Thursday, April 30, 2009

Visitation Material 3: Fish Tank Education

As we contemplate the Legionaries as liberal arts educators, let’s none of us forget Father Maciel’s infamous statements in the Second General Chapter of the Legion of Christ December 1992. After referring pro forma to the primary importance of the “human and Christian formation of children and adolescents,” he admitted that the primary goal of Legionary schools and universities is “the expansion of Regnum Christi.” His cherished image for Legionary centers is “a fish producing ‘tank’ where fishermen are able to devote themselves to an intensive and unquestionably successful harvest” (“‘un estanque’ donde se cultiven los peces para que los pescadores tengan la oportunidad de dedicarse a la pesca con intensidad y con certeza de éxito.”). Now that the Legionaries have reformed and moved on, they will doubtless have purified themselves of their founder’s repulsive attitude, but, for the sake of students at Southern Catholic College who wish to avoid the harpoon, perhaps the apostolic visitators should ask and make sure.

The texts:

Works of apostolate of the Legion of Christ
Educational Works

333. When Our Lord God gave us the opportunity to begin our primary apostolic work, in 1954, we opted to start an educational center. From that moment I clearly saw that this would be the path that God set out for us. First and foremost its primary importance was, is and will be in the human and Christian formation of children and adolescents. Secondly, this would allow us to be in contact with a wide range of people — through the relationships with parents and teachers — which would serve to form and bring into the apostolate lay Catholics. I was thinking especially, as we look back now, about Catholic leaders. For this reason we launched the Cumbres Institute rather than a poor little neighborhood school which would have been a much more simple and manageable affair. Thirdly, I was convinced that these schools would become an important source for vocations for the Movement and for the priesthood. Lastly, I was also thinking about the economic support these institutions would be able to offer for the maintenance of the congregation's houses of formation.

341. I hope that in this way the image I have always cherished of our apostolate centers becomes a reality: a fish producing “tank” where fishermen are able to devote themselves to an intensive and unquestionably successful harvest. («un estanque» donde se cultiven los peces para que los pescadores tengan la oportunidad de dedicarse a la pesca con intensidad y con certeza de éxito.)

343. Therefore, let us consider one my greatest concerns as founder — that of our educational projects. I have discussed this many times and perhaps things are improving somewhat, but it still pains me to see that our schools and universities are not fulfilling their primary goal: the expansion of Regnum Christi, especially through the recruitment of leaders and the cultivation of vocations for the Legion and for the consecrated life of the Movement.

344. Allow me to take advantage of this exceptional opportunity the General Chapter has offered me to once again insist on this: the meaning and goals of our schools — like all apostolic work of the legion and the Movement — must not be worn down by operating solely as teaching facilities. They will not accomplish their true goal in God’s plan for us if they do not bring a large number of students, parents, family members of students and teachers into Regnum Christi. I have said it many times: for us these schools serve primarily as an open means of recruitment and of the recruitment of leaders.

Legionary expansion has always been “fist to mouth”

The March 18, 2009 remarks of Legionary Director of Vocations, Rev. Anthony Bannon, on a teleconference with donors are evidence for Legionary attitudes to money and expansion that put their potential acquiring Southern Catholic College in an interesting light.

His remarks:

We’re faced with the challenge that results from the present economic situation, world wide and here in the US. Many of our constant supporters are themselves facing immense difficulties in balancing their own budgets and meeting their own commitments. They’re always giving to us from their generosity, a lot on fixed incomes and doing so heroically. All of us are facing difficult times… There’s an immediate effect in the ability of our most fervent and constant supporters to continue that support.

We’re finding that and we know it’s not a decrease in any interest in what we’re doing, but it’s the reality around us. If any of you listening have ideas for us or know avenues to find the support that we need, we’d be very grateful in knowing about that, if anyone is in a position to help in an increasing way, that of course would also be of very great help to us.

