The Legion of Christ religious order has been struck with another scandal after a priest admitted that he had fathered a child years ago, while preaching about morality and ethics.
In a statement Wednesday, the Legion said it should have removed Rev. Thomas Williams from his public ministry as a spokesman, author and high-profile television personality. The Legion of Christ took responsibility for allowing Williams to remain in the Legion, but didn't admit when his superiors knew about the child.
Williams, an American moral theologian and superior of the Legion's Roman general office, admitted that he had had a relationship with a woman and fathered a child a number of years ago, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday. Although Williams did not identify the woman or say whether he supported the child, the Legion said the child is being cared for, according to AP.
Williams said that he was deeply sorry for this grave transgression against his vows of celibacy, the Belfast Telegraph reported. The priest issued the statement after the AP last week questioned the order about the allegation against Williams, which was brought by a Spanish association of Legion victims.
I am truly sorry to everyone who is hurt by this revelation and I ask for your prayers as I seek guidance on how to make up for my errors, Williams said, according to ABC News, and he plans to take about a year off to reflect on my commitments as a priest.
Patricio Cerda, a member of the Spanish association that brought the allegations forward, told the AP that Williams' confession after its report shows that a culture of transgressions and cover-ups still exists in the order.
This shows that there is no real process of reform, but just a process to rewrite the Legion's constitutions, he told the AP.
Cerda said that the cases of abusive priests referred to the Vatican were known to Legion superiors more than five years ago, and a year ago to papal delegate, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, who is leading a process of reform. Most of the allegations concern alleged abuse from decades ago and some of the cases were well-known among Legion watchers.
What is surprising is how long it took them to recognize the paternity of a child of one of their priests and how much they tried to protect those who abused children, Cerda said.
The Legion has been rocked by several scandals over the years, including disoveries that its late founder, Rev. Marciel Maciel, fathered three children with two women and sexually abused his seminarians, the AP reported. Maciel died in 2008, and in 2009 the Legion confirmed the reports.
Williams spoke about Maciel's secret life to the Catholic ETWN program, calling the scandal a very, very hard blow to the 800-member order. The Legion has said seven other priests are now also being investigated for claims of sexual abuse against minors, according to ABC.
In light of the recent scandal, the Legion's top official in North America on Tuesday sent an email to followers accompanying Williams' announcement.
In the wake of all we have been through as a movement in the past several years, it won't surprise me if you are disappointed angry or feel your trust shaken once again, said Father Luis Garza, who was formerly the Legion's No. 2 in Rome, according to AP.