AUCKLAND — Scandal will always be part of the Legion of Christ, but its members have hope that the recently concluded general chapter meeting will be the first step towards becoming
strong again.
Legionary priest Father Peter Devereux told NZ Catholic that the official break of the institution from its fallen founder Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado is what the congregation needed to be
able to rise above its disgrace.
Fr Degollado was found to have committed crimes, including sexual abuse of boys in his seminaries, and fathering six children with two women. He died in 2008.
“Now, our great mission is to assimilate it, to move on with all the support and help from the Church and to follow through what Pope Benedict then called us to do,” he said.
The general chapter meeting, supervised by Vatican representative
Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, resulted in the renewal of the constitution and the election of new superiors. The new constitution was submitted to Pope Francis, who will now decide whether to sign the document.
Fr Devereux said the scandal caused great instability in the order. “It was a tsunami,” he said, adding that Pope Benedict could have easily closed them down.
“Being the person that he is, so deep, insightful,
intuitive and intelligent, he handled it the way God wanted
him to,” said Fr Devereux.
He said Fr Degollado was a fallen broken man whom God used to build the Legion.
“The fruit is not from the devil. The fruit is from God,” he said.
Fr Devereux said the scandal also made each individual member dig deep in his core to reevaluate their vows of poverty, obedience
and chastity most of all. “It has been lifted up to me. I
started, not questioning, but examining how I can live this better,” he said.
He said the community felt “deep NZ legionary priest sees hope for order sorrow” for everyone hurt by Fr Maciel.
Apart from institutional reparation, the members feel the need to make personal reparation.
“There are people who have been really hurt and suffered gravely in all of these. So, in my own way, I have to be a part of offering that up to God and make my priesthood something that would give him glory,” he said.
Fr Devereux is one of six New Zealanders in the legion. The others are his brothers Fr Matthew and Fr Simon, aswell as Fr James Cleary. Two are seminarians — David Joyce from Nelson and Simon Cleary from Dunedin, who is also a brother of Fr James Cleary.
The two seminarians will be ordained in Rome this December.
Fr Devereux said he spent 12 years in the process of being a
priest to discern whether God wanted him to be a legionary.
“I’ve always felt I’ve been sent from New Zealand as a missionary
priest. And I love my country. My vocation was nurtured here. I think I’m really a New Zealand legionary,” he said.