Catholic seminary head resigns over fatherhood scandal

Catholic seminary head resigns over fatherhood scandal

Father Oscar Turrion,  above, head of the Rome seminary of the Legionaries of Christ, is to leave the priesthood after it was revealed last week that he had fathered two children.

The order said in a statement late on Friday that Turrion would would no longer serve as a priest. It also released a letter by Turrion in which he asks:

Forgiveness for the scandal … forgiveness for my bad example and the negative witness I have given.

The Legionaries is a conservative order of Roman Catholic priests. Turrion was rector of the Pontifical International College Maria Mater Ecclesiae, a seminary for men in the order studying for the priesthood in pontifical universities in Rome.

The Legionaries said Turrion, a 49-year-old Spaniard, told his superiors in March that he had just had a daughter. A new rector was appointed and Turrion was ordered not to practice his ministry publicly.

On Thursday Turrion acknowledged that he had previously had a son with the same woman several years ago, the order said. This meant he had a secret family while he was head of the seminary.

In his letter, Turrion said he did not come clean earlier “out of weakness and shame” and that he had not used any of the seminary’s money, supporting his family with donations from friends.

He said he had “lost his grounding” and fell in love with a woman during the period of turmoil that hit the order when revelations about its founder, the Rev Marcial Maciel Degollado, came to light between 2006 and 2014.

Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, greets Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square in 2000. (CNS/Catholic Press Photo)

Maciel founded the order in Mexico in 1941 and for decades the Vatican dismissed accusations by seminarians that he had abused them sexually, some when they were as young as 12.

The order was run like a cult, former members said, with rules forbidding any criticism of the founder or questioning his motives.

Maciel enjoyed the support of the late Pope John Paul II and was spared official censure for years despite what critics say was overwhelming proof of his crimes.

In 2006, a year after John Paul’s death, a Vatican investigation concluded that the previously denied accusations of molestation were true. Pope Benedict ordered Maciel to retire to a life of “prayer and penitence.”

After Maciel’s death in 2008, Vatican investigations found that he had also fathered several children with at least two women, visited them regularly and sent them money. He also used drugs.

The Vatican appointed a commissioner to run the order and phase in a new leadership, rejecting suggestions from critics that it be suppressed. New constitutions for the order were approved in 2014 but the Vatican still has a special representative in its leadership.

Turrion’s case was very similar to that of Thomas Williams, a former Legionaries member who left the priesthood in 2013 after it was discovered that he had fathered a child with the daughter of the former US ambassador to the Vatican.

Williams, an American moral theologian, kept his family secret while continuing to teach at the Legionaries university in Rome, appearing often on US television.

11 responses to “Catholic seminary head resigns over fatherhood scandal”

  1. CoastalMaineBird says:

    forgiveness for my bad example and the negative witness I have given.
    And, for the crime of falling in love with a woman, he will be shamed for all his days.
    Will you be a true father to your children? Not so far, but now that you have been stripped of your veil of ignorance, will you open your eyes and see, or retreat in imposed shame?

  2. Laura Roberts says:

    Yep, if he’d buggered children instead, he’d still have a long career ahead of him. What was he thinking?

  3. Stephen Mynett says:

    I am sure we all know couple who have never bothered to marry for whatever reason who have done all they could for their children. Decent normal people but to the church totally immoral because they do not follow a book of crap myths.

    In computing we have Moore’s Law, that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. The church could have something similar, regarding the number of hypocritical, bigoted and molesting priests getting found out, although the numbers would be a lot greater than doubling every two years.

  4. Broga says:

    The RCC is such a cruel, pitiless outfit while whining about love and forgiveness.

  5. Tee says:

    The only good spin I can put on this is at least the RCC don’t stone or hang those who wander off the righteous path of blind obedience to their god.

  6. Brian Jordan says:

    I gather nuns have to do the chastity thing but I thought priests only had to be celibate. (So there wouldn’t be wives after a share of the priest’s property that the RCC laid claim to.)

  7. Broga says:

    Brian Jordan : I think the Party line is that priests are celibate and don’t marry so that they can focus all their energy on the work of the church.

    The reality, as is obvious from experience, is that the attempted enforcement of celibacy means that they cannot stop thinking and fantasising about shagging women or, tragically, sexually molesting children.

  8. StephenJP says:

    Membership of a cult within a cult. Isn’t the original RCC scam enough? Why join a subset of the mother church? Surely it cannot be that he saw what the founder was able to get away with, once he had Pope Ringo’s protection?

  9. Robster says:

    The Vatican and its various overseas outposts should run a competition of some sort, like “Try to locate an honest clergy, an innocent priestly type or even a moral monsignor”. It could run for an eternity, no prizes needed.

  10. gedediah says:

    Head of seminary inseminates woman. Sorry, I’ll get my coat.

    Wonder how his kids will feel about him apologising for their existance?

  11. bendigeiduran says:

    As Jesus said,’those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
    As Paul said,’ he who does not marry … does better.’
    And Jesus again,’If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
    One of the main problems with revealed religions is that good people who actually believe the stuff have a go at something really difficult, quite unnecessary and really, really odd. Then they find they can’t manage it, find themselves banjaxed and also that they have banjaxed others. And there is no god at all helping them.
    We must feel some pity. The clergy are victims too.
    Remember Dan Dennett’s