February 2, 2020
Dear Regnum Christi members,
Today is our day off from the General Chapter meetings here in Rome. I want to use this time to reach out to you personally as I know there has been a lot of difficult information in the news, on social media and from our Congregation to you over the past couple weeks.
Since the Legionaries of Christ released the December 2019 report on the history of abuse in the Congregation, it has reopened wounds for victims and it has generated a lot of conversation in the media. But, it has also helped victims of abuse find their voices and the courage to come forward to share their experiences. We must pray that these victims receive the healing they need and that those who are still trying to find the courage to come forward are able to find it. This is an important part of the healing process for victims and it’s important for the Congregation to listen to the experiences of victims so that we can make reparation and be further purified.
Some of you may be wondering why we are revisiting all of these cases now. As we state in the December 2019 report on the history of abuse in the Congregation:
- In the 2014 General Chapter, the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ highlighted the need to reach out to victims and seek reconciliation. Since then, work has consisted above all in the prevention of abuses and in dealing with accusations. Nevertheless, in 2019, the superior general clearly noted the need to address with greater depth, fairness, rapidity and resoluteness, the cases of sexual abuse of minors committed by some members of the Congregation that arose prior to the implementation of the Safe Environment Policy in 2015.
- In this regard, the superior general of the Congregation decided to submit to the General Chapter—the highest authority of the Congregation [which is meeting now here in Rome]—a report on the situation, detailing the progress and challenges still to overcome. To this end, on June 20, 2019, Father Eduardo Robles-Gil, superior general of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, after consulting with his council, created the “Commission for past cases of abuse of minors and attention to those affected.” The superior general gave the commission authority to request information and collaboration from relevant governmental departments of the Congregation, to propose and conduct interviews to clarify cases from the past, and to access archives (observing the pertinent data management policies) to better understand the history of abuse of minors and promote reconciliation with those affected.
- […]The commission did not address the issue of abuse of power and conscience, nor has it delved into the shortcomings of the actions of some superiors to analyze where there may have been cover-up, negligence or omissions. The commission is aware that this is an important pending task and next steps are being looked at for how to proceed with this in the General Chapter.
- […] The commission reported its findings to the superior general and the territorial superiors of the Congregation, so that the competent authority: (1) would investigate the cases of Legionaries currently residing in their territory; (2) collaborate with the investigation and reach out to the victims of cases of Legionaries accused of acts perpetrated in their territory; (3) ensure that sanctioned Legionaries residing in the territory comply with the restrictions imposed on them.
The Chapter Fathers are reviewing this report and charting a course for moving forward. The General Chapter of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ began, January 20, in Rome. After reviewing the topics and tasks that the General Chapter must address, the chapter fathers chose to give priority to the issue of sexual abuse perpetrated by some members of the Congregation and the way in which superiors dealt with this abuse in the past, postponing other matters until later. (General Chapter Informative Note 1, General Chapter Informative Note 2)
We haven’t always addressed these cases well and we have a responsibility to revisit them in light of the information that the commission has provided. So, as I promised in my January 22nd letter, as information regarding other cases is forthcoming and I have enough certainty about that information to share it, I will make it available to you, even if it’s about situations in other territories. We will publish this information on our websites legionariesofchrist.org and 0abuse.org. Should you like to receive this information directly by email you can sign up to receive these and other important announcements from us here.
Some of you have asked what would happen if we received an allegation of sexual abuse today here in the United States and I want to address this. We have a policy on how to respond when abuse allegations arise, which we call our Rapid Response Plan. We also have a code of conduct that outlines how our priests should behave. I include links to both for you here and encourage you to read through them. In the United States and Canada, once we receive an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, we inform the civil authorities and do an initial inquiry to see if there is a reasonable possibility the sexual abuse of a minor has occurred. If so, we remove the priest from ministry and launch a full investigation by a third party.
Friends, we in the Legionaries of Christ must not only live with but wade through the sins of our past. We have a responsibility to those who have been hurt by the Legion, to all of you and to the greater Church that we serve. At times, it may feel like a lot is being shared with you and the rest of the world, and this will likely continue to generate difficult conversations for our Regnum Christi family and for those who support us in so many ways. In a way it may feel like you are wading through the sins of the Legion’s past with us – I am sorry for that. I know personally just how difficult and heavy a burden on the heart that can be. I ask your forgiveness for how the deplorable acts by some Legionaries continue to affect each of you today.
Facing our past is a road that must be traveled and addressing these wounds is how we build Christ’s Kingdom. Christ calls us to the same dedication in these difficult matters as he does to the mission of evangelization. At this moment it is a mission that Christ is calling us to, a mission of healing his Church and his children. It is a long journey, a journey which we will walk the rest of our lives, while we strive to see every single victim experience profound healing. Please do not lose faith in us as we walk this difficult path. And please pray for us, as we’ll be praying for you too. Christ will be with us, with you, and with his Church in the difficult times of purification as he was with his apostles on the boat during the storm. If along the way you get weary or you have questions or concerns please contact us and we will do our best to walk with you awhile, answer your questions or just listen.
It is my sincere hope this letter reassures you of our commitment to a safe environment for all those we serve through our ministries and though this path we walk will be difficult that you will not lose faith in us. I believe we are doing the right thing for the victims, for our Congregation, for our Regnum Christi family, and the Church. Please pray that the Lord show us the next steps in our effort to care for victims and our flock.
Yours in Christ and the Legion,
Fr. John Connor, LC