A Catholic Exchange on the Long Dropping of the Other Shoe: Foundational Shift for the Legionaries of Christ — Part Two

We are continuing our discussion, begun yesterday (Part One), on the implications for the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi of the shocking revelations about their founder. Within days the LC/RC has gone from effusive praise occasioned by the one-year anniversary of Father Marcial Maciel’s death, to public admission that he fathered a daughter and sexually abused multiple young men over a period of decades. (Bizarrely, even the story of where he died has changed, from Houston, Texas to Jacksonville, Florida.) We rejoin Fr. James Farfaglia, canon lawyer Pete Vere, Genevieve Kineke, and Isaac Chute.

CE: What would you like to see happen internally with the LC/RC at this point?

Isaac Chute: Disband or reform. They are the only two options. Because the organization is so large and there are so many good people caught up in it radical reform may be the best option, however that would entail a complete reformation and re-foundation of the Legion without any vestige of Maciel. I would also like to see the Legion make an apology to those who all who have been abused in particular to the victims of Maciel. I would also like to see the Legion make restitution in some shape or form to these victims. I would also like to see the Legion apologize to the ReGain organization and thank them for their efforts which have helped the Church flush out the cheater Maciel. 

Fr. James Farfaglia: This too is a very good question, and probably the most important question of all. Perhaps I may rock the boat, but I am known for being honest and sincere. Things are too serious in the Church today to be “prudent”. There are too many people here involved. There are a lot of wonderful guys in the Legion. They need help.

OK, here is where I am going to rock the boat: As I have publicly said before, the only way that anyone can really understand the Legion of Christ is by understanding Mexico. I don’t mean this as any kind of criticism of the Mexican people. They are wonderful people. However, there is a certain way of doing things in Mexico. Corruption and lying are an endemic part of the negative side of the Mexican culture. Perhaps, because of the culture that they were brought up in, the Mexican leadership of the Order simply can’t see clearly what has been going on within the Congregation. The present Vicar General comes from a very, very powerful family from Monterrey. I am not judging him at all. I am sure that he is a very fine and holy man. However, if the Holy Father wants to really save the Legionaries and bring about some kind of reform, he should step in and ask the Vicar General to resign. A new Vicar General should be appointed by the Pope and that new appointment should be someone from another nationality.

Secondly, the Pope should also ask the General Secretary to step aside. His family has a very important relationship with the family of the Vicar General. The new General Secretary should also be someone from another nationality. This then would allow the present General Superior to perhaps act more freely in bringing about necessary reforms within the Congregation. I do know the present General Superior very well. He is a very, very holy man and a very kind man. The Pope should give him a certain amount of time to bring about any kind of reform. If he just continues business as usual, then the pope would need to step in again and replace him with someone else, someone who is not from Mexico. The Legion of Christ almost seems like a Mexican oligarchy. If this is broken up and changed, perhaps some “fresh air” will come into the Order and they can be free to really do what they do very well — educate the young, form the laity, and evangelize. 

Aside from all of this, I think that the real questions at hand are these: What did the leadership of the Legion know about the lifestyle of their founder? Were they in denial? Did they know things and decide to keep quiet? Or did anyone go to the Vatican? I don’t know. 

I think that it is very important to understand that we priests are all human. Sometimes people think we are “angels” and that we are never tempted in any of the seven deadly sins. As priests, we sure do have a lot to live up too. We can easily scandalize the laity. Moreover, as priests, we are prime targets for Satan. People should not be scandalized to understand that the charism of celibacy does not come without difficulties, struggles, crisis and even failings. I am not excusing Father Maciel. Sexual contact with a woman outside of marriage is a sin. But sexual abuse of minors is a crime and a perversity. There is a big difference. Let us recall the Gospel: He who is without sin, let him throw the first stone. Whenever a priest has issues, he doesn’t need stones thrown at him; he needs help! And he need to get help. Spiritual direction, counseling, even a sabbatical may be necessary. But, it seems that whatever is true about Fr. Maciel, he just kept on going, living a hidden life. This is really different from the priest who struggles, falls, gets up again and grows in the delicate and elegant living out of the charism of celibacy. Many times a period of crisis and struggle can be a providential way in which the priest grows in sanctity. But the Maciel story is different. It seems that he just kept going: living one way in the Legion and another way outside of the Legion.

