Fallout: Zenit Editorial Staff Resign As Legionaries of Christ Claim Control

There have been some big changes at Zenit:

Zenit news service’s six editors resigned their positions Oct. 7, citing their disagreement with the Legionaries of Christ’s plans to increase the outlet’s ties to the order.

In a statement signed by the six editors, and addressed to Zenit readers, the editors state, “After years of fruitful collaboration with the Legionaries of Christ, we disagree with the decision of the congregation to underline the institutional dependence of the agency on the Legion.

“The initial vision of ZENIT was never to make it a service of a particular congregation, but rather of the universal Church. This has been the spirit with which we have worked throughout the years, and the spirit we could not betray.” (EWTN)

For the other side of the story, OSV editor John Norton talked to Legionary of Christ Fr. Thomas Williams who served as the publisher of Zenit until recently.

I remember being uneasy about how many organizations the Legion supported or controlled (such as the National Catholic Register) without making that association fully public — or at least not making any particular effort to make the association better known among their Catholic readers and those they served.

On the news outlet front, in January of this year the Legion sold the National Catholic Register (to EWTN) after running it for over 15 years. They also have sold Faith and Family Magazine.

The fact that the Legion controlled several important news outlets made it more difficult, I believe, for accurate news about Fr. Maciel to be made public once his transgressions were known, which is one of the reasons I took an active role in reporting what other Catholic outlets were not keeping up with the news.

Evidently the former editor of Zenit, Jesus Colina agreed about this:

OSV: One of the reasons Colina cites for his loss of trust [in the Legion] is “the manner in which the Legion of Christ hid the information about Father Marcial Maciel,” and he cites particularly the homily at a Legion Mass a month after Father Maciel’s death in which the homilist (whom he doesn’t name) continued to hold out the Legion founder as a role model, despite the fact that at that point, Legion leadership surely knew about his double-life and moral depravity.

I could see how that episode would particularly sting a reporter and editor. If memory serves, reporters at the National Catholic Register were also not given the news about Maciel directly and promptly, undermining their ability to work as informed journalists (I should add that since the Legion relinquished control of the National Catholic Register I have been impressed and continue to rely on their reporting).

Nonetheless, I am glad to see that the Legion is becoming more transparent about their involvement in Zenit, even if it clearly prompted their entire editorial staff to sever ties. Transparency is a good thing. Aside from Legion-related stories, I’ve found Zenit reporting to be useful and fair over the years. But of course I am also concerned about the future quality of Zenit coverage now that its entire editorial staff has resigned.

The original founder of Zenit, Jesus Colina, is starting a new Catholic media venture, and some of his former editors are following him (I’ll post more details about that new venture when I find them).

We need good Catholic media, especially to counter the efforts of heterodox Catholic publications (such as the National Catholic Reporter) to confuse the faithful — so please continue to pray for Zenit and whatever new Catholic media ventures are launched in the future by its former editors, that they remain faithful to their mission to be reliable and transparent sources of Catholic news.





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