Journalist to talk on religious order

Arizona Republic/March 23, 2007
By Michael Clancy

The Legion of Christ, a religious order that recently took over administration of a parish in the Phoenix Diocese, is a dangerous movement in the church, according to one of the first journalists to report in depth on the clergy abuse crisis.

Jason Berry, co-author of the book Vows of Silence, will be in Tempe on Saturday to speak and present a documentary on the book, which details the story of the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the influential founder of the Legion who was suspended by the pope in 2006 and ordered to lead a life of prayer and penitence. Maciel was accused by nine men of sexually abusing them when they were young.

"I don't trust the religious order," Berry said. "Not that every member is untrustworthy. But it is bizarre, a money machine all based around the idea of sainthood for this man."

Several dioceses, including Minneapolis-St. Paul and Los Angeles, have banned the order. But Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted welcomed the Legion to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Queen Creek in September.

"Our experience with members of the Legion has been very positive," said Jim Dwyer, spokesman for the diocese. "The priests have been very well-received. We consider them well-trained, highly qualified, multilingual servants of the faith."

Berry acknowledged that lay people in the diocese have little say on the choice of priests. He said until they master the church's bureaucracy, as the nine abused men did, they can expect nothing to change.

"I think the abuse crisis itself has such electrifying implications for the church, none of them good, that it would behoove reform-minded groups to learn these channels," he said.

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