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World & Vatican
With Maciel Buried, His Centurions' Fires Are Burning OutDecember 16th, 2010
By Sandro Magister
ROME, December 16, 2010 – The order is binding. All the houses of the Legionaries of Christ must be emptied of photos of the founder, Marcial Maciel Degollado, the man of "foolhardy, wasted, bizarre" life whom Benedict XVI called in his recent book-interview "a false prophet."
Not only that. They must no longer call him "Our Father." They must no longer celebrate his anniversaries, but only pray for him on the anniversary of his death. They must no longer display or sell his writings. In Cotija de la Paz, Mexico, where he is buried, his grave must no longer have any distinguishing marks. Next to the spiritual retreat house there must be built "a place dedicated to reparation and expiation."
These provisions were issued on December 13 to all the Legionaries in the world by their director general, Álvaro Corcuera, by the order of Cardinal Velasio De Paolis (in the photo), the pope's delegate to get the congregation back on the right track.
They follow the insistent requests that had been building up within the congregation itself, as www.chiesa had documented in an article last August 30:
Maciel's Ghost Still Haunts the Castle
But the real news of recent weeks is that within the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, the critical voices and the calls for renewal are no longer those of a few isolated individuals, but have become a chorus.
The seal of silence and fear that was weighing on many of the Legionaries has been broken. The criticisms have become a topic of public discussion. And they are aimed precisely against the leadership group, the circle of those who stood in allegiance around the disgraced founder and still occupy the positions of command.
In a short time, their credibility has dropped so dramatically that some of the criticisms are being directed against pontifical delegate De Paolis, who is being blasted for moving too cautiously, when he is instead expected to "make heads roll."
An open letter that is circulating among the Legionaries under the title "Velasio De Paolis, entre la expectación y el despiste" highlights precisely this contrast between the expectations invested in the pontifical delegate and the disappointment over how little he is doing.
Cardinal De Paolis is being criticized for dedicating "only three mornings a week" to the renewal of the congregation, of holing up inside the offices of central management, of not speaking or understanding Spanish, the prevalent language in the Legion, and above all of submitting to the smothering control of the leaders, who have remained the same before and after Maciel's death.
The few changes at the top decided so far by De Paolis have been seen by many as proof of his inertia.
On November 23, when the most powerful of the leaders, vicar general of the congregation Luís Garza Medina, had to give up the offices of prefect general of studies and of territorial director for Italy, the news was met by many with disappointment rather than relief, because those appointed to succeed him were two of his proteges, José Enrique Oyarzún Tapia and Óscar Náder Kuri, the latter of these from Monterrey, the Mexican city where Garza was born and where he located the general headquarters of Grup Integer, the personal financial structure with which he controls all the schools and activities of the congregation.
On December 8, when the general management of the Legionaries of Christ revealed the composition of the commission that will revise the constitutions, many of the reactions were again of disappointment.
The commission will be headed by Cardinal De Paolis and by two of his four assistants: Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a Jesuit, and Agostino Montan. But all of the Legionaries called to be part of it seem tied in to the circle of the founder.
One of these, Roberto Aspe Hinojosa, Mexican, belongs to the group of Maciel's first followers, the ones he formed personally.
Another, José García Sentandreu, Spanish, is head of the works of the Legion's apostolate.
A third, Anthony Bannon, was head of the Legionaries in the United States from 1976 to 2004, and was a member of the congregation's general council until 2005.
The fourth, Gabriel Sotres, was for twenty years the head of communications for the Legion, the "spin doctor" who protected Maciel's double life so successfully that Benedict XVI said, in the book-interview "Light of the World," it really "was covered up very well."
At the same time, the director general of the Legion, Corcuera, has released an interminable letter in which he announces a series of provisions that will be enacted in the future, as if he were still the one fully in command of everything.
But that's not the case. And various indications make this clear.
First of all, Corcuera's letter prompted public reactions on the part of Legionaries, including some of the most prominent, something that had never happened before, when no one dared to criticize the word of the superiors.
A letter of reply to Corcuera, highly critical, bears the signature of Fr. Pablo Pérez Guajardo, 56, Mexican, a pastor in Cancún after a period spent at the central headquarters in Rome.
In it, Fr. Guajardo asks three things: that Maciel be definitively disowned as "founder" of the Legion; that every Legionary be authorized to confess to a priest selected by him instead of by the superiors; that the Holy See be given back the Notre Dame institute in Jerusalem, taken "by deception," he writes, from John Paul II in 2004.
Of these three requests, the first was essentially granted by the provisions of December 13.
The third has no chance of being effected. Meanwhile, however, Cardinal De Paolis has entrusted to his assistant Ghirlanda, a former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University and a proficient canonist, the task of organizing the administrative structures of the Legion, taking power from Grupo Integer – meaning Garza – and attributing managerial autonomy, with its own directors, to each individual university, school, activity. This work of cleaning and reorganization is proceeding at a fast clip. The European University of Rome will be one of the first to benefit from this rearrangement.
As for the second request, the free choice of confessor is already becoming an increasingly widespread practice, at the initiative of individual Legionaries. Freedom of conscience and the distinction between "external forum" and "internal forum," together with the exercise of authority, are in any case at the top of Cardinal De Paolis' agenda for the renewal of the congregation's rule of life.
But what really makes Garza, Corcuera, and the entire coalition of power that came together with Maciel tremble is above all the fact that for the pontifical delegate, this group has its end marked out for it.
De Paolis is moving at the snail's pace typical of the Roman curia, in which he is a perfect example of the old school ways. He is still studying the terrain, but he already knows where he's going. He is absolutely convinced that there can be no renewal of the Legion with the same men who brought it to disaster still at the top. He has the full support of Benedict XVI. In a few months, maybe for Easter, the first heads will roll.
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