Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Can the Legionaries be undone?

Former Legionary Father Thomas Berg said a few days ago: “[We] need to know from the highest Church authority whether there ever really was a genuine charism inspired by the Holy Spirit at work in the Legion and Regnum Christi or whether what the Church has witnessed in the sixty-eight year phenomenon of the Legion was rather God simply drawing much good out of a primarily human and deeply flawed enterprise.”

Current Legionaries, by contrast, to justify their survival have been assuming the traditional theological view that the Church has already, infallibly and irreformably, recognized a genuine charism, when it twice granted the Legion an official approval, a decretum laudis.

The article below “Is Church approval of a religious order an infallible judgment?” sketches the history of that theological question.

I write that:
=Papal approval of religious orders dates from the time of Innocent III (1198-1216) and the controversy over Franciscan charism stimulated formulation of a doctrine of papal infallibility.

=Jesuit theologian Francisco Suárez (1548-1617) became a forcible exponent of the view that “the Pope cannot err in the approval of a religious order.”

=Widely held for almost four centuries, this was, however, never more than a theological opinion and theologians after the two Vatican Councils have now questioned more carefully the scope of infallibility to matters beyond those of revelation itself.

=The apostolic visitation of the Legionaries now underway can, it seems, reverse the decreta laudis if it chooses without affecting the theology of papal infallibility.

I thank Rev. John W. O'Malley, SJ; Prof. Sydney F. Penner; and especially Rev. Francis A. Sullivan, SJ for having helped me prepare this article. They are of course in no way responsible for any errors or for the opinions expressed.

Read “Is Church approval of a religious order an infallible judgment?”.


  1. "Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."
    ACTS 5:38-39

  2. I don't think that quote from Acts applies here. The context was at the beginning of the Church itself, when the Apostles were proclaiming Christ.
    No religious order has the assurance that it will last as long as the Church. Orders come and go. There have been cases in the past when the Church had to suppress orders due to serious offenses and the impossibility of reform.
    Maciel was a total fraud. He obtained Church approval under false pretenses, and the deception involved could well have invalidated the approval given.

  3. Why were the investigations of the Legionaires
    so muddled and delayed? Is this another evidence of the incompetence of the vatican authorities? Maybe we can find some retired Catholic lawyers with prosecutorial experience to do such work.

  4. The Pope is without error Period! You will not see any change in the ruling. Fr. Maciel was Christ on Earth. ..I'm not in the Legion.

  5. I believe for the good of The Church this order should be disbanded and the vocations carefully guided into existing orders.

    Once again, this is what happens when people are taught to stop thinking and when we put man above God in importance and stature.

    I'll continue to pray for this congregation but I believe it is deeply flawed and should be made to stop recruiting vocations.