The pope’s envoy running the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order says the 1,000-plus rules governing the cult-like life of some of its members are invalid and will be whittled down to a core set of norms.
The rules that the Legion’s consecrated women and men live under cover everything from how to eat a piece of bread (tear off bite-size pieces, don’t bite into it) to what they can watch on television to how they interact with outsiders and family members.
Pope Benedict XVI took over the Legion last year after the order admitted its Mexican founder sexually abused seminarians and fathered three children. A Vatican investigation determined he was a fraud and discovered serious spiritual and psychological abuses within the Legion and its consecrated branch — abuses the pope’s delegate says he’s now trying to fix.
The Legion scandal ranks as one of the worst in the 20th century Catholic Church since Pope John Paul II held the Legion’s late founder the Rev. Marciel Maciel up as a model, even though the Vatican knew for over a decade about credible allegations he was a pedophile.
One of the greatest scandals concerning the Legion’s consecrated members is that for years they were told that the 1,000-plus rules they lived by had been approved by the Vatican, when in fact only 128 general statutes had been approved.
Former members have complained that they were told that disobeying any one of the rules was tantamount to disobeying God’s will — a heavy onus that created an unhealthy striving for perfection over the most meaningless of norms.
But in a Nov. 21 letter, the pope’s delegate for the Legion, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, said the rules had no legal status since they were never officially approved. He said a small commission would be formed soon to “extract” from the rules only those that are “strictly necessary” for the life and governance of the group.
This core set of rules will guide the consecrated until their whole governing statutes are revised, he wrote. Significantly, this revision process will be carried out almost independently of the Legion — part of the autonomy De Paolis envisages for the consecrated members. [...]
Members have defended the rules as a way to create unity in an international movement with people from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Critics have said the excessiveness of rules masks a lack of spirituality and constitutes a red flag about the cult-like nature of the movement.