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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Velasio de Paolis
I come to bring the Legion out of the tunnel, says the Pontifical Delegate for the Legion of Christ

Cardinal De Paolis

The following article was reprinted from the Spanish magazine Vida Nueva (Issue No. 2.794.) It was originally published on March 23, 2012.

By Darío Menor

 “My mission is to bring the Legion of Christ out of the tunnel in which it found itself”. The Italian cardinal Velasio de Paolis carries on his shoulders one of the great challenges of the pontificate of Benedict XVI: to revive this powerful and influential congregation, grown in the warmth of the pontificate of John Paul II and fractured by the scandals of its founder, Marcial Maciel. [Interview with Velasio de Paolis, extract] 

It is a complex mission that has been entrusted to De Paolis, who was named the pontifical delegate in May 2010, making him the representative of the pope with authority over the superiors of the Legionaries. His task is to push through new rules in the Legion, purify the stain that Maciel’s errors left in the structure of the congregation, and give more autonomy to Regnum Christi, the movement of laity and consecrated of the institute.

His labor, marked by problems (“Every day new things come up; these Legionaries don’t leave you alone”), will extend until the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014, when a general chapter will be held, with which the Legion should come out of the purgatory in which the crimes and sins of Maciel left it.

-You have been criticized by people inside and outside of the Legion. They say that your mission is going too slowly…

-We have done much in this time. My four collaborators and I are working swiftly. I have written four letters to the Legionaries and the consecrated in which I described the path traveled up to now and what still lies ahead. Up to now, the problem has been centered on the government. This above all is what has been criticized, but this is not the principal problem. How could someone like me, coming from the outside, and not knowing the Legionaries, govern an institute? The more fitting idea, which has been ratified by the Holy See, was for the government to continue ad nutum Sanctae Sedis (at the disposition of the Holy See), that is, that the Holy See, and the Delegate in particular, intervene in the government.

People say that nothing has changed,
Serious Cardinal
but the delegate and his collaborators have been added to the government. This permits them to know the people in charge and to face specific situations and the changes that need to be made. The decisions are made with us, and we have the power to decide about every issue.

-Have you had to impose your decision on any occasions?

-No. We are all reasonable people and we are aware of the problems. In the end, the solution almost imposes itself. We thought it helpful to name two new councilors in the government. Then we changed things by adding two more. How can they say that nothing has changed?


In the middle of this past February, Cardinal Velasio de Paolis made another change in the government of the Legion: he replaced the vicar general and one of the general councilors. The “number two” man of the congregation is now the German Sylvester Heereman, replacing Luis Garza, a man from Marcial Maciel’s circle who was in charge of economic matters. The other appointment fell to the Brazilian Deomar de Guedes.

-Why did you chose Sylvester Heereman and Deomar de Guedes?

-They were among those who received the most votes from the Legionaries themselves. The first criteria for choosing them was that the rest have confidence in them. The second, that they represent an international reality, not just the Hispanic world. The third, that they were young and not linked to Maciel. The fourth reason is that they have not already been superiors. And the fifth, that they have good skills for the service of authority.

-Was Garza removed or did he present his resignation? And Álvaro Corcuera, the general director of the Legion, has he asked to resign?

-These are strictly personal matters, about which it would not be appropriate to give an answer. It seems to me that there are other issues connected with these questions: to remove a person means to make a judgment about them and confirm all the rumors.  For me, this is a moral problem. How can I justify destroying someone without knowing him? In fact, in regard to Luis Garza, there is nothing. There’s his personality, which may be more or less pleasing, but he has not committed any crime. For me, it would have been very easy to gain general approval by removing these
Cardinal again
people, but, at what cost?

Garza has left [the general government] for now because the province of the United States is going through a difficult time economically and he is capable in this area. He manifested his availability for this post, and after sending a visitator to the province, we saw that he had the backing of the majority of the priests in the province to be the provincial. With the superiors and with the Legion itself, a strange phenomenon happens: you say all the bad possible and people believe you. If you say good things, on the other hand, no one believes you.

- Do you think that the criticism comes from those who hoped the Legion would be dissolved?

-Yes.  I have not been given this responsibility in order to dissolve the Legion. The Pope could do this, but what he has done is mark out a path divided in stages. The first was to clear up the problem of Maciel. The second phase was the visitation by five bishops, who informed the Pope, and then, the Vatican press office released a communiqué which spoke quite hard words about the situation of the congregation. The third phase began with my appointment by the Pope, who wants the Legion to set on its way again, because within it there are a great number of zealous people who want to work for the Kingdom.

My appointment came once the Pope had already done great analysis: he does not think that the Legion should be suppressed; he thinks that effort must be made to purify and save her. Nobody is hoping for destruction or decapitation. My mission is to try to bring the Legion of the tunnel in which it found itself.

- You speak of trying. Will you fulfill your objective?

