VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican will name a special “assistant” to advise the leadership of the troubled Legionaries of Christ, whose revised constitutions Pope Francis has still not approved four months after they were submitted to him.
Father Eduardo Robles Gil, general director of the Legionaries, made the announcement in a video message sent to the congregation’s members June 22 and now accessible on YouTube.
Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz and Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, respectively prefect and secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, informed Father Robles Gil of the plan for an adviser at a recent meeting, the general director said.
“We asked if this assistant would have a role in government, but we were told that no, our government was autonomous,” Father Robles Gil said in the video.
The general director said he had not been told the identity of the assistant, but hoped to learn more at a July 3 meeting with the cardinal and archbishop.
Father Robles Gil said he also hoped to find out “how the constitutions are coming along, and if there is something we need to adapt or change.”
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said June 25 that when Cardinal Braz de Aviz and Archbishop Rodriguez visit the Legionaries’ headquarters in early July, they will “personally comment on some corrections that must be made to the text of the constitutions,” which are “truly few” in number.
They also will communicate the name of the “pontifical assistant who — as was previously foreseen — will be a religious who knows the Legionaries and can be of assistance to the general council on juridical and other themes,” the spokesman said.
The Legionaries’ extraordinary general chapter, which closed Feb. 25, adopted the new constitution, which requires final approval by the pope, and chose Father Robles Gil as the congregation’s first elected leader after nearly four years of Vatican-supervised reform.
The seven-week gathering of 61 Legionary priests from 11 countries also issued a letter condemning the “reprehensible and objectively immoral behavior” of the congregation’s founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, citing his “abuse of minor seminarians,” “immoral acts with adult men and women,” “arbitrary use of his authority and of material goods,” “indiscriminate consumption of addictive medicines” and plagiarism.
The chapter was the culmination of a reform process that began with a Vatican-ordered apostolic visitation in 2009. That investigation was prompted by revelations that Father Maciel, who died in 2008, had fathered at least one illegitimate child and sexually abused boys in his own seminaries.
In 2010, the Vatican announced that Father Maciel had been guilty of “seriously and objectively immoral behavior” and “real crimes,” and had lived a “life devoid of scruples and of genuine religious meaning.” That same year, Pope Benedict XVI named Cardinal Velasio De Paolis to supervise the Legionaries’ reform.