Note to all North American Legionaries and Consecrated from Territorial Director Fr Luis Garza, LC
Thy Kingdom Come!
Legionaries of Christ
May 15, 2012
To all Legionaries and Regnum Christi consecrated members,
It is with sadness that I send you this note, especially at a time when we are experiencing renewed enthusiasm for our mission within the Church. The last thing I would wish is to add a fresh wound when older wounds may not have healed fully.
Nevertheless, it is my duty to inform you that Father Thomas Williams, LC, after consultation with his superiors, will undergo a period of reflection, prayer and atonement without public ministry, and has just issued the following statement:
“A number of years ago I had a relationship with a woman and fathered her child. I am deeply sorry for this grave transgression and have tried to make amends. My superiors and I have decided it would be best for me to take a year without active public ministry to reflect on the wrong I have done and my commitments as a priest. I am truly sorry to everyone who is hurt by this revelation, and I ask for your prayers as I seek guidance on how to make up for my errors.”
I know that this will be shocking news to you. In the wake of all that we have been through as a Movement in the past several years, it won’t surprise me if you are disappointed, angry or feel your trust shaken once again.
Father Williams has enriched the faith of so many through his teaching, public speaking and writing, and has been a spiritual guide for many in the Movement. That is what makes this failing such a painful reminder that we are all frail humans, in desperate need of God’s mercy.
I hope that you will join me in praying for all those who have been affected by his actions, and for Father Williams during his time of prayer, penance and renewal of his priestly ministry.
Any further information is at the discretion of those involved. We will support them in any decision they make.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Luis Garza, LC
Clarifications regarding the news about Fr. Thomas Williams, L.C.
Concerning the news about Fr. Thomas Williams, L.C., which he has made public with the territorial directors of Italy and North America, the general directorate of the Legionaries of Christ offers the following answers to some questions that arise:
How does the church handle cases of priests who have a child with an adult?
Canon law and the practice of the Church do not provide precise and consistent disciplinary measures.
In some cases, the priest, on his own initiative, may request dispensation from his priestly duties to fulfill his natural duties towards the child or even to form a family.
In other cases, the priest, repented of his sin, may ask to continue exercising the priestly ministry. Then, with his bishop or religious superior, he has to find ways to provide adequate support to the child and the mother of the child. In addition, one has to make sure that repentance is deep and lasting and that the future ministry of the priest is not a motive for scandal or confusion among the faithful.
In the case of Fr. Thomas, when did this relationship take place, when was the child born and when did the superiors of the Legion know about it?
In his statement, Fr. Thomas spoke of “a number of years ago”. We have no additional details out of respect for the privacy of the mother and child.
Who is the woman?
We are respecting her privacy.
Was it an abuse of authority? The woman was a student of Fr. Thomas?
Who takes care of the child?
The child is being cared for, as required by natural law, but we can’t disclose details.
Did Fr. Thomas have inappropriate relationships with other women?
From what we know, there were no other inappropriate relationships.
Has this has been reported to the authorities?
Despite the moral seriousness of this transgression against the priestly vows, it is not a case of abuse or a criminal action. Therefore, such transgressions are not reported to civil authorities, but it has been reported to the Papal Delegate.
In the case of Fr. Thomas, why was he not immediately removed from his teaching and other public ministries, given that these facts have occurred several years ago?
The superiors suggested to Fr. Thomas to act in an appropriate way and to withdraw himself from public appearances. They also accompanied him in his reflection about his personal situation. Nevertheless, it would have been better to act faster and more forcefully. The General Director and his council are deeply sorry for not having acted earlier and more firmly, and they assume the responsibility and ask pardon for not having done everything possible to limit the scandal.
Any case that might surfaces now will be dealt with canonical firmness. The presence and the assistance of the Papal Delegate has helped a lot to sort out difficult issues like this.
Why was this not made public before?
We tried to take into account the legitimate interests of all concerned, especially the privacy of the mother and child. However, given the decision for Fr. Thomas to leave teaching and take a time of reflection and penance, we all agreed it was necessary to communicate this publicly, and so did Fr. Thomas and the territorial directors.
FECHA DE PUBLICACIÓN : 15 may 2012
Accusations of offenses committed by Legionaries reviewed by CDF
The Legion responds to all accusations and acts in compliance with civil and canonical norms.
11 May 2012
Over the past few years, in several countries, the major superiors of the Legion of Christ have received some allegations of gravely immoral acts and more serious offenses (delicta graviora) committed by some Legionaries.
The Legion of Christ is firmly committed to receive and examine all accusations presented, reaching out to possible victims and always safeguarding the rights of all those involved.
When a territorial director or the general director receives an allegation of this nature, or when there are well-founded suspicions, the civil laws of the country are observed. If civil authorities allow it, a preliminary internal investigation is also carried out for each case (cf. canon 1717 §1). In the U.S., when an allegation involves a minor, the policies established by Praesidium, Inc., an independent accreditation entity, are followed. (http://www.praesidiuminc.com <http://www.praesidiuminc.com> )
If the investigation concludes that the accusation has a semblance of truth and a delictum graviorum is involved, in accordance with the current canonical norms, the case is referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) for it to direct the superior in how to proceed. (cf. http://www.vatican.va/resources/resources_guide-CDF-procedures_en.html)
Of the accusations received by major superiors in the years since cases referring to the abuse of minors by priests were assigned to the competency of the CDF, internal preliminary investigations concluded that seven had a semblance of truth; the Legion forwarded these cases to the CDF. Only one case of abuse of minors by a priest refers to recent events; the others are from decades ago.
Two other formal allegations not classified as delicta graviora have also been presented to the CDF.
Furthermore, there have been some accusations of delicta graviora allegedly committed by Legionaries who, after the requisite investigation (canonical or civil), have been declared innocent.
During investigations carried out by civil authorities (where this is the case), or during canonical investigations, and while the case is under study by the CDF, the territorial director and the general director have applied precautionary measures, restricting the priestly ministry of the accused, since the protection of children and of communities is of the utmost importance for the Legion. This, however, is never a statement about the guilt or innocence of the accused.
The “Circular Letter to Assist Episcopal Conferences in Developing Guidelines for Dealing with Cases of Sexual Abuses of Minors Perpetrated by Clerics” issued by the CDF indicates that “investigation of accusations is to be done with due respect for the principle of privacy and the good name of the persons involved.”
The Legion of Christ reaffirms its commitment to respond quickly to accusations of gravely immoral acts, of delicta graviora, and of violations of religious discipline, using the correct procedure in each case, in conformity to civil laws, rigorously observing canonical procedures, and applying the appropriate penalties and sanctions established in the Code of Canon Law.
It also reaffirms its commitment to continue to foster safe environments for children and young people, especially through the observance of Codes of Conduct for Legionaries, consecrated persons, and lay people who come into contact with children and young people in our institutions. Furthermore, there has been and is contact with outside institutions to improve our procedures and policies for the prevention of abuse. We also comply with civil law and Church norms in each country for the protection of youth.
As the Holy Father wrote to the priests and religious of Ireland, “All of us are suffering as a result of the sins of our confreres who betrayed a sacred trust or failed to deal justly and responsibly with allegations of abuse.” We invite everyone to pray for these brothers of ours and especially for the victims.
FECHA DE PUBLICACIÓN : 11 may 2012