The powerful vicar of the Legionaries of Christ has fallen



Luis Garza Medina is living his last days as vicar general of the Legionaries of Christ. This coming August 1st he will leave the position and all its responsibilities in Rome. Last Friday July 15th, the congregation advised that the Mexican priest will be the future superior in the United States. The Pope sees this as a downgrade in terms of the reforms he asked for

Andrés Beltramo Álvarez - Rome

Up until a few months ago Garza was the Legion's most powerful figure given the several positions he held. He has been vicar since 1992 and he formed part of the leadership when the director general was still the founder, Marcial Maciel Degollado: the priest who, according to The Vatican, lived an “unscrupulous” existence and committed all kinds of immoral acts, among them sexual abuse against minors.


Garza Medina was a key piece in the framework of the congregation, not only because of his proximity to “our father” (that is what the followers called Maciel) but also because, in recent years, he managed to be awarded up to four positions. Besides being vicar general he was the prefect of studies, territorial director in Italy and delegate of the director general for the consecrated of the Regnum Christi, the lay movement.


But his power extended beyond this: he controlled the finances of the religious institute by means of a parallel structure that he himself created, the Integer Group, whose bosses completely replaced the legitimate territorial superiors of the Legion, at least administratively. This anomaly also looked to disappear, by decision of the pontifical delegate for reform of the Legionaries, Velasio De Paolis.


All this seems to suggest that the same cardinal De Paolis wanted to “straighten the blackboards” inside the congregation and this is why he pressed for the vicar general's departure, barely a few days after he strongly criticised the “dissidents”: priests and seminarians dissatisfied with the course taken by the renewal process of the religious institute that has been going on for one year. Reform desired by Benedict XVI after the scandals of Maciel.


Nevertheless Garza will not be  excluded definitively, he will take over a new legionary region: the “North American Territory”, created thanks to the unification of the old territories of Atlanta and New York.


Due to a simple incompatibility he felt obligated to also leave the General Council, the highest governmental entity of the congregation. He will only maintain his title of delegate of the director general for the consecrated of the Regnum Christi temporarily, until a successor is found.


According to the official position, revealed in a communiqué, the decision of the vicar’s departure was taken by the director general, Álvaro Corcuera, with the consent of the general council and the approval of the delegate De Paolis.


It is unknown who the next successor will be. What is known however, is that a nomination will be made in the coming months, depending on what Corcuera and the council will decide.


The announcement of the change was communicated in a letter to all the legionaries and the consecrated members of the Regnum Christi. In the above text the priest stated that last June, one of the members of the general council traveled to the United States to get the opinion of the priests, religious order members with perpetual voting rights as well as that of members of the lay movement. In essence, a kind of “lobbying”. This is interesting when one considers how reluctant the American legionaries were to have a Mexican superior.


The missive added that the results of the consultation showed a “large consensus” in favor of the unification of territories and of the designation of Luis Garza as future territorial director.


The marginalization of the vicar coincides with the imminent departure of the then secretary general, Evaristo Sada, who had to leave his position in the fall in accordance with that which was officially announced last January. The network of superiors is beginning to be dismantled, although not all at once. They will still maintain a certain influence from their new roles, but they will not bring together the same power as before.


The dissidents, recently reprimanded by De Paolis, had insisted that as part of the reform process that the Legion is going through, the vicar general should step out of the picture because he was considered an accomplice to the abuses committed by the founder. One way or another they achieved their mission. For some of them, with Garza and Sada out of the way, there is now strong hope for real change. Others are less optimistic. Life after Maciel continues.

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