.
After having submitted the results of the investigation to an attentive study, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the guide of its new Prefect, His Eminence Cardinal William Levada, decided – taking account of the advanced age of the Reverend Maciel and his delicate health – to renounce any canonical process and to invite the Father to a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing every public ministry. The Holy Father has approved these decisions.
Independently of the person of the Founder, the worthy apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Association is recognized with gratitude.
[Original Text: Italian]
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(The following response was issued by the Press Office of the Legionnaires of Christ.)
The Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement in response to the communiqué of the Holy See renew their commitment to serve the Church
In reference to the news regarding the conclusion of the investigation of the accusations made against Fr. Marcial Maciel, our beloved father founder, the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ offer the following statement:
1. Fr. Marcial Maciel has received during his life a great number of accusations. In the last few years, some of these were presented to the Holy See so that a canonical process would be opened.
2. Facing the accusations made against him, he declared his innocence and, following the example of Jesus Christ, decided not to defend himself in any way.
3. Considering his advanced age and his frail health, the Holy See has decided not to begin a canonical process but to "invite him to a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing to any public ministry."
4. Fr. Maciel, with the spirit of obedience to the Church that has always characterized him, he has accepted this communiqué with faith, complete serenity and tranquility of conscience, knowing that it is a new cross that God, the Father of Mercy, has allowed him to suffer and that will obtain many graces for the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement.
5. The Legionaries of Christ and the members of the Regnum Christi, following the example of Fr. Maciel and united to him, accept and will accept always the directives of the Holy See with profound spirit of obedience and faith. We renew our commitment to work with great intensity to live our charism of charity and extend the Kingdom of Christ serving the Church.
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There are those who will say that "Maciel got off easy." Maybe he did, maybe not. Such a conclusion would be based on partial information. Our system of civil law in the USA is based upon English common law, while the canon law of the Church is based upon old Roman law. The latter places a greater role on discretion, both in proceedings, and any disclosure of the outcome. (Let's be honest; if you petitioned for an annulment, would you want the whole world to have access to the transcripts?) For all we know, while standing before the Holy Father, the founder of this prosperous religious order may have gotten the chastisement of a lifetime. This writer has had access to enough information from past cases not to be surprised, were such to be the case.
Those who remain with the Legion, and with their lay apostolate, Regnum Christi, must reconcile the continuation of their mission, with the knowledge that their founder might not have been the man he was made out to be. To do so does not excuse anyone for any misdeeds, but leaves open the prospect that good may prevail in the face of evil.
Such a task awaits all of us.