February 29, 2020
By Nicole Winfield
Pope Francis told the Legion of Christ religious order Saturday it still has a long road of reform ahead, making clear that 10 years of Vatican-mandated rehabilitation hadn’t purged it of the toxic influences of its pedophile founder.
In a prepared speech, Francis told the Legion’s new superiors a “very vast field” of work was needed to correct the Legion’s problems and create a healthy order. He encouraged them to work “energetically in substance, and softly in the means.”
“A change of mentality requires a lot of time to assimilate in individuals and in an institution, so it’s a continual conversion,” Francis said. “A return to the past would be dangerous and senseless.”
The Vatican took over the Legion in 2010 after revelations that its founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, sexually abused dozens of his seminarians, fathered at least three children and built a secretive, cult-like order to hide his double life.
Even though the Vatican envoy tasked to run and reform the Legion declared the order cleansed and reconciled with its past in 2014, new sexual misconduct scandals have called into question whether his mission was really accomplished.
Victims of other Legion priests have come forward, indicating that a culture of abuse extended far beyond Maciel’s crimes and involved a high-level cover-up by superiors who are still in power.
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