VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican next week will name a new adviser to help oversee the Legion of Christ religious order in the latest sign that Pope Francis doubts the Vatican's three-year reform experiment has resolved all the problems in the troubled congregation, officials said Tuesday.
Francis has kept the Legion at arms' length since he inherited the reform project launched after the Legion admitted in 2009 that its founder sexually abused his seminarians and fathered three children.
Francis has yet to meet with the new superior and didn't send a message to the congregation when it met earlier this year to chart its new course, as he has done with other congregations. The Vatican insisted on naming two members of the Legion's new governing body and during his recent trip to Jerusalem, Francis skipped a luncheon planned by the Legion and ate instead with the Franciscans.
The current superior, the Rev. Eduardo Robles Gil, said in a video posted Monday on a Legion-affiliated website that the Vatican's congregation for religious orders was expected to announce details about the external "assistant" during a meeting with the leadership July 3.
He stressed that the Legion's governance would remain "autonomous" but that the Vatican was providing "a special assistance" as the congregation moves forward with implementing reforms.
A Legion spokesman, the Rev. Benjamin Clariond, said it wasn't clear what the adviser's mandate would be, but noted that the order still faces some daunting challenges, including figuring out a legal structure for its lay group, Regnum Christi.
The Vatican took over the Legion in 2010 after a Vatican investigation determined that its late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, had lived a double life and that his influence and obsession with secrecy and discipline had infected cult-like order itself.
Benedict named a retiring Italian canon lawyer, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, to oversee the reform process, but critics say he was largely ineffectual in turning the order around. Dozens of disillusioned priests and hundreds of seminarians and consecrated lay people left the Legion and its lay branch in the years since Maciel's misdeeds were made public.
De Paolis' mandate ended in February and Francis didn't renew it. The Vatican hasn't signed off on the constitutions he was tasked to help the Legion rewrite, though a progress report on the constitutions' status is also expected July 3, Robles-Gil said.
Clariond said the Legion welcomed the additional nomination of a Vatican adviser as a sign "that the pope wants to give us close help." He acknowledged though that it also provides "certain guarantees for those who don't trust us."
He likened the new Vatican intervention to a medical checkup, saying the Legion was in "intensive care" in the aftermath of the Maciel revelations and three-year reform process, and that it now needs occasional check-ups.
Despite having received reports since the 1950s about Maciel's duplicity and evidence that he was a drug addict who sodomized his seminarians, Vatican officials held him up as a model for the faithful as the Legion brought in vocations and donations to the church.
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