The Legion of Christ religious order, already discredited for concealing the crimes of its pedophile founder, suffered another blow to its credibility Tuesday after its superior admitted he knew in 2005 that his most prominent priest had fathered a child, yet allowed him to keep teaching and preaching about morality.
The admission by the Rev. Alvaro Corcuera is likely to enrage members of the Legion and its lay branch who have endured years of apologies, hypocrisy and explanations for the crimes of the Catholic order's founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, who sexually abused his seminarians and fathered three children with two women.
The Rev. Thomas Williams, the public face of the Legion in America, admitted last week that he had violated his vow of celibacy and fathered a child several years ago, going public with a statement after the Associated Press presented the Legion with the accusation.
Tuesday, Corcuera wrote a letter to Legion members admitting that he had heard rumors of the child before he became superior in 2005 but took Williams' word that they were false. Williams is a well-known U.S. television personality, author and moral theologian.
Corcuera said that after becoming the Legion's superior in 2005, he confirmed Williams' paternity and asked him to withdraw from public ministry. Yet he did nothing to prevent him from teaching morality to seminarians or preaching about ethics on television, in his many speaking engagements or in his 14 books, including "Knowing Right from Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience."
Williams remained dean of the theology department at the Legion's university in Rome until 2007 -- two years after Corcuera knew about the child. As chancellor of the university, Corcuera could have ousted him, yet Williams taught theology up until this past February when he was removed.
Corcuera said he placed restrictions on Williams' ministry in 2010, but as recently as last month Williams was the keynote speaker at a Legion-affiliated women's conference in Rhode Island and was scheduled to speak at another conference in October in Michigan.
In his letter Tuesday, Corcuera admitted that he "was not diligent in setting proper restrictions and enforcing them."
In a statement Tuesday, Williams said he had resisted Corcuera's encouragement to keep a low profile, saying he had hoped to move beyond the child -- "this sin in my past" -- to do good work for the church.
"I foolishly thought that I had left this sin in my past, and that I could make up for some of the wrong I had done by doing the greatest good possible with the gifts God has given me," Williams wrote in an email to Legion members that was obtained by the AP. "This was an error in judgment, and yet another thing I must ask your forgiveness for."