(RNS) The Archdiocese of Miami has banned the Legionaries of Christ, a conservative Catholic movement, saying it broke a promise to restrict its ministry to members and was “involved” in several schools without approval.
In an Oct. 29 letter to Miami priests, Monsignor Michael Souckar, the archdiocese’s chancellor, said individual priests belonging to the Legionaries had been granted permission to work “but their ministry was restricted to their own members.”
“Because the Legionaries of Christ have not abided by these restrictions, Archbishop (John) Favalora has barred them from any ministry in the Archdiocese of Miami,” Souckar said.
Favalora also banned members of Regnum Christi, the Legion’s lay movement, from working in any archdiocesan entity, including parishes and schools, Souckar said.
Asked for further explanation, archdiocesan spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta said: “The Archdiocese of Miami has policies and procedures for groups and individuals wishing to make presentations; at all times, these must be followed.”
The Legionaries of Christ (or Legion of Christ), which enjoyed Vatican favor under Pope John Paul II, claims to have as members 800 priests and more than 2,500 seminarians in 21 countries, including the United States. Its lay movement, Regnum Christi, claims 70,000 members in 45 countries.
In March, the Legionaries announced that it was the subject of a Vatican investigation, after revelations emerged that its late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, had fathered at least one illegitimate child.
Legion spokesman Jim Fair said Miami’s announcement “pretty much fell out of the blue.”
“I can tell you that we’re surprised and obviously disappointed, but we will obey whatever directives the archbishop has,” Fair said.
Last year, the Archdiocese of Baltimore raised concerns about the Legionaries and placed restrictions on the group, including not allowing them to act as spiritual directors to men under age 18. Fair said dioceses in Ohio and Minnesota have also placed restrictions on the group.
In 1997, nine former Legionaries accused Maciel of sexually abusing them decades earlier, when they were studying to become priests under his authority. The allegations, which Maciel denied, set off a Vatican investigation. In 2006, with Benedict’s approval, Maciel was asked to limit himself to a “life reserved to prayer and penitence, renouncing all public ministry.”
By Daniel Burke
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