Toward a Culture of
in the Congregation
of the Legionaries of Christ
Toward a Culture of Zero Abuse
2014 General Chapter
Global statistics on Abuse Cases 1941-2022
The following statistics present cases of sexual abuse of minors by Legionary of Christ priests, from the Congregation’s founding in 1941 to March 30, 2023. They are verified cases, not statistical projections.
1. Historical overview
There are 27 cases verified by admission, a civil trial, a canonical proceeding endorsed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or a declaration from the appropriate major superior. Of these priests, 16 remain in the Congregation (one of whom has been removed from the clerical state). All of these cases have been presented to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and dealt with according to their directions. Five have died, six have left the priesthood and the Congregation, and one has left the Congregation. Of the 16 who remain in the Congregation, 13 exercise no public priestly ministry; three exercise restricted ministry that excludes pastoral work with minors (schools, youth groups, etc.).
- Civilly, of the 27 priests, three died without being tried, three have been convicted in criminal courts. The others, so far, have not been prosecuted for various reasons, such as the legal situation in the respective countries or because the statute of limitations has elapsed.
- Canonically, of the 27 priests, two died without being tried, 22 were sanctioned, one received a dispensation from ministry without trial, and two are currently undergoing canonical proceedings. The Congregation has asked the Holy See to lift the statute of limitations in eight of these cases so that they would be tried.
- During 2022, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith reviewed the case of a priest and accepted the allegation of lack of evidence that the facts had involved a minor. Due to the seriousness of what occurred, the priest continues with the restrictions imposed on him by the Congregation. In another case, the process was filed because the necessary certainty about what happened could not be reached. In a third case, given the seriousness of the facts, the priest was removed from the clerical state.
Therefore, the total number of priests of the Legionaries of Christ who have committed sexual abuse against a person under 18 years old is 27. They represent 1.9% of the 1,444 ordained Legionary priests throughout the entire history of the Congregation.
2. Pathways to reconciliation with victims
2.1 Outreach to victims by the Congregation
The Congregation is committed to seeking and taking pathways of truth, justice, and healing for each victim, while respecting the tempo and particular circumstances of each one. This includes those whose cases have already been juridically closed, since the pain of the victims continues after the closure of the case.
- There are around 170 minors, to our knowledge, who were victims of sexual abuse committed by these 27 priests.
- The majority of the victims were adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 16.
- The Congregation has made progress on the pathway to reparation and reconciliation with around 60 of these victims of priests of the Congregation, seeking to facilitate this journey for all victims who should desire it.
The institutional channel for bringing forward allegations can be found here: https://www.0abusos.org/ambientes-seguros/
2.2 An independent channel to listen to, receive, and assist victims
To offer victims adequate reception and accompaniment, in 2020 the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ established a permanent partnership with Eshmá, an external and independent institution founded by persons who have first-hand experience of the victimization of child sexual abuse and by therapists, social workers and lawyers who are experts in restorative justice. It specializes in caring for the victims of sexual abuse, abuse of power and of conscience in the Catholic Church and works with various institutions. The Congregation partners with Eshmá and other independent reporting channels in the countries where it is present.
As of December 31, 2022, Eshmá was attending 42 victims of members of the Congregation.
- 29 persons reported abuses that they suffered as minors, and 2 when they were adults.
- 11 reported abuses of power and of conscience as adults. Four of them alleged that there was also behavior that could be considered sexual abuse, given the vulnerable situation they found themselves in.
The identity of the individuals and the information regarding the abuse they have suffered is only shared with the Congregation if the victims so desire it.
The independent international channel for care for victims and bringing forward allegations is Eshmá.
Phone / WhatsApp / Telegram: +34 615 26 36 99
3. Ongoing follow-up of allegations received since December 2019
Since the historical investigation and the publication of the results in the Report 1941-2019, the Congregation has received complaints for 11 new cases, of which:
- In three cases, it has not been possible to confirme the sexual abuse of a minor.
- One priest was condemned and removed from the Congregation and the clerical state.
- Two cases are awaiting the conclusion of both a civil and canonical process.
- One is awaiting the conclusion of a canonical process.
- Four are under canonical investigation prior to an eventual canonical process.
In addition, new indications, denunciations and formal statements have been received within the canonical procedures on cases of priests that had already been published in the various reports in relation to events of past decades.
Furthermore, a previous case mentioned in the 1941-2019 Report is awaiting the results of a police investigation.
4. Global Statistics of Abuse of Minors by Seminarians of the Congregation.
Sixty of the 74 Legionaries (81.08%) that the 1941-2019 Report identified as allegedly abusing minors when they were novices or religious in formation were not ordained as priests in the Congregation. It has been confirmed in the last three years that there are seven cases of Legionaries who abused as seminarians and were ordained priests. Of these cases, one has died, three are without public priestly ministry, and three have left the priesthood. Two of these seven also abused as priests.
