Catholic News Service
29 September 2011
By John Thavis
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The founder and editorial director of the Catholic news agency Zenit has resigned, citing problems of trust and transparency with Zenit’s sponsoring organization, the Legionaries of Christ.
Spanish journalist Jesus Colina, who established Zenit in 1997 and helped build it into a seven-language agency with about 450,000 email subscribers around the world, said he had been asked to resign because he resisted pressures to identify the agency and its work more closely with the Legionaries order.
Colina made the announcement in an email sent to Zenit personnel Sept. 28. A spokesman for the Legionaries of Christ, Father Andreas Schoggl, confirmed Sept. 29 that Colina was leaving and said Zenit planned to publish a message to readers explaining the move.
Colina said one issue of contention was that Legionary officials were less than candid with Zenit about the facts regarding the scandal surrounding the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries, who was discovered to have sexually abused seminarians and fathered children.
Colina said his resignation was requested by Legionary Father Oscar Nader, the new president of Zenit’s governing council. The reason given, Colina said, was that “my activity in the world of Catholic communications does not demonstrate the institutional dependence of the agency on the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, an identity that will from now on be underlined.”
He said he accepted the decision “with great sadness and respect.”
“I think this decision is the logical consequence of the loss of mutual trust between me and the superiors of the Legionaries of Christ. The issue of Father Marcial Maciel and the way in which the congregation informed us, hiding relevant facts, meant that on some occasions we did not completely fulfill our duty to inform people in a way that corresponds to the vision of the pope and the Holy See,” he said.
Another issue, Colina said, was a debate over the financial transparency of Zenit. He said that two years ago, Zenit had asked that its finances be clearly separated from the Legionaries order; the concern was that accusations of financial scandal connected with the Father Maciel case could undermine the trust needed in its annual fundraising efforts.
Although the order promised to establish separate financial accounts, nothing has been done, Colina said. This caused a “crisis of trust” among Zenit’s editorial team and negatively impacted its fundraising campaign over the last year, he said.
Colina said he wished Zenit well in the future. In the meantime, he said, he would continue to dedicate his time and effort to the multimedia agency H2O News and to Aleteia, an online community that features questions and answers about Catholic teachings.
Zenit editors resign over differences with Legionaries of Christ
By John Thavis
Catholic News Service
ROME (CNS) — The six editors of the Catholic news agency Zenit have resigned, saying the agency has become too closely identified with the Legionaries of Christ.
“The initial vision of Zenit was never to make it a service of a particular congregation, but rather of the universal church. This has been the spirit with which we have worked throughout the years, and the spirit we could not betray,” said a statement issued Oct. 10 by the editors of Zenit’s French, Italian, Spanish, English, Portuguese and Arabic services.
Their departure follows the resignation in late September of Zenit’s director, Jesus Colina. Colina, who founded Zenit in 1997 and helped build it into an agency with about 450,000 email subscribers, said he was forced out because he resisted pressures to identify the agency and its work more closely with the Legionaries order.
At that time, Colina said there had been a loss of mutual trust and transparency in the agency’s relationship with the Legionaries.
In their statement, the six editors cited “years of fruitful collaboration” between Zenit and the Legionaries of Christ, but said they disagreed with the order’s decision to “underline the institutional dependence of the agency on the Legion.”
The statement said that, from Zenit’s inception, the Legionaries of Christ had acted as “spiritual advisers” to the agency “to ensure fidelity to the magisterium.” For the past 14 years, it said, the agency has worked independently of the religious order.
Colina told Catholic News Service Oct. 11 that the Legionaries had not financed Zenit during that period, but did control the board that oversees the agency.
A spokesman for the Legionaries of Christ, Father Andreas Schoggl, said the order had “always been involved with Zenit” in strategic decisions. At the same time, he said, Zenit’s journalists operated with “editorial independence.”
Father Schoggl said the decision to ask for Colina’s resignation was not part of a policy change or a change in Zenit’s editorial line. But he said it provided an opportunity to offer a more transparent explanation about the involvement of the Legionaries of Christ with Zenit.
“We see a need to do so, because the stress on journalistic independence (which is still the case) might have induced people to think that Zenit was just a private initiative of Catholic journalists,” Father Schoggl said.
As for the departing editors, Father Schoggl said the Legionaries were grateful for their collaboration with Zenit in the past and wished them the best in their future endeavors.
On Oct. 11, Zenit’s executive director, Alberto Ramirez, who is guiding the transition process, announced that the Italian journalist Antonio Gaspari would be Zenit’s new editorial coordinator.