What did the Legionaries around him know? Did they try and help the founder? Were they in denial? Were they part of his proclivities? I think this is what the Vatican really needs to find out. The Vatican may have to step in with an Apostolic Visitation and really find out what is going on in the “inside”. Is there a cover up? Are there more abusers?

Genevieve Kineke: I’ll reserve comments to Regnum Christi. The entire structure right now has three focal points — formation of the members through apostolates, growing the ranks through recruitment and raising money to give to the Legion. The first has a completely good end to the degree that members are invited to learn more about their faith. Most of us joined specifically because we found such resources woefully lacking in the larger Church in the latter decades of the 20th century. The harm in that formation, though, is in the area of integration into the “charism” of the Movement. The chain of command kept close tabs on the members and freely shared with superiors how each was doing, who was adopting the ways of Regnum Christi and who had raised questions. I cannot tell you how many stories I’ve heard from distraught women who realized that their confidences were betrayed or that stray comments came back to haunt them far removed from a given conversation. That Stalin-like practice has to stop.

The second area, recruitment, was more problematic because there was often a measure of duplicity about the hidden ends of the apostolates. The Regnum Christi sponsorship of many groups and events was often hidden in promotion material, which distressed many faithful Catholics who didn’t know that they were promoting “front groups” for the Movement. There was the perpetual added pressure for members to bring friends (and it was a select kind of friend). Every section (geographical sub-group of RC) was accountable for a certain amount of growth, and numbers often seemed more important than relationships. I can remember a specific conference where a high-ranking Legionary came to visit our women’s section to tell us that the Pope had asked for a specific number of members so that we could accomplish something, and we shifted into overdrive. Now I see that it was highly unlikely that the pope said such a thing and it was duplicitous of the priest to say it. (Perhaps he was only following orders.) If the pressure to constantly grow the Movement would relax, then I think everyone would benefit. Especially at this traumatic time, the consolation of friendships combined with a reflective period would allow the members to discern how to meet their own needs, rather than prioritizing the need to share the charism with others.

The fundraising has raised very troubling red flags for many people. Of course providing for the room, board, and education of priests is a very important thing, but so many apostolates seemed more akin to being money makers than authentic means of formation. There are participation fees, the materials were expensive, those with larger families found it hard to participate, and the accommodations so often targeted such a well-heeled crowd that there were legitimate questions raised about what was really being accomplished. Now the revelation of Fr. Fichter, the former chief financial officer for the Legion, that the treasurers always kept large amounts of cash available to hand to their superiors might lead the rank-and-file to demand more accountability.

Finally, we need to look at the consecrated members (3GF’s) who are most often women. I have always been highly troubled that these women live in a kind of limbo — with no canonical protections whatsoever. Now idealistic Christians can be like naive children in the sense that they think, “This is the Church; why would I need protection?” Well, this is a fallen world and the members of the Church make mistakes. These women are categorized as laymen who have freely chosen to live in community. Since they are not in vows (as Religious) they actually don’t exist in the eyes of the Church, but are solely subject to the Legion. They usually don’t have health insurance, many of their academic institutions are not accredited, there are high indications of depression within, and those who leave are alienated from friends and family and themselves wondering if they have “divorced” Jesus.

Up to this point, those who remain have been loyal daughters of Maciel who scrupulously read his writings, obey his chosen superiors, and work zealously to recruit more members to the group. They are dedicated and lovely women — but I am greatly concerned for their future. How they can separate themselves from his personality remains to be seen, but at present I’m not sure they have the tools to honestly assess their situation. Regnum Christi members were always told, “in following the methodology you can never go wrong,” which gives it an infallibility it doesn’t deserve. Thus it will take a real mental leap for these women to begin to critique their very way of life — and I would beg all readers to pray specifically for their discernment to that end.

