Legionaries-Regnum Christi: an ugly story of abuse

There are also situations or experiences in the Church today in which reality often far surpasses any fantasy. It's almost hard to believe. But when the protagonists of the events, in this case around thirty ex-consecrated people and former members of Regnum Christi - the female branch of the Legionaries of Christ - from Chile and Argentina define the dramatic experience they have lived as "hell", one can not only believe, but also have be indignant about.

Settimana News, last September 7th, signed by Francesco Strazzari (see here), has already informed of the facts, which we want to talk about here, citing the text released by the La Tercera portal, of former members of the Regnum Christi movement who support a civil lawsuit filed last June against the Legionaries of Christ to denounce the abuses of power, conscience and sexual abuse suffered by them.

The complaint is from a woman who claims to have been a victim of this abuse.

A detailed complaint

The Spanish portal Religion Digital offered, on 7 September 2023, a precise and dramatic account of the facts (see here), referring to the open letter of 32 former consecrated women of Regnum Christi, significantly titled: "Women raise their voices and denounce the '"hell" of oppression and semi-slavery in the Church":

"We were subjected – they write – to an environment in which the abuse of power and conscience were common…"; and they specify: "These are not local or isolated cases, but an endemic evil that affects ultra-conservative religious institutions, from the Legionaries of Christ to Opus Dei. And also through characters such as the former Jesuit Marko Rupnik or the former omnipotent prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, Marc Ouellet."

On the Religion Digital portal, Jesus Bastante reports what the former nuns write as follows: "We were subjected to an environment in which the abuse of power and conscience was common, and where sexual assaults, described in the complaint, were able to occur".

The former consecrated women support the complaint of a former postulant against two priests of the congregation founded by the pedophile Marcial Maciel Degollado, in the Las Cumbres college in Santiago de Chile, and ask for an in-depth investigation into the abuses due to male dominance within the Catholic Church, one of the issues of greatest concern in the Vatican, after the scandal of sexual abuse of minors.

It is a situation that seems destined to last in the Church.

A few months ago, Diario.es published exclusively the fact of 43 women from Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia who denounced Opus Dei to the Vatican for abuse of power and exploitation, reporting how they had been exploited between the ages of 12 and 16 years, working for free "to serve God", or the recent denunciations which ended with the expulsion from the Society of Jesus of Marko Rupnik, "artist of God", accused of sexual and power abuse by at least twenty religious women in Italy and Slovenia.

In all cases, the complainants speak of "abuse of power and conscience" which, at times, culminated in situations of abuse of authority and sexual harassment.

A recurring practice

Three years ago, the Prefect of the Congregation for Religious Life, Joao Braz de Aviz, recognized in L'Osservatore Romano that every day cases of nuns arriving in Rome worked on piecework, serving bishops or priests, cleaning floors, serving meals, treated like "girls for everything". Sometimes even suffering harassment. And also cases of novices who suffered, in silence, sexual abuse by the formators. Indeed - the cardinal admitted - "there have been cases in which former religious women have had to prostitute themselves to survive".

In the case of the Legionaries, the former consecrated women now intend to support the former student of Las Combres, recounting their own experiences, which would demonstrate a situation of systematic sexual harassment in Regnum Christi, which further aggravates the legacy of the predator Maciel, considered "apostle of youth" by John Paul II and who - as it appears in the open letter - was hiding "under the guise of a charismatic leader, but was a known pedophile and drug addict, who used multiple identities through false documents; with numerous wives and children, contrary to all the civil norms of any country, and worse still, in contrast with the priestly figure professed by the Catholic Church".

"This way of life is known only by those who have been part of the consecrated communities of this movement. No one outside of them would have any way of knowing it and this is essential to understand why the context reported in the complaint seems plausible to us" insist the signatories, who want to raise their voices and provide information which, in addition to supporting the cause, serves to tell the story" circumstances and situations experienced by us while we were consecrated or members of the student center".

"In our experience in these communities – the consecrated women write – the story of power and sexual abuse contained in the lawsuit brought before the Chilean courts" is not only credible, but also contributed to creating the conditions of an environment in which such acts could occur , even of the greatest severity, against people. Consecrated women had to renounce their judgment as an attitude of a holocaust pleasing to God, that is, as an act of total self-denial carried out out of love, according to what the Statutes said.

Thus - they say - "we were subjected to an environment in which the abuse of power and conscience was a common occurrence and where the sexual violence described in the complaint could have occurred". And they directly accuse the norms of the Legion and Regnum Christi which allow and perpetuate "inhuman and harmful" attitudes, taking advantage of the "conviction and trust that we have tried to live in loyalty and love towards God, without questioning them, convinced by our superiors who came from God himself."

Will it finally be the moment of truth?

Religion Digital's report concludes with this question: "What will the Church do in the face of this new tsunami, since the flame of the scourge of sexual abuse of minors has not yet been extinguished? Will it help ensure that, finally, women can really have a voice and vote in the Church?".

The answer is now entrusted to the now imminent Synod of Bishops. It is known that 70 "non-bishop members" will also participate and have the right to vote, half of which will be made up of women, lay or consecrated, representing the local Churches scattered around the world.

The motivation behind the choice, i.e. the equal dignity of men and women, derives from baptism: as baptized, we are all full members of the "people of God", a conciliar category very dear to Pope Francis. And this – as the card explained well. Jean-Claude Hollerich, general speaker of the Synod - enables men and women to be an active part of the Church and to have a "voice" also in the institutions that guide it.

The equal dignity of women is an "original" right of Christianity and perhaps requires an "acknowledgment" and a transformation of mentality towards effective equality which is still, perhaps, halfway there. The daily life of the Church continues above all thanks to the constant presence of many women, involved in parishes, associations and movements.

If the presence of women, in most cases, is esteemed and valued thanks to the "common sense" of many pastors, the turning point of the Synod must make us aware that this cannot be just an occasional fact, entrusted to the "good will" of some enlightened people, but it must become "ordinary" practice in the life of the entire Church. Who has written the decisive word in her DNA: "There is no male and female, because you are all one in Christ Jesus".

Convincing answers are therefore expected from the Synod on the role of women in the Church, her inalienable dignity and her charisms and it is hoped that all these facts of abuse will soon disappear.



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