Vatican Taps Investigator for Group Tied to Legion

By Nicole Winfield
Associated Press
September 28, 2010

The Vatican has named a Spanish archbishop to investigate a cult-like group affiliated with the Legionaries of Christ, the conservative religious order disgraced by revelations its founder sexually abused seminarians and fathered three children.

Monsignor Ricardo Blazquez, archbishop of Valladolid, Spain, will head the probe into the so-called consecrated women of the Legion's lay movement Regnum Christi, according to an internal e-mail from the Legion's administrative branch. The Vatican confirmed the nomination late Wednesday.

Regnum Christi is a community of some 70,000 Catholics in 30 countries who have regular jobs and families yet help promote the movement's aim of bringing people closer to Christ through missionary-type work.

Some 900 of Regnum Christi's most devout are "consecrated women," single lay Catholics who make promises of poverty, chastity and obedience much like nuns do and work full-time for Regnum Christi, recruiting new members by running schools, summer camps and adult programs.

In an investigative report over the weekend, The Associated Press exposed the cult-like conditions in which these women live. According to the testimony of former members and Regnum Christi's own unpublished statutes and rules, family members are kept at a distance, minute rules dictate nearly every hour of the day, members are told how to eat, speak and dress and what types of TV they can watch all in the name of God's will.

The Vatican announced in May it was investigating the consecrated members after a series of abuses came to light during an eight-month Vatican probe into the Legion, a secretive religious order beloved by Pope John Paul II but now discredited by the revelations of the double life led by its founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel.

Maciel had been dogged for decades by allegations he sexually abused seminarians. But his Vatican protectors prevented any action from being taken against him until 2006 a year after Pope Benedict XVI was elected pope when the Vatican ordered him to a lifetime of penance and prayer.

He died in 2008 at age 87.

Benedict in May appointed a papal delegate to take over the Legion and rewrite its constitutions. The delegate in turn named four commissioners to help, including Monsignor Brian Farrell, a high-ranking Vatican official and Legion priest, as well as the Rev. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a canon lawyer and former rector of the Jesuits' Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Their names, and that of Blazquez, were announced in an internal e-mail obtained Wednesday by the AP from Grupo Integer, the Legion and Regnum Christi's administrative and management branch.

Current and former consecrated members say the last few months have been full of upheaval.

"It's not an easy time. I certainly never dreamed things would turn out this way," Mary Mather, who was consecrated in 1996 and now runs Regnum Christi youth programs in Chicago, said during a conference call this summer with the Legion's communications' director.

"But I have to trust that God works in mysterious ways, and there's so much good that I have experienced in the Regnum Christi movement," she said. When asked what good had been done, she cited missionary work in Mexico and Haiti and some weekly Spanish-English translations she had done for her local archdiocese.

But Margaret, a former consecrated who asked that her full name not be used, said no amount of good the movement might do cancels out the means used. After being consecrated a year after she graduated high school, Margaret said she required a full-on intervention staged by her family to extract herself from the movement.

She says she realized she was in trouble when she disobeyed her family's wishes and opened a secret e-mail account so she could be in constant touch with her superiors while home on vacation in 2007.

"I was lying to my parents, lying to the bishop. All my siblings thought I was being objective and fair and the whole time I'm totally tethered into all the structure of the mind control systems of the consecrated life," she said.

She said she left after her family discovered her e-mail account and "this house of cards began to fall."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.