Pete Vere: Practically speaking, I don’t think this is a problem the LC/RC can solve on their own. Their current practices are too wrapped up in the personality of their founder, in my opinion. While it’s true in a metaphysical sense that the sins of the founder will not fall upon the head of the members, it’s not so true in an organizational sense. How can the members trust that certain practices were implemented to help the members grow in holiness, and not to cover up for the founder? And this is where allegations of secretive practices come in.

That being said, I don’t think disbanding is realistic. Or rather, I think it would do more harm. Nobody joined the LC/RC to cover up for Fr. Maciel’s sexual vices. The vast majority of members were not even aware of the problem. Rather, these folks joined, in good faith, to deepen their spirituality and come closer to Christ. There are literally thousands of them — including hundreds of priests who gave their life to the Legion full-time. It would be irresponsible to simply dump them all on the curb without help or a support structure in place. We already know from ReGAIN (an organization of former LC/RC members who brought to light the initial allegations against Fr. Maciel) how difficult it is for many to adapt to life in the outside world after leaving the Legion. The Church would simply be inviting more problems in the future if she completely disbanded the LC/RC.

More importantly, there’s a matter of Christian charity. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ. They are going through an extremely painful moment. We cannot simply turn our backs on them when they need help the most. And along the same lines, we must reach out and apologize to former members — especially those who suffered abuse and were marginalized and made out to be liars when they spoke out. The Legion owes them an apology. And the Legion ought to make restitution, paying for any necessary counseling. One cannot simply slough off one’s institutional responsibility, saying “The Legion is not Fr. Maciel, so we’re not going to apologize to victims for what he did” or “They already got whatever help they needed elsewhere, so it’s no longer the Legion’s responsibility.” The world deserves better from an institution calling itself Catholic.

Also, for the sake of the members, who — pardon the cliche — have been their own “church within a Church” for too long, I believe the LC/RC need to ask Rome to appoint some outside help to temporarily take over, someone who can help reform the organization from within, ideally, someone who has demonstrated zeal for orthodoxy, prudent pastoral discernment, experience with religious life, commands the respect of the Holy See and local churches, and is surrounded by good advisers. This person can bring a fresh perspective to the LC/RC’s current practices, while sympathizing with its stated mission to serve the Church faithfully.

Speaking personally, I think Cardinal George of Chicago would be ideal. He has surrounded himself with a number of the Church’s finest canonical and pastoral minds. He has also shepherded large Church organizations through difficult situations when the media was watching closely. However, I am merely a layman, offering a layman’s perspective. This is a decision between the Holy See, the bishops in whose diocese the LC/RC minister, and the LC/RC.

There is no shame in asking Rome to appoint someone outside of the LC/RC. That’s what the Holy See is there for. The beauty of our Catholic faith is that it’s a family effort. When one member of the family is going through a rough patch, other family members step in to help him get through it. And this is one of those times when I think the rest of the Catholic family needs to intervene, for the welfare of the member.

CE: What message would you like for members of the LC/RC to absorb right now and what resources can you point them to?

Fr. James Farfaglia: The problems are not just with the Legion of Christ. The problem is with the whole Church. We are still in a very serious mess on many fronts. The guys within the Legion should have the guts enough to demand reforms. Change is needed.

Isaac Chute: That there are many ex-members out there who are praying for them and will do anything in their power to help them no matter what they decide. If they do want to reform they should start with having ex-members help them understand what they have been doing wrong so that they can actually build something better from the ground up on a more solid foundation, as clearly Maciel’s house is built on sand. It they want to leave or even disband we will welcome them with open arms. I would also advise members that this may not be the end of big announcements. If Maciel fathered a child in his 60’s there is good reason to anticipate that there may be even additional cases like this that will worm their way out of the woodwork.