In addition to the steps already taken and those yet to come, publishing cases of Legionaries who committed abuse is a commitment that seeks to contribute to paving a way toward truth, justice, and healing for victims, as well as solidifying a culture of zero abuse in the Congregation and in society.
The territorial directors published in 2021 the account of every case of sexual abuse against minors that has occurred throughout the history of the Congregation in the countries that today form part of their respective Territories.
The Main Reasons for Publication
Whether publishing the names of those who have abused minors is legitimate and appropriate is widely debated in society and in the Church. Both legal and ethical arguments come into play, leading to a great diversity of legitimate positions. In applying the criteria established by the 2020 General Chapter to the publication of cases, the superiors of the Congregation considered several factors: the good of the persons who suffered abuse, the reform of those who committed abuse, the good of the Church and of society, all while observing applicable civil laws.
The main reasons for publishing are listed below, aware that they do not apply in the same way in all cases.
For the sake of known and unknown victims, publication may have the following effects:
- As an objective acknowledgement of the abuse, it can facilitate the healing process for victims.
- It contributes to restoring justice and making reparation when a victim has not been adequately attended to or has even been slandered.
- It encourages other potential victims to come forward and receive support, if they so wish, helping them overcome more easily the natural difficulty reporting such an allegation may present.
- It makes clear that the priest in question no longer exercises any public priestly ministry, relieving victims of the concern that he could abuse again.
For the sake of the reform of the priest who abused, publication may have the following effects:
- It can help him become more aware of what he has done, encouraging him to repent and amend his ways.
- It facilitates his collaboration in reparation efforts and restorative encounters.
- It helps him comply with the sanctions and restrictions imposed on him.
For the good of society and the people whom the Congregation serves pastorally, the publication of cases of abuse may have the following effects:
- It underlines our strong repulsion for any abusive behavior.
- It raises awareness of abuse in general, but also in specific situations, preventing the risk of further abuse.
- It helps the Congregation fulfill its duty to protect the minors under its care, and youth in general.
- It informs society about the priests found guilty of abuse and who no longer have public ministry.
- It prevents the scandal of holding up as an example a priest known to the Congregation as having committed abuse.
- It contributes to healing the societal wounds caused by institutional behavior and to creating dynamics in society that foster a culture of care and protection of minors.
For the good of the members of the Congregation, the publication may have the following effects:
- It contributes to living in truth and acting in a manner consistent with the commitments the Congregation made at the 2020 General Chapter, addressing and healing the personal and structural wounds the abuse caused.
- It provides clear information necessary for assuming personal and institutional responsibility in this area.
- It avoids suspicions about members of the Congregation who have not committed abuse or have been wrongly accused..
Different Forms of Publication
Over the course of the 2020 calendar year, the General Directorate’s Interdepartmental Commission developed a policy for fair transparency and communication. The policy seeks to apply the criteria outlined in numbers 27 to 29 of Protect and Heal, and it establishes three forms for publishing cases of abuse committed by current and former Legionary priests. The policy’s primary aim is to enable the attainment of the goals indicated in the previous section, while respecting the legal requirements of each country.
The different forms are as follows:
Publication Using First and Last Name
Full names are employed for cases that occurred in countries that allow it or for cases that are already public.
Publication Using First Name Only
Only the first name is employed for cases involving those who have left the Congregation, since they are no longer under the responsibility of the Congregation and most of them do not exercise priestly ministry, and for those in which civil law does not allow the publication of surnames or abbreviations of surnames.
Publication Using a Numerical Code
Cases of priests have been published with a numerical code in the following circumstances:
1º When it is appropriate to take into account a victim’s reasoned request not to publish the priest’s name, because it could condition the healing process or the victim’s privacy.
2º When an applicable civil law explicitly prohibits the publication of someone’s name.
3º When a canonical or civil process is still in progress, since the right to the presumption of innocence prevails until guilt is established.
4º When the ends sought by publishing a priest’s name—namely, the victim’s healing, the restoration of justice, the reparation of scandal, the amendment of the abusing priest, and the prevention of future abuse—are met by other means. This only applies to cases typified by legislation as of minor gravity, when there is one known victim, and there are no well-founded indications that there might be others.
In cases under preliminary investigation (cf. canon 1717 of the Code of Canon Law), in principle, the name of the accused is not published beyond the requirements of the investigation itself.
Criteria for limited reinsertion of priests into pastoral ministry
In the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ’s own norms, reinsertion into pastoral ministry is excluded «for any priest who is canonically declared guilty of having committed sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable person» (Protect and Heal, 48). Therefore, limited reinsertion in the exercise of some priestly ministry can only be considered for someone who was not found guilty in an administrative or judicial process, that is, only for someone whose case was dealt with by measures of fraternal correction, reprimand or other means of pastoral solicitude according to c. 1341 of the Code of Canon Law (CIC) or with a penal precept (cf. c. 1319 CIC), having always observed the indications of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF).
