ROME (CNS) — Ordaining 31 new priests for the Legionaries of Christ, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis told them they were not responsible for the scandals that threatened to destroy their order, but they have been part of the effort to renew and reform the order.

“You who have stayed are not personally responsible for the painful facts relived over the past three years” as the Legionaries acknowledged the sexual abuse and sinfulness of their founder, the late Mexican Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, Cardinal De Paolis said in his homily Dec. 14 at the ordination Mass.

The Legionaries are scheduled to begin a general chapter meeting Jan. 8 to vote for new leaders for the order and to adopt a new constitution. The new structure and rules will be submitted to Pope Francis for his approval or for further instructions for the future of the order, which has about 950 priests and hundreds of seminarians.


During the ordination Mass at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Cardinal De Paolis said the new constitutions “are not simply the result of a juridical process; they are the fruit of a long examination of conscience by the entire congregation.”

“There was a moment in the Legion when sin oppressed it, when sin became so visible and clamorous that it reached monstrous proportions and filled the media throughout the world,” the cardinal said. “The Legion’s survival seemed uncertain.”

The cardinal said the situation was so bad that “any shocking story about the Legionaries was taken as indisputable truth.”

While some of the best known Legionaries either left the priesthood or became diocesan priests, the cardinal said the majority of members stayed “because they believe that they chose Christ, who did not betray them and can never betray them.”

“By your decision and by your faithfulness, by your suffering and by bearing the shame of other Legionaries’ sins, you have enabled the purification and renewal of the congregation itself,” he told the 31 new priests.

Among the new priests, 12 are from Mexico, eight are from the United States, three are from Brazil and two are from Argentina. One each came from Canada, Germany, France, Colombia, Chile and Italy.