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Legion of Christ Priest Admits to Fathering Child, Violating Celibacy Vows

legion of christ father thomas williams

The Legion of Christ, a Catholic religious order, has been struggling to recover from allegations of pedophilia and indiscretions resulting in the birth of at least one and as many as six children to its founding priest (a scandal brought to light in 2009), and new revelations have again thrust the order into the spotlight for unflattering reasons.

Legion of Christ founder Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado had long been beset by scandal in his life, with bouts of drug abuse and sexual molestation allegations marking the priest’s later years. Degollado died in 2008, and by 2009 had been formally sanctioned by the church for his indiscretions. Two years ago, the Vatican slammed the Legion of Christ founder for “very serious and objectively immoral acts” that had been “confirmed by incontrovertible testimonies” and allowed the fallen clergyman to engage in abusive behaviors through a “system of power” of his own creation.

The Legion of Christ scandal was called to mind today when a prominent priest of the order, Fr. Thomas Williams, LC, ThD, admitted he too had fathered a child, breaking his vows of celibacy. Williams was a face of the Catholic Church in the media, often speaking on news stations about continuing scandals within the Church regarding sexual abuse and impropriety.

On news of his own indiscretions, Fr. William said he would be taking a year-long break from his duties and confirmed that he was “deeply sorry for this grave transgression” in breaking his vows of celibacy. In a statement, Fr. Williams said:

“A number of years ago I had a relationship with a woman and fathered her child. I am deeply sorry for this grave transgression and have tried to make amends. My superiors and I have decided it would be best for me to take a year without active public ministry to reflect on the wrong I have done and my commitments as a priest. 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.”

The unfolding scandal has struck another blow to the Legion of Christ, a group some have described as having cult-like qualities.

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  3. Judy Block-Jones

    Statement by Barbara Blaine, SNAP President (312.399.4747, bblaine@snapnetwork.org).

    Reuters is reporting that a top Vatican official has kept silent for months about a high profile Catholic priest's fathering a child.

    Will Catholic officials ever start being more honest and prompt about clergy sex crimes and misdeeds?

    The Vatican official is Spanish Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, who was appointed two years ago by Pope Benedict to oversee the Legion of Christ. Yesterday, the Legion's most prominent priest, Fr. Thomas D. Williams, admitted he had an "affair" and fathered a child which neither he nor his Legion supervisors are financially supporting.

    It's important to remember that Fr. Williams is also accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with.
    –college students in Rome, and.
    –the daughter of a prominent US Catholic figure.

    And it's important to remember that the Legion.
    –has a long, sordid history of secrecy about clergy sex crimes and misdeeds, and.
    –claims a recent "investigation" found that seven Legion priests are accused of molesting kids.

    (We strongly suspect that's a lie. We believe it's very likely that most of these allegations were reported directly to Legion officials, not discovered through some "investigation." And we suspect that, like with Fr. Williams, top Legion staffers have known for months or years about many of these accusations but have kept them hidden.)

    Finally, Fr. Williams' own comments on this scandal bear mentioning.

    He apologizes for the news getting out – "I am truly sorry to everyone who is hurt by this revelation" – but not for the harm he's caused to his child (who's growing up with apparently no emotional support – or at least honesty – from his or her father and no financial support from his or her father or the wealthy Catholic institution that pay him).

    And Fr. Williams still refuses to accept responsibility for the child, writing about "respect for the privacy of the woman and her child."

    In short, the Legion is – and has long been – perhaps the most secretive and corrupt Catholic religious order in the world. It's officials should publicly discipline Fr. Williams. And those who have seen, suspected and suffered clergy sexual misconduct by current and former Legion employees should step forward, get help, call police, expose wrongdoing, protect others and start healing.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511.
    snapjudy@gmail.com
    (SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims.
    SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org).