During its general chapter meeting in Rome, the Legionaries of Christ religious order has elected a new superior general to lead the embattled religious congregation.
Fr. John Connor, LC, has been the North American territorial director of the Legionaries of Christ since 2014. He will serve a six-year term as superior general of the religious order of priests.
Connor’s election comes during a time of widespread public criticism of the Legionaries of Christ, which reported in December 2019 that since its founding in 1941, 33 priests of the Legionaries of Christ have been found to have committed sexual abuse of minors, victimizing 175 children, according to the 2019 report.
The order was founded by Mexican-born Fr. Marcial Maciel, who himself abused at least 60 minors, according to the order, and is accused of using the religious congregation he founded to provide him access to abuse victims, and funding to support mistresses, children he fathered, and an alleged drug habit.
In 2006 the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI, removed Maciel from public ministry and ordered him to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance. The Vatican congregation decided not to subject him to a canonical process because of his advanced age. Maciel died in 2008.
In 2009, Benedict ordered an apostolic visitation, or worldwide administrative review, of the religious institute, and then placed it under direct Vatican oversight. Benedict ordered the congregation to develop and implement new governing documents and policies, after Church officials found substantial problems in the Legion’s formation and governance structures.
Pope Francis has continued pushing for reforms to the religious order.
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