The Legion of Christ religious order, still reeling from 2009 revelations that its late founder was a pedophile who fathered three children, was hit Tuesday by another scandal after its most well-known priest admitted he fathered a child several years ago.
The Rev. Thomas Williams, a moral theologian and prominent American author, lecturer and television personality, said in a statement he was "deeply sorry for this grave transgression" against his vows of celibacy. He said he would be taking a year off to reflect on what he had done and his commitment to the priesthood.
The Legion early today admitted that it knew Williams had fathered a child several years ago yet didn't remove him from teaching morality to seminarians and speaking publicly about ethics and other church issues.
In a statement, the Legion said it was sorry it hadn't acted "earlier and more firmly" to remove Williams from his very public ministry. It said it took responsibility for the lapse, but it didn't reveal exactly when its superiors learned of his child.
Williams' admission was issued after the Associated Press last week presented the Legion with the allegation against Williams, which was lodged by a Spanish association of Legion victims. The association's accusations, sent to the Legion and Vatican several weeks ago, also named other Legion priests accused of sexually abusing minors.
Williams, who was not accused of abuse, said that "a number of years ago" he had a relationship with a woman and fathered her child. He didn't identify the mother.
The Legion has been beset by scandal following revelations that its late founder, the Rev. Marciel Maciel, fathered three children with two women and sexually abused his seminarians. Maciel died in 2008, and in 2009 the Legion admitted to his crimes. Last week, the Legion admitted that seven of its priests were under investigation by the Vatican for allegedly sexually abusing minors.