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Power, Money & Mind Control

Those are the three concepts that best describe the modus operandi — and the goals — of the Legion of Christ. As time marches on, and the Vatican intervention proceeds apace, more and more of the scandal-plagued religious order’s secretive inner workings are coming into contact with the light of day — after decades of obfuscation, misdirection, and iron-fisted suppression of information on the part of founder Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado and his henchmen. Much work has been done by those members of the Catholic press willing to decipher the meaning behind the ongoing revelations of the serious sin and error that wracked the Legion and dogged its leaders. (For our contributions, see our New Oxford Notes “The Double Life of Marcial Maciel,” June 2010; “Can the Pope Save the Legion of Christ?” June 2009; and “The Self-Destruction of a Cult of Personality,” Apr. 2009.) Ultimately, we have the Holy See — and Pope Benedict XVI in particular — to thank for spearheading the painful and often maddening search for the real truth about the Legion of Christ and its leaders.

The investigation phase concluded this spring, and a formal report was made to Benedict by the five bishops who led it. As we reported in our June issue, the Vatican announced at the time that the Pope was set to appoint a special envoy to restructure the Legion, rewrite its statutes, and reform its culture — a culture defined by secrecy, servile obedience, and sexual, financial, and spiritual abuse.

This summer the Pope picked his man: He has selected as his delegate Italian Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. Not only does Archbishop De Paolis know his way around a balance sheet, he is a revered canon lawyer and an accomplished scholar who has taught not only canon law but civil law, as well as dogmatic and moral theology, at several pontifical universities. A member of the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles — popularly known as the Scalabrinians — he has direct knowledge of and experience in a religious order. He has been described as one of the top experts on religious life from the canonical standpoint. Prior to his post as the Vatican’s chief auditor, he was sec­retary of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s equi­valent of the Supreme Court, of which he will remain a member until his retirement. In other words, Archbishop De Paolis is no lightweight.

In his June 16 letter naming De Paolis his personal delegate, Pope Benedict reiterated the “importance of this mission,” the primary purpose of which is to “bring to completion the revision of the constitutions” of the Legion. The Pope also made special mention of the “weight of responsibilities” that will be placed on the archbishop’s shoulders as he undertakes the “task of governing this religious institute in my name for as long as it takes to carry out the path of renewal.”

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