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.


  1. You said you don't like the bad founder/good priest theme. I'm sorry to hear that. Unfortunately that's the cards the legion has been dealt. It does not suggest that Maciel did not have any influence over the priests. It suggest that he was a fake and a good actor, able to compartmentalize his life. don't' forget he was a priest. Many of the gifts he had (wisdom, ability to teach) were granted him by the grace of God because of his office in the priesthood.

    Unfortunately he used those gifts to help him deceive others. You make it sound as if the priests in the Legion suspected his dark secrets, and willing hid them. We shall see if this is true. Bad parents can have good kids. It seems that Maciel expected more from his priests than he did from himself.

    Yes sure, people tried to warn them. Just like people tried to warn Padre Pio's followers. There are always rumors and allegations surrounding people. It turns out they were lying. Hindsight is 20/20.

    What exactly do you mean by "They should take responsibility for having fallen foul of a charlatan"? Isn't it obvious that's what they're doing?? Are you one of those people that just wants to beat them over the head with it? The Legion IS carrying a cross and they DO need prayers. Maciel was a fraud,and he died and left them to atone for HIS sins. Somehow they need to pick up the pieces and discern what God is asking of them. Maciel has left many victims in his wake. Don't negate the difficulties good men in the Legion are going through just because others are also in pain. We suffer together. We are the body of Christ.

  2. Though I may not agree with all the wording and views posted by this author, he has a great point, "Those who truely bear the Legionary cross are those spiritually nearly murdered...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...". I am one of them, and it has been tough trying to get over the experiences and psychological abuse.

  3. I think it can be summed up thusly: It is not for the Legionaires to proclaim their victemhood and act as though they were wronged by Fr. Maciel. It is for the Legionaires to act with public contrition as though they had participated in the wronging of others by Fr. Maciel. Because, unwittingly, they did. The question is not really whether they suspected and hid it. The question is why so many did not suspect when they so clearly should have.

  4. I sympathize with this article but think it is expressed a little too strongly.

    Remember, even Pope John Paul II was duped by Fr. Macial. How can I "take responsibility for having fallen foul of a charlatan" when I saw strong evidence on both sides and decided not to rush to judgement?

    Before the Vatican decision inviting Fr. Maciel to retire to private life these matters were not as clear as they are now. Do not condemn people in your pride at being correct.