From Matt Abbot at Renew America
A reader sent me the following English translation of a Nov. 19, 2007 story on Milenio.com.
Vatican City — Vatican sources said today that Pope Benedict XVI personally requested the abolition of two special private vows professed by seminarians and priests of the Mexican religious congregation, the Legionaries of Christ.
They deal with promises related to internal aspects of the order. The first prevents any criticism by members of their superiors or of their decisions; the second prohibits religious from seeking positions within the congregation itself.
Vatican sources have told Notimex that the measure was taken by the Congregation for Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life following disciplinary actions in 2006 against Legionary founder, Marcial Maciel Degollado.
In May of that year the Apostolic See announced that the Mexican priest was being obliged to follow a "reserved life of prayer and penitence." This followed an investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith "for crimes falling within the exclusive jurisdiction of this office."
Sources stated that the abolition of the private vows is a "measure parallel" to that of Maciel's sanction and that it was personally ordered by Benedict XVI and given to the current director of the Legionaries of Christ, Alvaro Corcuera.
These vows, which are included in the text of the congregation' s constitutions, specifically state that one is "never to desire, seek or scheme to acquire responsibilities or positions in the congregation for oneself or for others." They also state that no one may ever "criticize the outward actions of governance or the person of any director by written word or by any other means. If it is known for certain that a religious has broken this promise, [one must] inform his immediate superior."
According to a letter written by a former legionary, Emilio Bartolomé, and confirmed as being true by Vatican officials, Corcuera has carried out a series of visits to Legionary houses throughout the world. The purpose of these visits has been to inform superiors of the abolition of the vows and the "relaxation" of certain restrictions placed on seminarians, such as those related to visits with family members.
Previously restricted to a few times a year, visits between seminarians and their families will now be more regular and less restrictive as part of the pope's directives to the order.
The norms related to family visits were approved by the congregation' s Chapter General (or assembly) and cannot be changed by the director general. Only another Chapter General or the pontiff himself can modify them.
Sources conclude that, "since no Chapter General has taken place and the constitutions have not been modified, this confirms that it was a papal decision."