Who Is Responsible for Secrecy in the Legionaries of Christ?

The news that Father Alavaro Corcuera (General Director of the Legionaries of Christ) apologized on May 22, 1012 for keeping secret the situation surrounding Father Thomas Williams may have come as a surprise to most people familiar with The Legionaries and Regnum Christi.

Be assured that Father Corcuera is not solely responsible for not revealing this, or any other case, sooner. For years there have been many people in authority above him - including members of the present and past Vatican Curia - who were repeatedly made aware of the struggles and difficulties surrounding the abusive behavior of the founder and other dysfunctions in the Legionaries.

For a variety of reasons, which you can read below, they chose to ignore it and even dismiss and ridicule those who came forward. A visit to the website connected to the new book "La Voluntad de No Saber" (authored by victims of abuse Father Alberto Athie, Jose Barba - along with a historian - Jose M. Gonzalez) will provide you with all the documentation regarding this issue, dating back to 1944.

An excerpt from my personal memoir Dilemma: A Priest's Struggle between Faith and Love

"Since the 1970s, rumors had abounded about Father Maciel (founder of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement) working his connections in the Vatican and using money received from the wealthy benefactors of his various movements to buy his way into top Church circles. The Legionaries had become known as "the Millionaires of Christ" even by their own colleagues and supporters in the Vatican. Many clergy criticized them for having fancy air-conditioned buses and for wearing immaculate double-breasted suits, which probably made them the best-dressed religious order on the planet.

Unfortunately, their leader, Father Maciel, wasn't just money hungry and ambitious. It was discovered that he was also a very sick man who abused drugs, sexually abused and tormented dozens of young seminarians, had secret affairs with women, and fathered several children out of wedlock--some of whom he also sexually abused.

Many of these stories were denied for decades by leaders in both the Vatican and the Legionaries, despite the fact that several credible sources, including former seminarians and Legionary priests, tried to bring this misconduct to the Vatican's attention. In 1997, however, a group of these men were fed up enough with the apathy and indifference they encountered within Church circles to organize and present real documentation of their specific accusations. While the institution still ignored them, they caught the media's attention.

The immediate reaction of Church officials, as always, was to deny these rumors as false and malicious. The accusers, who were concerned for the well-being of their Church as well as for possible new victims, were told to go away and be silent "for the good of the Church." Officials repeatedly said that nothing could be done because "the pope holds Father Maciel in high esteem."

Why didn't the institution step up to help not only the many victims of Father Maciel but also the laypeople, seminarians, and priests of this order who wished to move on and continue doing good works despite the stigma of their sick founder? Why didn't anyone within the institution approach Father Maciel about his known addictions and other problems, and try to help him come to terms with all those issues in a healthier and more transparent way?
I was beginning to learn that, when it came to the Church, silence was the default coping strategy. Besides, the Legionaries were known for fund-raising and promoting the priesthood, and the Vatican always needed more money and more priests. It seemed like a winning combination!

I was as horrified as everyone else when the truth came out about Father Maciel. I trembled when I remembered how close I had come to joining his group, and I still knew some of the Legionaries, who I continue to admire greatly. Many of these men maintained a strong sense of mission and loyalty to Christ. Yet, from my point of view, they had become victims of an institution that froze when it should have acted, a system that was broken but couldn't admit it.

After the accusations about Father Maciel came to light, I encouraged any Legionary priests I met to hold their heads high. I felt great compassion for them; I knew that many had been brainwashed by the Church for years to believe that accusations against their founder were "attacks by the enemies of the Church" and by "the evil media." It must have been a struggle for these young men to maintain their love of God after finding out that the teachings of a man they had once admired were actually the teachings of a twisted mind. But for the grace of God, I might have been among them."