The reinsertion into limited pastoral ministry of a priest who in the past has committed sexual abuse against a minor is a very grave responsibility, both for the Congregation and for the priest in question. The necessary conditions must be ensured so that the priest can carry out his service for the good of the people and, at the same time, the risks of harm must be avoided as far as humanly possible, and guarantees must be offered so that no further abuse will occur.
Considering this requirement, the General Director of the Legionaries of Christ, having consulted widely and having heard the opinion of his council, has established the following criteria for a possible reinsertion.
Concerning the priest in question:
- The possibility of reintegration into pastoral service is not considered in the case of a priest canonically found guilty of having committed abuse or who is known – by canonical process, by admission or by disciplinary measures endorsed by the DDF – to have committed serial abuse, with multiple victims or of extreme gravity.
- For those exceptional cases in which it is possible to consider a reintegration, the priest must:
- have agreed to follow a path of restorative justice, which entails acknowledging and taking responsibility for the harm caused, a willingness to make reparation to the victim and to seek true reconciliation with the victim and his family, as well as with others affected by the scandal; the path of restorative justice also involves facing possible civil or criminal consequences for his actions;
- to have followed a path of sincere repentance, conversion and reparation;
- to have a professional diagnosis that excludes that it is a structural problem;
- to have completed a therapeutic path that has led him to understand how he could have had these behaviors and also to identify and overcome the remote causes;
- to have a positive prognosis from an expert who has evaluated him on his reintegration into pastoral activity with the appropriate restrictions;
- to have confirmed and consolidated this positive prognosis within a prudential period established by the major superior, during which he will be able to collaborate in community and internal tasks and, if necessary, in some specific, appropriate and supervised ministerial assignments;
- to be able to communicate clearly to those who have religious or apostolic responsibility for him, the acts he has committed and the path he has followed, and to collaborate with the required communication to those who will receive his ministerial service;
- to accept and comply with the restrictions for pastoral ministry with minors and, eventually, other restrictions (e.g., use of social networks, schedules, etc.), also to avoid the re-victimization of affected persons.
- In turn, the priest should be monitored and accompanied by the superior of the community, some members of the community, those responsible for his apostolate and the persons who work together with him or are appointed to observe his performance, who should have a sufficiently detailed knowledge of the case and of the restrictions and measures established.
In relation to the areas of work:
- Pastoral work with minors and vulnerable persons is excluded as well as other areas of work depending on the type of abuse committed and the result of the psychological evaluation;
- excluding houses of formation of the Congregation (cf. Protect and Heal, 49);
- places with a particular risk of scandal should be excluded;
- a stable, clearly defined and supervised environment should be sought for and provided;
- the group or community in which he ordinarily exercises some pastoral ministry should know his situation and be in agreement with it; they should be aware of the restrictions he has and, generically, the reasons for these restrictions;
- in any ministry, the priest should avoid the use of social networks and publications of any kind.
The eventual exercise of a restricted ministry, if authorized according to the above criteria, must be mentioned in the priest’s security plan. This plan, which is established for life for each priest who has committed abuse, comprehensively covers the various dimensions of his life and has an initial review and periodic (at least annual) evaluation and adjustments by the Territorial Review Committee, according to the Safe Environment Accreditation Standards (Accreditation Standards, Standard 19).
In addition, reintegration into pastoral ministry should consider adequate prior communication with the victim.
In the 2nd Annual Report (2022), the then newly designed program of economic reparations and support for victims was presented. It was developed after an international comparative study of other systems and standards. This international and permanent reparations program harmonizes civil and canonical procedures and systematizes victim assistance, including financial reparations among the various types of reparations offered.
When a person contacts one of the institutional reporting channels or an independent channel with allegations, these channels receive them, accompany and inform them of the possible ways to proceed. In addition to ensuring the allegations are reported to civil and ecclesial authorities for their proceedings, will receive assistance in recounting their experience, finding therapy, and expressing the needs they might have, including financial reparation. Where possible, the reparation will take place in a broader process of restorative justice that seeks to contribute to the complete healing of the victim.
The program has been implemented throughout the past year and is offered through the channels for listening, and in participation with the committees for reparation. As of the current date, committees for reparation have been established in the Territory of Mexico (2022) and the Territory of Spain (2023). Throughout the past year, the guidelines established in the program for reparation have been followed in cases.
The Congregation is aware that no amount of reparation can compensate for or make the damage caused by abuse disappear. Nevertheless, it seeks to offer a complete reparation to help restore justice and ease the healing process for the victim. The Congregation believes that financial reparation, with care and accompaniment, can help to alleviate, at least somewhat, the weight carried by those who bear this wound. According to our records, since 2010, 32 victims of sexual abuse have received financial reparation, assistance with therapy and/or support for living expenses.
Last update: April 19, 2023