Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Legion Meets Its (Re-)Maker

According to the lead Italian vaticanista of the moment, the Holy See's top money man will be named to oversee the reinvention of the scandal-scarred Legionaries of Christ.

In a freshly-released dispatch, Il Giornale's Andrea Tornielli reports that "in the coming days" B16 will formally tap Archbishop Velasio DePaolis, 74, as his Apostolic Delegate with full powers to lead the reconstitution of the controversial community, which received an Apostolic Visitation after revelations that its late founder, Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, fathered at least one child, alongside allegations of widespread fiscal and moral improprieties. In its final communiqué on the yearlong investigation, a Vatican statement concluded that Maciel's "serious and objectively immoral behavior... at times constitutes real crimes, and manifests a life devoid of scruples and of genuine religious feeling."

Some 21 months before his 2008 death, the Mexican-born founder was "invited" to "a reserved life of prayer and penance" barred from public ministry after the Holy See declined to hold a canonical trial over charges that he had sexually abused Legion seminarians. Though a tribunal was opted against in light of his age and health, the sanction against the powerful cleric was taken as both a de facto guilty verdict, and an early sign of the new Pope's willingness to "get tough" on abusive clergy.

On a related note, late last week a man claiming to be a son of Maciel's announced his plans to file suit against the Legion for fraud and negligence tomorrow morning in the community's American home-base of Connecticut. The man likewise alleges that he had been abused by the disgraced cleric.

A Scalabrinian priest, De Paolis has served as head of the prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See since 2008; prior to that, he spent five years as #2 of the Apostolic Signatura, the church's highest court. According to Tornielli, the archbishop is "close" with the pontiff's influential Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB.

Word of the possible appointment comes three days after the pontiff received the Legion's Superior-General, Fr Alvaro Corcuera del Rio, in a private audience.

Following the session, Maciel's hand-picked successor at the community's helm said in a statement that he wished to "confirm the unconditional loyalty of the members of the congregation... to the Pope," thanking Benedict for "his fatherly care."

By its internal numbers, the Legion's membership and works encompass some 800 priests, 2,600 seminarians, 15 universities, 50 institutes of higher learning and 176 elementary and secondary schools spanning 22 countries across the globe.

According to Tornielli, two deputies will likewise be provided to the delegate by papal appointment: one for the Legion's Spanish-speaking sector, and another for its Anglophone component.

DePaolis met with the pontiff yesterday morning.

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On top of the Legion news, Tornielli added in the aforementioned post that "the coming days will also see [formal] notice of other appointments" already reported upon, listing those of Quebec's Cardinal Marc Ouellet as the next prefect of the all-powerful Congregation for Bishops; the Swiss Bishop Kurt Koch of Basel, 60, to succeed Cardinal Walter Kasper as the Vatican's top ecumenist, leading the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and -- as the Il Giornale scribe broke in April -- the naming of Archbishop Rino Fisichella, currently head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, as the founding president of a new "Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization," the first Curial dicastery to be created in a quarter-century.