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
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
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
people, but, at what cost?
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.
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.
yourself have said that “they couldn’t not know” what was
-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?
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
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.
-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
-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
- They didn’t call to
inform you from Santiago de Chile, where it had been
-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
-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
-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.
Zenit news agency. What was your position with the departure
of its former director, Jesús Colina?
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
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
- 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
-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?
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.