A priest holds a crucifix while waiting for a sign of smoke in St. Peter's Square on March 12, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Hide Caption

Disgraced priest Thomas Williams to wed pope adviser's daughter who also gave birth to his child

a a a a
Share this story

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Thomas Williams, the onetime public face of the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order who left the priesthood after admitting he fathered a child, is getting married this weekend to the child's mother, The Associated Press has learned. The bride is the daughter of former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, one of Pope Francis' top advisers.

Glendon, a Harvard University law professor, is one of the highest-ranking women at the Vatican as president of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences. She is also one of five people on Francis' commission to reform the scandal-marred Vatican bank. Her daughter, Elizabeth Lev, is a Rome-based art historian and columnist for the Legion-run Zenit news agency, which Williams published for over a decade while he was in the order.

Williams, a moral theologian, author, lecturer and U.S. television personality, admitted last year that he had fathered a child several years earlier.

At the time, Williams apologized for "this grave transgression" against his vows of celibacy and said he had stayed on as a priest because he hoped to move beyond "this sin in my past" to do good work for the church. The Legion's retired superior later admitted he had learned about the child in 2005 but allowed Williams to keep teaching and preaching about morality.

After taking a year off for reflection, Williams left the priesthood in May to care for his son. According to their wedding registry, he and Lev are due to marry on Saturday in the United States.

Asked for comment Thursday, Lev confirmed the wedding plans in an email, adding: "We have no intention of ever discussing our personal life in this forum."

She had initially denied an intimate relationship with Williams, though they frequently appeared together in American circles in Rome, particularly with visiting U.S. student and Catholic tour groups.

Their wedding closes a circle of sorts, even as it raises some uncomfortable questions: Who beyond Williams' superior in the church knew about the child while the couple tried to cover it up? Was Williams already in a relationship with Lev when she was hired at the magazine he published? And did the family ties to Williams influence Glendon in her defense of the Legion and its disgraced founder despite credible reports that the founder was a pedophile?

The saga of the Legion of Christ represents one of the most egregious examples of how the Vatican ignored decades of reports about sexually abusive priests as church leaders put the interests of the institution above those of the victims.

The Rev. Marciel Maciel founded the cult-like Legion in 1941 in Mexico and oversaw its growth into a large and prominent congregation despite credible reports that he was a drug addict and child molester. After Maciel's death in 2008, the Legion admitted that he fathered three children and sexually abused his seminarians.

In 2010, the Vatican took over the order and a papal delegate has been overseeing a reform and "purification." In January, the Legion will elect a new leadership and approve a new set of constitutions.

The Legion scandal has been particularly damaging to the Vatican because Maciel was held up by Pope John Paul II and his cardinals as a model for the faithful, with the order admired for its orthodoxy and ability to bring in money and new priests.

Like all Legion priests, Williams had been a staunch defender of Maciel. When Maciel's double life became public in 2009, Williams told the Catholic ETWN program that the revelations were a "very, very hard blow to all of us."

Until he left active ministry, Williams was the most publicly prominent priest in the 900-strong order. He is the author of such books as 2008's "Knowing Right From Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience," and was a commentator for the U.S. broadcaster CBS. He was the superior of the Legion's general directorate in Rome in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

---

Follow Nicole Winfield at HTTP://WWW.TWITTER.COM/NWINFIELD

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Print this article

Comments

Hmm... It looks like you’re not a WCPO Insider. or Subscribe now to contribute!

More Religion News
On Easter, Pope calls faithful to expand faith
On Easter, Pope calls faithful to expand faith

Pope Francis baptized 10 people Saturday and urged them to bring their faith "to the ends of the Earth" as he presided over an…

Holy fire ceremony draws thousands to Jerusalem
Holy fire ceremony draws thousands to Jerusalem

The dark hall inside Christianity's holiest shrine was illuminated with the flames from thousands of candles on Saturday as worshippers…

VIDEO: Obama calls Easter time for hope, renewal
VIDEO: Obama calls Easter time for hope, renewal

President Barack Obama is encouraging Americans to draw strength and inspiration from the Easter and Passover holidays.

LifeSpring Christian: 3 churches, one mission
LifeSpring Christian: 3 churches, one mission

In this week's "Where We Pray," learn about a local church that combines the mission and resources of a large congregation with…

Living on beans & rice to fight heroin & poverty
Living on beans & rice to fight heroin & poverty

Last year, Crossroads raised $377,000 to help kids in Cincinnati. This year, they're hoping for more to help combat the local heroin epidemic.

Pope leads torch-lit Good Friday procession
Pope leads torch-lit Good Friday procession

Pope Francis is presiding over a torch-lit Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum marking Good Friday in Rome.

Family 'prays steps' to show love of their son
Family 'prays steps' to show love of their son

Maria and Christi O’Brien, a couple from Morrow, plan to carry their health-challenged young son up the 98 steps at…

Christians mark Good Friday in the Holy Land
Christians mark Good Friday in the Holy Land

Christians in the Holy Land are commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in Good Friday prayers and processions through Jerusalem's…

Pope washes feet of elderly, disabled in ritual
Pope washes feet of elderly, disabled in ritual

Pope Francis has washed the feet of 12 elderly and disabled people - women and non-Catholics among them - in a pre-Easter ritual designed to…

Local Jewish leaders on mission of safety
Local Jewish leaders on mission of safety

As the nation struggles to cope with the shooting deaths of three people at a Kansas City Jewish community center and retirement complex,…