- I’m positive. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t continue. This work can bear good fruit. There are already good things that can be seen, and I hope to find more. People are taking it for granted that the superiors have committed crimes and that, therefore, they should convert or we should behead them. The reality is that the majority don’t have any responsibility with regards to Maciel’s behavior. They have remained faithful to their duty. They felt that they had given their lives for the Legion they found themselves blamed. We can’t confuse the founder with the Legion, although as the Official Bulletin of the Holy See affirmed, some forms of behavior and part of the mentality of the founder have entered into the structure of the Legion.

- Considering the penetration of this mentality, can some of these superiors be saved?

- Hardly any of the superiors who collaborated with Maciel remain. Maciel did what he wanted to; he governed personally. The majority thought that he was a holy and untouchable man. If the superiors did not see what was going on, it wasn’t out of wickedness.

-You yourself have said that “they couldn’t not know” what was happening.

-This principle of “they couldn’t not know” can be a source of errors and injustices. Even I myself knew that there had been allegations. It was all on the internet. But could one believe what was said about Maciel?

-The people who were close to him not only knew through the internet what had happened; they had seen it with their own eyes…

-When they have searched, they have discovered. And when they have done so, they have reported it. That’s how the path that led to Maciel’s dismissal began. But in the beginning, when these things began to come up in the news, Maciel was considered a saint and they said that the accusations were false.

-Would you advise a young man with a priestly vocation to join the Legion?

-Yes. Just as I would say yes for other institutes. I see the Legion of Christ as an institute that is following its path and continues receiving vocations.

-Do you often speak with the Pope about the Legionaries?

-Every so often I make a report for him. The Pope wants the Legionaries to follow a path of renewal and arrive to a General Chapter from which new Constitutions will come out.  With the passing of time, new problems have appeared. We have had to resolve the problems of the victims. Then there is the question of the debt and the economic crisis, which at the start was the last thing I thought of. And, finally, the matter of the consecrated men and women of Regnum Christi.  We realize now that perhaps we should have begun with the latter.  When we began, we began with the Legion. This created the
Cardinal and Fr. Alvaro
first big problem, perhaps because we didn’t realize that the Legion is not just the Legion; the greater reality is Regnum Christi, a great movement.

Misunderstood freedom

-Was there a false understanding within the Legion of a concept as evangelical as freedom?

-It is a complex problem. My impression is that, on the one hand, there was the danger that there was excessive control of freedom. But on the other hand, I don’t know any religious who enjoy such ample freedom as the Legionaries. There is a control of ideas, a problem in the relation between the internal and external parts. But if you look at the individual life of the Legionaries, you see that they are always moving around the world. They have great freedom to move and to undertake new projects. Their success and their problems come from this; they have taken advantage of individual’s abilities.

- So, all those rules that regulate even the smallest aspects of their life, even how they should eat a dish of pasta, don’t these seem to you a limitation of freedom?

-It’s difficult. When I analyze the Legionaries, I make a statement, and then I have to correct it. It is not easy to understand. There are good aspects and there are others that are contradictory. They are situations that must be carefully analyzed, because there is a risk of being mistaken. The problem with the Legionaries is that they have given a precise image of themselves.

About Regnum Christi

- Will Regnum Christi follow a separate path from the Legionaries?

-We are studying how to harmonize these three realities: the Legion, Regnum Christi, and within Regnum Christi, what is called the third degree: the consecrated men and women. Regnum Christi has 60,000 members, and carries out grand apostolate. The lay people, with three different levels of commitment, all have a common goal: to fight for the Kingdom. We want all the splendor and beauty of this reality to be restored. If the pitfalls of the past are overcome, it can be a good for everyone. No one wants the death of Regnum Christi.

- What is it that this movement needs?

-The initial apostolic visitations was for the Legionaries, not for Regnum Christi, but some members said they too wanted a visitation. This task was given to the archbishop of Valladolid, Ricardo Blázquez, who is a very worthy and prudent person, and has been applauded by all. When I started my responsibility as delegate, I didn’t take charge of Regnum Christi, because it seemed like that would be an interference. In September we began to work with Blazquez’s report. His judgment is substantially positive, although he speaks of some aspects that need to be examined, above all in relation to formation. The formation of the Legionaries was trusted too much. Another thing that needs to be revised is that Regnum Christi needs greater autonomy.

- What are you going to do with the case of the consecrated men and women?

-We hadn’t taken this into consideration until recently. The number of consecrated men is small compared with the number of consecrated women. The women number many more, around 800, while there are about 100 men who live with the Legionaries, as if they were lay brothers. The consecrated women, however, live in communities. The presence of the Legionaries over them was very strong; there is the problem of formation, of spiritual direction, of the mission, government, etc. These things have to be revised for greater autonomy.

First we need to reflect about this vocation and give it a framework, examine if it can last or if it should be modified. We have organized some meetings and we have seen very clear agreement. The consecrated women said that they want to follow the evangelical counsels, working in associations connected with the Legionaries. We began from that starting point, since we found greet agreement.

-When did the friction among the consecrated women arise?

- While this work was being done, rumors of an uneasy group began to arise. Some of them were women who had been consecrated longer, even for up to 40 years. There were rumors that they felt a certain difficulty, but no one manifested this openly. At the end of one of these group encounters, it became known that an association was being created to welcome those who were leaving.

