The Vatican has named a Spanish archbishop to investigate a cult-like group affiliated with the Legionaries of Christ, the conservative religious order disgraced by revelations its founder sexually abused seminarians and fathered three children.
Monsignor Ricardo Blazquez, archbishop of Valladolid, Spain, will head the probe into the so-called consecrated women of the Legion’s lay movement Regnum Christi, according to an internal e-mail from the Legion’s administrative branch. The Vatican confirmed the nomination late Wednesday.
Regnum Christi is a community of some 70,000 Catholics in 30 countries who have regular jobs and families yet help promote the movement’s aim of bringing people closer to Christ through missionary-type work.
Some 900 of Regnum Christi’s most devout are “consecrated women,” single lay Catholics who make promises of poverty, chastity and obedience much like nuns do and work full-time for Regnum Christi, recruiting new members by running schools, summer camps and adult programs.
In an investigative report over the weekend, The Associated Press exposed the cult-like conditions in which these women live. According to the testimony of former members and Regnum Christi’s own unpublished statutes and rules, family members are kept at a distance, minute rules dictate nearly every hour of the day, members are told how to eat, speak and dress and what types of TV they can watch — all in the name of God’s will.
The Vatican announced in May it was investigating the consecrated members after a series of abuses came to light during an eight-month Vatican probe into the Legion, a secretive religious order beloved by Pope John Paul II but now discredited by the revelations of the double life led by its founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel.
Maciel had been dogged for decades by allegations he sexually abused seminarians. But his Vatican protectors prevented any action from being taken against him until 2006 — a year after Pope Benedict XVI was elected pope — when the Vatican ordered him to a lifetime of penance and prayer.
He died in 2008 at age 87.