Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Toronto Archbishop Collins's remarks

Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins on March 24 on Salt and Light Television’s Catholic Focus addressed the Maciel revelations in these words:

There have been real concerns about Father Maciel for years. And I have always been interested in this, because the Legionaries of Christ are quite significant in many different ways within the Church. And I’ve been trying to find out what’s been going on. This particular type of problem I’ve not been aware of. I was trying, as bishop out west, to get information on this. I had some extreme reservations about Maciel.

For other reasons, there seemed to be something wrong there. And in fact 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. So I think there’s clearly a problem there and 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.

On the other hand, people are attracted to it, good people, good young priests. I’ve met many Legionary seminarians and priests, who want a strict religious order, faithful to the Holy Father, earnest, zealous, giving their lives for Christ and I’ve met many, many, many, wonderful Legionary priests who are just doing that and in Regnum Christi, the lay movement, I’ve met with people who are there and I used to get to know them when I was out in Edmonton, who do wonderful things. Their only desire is to serve the Church, to try to be faithful and true. This structure set up by Maciel provided some opportunities to do that. These are the good things within the Legion. I think there’s an enormous amount of good there.

But as you get in towards the center there with the founder, there’s some massive problems and now about a year after his death all this comes out about how he was clearly leading a double life, there’s no denying it.

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….

I can’t think of any [precedent for a sinful founder]. You think of the great founders of orders, frequently they’re canonised; it’s the integrity of their life. But God can write straight with crooked lines. If somebody who is leading a double life and is disreputable in his own personal life can speak, love Jesus, serve the Lord, give yourself to Christ, and people respond to that, well, they respond to that, but truth be told, there’s a lie there in terms of the person’s integrity, the person’s life. But what people are responding to are things which are in themselves noble and worthy.

That’s the good thing in this whole reality. But I would be concerned not only about the problems with the founder, because that can happen -- I can’t think of any, but I’m sure there’s been a founder in the past who went off the track. The problem is if someone’s leading that kind of a double life, I’d be very concerned about the structure they set up that would make it possible to live such a double life.

So that whole thing has to be totally reviewed and cleaned up. And I would wonder too how a person could lead a double life, without the community being aware. 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….

I would say [the ones questioning their involvement in the movement] might consider leaving Regnum Christi, that would certainly be one thing, or priests in the order, good and faithful priests, I’m sure that many of them will consider leaving the order and starting fresh in an order or in the priesthood in a way that doesn’t have these real questions over it.

On the other hand, I think that the work they do is good. And the work they have done is good and they should be proud of that, but 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….

O yeah, that’s a major problem [over emphasis on the founder]. It’s a natural thing, they find somebody they think is a legitimate saint, somebody -- you read their writings, o my! this is wonderful, and you go around saying, this is only thing there is. And that’s excessive, even good people, there’s a problem there. When you get a cult of personality that’s over the top, that’s not a healthy sign. There’s something wrong there.

Even in legitimate groups where it turns out the founder is a perfectly good person, I think it’s always not a bad thing to tone down the cult of personality. Only Jesus walks on water. We have a Messiah. All of those founders who are canonised or not yet canonised saints that’s precisely their view of themselves and they look upon themselves as humble servants serving the Lord. And it’s a natural hero worship among people to go over the top in that. But it’s always dangerous in the Church when any leader is treated with that kind of approach.

They [set themselves up for a fall]. It turned out that this man was a fraud, in terms of his own life. There’s something unhealthy about that kind of a thing 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.

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….

I don’t know [where we go from here], I’ve just been learning about this in the newspapers. I don’t have any inner knowledge of what steps are being taken. I really don’t know what is being planned. There are several things that could be done. One of them would be to send in someone to take over the order, to appoint a papal representative to simply take over the order and clean it up for the sake of the good people in it who deserve to have their order fixed. So that’s one thing that could be done. Another possibility would be to shut it down and start anew. That’s been suggested, I don’t know if they’re going to do that.

Sometimes in cases like this, this is where it’s good to have the pope and to have the Holy See. When there are problems in a local area, sometimes they can fix themselves, and we hope that might be the case. Subsidiarity is one thing we have in the church where we always start with the local level first. But if they can’t fix themselves, then you go to a higher level and some way of doing that needs to be done. I don’t really know what’s being planned.


Archbishop Collins has in the past been friendly to the Legionaries both in Edmonton, where he was archbishop from 1999 – 2006, and in Toronto since then.

In January 2005 he told the Edmonton archdiocesan Western Catholic Reporter that he met regularly with Regnum Christi and that the group is doing good work in the archdiocese. "The Regnum Christi people have been most cooperative; very, very cooperative. And they are very zealous, active parishioners and I have great admiration for their work.”

The Legionaries were the subject of numerous positive accounts in the Western Catholic Reporter.

The Regnum Christi website covers his May 2007 visit visit with members of Compass, a Regnum Christi university apostolate, at the University of Toronto.

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