Cardinal George Pell has become the first senior Church figure to call for outside intervention to tackle the crisis afflicting the Legion of Christ.I'd just like to point out two aspects of the Cardinal's statement.
The cardinal, speaking in Oxford last week, said a Church authority external to the Legion should investigate its founder's corruption and re-examine its charism.
His comments follow revelations that the Legion's founder, Fr Marcial Maciel, who died last year, secretly had a mistress and fathered a child.
The cardinal said it was "not entirely reasonable" to expect the leadership of the Legion to deal with these revelations without any outside help.
He said: "I think there should be an intervention, perhaps a visitation or something like that. I don't know what the facts of the matter are, the alleged corruption, if that's the word, on the part of the founder, to what extent there was a cover-up, to what extent the whole rationale of the order [should be] re-examined, but I think it should be sponsored by some extra-Legionary Church agency."
One, Cardinal Pell is specifically addressing the need to re-examine the Legion's charism. This is a key point for many people who have discussed and commented on this issue; to the extent that a religious group's charism is associated with its founder, and given the possibility that Fr. Maciel's secret life may have made it impossible for him to hand on a legitimate charism, it is essential that any investigation of the facts of Fr. Maciel's life and the extent and duration of his living a double life and/or committing abusive acts take into account the very central question of whether the Legion's charism can possibly be a valid one.
Two, Cardinal Pell specifically mentions the need to determine "...to what extent there was a cover-up..." Again, this is key. There are people still in leadership in the Legion today who because of their close involvement with Fr. Maciel during his lifetime may very well have known about or been aware of this double life he was living. If it can be established that they were, indeed, absolutely ignorant of his sinful lifestyle, then this raises the question as to whether people so capable of being fooled by a duplicitous person ought to be in positions of leadership in a large religious order.
There are still many unresolved questions and issues involving the Legion. While the initial shock at the disclosure that a man whom many thought was a living saint had been living a sinful life and had fathered a child has died down, new matters continue to be brought to light. In recent comment box conversations at American Papist, for instance, a Legionary priest revealed that he had personally spoken to three men who were victims of Fr. Maciel's abuse--a stunning revelation, considering that for so long the Legion has denied that any of the accusations of pedophilia had even a modicum of truth to them.
I'm certain that we haven't heard the last of the situation involving the Legion as of yet; we could hardly be said to have heard the first of it, given how much is still unknown. I think Cardinal Pell is on the right track, though; this is not a matter the Legion can resolve with a mere internal investigation, and putting outside investigators in charge of things will go a long way toward making the situation clearer.