Pope Francis, ever the unknown quantity, has taken an interesting step at the close of the three-year period of reform, with the announcement that an advisor will be given to oversee the congregation for the foreseeable future. This is the latest in a series of moves that would give most people pause as they consider whether the group is healthy, as Nicole Winfield summarises:
Francis has kept the Legion at arms' length since he inherited the reform project launched after the Legion admitted in 2009 that its founder sexually abused his seminarians and fathered three children.
Francis has yet to meet with the new superior and didn't send a message to the congregation when it met earlier this year to chart its new course, as he has done with other congregations. The Vatican insisted on naming two members of the Legion's new governing body and during his recent trip to Jerusalem, Francis skipped a luncheon planned by the Legion and ate instead with the Franciscans.
The current superior, the Rev. Eduardo Robles Gil, said in a video posted Monday on a Legion-affiliated website that the Vatican's congregation for religious orders was expected to announce details about the external "assistant" during a meeting with the leadership July 3.
He stressed that the Legion's governance would remain "autonomous" but that the Vatican was providing "a special assistance" as the congregation moves forward with implementing reforms.
A Legion spokesman, the Rev. Benjamin Clariond, said it wasn't clear what the adviser's mandate would be, but noted that the order still faces some daunting challenges, including figuring out a legal structure for its lay group, Regnum Christi.
That is not all, as the article notes:
De Paolis' mandate ended in February and Francis didn't renew it. The Vatican hasn't signed off on the constitutions he was tasked to help the Legion rewrite, though a progress report on the constitutions' status is also expected July 3, Robles-Gil said.
Clariond said the Legion welcomed the additional nomination of a Vatican adviser as a sign "that the pope wants to give us close help." He acknowledged though that it also provides "certain guarantees for those who don't trust us."
He likened the new Vatican intervention to a medical checkup, saying the Legion was in "intensive care" in the aftermath of the Maciel revelations and three-year reform process, and that it now needs occasional check-ups.
The suggestion that the original papal delegate (Cardinal dePaolis) was a sign of the pope's affection for the group was odd at the time (2010) but now saying that this new measure is like a doctor's check-up is an indication that they have yet to be honest about their status. Which is evidently why the advisor is needed.