Consecrated who are leaving

- You did not know of this new institute, Totus Tuus, until its official creation?

No. There were rumors, but they were never backed up.

- They didn’t call to inform you from Santiago de Chile, where it had been created?

-The archbishop of Santiago was in his right; a bishop can create an association. No one told me anything. After the rumors, some consecrated women in Italy and Monterrey created confusion. Then I thought it would be good for me if I went to Mexico- because that was where the greatest number of consecrated women who wanted to leave Regnum Christi were- so that I could understand and clarify what had happened.

I arrived to Mexico on February 23. The following day I received a letter from one of my collaborators in which he included the decree of establishment of Totus Tuus. It said that the Pope was in agreement with creating it. I wanted to clarify this fact. The favorable judgment of the Pope is with regard to the creation of this association, not to the act of leaving Regnum Christi. This is an important subtlety. If they can become part of another association, this is welcome. But it cannot seem that those who stay are going against obedience. The Pope blessings the act of welcoming, which is something good, not the departure, which is debatable.

- These consecrated women say that they lost confidence in the leaders.

-That argument is not a decisive element for a vocation. The vocation is not a response to a man, but to God. For me, this is not a reason, though I respect it. I wanted to reassure those who stay. It is not correct to say that trust has been lost because the crimes of Maciel still haven’t been cleared up. If the consecrated women, even all of them, want to leave, let them do so, but respectfully.

- Do you think more people will leave the Legion or Regnum Christi?

This is another cause of confusion. They say that 300 consecrated women have left, but they don’t explain that these 300 have left Regnum Christi over the last five or six years. The crisis has existed, not from yesterday, but from when the case of Maciel first exploded.  We took the reins of Regnum Christi last September. How can the responsibility for this be made to fall on us? There is something here that, in part, escapes me. When we thought we have taken a positive step, in which we had almost unanimous agreement, we have seen ourselves struck unexpectedly. Now between thirty and forty consecrated women have left for this new reality of Totus Tuus.

-Has Malén Oriol, who was formerly in charge of the consecrated women, left to become part of Totus Tuus?

-I don’t know. Her attitude is difficult to understand. With me, Malén Oriol spoke little. Between September and October of last year she came to see me to tell me that she was ready to leave her post if I thought she should. I told her I didn’t and said that she should decide for herself if she would continue. Then it seemed that she wanted to stay. In the end, in an assembly she rose and said that she resigned from her position. I then asked her to reflect and to let me know afterwards what she thought.  What she did was send a letter saying that she awaited a response from me. Then she came to see me and I told her that I accepted her resignation, but I asked her not to leave Regnum Christi. She answered that she wanted to remain, but a few days later I received her request to leave.

-Another rupture: Zenit news agency. What was your position with the departure of its former director, Jesús Colina?

-It is a normal matter in a work relationship. Jesús Colina came to see me to tell me that the Legionaries had betrayed him. One can’t forget that Zenit belongs to the Legion. Colina wanted it to be transferred to others. If he didn’t consider himself able to continue working together with them, he should have been the one to withdraw.

Maciel, demon or “poor sinner”?

-Can the charism of a congregation with a founder like Maciel be saved?

Theoretically this question has already been answered. In the history of the Church there have been cases of founders who then did not follow the correct path.

- Why has the figure of Maciel not been buried completely?

We can’t deny that he is the founder. That is a historic fact.  He is no longer referred to as “Father” and we have asked that his texts not be read in public. The theme of Maciel must be calmly analyzed. He is not a role model, but is he a demon or a poor sinner? If he were a demon, we wouldn’t be able to save anything. If he is a poor sinner, something good may have been done. If we demonize Maciel, we make it hard to understand the Legion. If we consider him to be a sinner, we can understand it.

- Isn’t this equidistance in analyzing the figure of Maciel dangerous?

- Can one say that Maciel did not seek the good? That he did not try to do something useful for the Church? The Legionaries have values inculcated by him, like obedience to the Church or respect for doctrine, which cannot be denied. The starting point is that there is fidelity. One cannot say that Maciel is a demon. Does that seem like valid reasoning to you?

- No, but I am not the one who should judge.

-It’s clear that there are grave things, but they depend more on the weakness of man than on evil.

-Sexual abuse, especially of minors, is a weakness?

-I cannot and I do not want to justify it. In fact, it can never be sufficiently condemned. But this does not turn the sinner into a demon. Maciel was a sinner, a great sinner, but he is not a demon. Pope Benedict XVI has said that Maciel was an enigmatic figure. We find ourselves faced with the mystery of the human person, with his responsibility, which escapes us. It is an unfathomable abyss of sin and of grace.

- What results have come from the commission in charge of the victims?

-We did not have the duty of searching out the victims. Anyone who felt they were a victim could make a petition to the commission. In the end, there have been less than ten victims, each one of whom has received compensation of 15,000, 25,000, or 35,000 euros. Or even more in some cases.





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