Legionaries of Christ likens disgraced founder to Mary Magdalene

A booklet promoting a major pilgrimage complex in Galilee has likened the Legionaries of Christ’s disgraced founder to St Mary Magdalene.

The conservative order’s founder, Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, was a sexual predator, abusing young seminarians and living a double life that included fathering three children by two women from Mexico.

He was dismissed from ministry by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 and died in 2008.

In an article in the National Catholic Reporter, investigative journalist Jason Berry wrote that the order has shifted its fundraising focus to Holy Land pilgrimages.

It has started a major fundraising drive for its Magdala Center at the Sea of Galilee and has raised US$40 million out of its US$100 million target.

The complex, with newly discovered ruins of a synagogue Jesus may have visited, will contain an archaeological park, women’s institute, media centre and a luxury hotel the Legion will own.

A booklet intended to promote the new centre, Magdala: God Really Loves Women, shows the posthumous hold Fr Marcial still holds over the order, despite attempts at reform, Berry wrote.

Legionary priest Fr Juan Maria Solana, who heads the Magdala project, wrote the following statement in the booklet.

“Marcial Maciel’s initials are also MM, just like Mary Magdalene. She had a problematic past before her deliverance, so there’s a parallel. Our world has double standards when it comes to morals. Some people have a formal, public display and then the real life they live behind the scenes.

“But when we accuse someone else and we are quick to stone him, we must remember that we all have problems and defects. With modern communications so out of control, it is easy to kill someone’s reputation without even investigating about the truth. We should be quieter and less condemning.”

Berry wrote the Legion has had a fire sale of assets elsewhere as donors have dried up.

In 2009, the order admitted Marcial’s wrongdoings.

The Legion has yet to receive approval from Pope Francis for reworked constitutions, which were submitted to the Pope months ago.

Commonweal associate editor Mollie Watson O’Reilly wrote that the portrayal of Mary Magdalene as associated with sexual sin is “an error in scriptural interpretation . . . helped along by a misogynistic tendency to associate women with sexual sin”.

Mary Magdalene should be seen as the Apostle to the Apostles, the first witness to the Resurrection, she wrote.


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