Awhile back now, I wrote about the Legionaries of Christ and their lay organizations, Regnum Christi and ECYD. I described the heresies I had been taught there and how I was indoctrinated in disobedience to local bishops as if that was an important part of being a faithful Catholic. I received quite a few comments on that post; there was a lot of debate, which I usually welcome. However, one of the first comments I got was from a leader very far up in the heirarchy of Regnum Christi, who informed me that they were a brand new reformed organization now and doing a lot of good. The man posted his personal contact information for me and for any of my readers who wanted to give the new Legion a try. I edited his comment, which I rarely do, to redact his address and telephone number. He seemed surprised and hurt that I didn’t automatically trust him– so I suppose that the presumption that Regnum Christi leaders are trustworthy merely because they are leaders has survived the reform.
Well, today the whole world gets to see the fruit of the so-called reform of the Legionaries of Christ.
It’s just hit the news that Fr. Óscar Turrión, a Legionary priest who was, until last March, the rector of the Legion’s seminary in Rome, fathered two children with his mistress. This wasn’t a momentary lapse in judgement; his son was born “several years ago” and his daughter is an infant. He’s been keeping a secret family on the side since the Maciel scandal hit the news between 2006 and 2014; Father Turrión refers to this grave scandal as losing his “grounding,” an understatement of epic proportions. He is leaving the priesthood, and may God have mercy on him.
It is important to point out that, if Turrión really had lost his grounding and discovered he was mistaken in his vocation, there are canonical ways for a priest to leave the priesthood and get married without any scandal. Turrión was the rector of a seminary; he must have been familiar with such things. But he didn’t do that. He carried on a secret affair and lived a double life for years.
Reform of a religious order always involves returning to the charism of its founder. When the Franciscan orders reform, they look back to their seraphic father, Saint Francis. They look to his charity, his zeal, his love of Lady Poverty, and they try to be more faithful to his example. When Dominicans reform, they do so by conforming themselves to Christ according to the example of their father, Saint Dominic. The founder of Regnum Christi was not a saint. Marcial Maciel Degollado, whom the ECYD leaders of my youth made us refer to as “Nuestro Padre,” was a sexual abuser of men and women, an unrepentant pedophile, a drug abuser, a liar and a con artist. He did not found a religious order to serve the church; he founded a personality cult to serve himself. He created a front for his perversions and decadence, an international gang with himself as the don. The Legionaries of Christ were not, at their inception, truly meant to be a legion for Christ; they were a menagerie for Father Maciel. This doesn’t mean that everyone involved in the Legionaries of Christ knew that they were Father Maciel’s personality cult, but their innocence doesn’t change the fundamental nature of the Legionaries of Christ. They have no charism because they were not founded to serve Christ.
When I was forced to be involved with ECYD, we were taught that ECYD, Regnum Christi and the Legionaries of Christ were the “hope of the Church.” The hope of the Church wasn’t Christ or the Theotokos, it was this particular organization. We were going to save the Church. We were taught that leaving ECYD would make us vulnerable to losing our souls; I remember a particularly lurid story about a girl just our age whom the leader supposedly knew, who became a Satanist on the internet because her parents pulled her out of ECYD. It was the Legionaries of Christ, and not Christ Himself, who were keeping us from hell.