The Rev. Alvaro Corcuera wrote a letter to all Legion members in which he admitted he knew before he became superior in 2005 that the Rev. Thomas Williams had fathered a child years earlier. He said he had heard rumours of the child even before then when he was rector.
Corcuera acknowledged he did nothing to prevent Williams, a well-known American television personality, author and moral theologian, from teaching morality to seminarians or preaching about ethics on television, in his many speaking engagements or his 14 books.
Williams, for example, was the keynote speaker at a Legion-affiliated women's conference last month in the U.S.
Williams admitted last week he had fathered the child after The Associated Press confronted the Legion with the allegation. In a new statement Tuesday, Williams said he had resisted his superiors' encouragement to keep a low profile after the allegations were known to them.
"I foolishly thought that I had left this sin in my past, and that I could make up for some of the wrong I had done by doing the greatest good possible with the gifts God has given me. This was an error in judgment, and yet another thing I must ask your forgiveness for," he wrote.
Williams has not identified the mother or said whether he was supporting the child or in any way involved in the child's life. The Legion has said the child is being cared for.
Founder of Legion led double life
Revelations of Williams's child have compounded the scandal at the Legion, which in 2009 admitted that its late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, had sexually abused his seminarians and fathered three children with two women. He died in 2008.
The scandal is particularly grave given that Maciel was held up as a model for the faithful by Pope John Paul II, who was impressed by the orthodox order's ability to attract money and young men to the priesthood.
Maciel's double life, and the well-known problems of the cult-like order, have cast a shadow over John Paul's legacy since the Vatican knew of Maciel's crimes as early as 1950, yet he enjoyed the highest Vatican praise and access until he was finally sanctioned in 2006.
In 2010, the Vatican took over the Legion after determining that the order itself had been contaminated by Maciel's influence and needed to be "purified." The Vatican cited problems of the Legion's culture, in which silence reigned and authority was abused, as being in need of reform, as well as the need for its constitutions to be rewritten and its charism, or essential spirit, to be defined.
Priests under investigation
Following an AP investigation, the Legion on May 11 admitted that seven priests were under Vatican investigation for allegedly sexually abusing minors, an indication that Maciel's crimes were not his alone. Corcuera provided an update Tuesday, saying two of those cases had been dismissed, leaving five abuse-related cases under investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Another two priests are being investigated for other sacramental violations, believed to involve using confession or spiritual direction to have inappropriate sexual relations with women.
In his letter Tuesday, Corcuera announced that the Legion was going to review all past cases of allegations of sexual abuse to ensure that they were handled properly. Victims of Legion priests and critics of the order have said there are many more cases of abusers, many of which have been well-known to the leadership but covered up for decades.
"Are there other cases waiting to be discovered, more scandals ready to attack your faith and trust? I can never say for sure," Corcuera wrote. "I can, however, tell you that we are following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI in dealing with abuse and sexual misconduct in the Legion."