Dec 6, 2013

Legionaries confirm abuse allegation against retired priest


 

REGIONAL

 

By Catholic News Service
(CNS file photo/Paul Haring)

 

 

CHESHIRE, Conn. (CNS) -- The Legionaries of Christ confirmed an allegation of sexual abuse against a retired member of the order, Father William Izquierdo (pictured at right).

"After reviewing the information, we have no reason to doubt that sexual abuse with a minor actually occurred," said Father Luis Garza, North American territorial director of the order, in a Dec. 5 statement. The victim of the abuse was a minor novice for the order at the Legionaries' novitiate in Cheshire while Father Izquierdo was responsible for their spiritual development.

"I want to express my deep sorrow for the suffering endured by anyone as a result of Father Izquierdo's actions," Father Garza added. "My prayers are with them as well as our every effort to provide healing for the psychological and spiritual wounds endured. As painful as this revelation is, I feel it is a necessary step in the healing process and in the protection of those under our care and guidance."

Father Izquierdo, 85, has not exercised priestly ministry since 2008, according to the Legionaries. His health "has been very poor for some time ... has declined greatly and is now in an advanced state of dementia," said the order's statement. "He is and was unable to respond to questions about the allegations." He is being moved to an assisted living facility to receive treatment.

"Despite his health and diminishing cognitive capacities, I believe it is necessary to inform you, my brother priests and religious, about this case," Father Garza told other members of the order. "First, because we place a high moral value on ensuring any victim knows that he will be listened to and cared for with compassion. Second, we believe that this may also provide relief to others who might have suffered similarly and will allow them to come forward."

The allegation first came to the order's attention in 2012, according to the statement. Father Garza added the Legionaries had recently received another allegation of sexual abuse against Father Izquierdo that will be investigated.

The statement said the news about Father Izquierdo was being released "in keeping with the Legion of Christ's commitment to safe environments for all its members." The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been informed of the case, the order said.

A former member of the Legionaries told Catholic News Service that Father Izquierdo had been for a number years the instructor of novices -- the term the Legionaries use for novice master -- in Dublin before taking the same post in Cheshire. His last assignment in the United States was in Washington for about 12 years, although not with novices.

The Legionaries' treatment of clerical sexual abuse has come under scrutiny since the revelations in the mid-2000s that its founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, had sexually abused seminarians and had also fathered a child. After Father Maciel died in 2008, the Vatican ordered an apostolic visitation -- an internal church investigation -- of the Legionaries. The result of the visitation was intended to bring reforms to the order, one of which are new constitutions to be voted on during the Legionaries' general chapter in January and, if approved, sent to the Vatican.

News of the abuse by Father Izquierdo "confronts us with the painful and horrifying reality of sexual abuse of minors by members of our congregation," said the order's acting general director, Legionary Father Sylvester Heereman, in a Dec. 5 statement translated from the original Spanish.