Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, head of the North American Vatican investigation into the secretive Legionaries of Christ Catholic order, has long been familiar with negative allegations concerning the order and its leader Father Marcial Maciel Degollado. Some ten years ago, Chaput received into the archdiocese and gave prominent places here to three unhappy emigres from the order: Revs. Philip Larrey, Jorge Rodriguez and Donal Leonard.
The three were motivated scholars and had played key roles in the 1993 founding of the Legionaries’ university in Rome, the Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum. But they came into conflict with the leadership of the order, including now-disgraced founder Maciel, for not binding themselves tightly enough to the congregation’s rigid rules of life and thought.
Maciel has been accused of sexually abusing members of the seminary. In the past few years, news has echoed through the corridors of the Church that Maciel fathered a child and funneled part of the millions he raised for the order to the child’s mother and to Church leaders.
Chaput took in the emigre priests, according to Paul Lennon, founder of the ReGain support network for former Legionaries, thinking that the Church in Denver would benefit from their pastoral expertise in Spanish language and Hispanic culture and because he believed they were good men mistreated by the Legionary system.
Rodriguez was dean of the faculty of theology at Regina Apostolorum and currently is vice rector of the Denver archdiocesan seminary St. John Vianney, established by Chaput.
Larrey was dean of the faculty of philosophy at Regina Apostolorum and currently teaches philosophy at the Lateran University in Rome, which has an affiliation with St. John Vianney.
Leonard taught philosophy of religion at Regina Apostolorum and currently teaches philosophy part time at St. John Vianney.
Chaput’s dealings with the men recalls the way Cardinal Archbishop James Hickey in the mid-1980s made Washington, D.C., a haven for departing Legionaries, including Paul Lennon and Kevin Farrell, who eventually became bishop of Dallas in 2007.
Grassroots witnesses, who have been flooding Chaput’s email with negative testimony about the Legionaries , have reported Chaput’s interest in receiving and reading testimony. The fact of his having welcomed dissident Legionaries in the past cuts both ways for those trying to handicap what he will report at the end of his investigation.
Cassandra Jones contributed this post as a freelancer to the site. She blogs at cassandrajonesing.blogspot.com