Legionaries of Christ priest not disciplined after fathering child


ROME – The leader of the Legionaries of Christ admitted yesterday that he knew for years that the scandal-plagued religious order’s most famous priest had fathered a child but still allowed him to preach about morality.

The order, still reeling from revelations that its founder was a sexual abuser and drug addict with two secret families, suffered another major blow last week when it admitted that Fr Thomas Williams, an American based in Rome, had also led a double life.

In a letter to members published on the order’s website, Fr Alvaro Corcuera said he found out about Fr Williams’s child “early in my new assignment” as the order’s director general, which began in 2005.

In an interview last week, Cardinal Velasio de Paolis, the man Pope Benedict XVI appointed in 2010 as his personal delegate to try to reform the order, said he did not find out about the affair until this year.

Fr Williams was the public face of the order, appearing often on American television networks to explain church teachings.

He was the author of more than a dozen books, including one called Knowing Right from Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience.

He was a big draw on the lecture circuit at Catholic institutions and had two websites, both of which were shut down last week.

In his letter to members, Fr Corcuera said that after he first found out that Fr Williams had a child he asked him to “start withdrawing from public ministry”. However, he admitted that the restrictions “were not firm enough” and Fr Williams was allowed to continue teaching.

In fact, Fr Williams continued to appear in public and teach at Rome’s Pontifical Regina Apostolorum University.

The Legionaries of Christ run private Catholic schools and charitable organisations in 22 countries, including Ireland.

The order and its leaders have been at the centre of controversy since 2009 when they were forced to admit their charismatic Mexican founder, Fr Marcial Maciel, had led a double life for decades.

Fr Maciel, who made huge financial contributions to the Vatican, secretly fathered children with at least two women, used drugs, misused donations and sexually abused seminarians.

He had enjoyed the support of the late Pope John Paul and was spared official censure for years despite what critics say was overwhelming proof of his crimes. – (Reuters)