The seminarians continue themselves doing a lot of the work in our formation houses, a lot of the maintenance, a lot of the cleaning of the house, a lot of care of the gardens, but then there are so many that we get a good amount donated food in several of the seminaries. We keep on doing all those things to stretch the help that you give us as much as possible, but the challenge is definitely greater than what it was before.

We were blessed that the price of oil came down a bit, because we were facing in our seminarians an impossible situation really at the beginning of winter, but the prices did fall back a little bit, so that wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be, although it still is quite bad, quite a challenge for us.

We have at the same time been expanding. If we were just in Cheshire, just had the number of novices we had some years ago, if we hadn’t had to start off philosophy and theology down in New York, we wouldn’t be doing too bad, but it’s because of expansion, because of what that has meant to us in rising costs, upgrading our buildings, that expansion, that’s where our problems are, so we’ve had to go into debt, because of our development and gaining that debt now is quite a challenge.

Since we were started, it has been divine providence that has kept us going, and divine providence has not been expressing itself in miraculous money appearing out of nowhere, but in the miracle of the generosity that God puts in the heart of all of you who are listening to us.

We are a relatively recent congregation and we’ve been in expansion all of these years. We’ve never really caught our breath and we’ve never really reached the situation in which we know in 2008 that we had the budget for 2009, the money in the bank and ready to operate. We have been at times from fist to mouth, basically.

We don’t have a cushion but we’ve been creating programs that over time will create a cushion but these are programs that require a commitment and the money that comes in to them, like our annuities program, we can’t spend immediately. So where those are going will help us more in the future….

We’ve been cutting down to basics, down to essentials and are a little concerned about deferred maintenance in our buildings….

Friday, April 24, 2009

Legionary Visitation Material 2: Academic Incompetence

That the Legionaries now have a memorandum of understanding to buy Southern Catholic College in Dawsonville, Georgia raises a number of questions (are rumors of their access to limitless Mexican money true? the Vatican is now investigating them: have they no shame?) But the question that interests me is: what do they know about conducting a liberal arts college anyway?

It’s regrettable the Legionaries shut down the Regain discussion board with a lawsuit in 2008. The board could have served as a good supply of investigatory leads and witnesses for the apostolic visitators. But I have a good memory of what people used to post there about what terrible educators of their own the Legionaries have been.

Former Legionary Todd J. Carpunky, now a corporate and finance attorney and graduate of Florida State and Michigan Law School, wrote on the board January 22, 2004:

The Legion tells us how great our "intellectual" formation is... anyone who has attended a true "top-notch" institution can tell you that the Legion's intellectual formation doesn't even compare. Is the Legion's intellectual formation terrible? No. It's better than a lot of places. By the same token, Howard Johnsons are better than a lot of run down motels... but Howard Johnsons are not a Ritz Carlton.... If the Legion were ranked with the rest of the Universities in the world, it would be in the fourth tier (of four tiers).

A Prof. of mine in Salamanca (a Legionary) was often incorrect in his Latin. I would point it out. The Rector later told me to not correct him when he made a mistake, that he was TEACHING us. I asked the Rector what I should do... he said "just take notes and write it down even if it's wrong." There is no intellectual challenge in the Legion; there's no questioning. Things are to be taken as they are given. What kind of truly intellectual formation is that? The vast majority of Legionaries who have left tend to find out that the formation they received was subpar and irrelevant for moving on with their lives....

(Todd gave me permission to quote him by name. Other Regain board correspondents I will call by their Regain user names.)

exlc1998irish, an Irish former Legionary who had studied in Spain wrote:

The Legion tells its prospect recruits (or their families) that in the Legion they will get the best possible education, far superior than that which they would ordinarily get. This is far from the truth. While there is great intensity in the classroom and study hall, maximizing efficacy so to speak, the education received is often substandard, teachers being usually LC Brothers who haven’t even finished a degree in anything. (April 10, 2005)

exlc1998irish was frustrated when as a pre-university student in Spain he had to sit for a state literature exam without having read Celestina or knowing who Bécquer was. “Of course I failed literature because I had no idea... I was quite angry because I felt I had been given a substandard education and expected to get top marks.” (January 30, 2005; May 15, 2004)

Another former Legionary felt unprepared for graduate theology work in a US school after Legionary theology studies: he had never before so much as read, digested, or briefly reviewed a scholarly book.

