Vatican’s chief auditor oversees reform of the Legion

The Vatican today announced the name of the long-awaited delegate to the Legionaries of Christ. Archbishop Velasio de Paolis, an Italian, has been chosen as the man to reform the Legionaries of Christ in the wake of a five-pronged Vatican visitation.

Archbishop de Paolis is an expert canon lawyer who taught at the Greg and Pontifical Urban University.

He is the president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See and is described as the Vatican’s chief auditor which should make him a safe hand in dealing with the Legion’s money issues. The Legion is said to have assets of around 25 billion euros and an annual budget of $650 million.

Archbishop de Paolis had been in the running for the post for a couple of weeks after the Vatican-watcher Andrea Tornielli tipped him. Tornielli described him as a close friend of the Vatican’s Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone .

The new delegate appears to have made a favourable impression on various (often opposing) camps in the Church, from the Catholic French magazine Golias, which described Archbishop de Paolis as an “ideological moderate” who is a “total stranger to the clans in the Curia”, to Edward Peters, an American canon lawyer who describes the new appointee as “an inspired choice”.

After the order’s founder, Fr Marcial Maciel, died in disgrace in Florida in 2008, the extent of his criminal behaviour has slowly begun to emerge. He fathered at least one child, used multiple personas and abused minor seminarians. The Legion in April disassociated itself from Fr Maciel and acknowledged his wrong-doing.

Five papally appointed visitators inspected the Legion across the world for six months and made their report to the Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone and Pope Benedict. The Pope then announced he would appoint a delegate who would replace the Legion’s current leader, Fr Álvaro Corcuera Martínez del Río, to sweep the order clean. Some people had hoped the order would be suppressed and dissolved.

Among the other allegations against the Legion’s disgraced founder is the suggestion that Fr Maciel also used money to gain influence in the Vatican.

According to two damaging reports (here and here) in the National Catholic Reporter by Jason Berry, senior Vatican officials took large sums of money and gifts in exchange for votes of confidence, influence and support in the Vatican against the Legion’s detractors.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Pope John Paul II’s secretary of state, is most implicated by these reports. According to Berry, Cardinal Sodano tried to block a CDF investigation into allegations about sexual abuse perpetrated by Fr Maciel on ex-Legionaries.

An interesting side-note: Cardinal Sodano ordained Archbishop de Paolis as bishop.

Read my fellow blogger Dr William Oddie on why Cardinal Sodano is a disaster waiting to happen.