Announced in a letter by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Posted on the order's Web site, that letter said the pontiff had decided to intervene "so that with truth and transparency, in a climate of fraternal and constructive dialogue, you will overcome the present difficulties."
The investigation is unusual and results from events preceding and following the February disclosure by Legionaries of Christ officials in Rome that the order's founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, had fathered a child. Maciel had previously been credibly accused of sexually abusing young seminarians in the order. There are concerns about cult-like behavior, bolstered recently by publication of one of the order's manuals. And there are concerns about financial irregularities.
Apostolic visitation is a form of internal church investigation ordered by a pope and undertaken by his delegate or delegates. The pope sets the jurisdiction and powers of the visitation, which usually ends with the submission of a report to the Holy See.
As Cath News argued some time ago, Vatican intervention is required because "the current Mexican leadership of the Legionaries is not up to the challenge of dissociating the organisation from the sexual and financial wrongdoings of the founder."
As we have suggested since February, Maciel's history of predation and cult leadership style inevitably shaped the order's culture. An outside investigation is required.
The letter announcing the visitation to the Legionaires of Christ is here, on the order's web site.