Regnum Christi consecrated women were notably victimized by Legionary anti-intellectualism. lia792, a consecrated woman studying in Rhode Island, was disappointed not to be reading books, but to be learning how to demonstrate how clever we are before we try to recruit someone:

... in culture class, we learned about all kinds of writers, but we never read any of them. I can recognize the names of the famous Spanish writers, but I can't tell you what they wrote since I was never exposed to any of it. There was no place for literature in our studies. (May 14, 2005)

bigtex wrote of what she learned of how Regnum Christi taught consecrated women:

...they hadn't actually read any… books although they were aware of the titles and authors. I was confused until they explained that [their] literature class had involved memorizing the title, author, and plot summary of a long list of classics. They also memorized one sentence which summed up the moral lesson to be learned from this book. (October 11, 2005)

lia792 wrote how wide reading was disallowed:

the thing about books was that the director pretty much controlled what was allowed in the center and what wasn't, and from Rome they made the big decisions.... On an individual level, your spiritual guide decided what YOU could and couldn't read. For example, I asked permission to read the Bible from cover to cover, and that request was denied me because my spiritual guide thought it would be a waste of time to read some of the books. (May 14, 2005)

carragher, a former Regnum Christi consecrated woman, felt that when she started a university degree outside Regnum Christi

my 4 years of formation would be a good asset to my uni studies. In some ways I had an advantage, but for the most part, I really was starting from scratch.... university is all about researching and writing, is it not? Two things that we did none of in formation. I never wrote a single research paper in the whole four years I was in the 3gf. I hadn't even heard of the MLA or APA formats, didn't know how to cite works, do a bibliography, nothing academic whatsoever.... we were never taught the fundamental purpose of university: to become a critical thinker. Of course it was explained that there was no time, the sense of urgency, the mission and the souls were waiting for use to be prepared, etc. therefore there was no time to waste writing or researching because all we needed had all been said or done; we just needed to learn it, rehearse it, believe it, and regurge it. (January 29, 2005)

So too exlc1998irish:

A companion of mine, who was in the apostolic school in mexico and continued on to begin philosophy, left after ten years in the legion. He returned to mexico and had to go back to preuniversity level education to be able to enter university. He has recently graduated from university after spending last seven years in education after the Legion.... I also had to sit further pre university exams to bring myself to level necessary for entry. So not only are their educators substandard, but the level of education expected is as well. (April 10, 2005)

People wrote of their experience of Legionary anti-intellectualism in elementary schools across the country. quidquo, who had taught with a Master's at Cypress Heights Academy in Louisiana, resigned. She wrote:

They disregard everything that the teacher learned in professional training and force him or her to teach legion pedagogy. The teacher knows that the pedagogy doesn't produce strong readers, and begins to ask questions for the sake of the students. The recruiters begin to complain about the teachers "methods" to other parents because he or she is not totally compliant to the real mission of the "school." What is the real mission? The real mission is not stated to parents; the real mission is recruiting new members.... Cypress Heights, like other Legion Schools, is doing such a poor job because they put parents with no experience in charge. Powerful administrators have very little experience in the classroom, and they have no business in administration.... Their operation is corrupt. The school plays lip service to a real education. I began to wonder why they avoided teachers with high credentials. They often claim they can't afford good teachers because they have budget problems. But I have seen teachers who had good credentials, but were willing to work for the legion because they thought it was a good cause, discredited in front of parents by legion members The RC/LC operation looks wholesome and good at first look, but they are not true leaders or educators. They offer what I call a "double." It looks like it is flawless, but is deeply shallow and corrupt underneath. (March 18, 2005; July 22 and 24, 2006)

National Consultants for Education is the central authority for Legionary elementary schools. Bismarck wrote of them:

