For immediate release: Thursday, December 5, 2013
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
A high profile priest from a corrupt Catholic religious order is marrying the daughter of the former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.
We are grateful that Fr. Williams is taking responsibility for the child he fathered. Most Catholic officials let priests who exploit and impregnate vulnerable parishioners avoid helping to raise their children.
We call on other Catholic officials – in Rome and in the Legion of Christ – to “come clean” about their roles in hiding or denying Fr. Williams’ wrongdoing.
At a minimum, this seems like sexual harassment, since he was an editor and she was a columnist.
A year and a half ago, Vatican officials claimed they were investigating seven Legion priests accused of molesting kids. This should have been resolved months ago. We hope the Vatican will disclose their name and the results soon.
Finally, let’s be clear on what this is and what this isn’t. This is exploitation. It’s not “a relationship.” It’s manipulation. It’s not “consent.”
An educated, allegedly holy and celibate religious authority figure who holds the exalted title of “reverend” - and professes to be Christ’s representative on earth - cannot ever have truly consensual or healthy sexual contact with a parishioner. It is always morally wrong and emotionally harmful.
Clergy always hold an exalted position, and when they have any sexual involvement with parishioners, it is always hurtful.
There is a huge and inherent power imbalance between clergy and church members. It is like a doctor-patient or therapist-client relationship, where any sexual contact is expressly forbidden. And for good reason: because it almost always results in devastation, with individuals and with congregations.
It's always the duty of powerful official – doctor, therapist or priest - to maintain boundaries and refrain from any sexual contact with the radically less powerful person – patient, client or parishioner.
It's the duty of church officials to help congregants understand this. And it’s the duty of church officials and members to reach out to and help those hurt by egregious and hurtful misconduct – like Fr. Williams’ - and to help expose those predators who engage in it. We call on former and current members of the Legion of Christ to aggressively seek out and offer comfort to anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered hurtful misconduct by Fr. Williams.
Disgraced priest to wed pope adviser’s daughter
By Associated Press, Updated: Thursday, December 5, 12:33 PM
VATICAN CITY — Thomas Williams, the onetime public face of the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order who left the priesthood after admitting he fathered a child, is getting married this weekend to the child’s mother, The Associated Press has learned. The bride is the daughter of former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, one of Pope Francis’ top advisers.
Glendon, a Harvard University law professor, is one of the highest-ranking women at the Vatican as president of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences. She is also one of five people on Francis’ commission to reform the scandal-marred Vatican bank. Her daughter, Elizabeth Lev, is a Rome-based art historian and columnist for the Legion-run Zenit news agency, which Williams published for over a decade while he was in the order.
Williams, a moral theologian, author, lecturer and U.S. television personality, admitted last year that he had fathered a child several years earlier.
At the time, Williams apologized for “this grave transgression” against his vows of celibacy and said he had stayed on as a priest because he hoped to move beyond “this sin in my past” to do good work for the church. The Legion’s retired superior later admitted he had learned about the child in 2005 but allowed Williams to keep teaching and preaching about morality.
After taking a year off for reflection, Williams left the priesthood in May to care for his son. According to their wedding registry, he and Lev are due to marry on Saturday in the United States.
Asked for comment Thursday, Lev confirmed the wedding plans in an email, adding: “We have no intention of ever discussing our personal life in this forum.”
She had initially denied an intimate relationship with Williams, though they frequently appeared together in American circles in Rome, particularly with visiting U.S. student and Catholic tour groups.
Their wedding closes a circle of sorts, even as it raises some uncomfortable questions: Who beyond Williams’ superior in the church knew about the child while the couple tried to cover it up? Was Williams already in a relationship with Lev when she was hired at the magazine he published? And did the family ties to Williams influence Glendon in her defense of the Legion and its disgraced founder despite credible reports that the founder was a pedophile?
The saga of the Legion of Christ represents one of the most egregious examples of how the Vatican ignored decades of reports about sexually abusive priests as church leaders put the interests of the institution above those of the victims.
The Rev. Marciel Maciel founded the cult-like Legion in 1941 in Mexico and oversaw its growth into a large and prominent congregation despite credible reports that he was a drug addict and child molester. After Maciel’s death in 2008, the Legion admitted that he fathered three children and sexually abused his seminarians.
In 2010, the Vatican took over the order and a papal delegate has been overseeing a reform and “purification.” In January, the Legion will elect a new leadership and approve a new set of constitutions.
The Legion scandal has been particularly damaging to the Vatican because Maciel was held up by Pope John Paul II and his cardinals as a model for the faithful, with the order admired for its orthodoxy and ability to bring in money and new priests.
Like all Legion priests, Williams had been a staunch defender of Maciel. When Maciel’s double life became public in 2009, Williams told the Catholic ETWN program that the revelations were a “very, very hard blow to all of us.”
Until he left active ministry, Williams was the most publicly prominent priest in the 900-strong order. He is the author of such books as 2008’s “Knowing Right From Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience,” and was a commentator for the U.S. broadcaster CBS. He was the superior of the Legion’s general directorate in Rome in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
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