07 October 2017
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Legionaries of Christ, a Catholic religious order which fell into disgrace after the discovery that its founder was a sexual abuser with a secret family, has been hit by fresh scandal with revelations that the head of its Rome seminary fathered two children.
The order said in a statement late on Friday that Father Oscar Turrion would leave the priesthood. It also released a letter by Turrion in which he asks “forgiveness for the scandal … forgiveness for my bad example and the negative witness I have given”.
The Legionaries is a conservative order of Roman Catholic priests. Turrion was rector of the Pontifical International College Maria Mater Ecclesiae, a seminary for men in the order studying for the priesthood in pontifical universities in Rome.
The Legionaries said Turrion, a 49-year-old Spaniard, told his superiors in March that he had just had a daughter. A new rector was appointed and Turrion was ordered not to practice his ministry publicly.
On Thursday Turrion acknowledged that he had previously had a son with the same woman several years ago, the order said. This meant he had a secret family while he was head of the seminary.
In his letter, Turrion said he did not come clean earlier “out of weakness and shame” and that he had not used any of the seminary’s money, supporting his family with donations from friends.
He said he had “lost his grounding” and fell in love with a woman during the period of turmoil that hit the order when revelations about its founder, Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, came to light between 2006 and 2014.
Maciel founded the order in Mexico in 1941 and for decades the Vatican dismissed accusations by seminarians that he had abused them sexually, some when they were as young as 12.
The order was run like a cult, former members said, with rules forbidding any criticism of the founder or questioning his motives.
Maciel enjoyed the support of the late Pope John Paul and was spared official censure for years despite what critics say was overwhelming proof of his crimes.
In 2006, a year after John Paul’s death, a Vatican investigation concluded that the previously denied accusations of molestation were true. Pope Benedict ordered Maciel to retire to a life of “prayer and penitence”.
After Maciel’s death in 2008, Vatican investigations found that he had also fathered several children with at least two women, visited them regularly and sent them money. He also used drugs.
The Vatican appointed a commissioner to run the order and phase in a new leadership, rejecting suggestions from critics that it be suppressed. New constitutions for the order were approved in 2014 but the Vatican still has a special representative in its leadership.
Turrion’s case was very similar to that of Thomas Williams, a former Legionaries member who left the priesthood in 2013 after it was discovered that he had fathered a child with the daughter of the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.
Williams, an American moral theologian, kept his family secret while continuing to teach at the Legionaries university in Rome, appearing often on U.S. television.
Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by Clelia Oziel
Legionaries pledge renewal as former rector admits fathering children
09 October 2017 | by Catholic News Service
‘If a priest fathers a child, he has a moral obligation to step aside from ministry and provide for the care and needs of the mother and the child’
The Legionaries of Christ pledged its ongoing commitment to renewal and reform as it released information about a former rector who has publicly acknowledged being the father of two children.
Legionaries Father Oscar Turrion – who served as rector of the order’s seminary in Rome – informed his superiors of “his intention to leave priestly ministry” in light of the recent revelations, the order said in an online communique on 6 October.
“We are conscious of the impact that the negative example of a formator and rector has” on the Christian faithful and on those responsible for institutions dedicated to the formation of candidates to the priesthood, the order said.
“We are deeply saddened that the recent history of our congregation has quenched the fervour of some of our members. We are firmly committed to accompanying our brothers in moments of difficulty. Likewise, we reiterate our commitment to the path of renewal that we continue to follow led by the church,” it added.
The Legionaries of Christ provided a timeline of events concerning Father Turrion, who also released his own letter describing the affair, offering his apologies and asking for prayers. Father Turrion had been a formator at the college since 2007 and was named rector in 2014 for a three-year term.
The order said that Father Turrion, then rector of the Legionaries of Christ’s Mater Ecclesiae College in Rome, informed his superiors in late March 2017 that he was the father of a recently born baby girl and he “asked them to maintain confidentiality.” However, leaders informed the Holy See to appoint a new rector, who began his term in August, and restricted the priest to no longer publicly exercise his priestly ministry.
The priest requested a period of prayer and reflection, during which he decided to “to come clean with myself and my superiors,” he said in his letter, by acknowledging he also had fathered another child with the same woman “a few years ago.”
The priest said he began to fall in love with the woman after he “began to lose my grounding” and become “more and more disillusioned” because of the “certain circumstances” the Legionaries and the church in general were facing at the time.
In 2014, the order had adopted a new constitution, elected new officers and issued a statement of apology to the victims of the order’s founder, the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, who had fathered children and sexually abused seminarians, including minors. The Vatican-ordered reform had been overseen by a papal delegate from 2010 to 2014.
The Legionaries of Christ said in its communique that when Father Turrion “was presented to the Congregation for Clergy as a candidate for the position of rector, as is customary, his file was reviewed and an interview was held with him. During it he said that he was suitable for the position and appreciated the trust placed in him.”
In his open letter, Father Turrion admitted that he had already decided to leave the priesthood while he was serving as rector, but instead continued as leader “out of love and respect for my companions” and seminarians at the college “or out of weakness and shame as well.”
He said he did ask to be “relieved of my responsibilities” when his three-year term as rector ended in 2017. “I ask everyone forgiveness for the lack of trust that this implies,” he wrote. He added he never used church funds to support his children, but utilised the private donations friends had given him for his own personal use.
The Legionaries of Christ noted an August statement by Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors: “If a priest fathers a child, he has a moral obligation to step aside from ministry and provide for the care and needs of the mother and the child. In such a moment, their welfare is the highest priority.”
PICTURE: Pope Francis greets Legionaries of Christ seminarians during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in 2014
Legionaries of Christ chief Father Oscar Turrion reveals his two children
12:00 AM October 10, 2017
A powerful order of Catholic priests hit by revelations that its founder had a secret family and abused children has now admitted that the head of its Rome seminary is the father of two children.
The Legionaries of Christ said Father Oscar Turrion, a 49-year-old Spaniard, would leave the priesthood.
It released a letter in which the priest asks “forgiveness for the scandal … forgiveness for my bad example and the negative witness I have given”.
The order said Father Turrion, who supervised men studying for the priesthood in Rome, was replaced after he admitted in March that he had a daughter.
Last week he confessed that he had also had a son with the same woman but had kept quiet due to “weakness and shame”.
He had not used church funds to support his family, he added, relying on donations from friends.
The priest said he had “lost his grounding” and started a family at the time when the first scandal emerged involving the order’s founder, Father Marcial Maciel, having fathered children.
The Mexican priest and morphine addict abused seminarians, some allegedly as young as 12, and fathered up to six children. He appeased the Vatican with large donations despite rumours spreading about him.
Inside the order, members were warned never to criticise Maciel or speak out about his private life.
Pope John Paul II has been accused of turning a blind eye to Maciel’s behaviour, grateful for the number of young priests produced by the order.
John Paul’s successor Benedict XVI was less impressed, banishing Maciel to a life of penitence in 2006. Maciel died, aged 87, two years later and the Vatican took over the order in 2010.
Three years later Thomas Williams, a US priest with the Legionaries who taught moral theology and appeared on television as a pundit, stepped down after admitting he had a child with the daughter of a former US ambassador to the Holy See.