The Legion educational practice takes decision making out of the hands of even local administrators and decides what is said in morning meeting, grading policy, report card structure, textbooks, what is taught and how it is taught.... Teachers and administrators accustomed to the practice of discussion and decision making leave the Legion system. Thus Legion schools tend to have all the charm of schools in the old Soviet system. (July 24, 2006)

jeeves wrote from Highlands School about a colleague who said:

...the NCE is filled with shockingly uneducated people. They were supposed to be developing curriculum, but were in his view, stunningly disinterested in the life of mind. (May 28, 2005)

kat wrote of the "larger problems surrounding honesty and integrity" and the Legion's "unspoken agenda" :

If you don't understand this and you're not on board with their vision, then you will eventually be disillusioned and frustrated. This disillusionment happens to unsuspecting new hires -- teachers or administrators -- who come in without really understanding what's going on.... talented people won't put up with Legionary roadblocks and they will quickly figure out that the PRIMARY mission of the school may not fit in well with what they want to accomplish in their subject area or with what they are comfortable with as a professional. (August 28, 2005)

All told, there is widespread evidence that as students and educators in Humanities, the Legionaries are unprofessional, utilitarian, incompetent, and uninterested in the life of the mind. If a teacher in their schools is uncomfortable, then the Legionaries reply with their sanctimonious motto: "God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called."

Good priests need not be scholars and teachers: the Church may well need a movement and an order for the intellectually and culturally unadventurous. But the Legionary imposture, as these posters made plain, comes of falsely claiming dullardy as academic excellence and of aspiring to found schools and universities with the goal of empire-building and self-legitimizing rather than admitting that you're just not an intellectual order.

I think I’ll reconsider sending my children to Southern Catholic College.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Legionary Timeline

Please enjoy and help build up the Legionary Timeline to the left...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Legionary Visitation Material: Not just Father Maciel

“…with truth and transparency, in a climate of fraternal and constructive dialogue…” Cardinal Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State 10 March 2009

That Pope Benedict has decided on an investigation of the Legionaries of Christ in itself decides nothing. The Visitation could lead as easily to the abolition of the Legion as to a whitewash (as seems to think one Legionary superior , who explained it to his Regnum Christi charges, “To further show [Vatican] support, the Holy Father has decided to order a visitation of the Legion to help us to move forward vigorously. The Holy See wants to show its trust in us and offer us a chance to show the authenticity of the gift that we have to the Church.”).

If I had a voice, I would want to offer advice to the Visitators.

The questions about Maciel himself personally are not unimportant: child? children? “mistress” (as people keep assuming) or (more likely?) statutory rape victim? money misused? young men abused? and so on. But much more important are the questions about the effects of these sins on the congregation. As Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collis put it last week, “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.”

Scores of Maciel’s abuse victims may well emerge, but just as important is accounting for abuse victims of others in the congregation. Maciel may have mishandled funds, but more important is acknowledging vendors local to Legionary houses whose bills Legionaries don’t pay.

I dislike the “bad founder, but the Legionaries are such good priests and do such good work” theme, which runs through the 2006 CDF Communiqué, the words of the same Archbishop Collins, and Bertone’s letter. It suggests that Maciel had no influence on those who revered him as Nuestro Padre and blunts the impulse for the more far ranging work of accounting of the effects of his sins on the congregation. These good priests disengaged their spiritual discernment on his behalf and in their good work they perpetuated his sinful structures of deceit and infantilization in the name of Christ. Don’t we believe in the communion of saints? Can’t we harm one another even with the sins we successfully conceal?

I also dislike the Legionary “pray for us as we bear our cross” theme. They should take responsibility for having fallen foul of a charlatan. There were truth tellers about trying to warn them, but whom they dismissed as lying conspirators, liberals, enemies of the Church.

Those who truly bear the Legionary cross are those spiritually nearly murdered by sexual abuse, those for whom faith and prayer are difficult after spiritual abuse, those whose development in adolescence was stunted by religious commitment made immaturely, those who have been victims and those who have been scandalized by the victimizing.

I hope the Visitators will speak with them, though many won’t be found for interviews in Legionary houses.