The communications office of the Legion of Christ -- an order of priests founded by the controversial Macial Maciel -- announced that the former rector of the Pontifical International College Maria Mater Ecclesiae at Rome, Father Oscar Turrion, admitted that after a long relationship with a woman he became the father of two children. The October 6 communique noted that the priest has asked for prayers and forgiveness. Turrion has resigned.
Father Turrion informed the superiors of the Legion of Christ on March 27 that he had become the father of girl, and asked that the news be suppressed. Upon learning the news, his superiors turned to the Holy See to name a new seminary rector. The new rector began work in August.
For his part, Father Turrion asked for permission to “live apart from the community in order to reflect and pray. His superior granted this permission in accordance with canon law, with the provision that Father Turrion should not exercise his priestly ministry in public.
On October 5, Father Turrion “acknowledged that he had another child, by the same woman, several years ago,” said the communique. The priest also expressed his intention to abandon the priesthood and to ask for dispensation from his priestly vows. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who serves as the the president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, ruled in August that if a priest has a child, he has the moral obligation to set aside his ministry but satisfy the needs of the mother and child.
Father Oscar Turrión had served on the faculty of the Pontifical International College Maria Mater Ecclesiae before being named in 2014 to a three-year term as rector According to custom, Father Turrion was interviewed and his background checked once he was nominated to the position. After being determined to be an ideal candidate, Father Turrion expressed gratitude for the trust placed in him.
The Legion of Christ recognized that because it oversees an institution that forms candidates for the priesthood, the communique said that it “recognizes the impact that a negative example by mentor and rector can have among them and other faithful of the Church. We are profoundly saddened that the recent history of our congregation has chilled the spirituality of some people.” The statement went on to say that the Legion of Christ is “firmly resolved to accompany our brethren during difficult times. Also, we reiterate our commitment on the path of renewal that we travel in the hands of the Church.”
The Legion of Christ, which oversees the associated lay movement known as Regnum Christe, is no stranger to controversy. The founder, Marcial Maciel, founded the Legion in 1941. Late in life, Maciel was revealed to have sexually abused boys and young men. After his death, it was revealed that that he had maintained relationships with at least two women, fathering as many as six children. He allegedly abused two of these as well. Pope Benedict XVI removed Maciel from active ministry in 2006 after conducting an investigation that he had started while serving as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during the pontificate of John Paul II. Despite being ordered to conduct a reserved life of prayer and penance, while renouncing public ministry, Maciel continued to deny the allegations against him and never apologized. He died in 2008. Father Álvaro Corcuera succeeded Maciel as leader of the congregation and apologized to Maciel’s victims.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.