By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published February 12, 2009
Hundreds of members of Regnum Christi, the predominantly lay arm of the Legionaries of Christ religious order, live in the Atlanta Archdiocese. About a dozen of the order’s priests work here, along with five seminarians and a number of consecrated women.
The most visible presence for the religious order is Pinecrest Academy, a 900-student independent Catholic school in Cumming. Five Legionaries of Christ priests are on the board of directors of the school, according to its Web site.
School officials met with a large group of parents on Thursday, Feb. 5, to discuss the news about the order’s founder, Father Marcial Maciel.
Father Scott Reilly, president of the Pinecrest Academy board of directors and the North American territorial director for the Legionaries of Christ, spoke to the crowd.
He declined a request for an interview Tuesday, Feb. 10.
“The school grieves with those who have been hurt by the actions of the founder of the Legion of Christ and joins with the entire LC community in praying for anyone who is affected by this,” said Rick Swygman, the school’s executive director, by e-mail.
While school continues as usual, Swygman said he and Legionaries of Christ Father Todd Belardi, formation director of the Boys School, last week spoke to high school students about the situation. Students were invited to ask questions or talk with their parents.
Any younger students with questions have been told to talk with their parents, he said.
“Our constant message throughout has been for all of us to remain focused on Christ as our model. In many ways, this event has served to strengthen that focus,” Swygman said.
Faculty members, who are members of the Legionaries of Christ, are “understandably shocked and disappointed” but they remain dedicated to students and families, he said.
Legionaries of Christ spokesman Jim Fair said, “We really are in the grieving process over all this.”
“We’re deeply sorry about the actions of our founder and ask that you keep us in your prayers,” he said.
Local Regnum Christi members talked with leaders to understand the issue.
Ben Vigil, a local professional photographer who also works part-time for the Atlanta Archdiocese, has been a member of Regnum Christi since 1999.
The reactions he has seen range from “bewilderment, (in) others anger at feeling duped, and (in) still others a certain holy detachment and faith that makes you wonder if they are in denial since unwavering praise of ‘Father Maciel’ was never far from their lips,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Priests in the Legion of Christ must be especially hurting, Vigil said.
“I cannot imagine the betrayal they must feel during these days. They deserve our prayers that they continue to conform their hearts to that of Christ in these dark times,” he wrote.
Vigil said that despite the scandal, the Catholic practices entailed in his commitment as a member of Regnum Christi are solid and he looks to the Holy See for ongoing evaluation of the soundness of its spirituality.
“While I’ve come to a much more profound appreciation over the last 10 days of the gravity this scandal is for the Legionary congregation, and indeed the entire church, the fact remains that I believe that (Regnum Christi) is a work of Christ and the Holy Spirit,” he said.