Exodus as pope’s Legion of Christ reform lags

When Pope Benedict XVI took over the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order last year, expectations were high that heads would roll over one of the greatest scandals of the 20th century Roman Catholic Church, the Associated Press says:

One year later, none of the Legion’s superiors has been held to account for facilitating the crimes of late founder Rev. Marciel Maciel, a drug addict who sexually abused his seminarians, fathered three children and created a cult-like movement within the church that damaged some of its members spiritually and emotionally.

An Associated Press tally shows that disillusioned members are leaving the movement in droves as they lose faith that the Vatican will push through the changes needed. The collapse of the order, once one of the most influential in the church, has broader implications for Catholicism, which is shedding members in some places because the hierarchy covered up widespread sexual abuse by priests.

In an exclusive interview, the man tapped by Benedict to turn the Legion around insisted that the pope tasked him only with guiding the Legion and helping rewrite its norms — not “decapitating” its leadership or avenging wrongdoing.

Cardinal Velasio De Paolis ruled out any further investigation into the crimes of Maciel, who as a favorite of Pope John Paul II had been held up as a living saint despite well-founded allegations — later proven — that he was a pedophile.

“I don’t see what good would be served” by further inquiry into a coverup, the Italian cardinal said. “Rather, we would run the risk of finding ourselves in an intrigue with no end. Because these are things that are too private for me to go investigating.” […]

Critics, including some Vatican officials, contend De Paolis has an obligation to uncover the truth and take more radical action, given that the Vatican itself found Maciel created a twisted, abusive order to cater to his double life.

The Vatican also determined that for the Legion to survive it must be “purified” of the influence of Maciel, who died in 2008, since its very structure and culture had been so contaminated by his obsession with obedience and secrecy. Members were forbidden from criticizing their superiors, were isolated from their families, and told how to do everything from praying to eating an orange.
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