Sad Time for Legionaries of Christ


The Legionaries of Christ are having themselves a week they’d soon like to forget. It has long been rumored that their founder Marcial Maciel was in fact accused of several accusations including the following with a hat tip to the Life after Regnum Christi blog:

* Maciel fathered a child who is now in her early 20’s;

* Maciel offered some money illicitly to his own family;

* The current head, Alvaro Corcuera, entertaining his own suspicions, demanded that the case be reopened several years ago;

* Maciel had numerous accusations against him for paedophilia, beginning with his earliest recruits (none of whome were ever ordained);

* Early companions of Maciel recount several affairs with women with details reaching back to the 1950’s;

* Maciel has been accused of extensive drug problems;

* The rank and file were recruited for their connexions, money, and sincere zeal for souls.

In short, oh brother. Amy Welborn who is always fair in her judgments of such matters has an excellent take on most of the proceedings.

Serious problems have surfaced in relationship to the group, both present and past. Financial questions. Questions of formation. There is much, much to be concerned about, concerns voiced by many observers and several bishops, most notably Archbishop O’Brien of Baltimore, who stepped in and requested complete transparency from LC and RC regarding their apostolates in his see last year.

We should note, in retelling this story, that the charges against Maciel apparently had no traction at the Vatican, for whatever reason, until Benedict XVI became Pope. In May, 2006, Maciel was ordered to retire to a life of prayer and penance. Here is the text of the communique, which was intermidably parsed here and other places, but whose meaning is hard to escape.

There are, indeed, good people associated with LC and RC – many of us reading this blog know them. They need our prayers and great strength – the strength that any and all of us need when we have been deceived in the name of God.

That said, the book on this affair will be long and complex. Torturous, in fact. There will undoubtedly need to be several volumes.

The news coming out now is sketchy and incomplete. The word is that the leadership is admitting that Maciel fathered at least one child, perhaps two. Some sources are saying that the leadership is admitting the veracity of the previous accusations, as well, but that is fuzzy to me at this point. Over the past few days, various parties and groups have been informed of this. After the question of the accusations against Maciel himself, the huge question waiting to be unraveled, but extraordinarily difficult to do because of the group’s obsession with secrecy, is the awareness of the LC leadership of all of this over the years.

The third question is that if the leadership is admitting the truth of the bulk of the many accusations against Maciel…will the victims, long vilified by the movement and its defenders…receive an apology?

Indeed that is my question as well. If the founder is guilty –and it looks like he obviously is–then what does that mean not only to his legacy but to the future of the order? As Welborn also notes above this is a blight on the Papacy of John Paul II as well as it seems that he or at the very least, his senior aides, didn’t believe that the accusations could be true.

Much was made of the Legion’s “secrecy pledge” that they required of faculty at Atlanta’s Donnellan School which led to many staff firings and resignations. Coercion and outright hostility towards perceived enemies seemingly has followed the Legion wherever it goes.

However, Welborn makes a good point when she says:

What is the appeal of Regnum Christi and its apostolates in the United States? The appeal may be negative in some ways, but those I have met who have been drawn to it are thirsting for solid faith content. They know that their children live in a challenging world and have no confidence in what passes for catechesis in the parish or even in many Catholic schools to equip them for that world. They do not see these programs or liturgies seriously oriented toward bringing those participating into a deep, committed relationship with Christ.

So something substantive appears…it appeals.

But this problem is also systemic in its very nature. We leave religious education in most parishes in the hands of willing volunteeers, without much (or any) proper training or assurance that they know even the basic tenets of the faith at all. (My 5th grade CCD teacher didn’t know how to look up a bible verse!). We also give parents little training in passing along the faith and with Generation X parents we need to give them a remedial Catechetical course so that they have some sense of a tradition to pass on because in many cases nothing was transmitted to them in terms of faith information at all.

But what of the more traditional orders who teach the basics well but perhaps act somewhat judgmental towards others, cover up their own sins to make them seem above the fray and often simply seem to be unstable or unhealthy? And what of the other extreme? Where almost nothing in tradition is transmitted, everyone’s sins are often minimized and while care for the poor is often espoused as a central element of the faith not much connection to Jesus, much less Catholicism is often coupled to it?

It strikes me that a more centrist view is needed. Community AND contemplation, a vertical relationship between us and God needs to be joined with a horizontal relationship with the community. Traditional devotions like the rosary and eucharistic adoration need to be coupled with discernment so as to ask greater questions:

What do these devotions empower you to do? What does your knowledge of Catholic tradition mean for you in your everyday life? How will you live now knowing Jesus more intimately?

It seems to me that this is what the good men and women who have dedicated their lives in religious profession do well. They come from all walks of life. There are great members of the Legion but also great Jesuits, Paulists and Redemptorists. Great women exist in Opus Dei who bring others to Christ and great women in the Sisters of St. Joseph. Diocesan officials who have healed marriages and educated children well and other officials who have let marriages fail and children go uneducated too. All have different approaches to be sure, but in all these various “faith journeys” individuals have cared for souls in great ways.

Unfortunately, we have the best and worst in all our traditions–just like everywhere else. It is up to our own judgments to seek the best of our tradition and to associate ourselves with what seems healthy, true and Christ-like.

We’ve all had good and bad math teachers, co-workers and Presidents. Why should our religion be any different.

Prayers today for all good religious educators, The Legion and the victims of abuse who have suffered for so long. And for all of us who try to bring people closer to God.

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