Thursday, March 26, 2009

High points and discussion points in Archbishop Collins’ interview

Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins answered questions on Tuesday night March 24 on Salt and Light Television’s Catholic Focus about the Maciel revelations.

Some high points:

"Cardinal Ratzinger was the main one responsible for rooting this out and getting his officials to deal with this issue before he became pope, to his extraordinary credit, for the good of the Church."

Very much so. Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, has acted deliberately over more than four years in the matter of Father Maciel, reopening the case as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in December 2004, concluding it in May 2006 with Maciel’s suspension as a priest, and doing away with the private Legionary vow in 2007. But if we credit Ratzinger do we inescapably debit Pope John Paul for having honored Maciel?

"The whole culture of the place seemed to be a little bit strange, very controlled, and there’s some policy issues you had in terms of who could hear whose confession and about criticism of the founder, which were very problematic in the group."

The Archbishop confirms his knowledge of other abuses in Legionary life to be investigated aside from the founder: coercive spirituality, the private vow (now abandoned after Vatican intervention) never to criticize a superior and to report on those who did, and required sacramental confession to a religious superior (a serious violation of canon law).

"I think certainly at the minimum there has to be a massive reordering of the Legionaries of Christ for the sake if nothing else of those good and true and wonderful Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi people, who have put their trust in this and have done great work for the Lord, and who have been betrayed…. there’s something not just personal in Maciel, but this whole thing needs to be looked at. It just needs to be brought to the light…. Another possibility [for the future] would be to shut it down and start anew. That’s been suggested, I don’t know if they’re going to do that."


"We’re servants of Jesus. Jesus is God. These people who are his servants must be transparent. And they must not make themselves the center."

The Archbishop calls for transparency and full disclosure of the scandal and a radical reappraisal, even abolition, of the order, open to the possibility that the approval of the Legionary constitution was not an infallible recognition of charism by the Church. In this he joins Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O’Brien and Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell.

Some other points:

"This structure set up by Maciel provided some opportunities [for Regnum Christi members to do good apostolic work]. These are the good things within the Legion. I think there’s an enormous amount of good there."


"I’d be very concerned about the structure they set up that would make it possible to live such a double life."

This inconsistency points to the larger question: how can a “fraud” have communicated a holy way of life to his institute?

"I feel very sorry especially for those wonderful good people who have sought with earnest hearts to serve in Regnum Christi and as priests of the Legion, just to serve Jesus, who have been betrayed by this."

But many of the same people enabled the abuse and perpetuated its effects on the members.

"I can’t think of any, but I’m sure there’s been a founder in the past who went off the track."

Can anyone, historian or theologian, tell us whether or not in the history of the Church there has in fact been a founder of a viable religious order as thoroughgoing a hypocrite as Father Maciel?

"There’s something unhealthy about that kind of [hero worship of the founder] at any time. We should honor great people and we canonise great people and we look to them as heroes. It’s fair enough for Jesuits to love St. Ignatius, and Dominicans to love St. Dominic, and Franciscans to love St. Francis, but there’s a limit. This is simply a saint."

In light of the Maciel scandal, what exactly should be the proper Catholic limit to adulation of a charismatic founder in other new religious movements as well?

Thanks altogether to Archbishop Collins for his cheering words.

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