Pete Vere: We love you and we’re praying for you. You’re part of our Catholic family. The LC/RC has the potential to do much good within the Church. However, right now you need help. You’ve helped us in the past — in fact, speaking personally, a Legion priest and several Regnum Christi members were instrumental in my return to the Catholic Church. Now let us help you.

Genevieve Kineke: It has never been easy to criticize the Movement because those who do are marginalized from the group and labeled as “disgruntled” enemies of God. Please know that we are no such thing. We joined because we shared your ideals, saw the needs of the harvest and wanted to serve the Church. We still feel the same way, despite having a different opinion about how to go about the task. I’m grateful for my years in Regnum Christi, for the marvelous women I met and for the opportunity to spread the Gospel through its apostolates — but I’ve also grown as a wife and mother to understand that one cannot manipulate others into the Kingdom, no matter how badly you want to save their souls. That is ultimately God’s work.

If you are really curious about how such a seemingly orthodox group could be manipulative, then please go to www.life-after-rc and peruse the list of articles offered on the left column. I do believe that even the most Catholic rhetoric can be abused if the end doesn’t respect the free will of individuals. The broad acknowledgment of Maciel’s many misdeeds last night on EWTN’s “The World Over” should cause every member to reconsider the very methodology that was the mechanism of his deceit, and steadfastly prohibited both transparency and correction.

The ReGain network (www.regainnetwork.org) also has many people — priests, professional counselors and laymen — who are making themselves available to those who need to understand what might have led to this circumstance and how to heal from the damage inflicted. I hope that at least our readers know that these patient souls have wanted the greatest good for others — and to spare them the very suffering which has accrued. We know that, although the Church is herself infallible, her members must grow in holiness and count on mutual assistance in this purifying pilgrimage. Let us at least pray for one another as we proceed.

CE:  What would you like those who have never been members of this group to understand and how can we help?

Fr. James Farfaglia: Lots of prayer is needed. There is a lot of good within the Legionaries of Christ. They are very much needed for the salvation of souls. However, the whole Church is still in dire need of reform. Let’s just talk about America. Here is the bottom line: if the majority of American Catholics reject Humanae Vitae and continue going to communion and at the same time reject the sacrament of confession, how can we expect God to bless us? If more than half of American Catholics voted for a radically pro-abortion presidential candidate is this not a clear indication that the Catholic Church in America is desperate for reform? If the majority of American bshops are not speaking out clearly about contraception and abortion, can we be surprised they may do nothing about reforming their clergy when they themselves are in need of serious reform? Pope Benedict is right: the Church will become smaller and more faithful. We need to really get back to basics and become more faithful, more prayerful, more simple. We really need a new St. Francis to reform us.

Isaac Chute: I think Fr. James hit the nail on the head. We need lots and lots of prayer. There are a lot of good people within the Legion and the Church needs them. I think that it’s time that the faithful, both those within the LC/RC and others who donate to them, insist on transparency and accountability for the use of all funds. I also believe that anyone considering a vocation should go elsewhere during this period of change. Remember the world is crying out for priests, “the harvest is great but the laborers are few” — go where the need is great.

Pete Vere: Like Father said, much prayer is needed. The first thing we must do is pray for our LC/RC brothers and sisters. Secondly, we must let them know that we are praying for them. We must reassure them that they are part of a broader Catholic family, and as concerned brothers and sisters we have their best interest at heart. Finally, we must reach out to — and pray for — estranged members of the family: those who were formerly part of the LC/RC, who previously raised concerns, and were dismissed as simply disgruntled former members.

Genevieve Kineke: Prayer, sacrifice, forbearance and trust. We must all trust Benedict at this difficult time and remember that anyone can go astray. If we cling to the successor of Peter we will endure — apart from him we founder. No one from the outside can really understand what Maciel means to members. Please tread lightly as each one sorts this out and forges ahead. Life is long and filled with difficult stretches — this is a very fragile time for the Movement and they count on your patient support.

CE: Thank you all for your illuminating comments.  It is clear that we have not seen the last of this story and we will be following it closely. 

[Copyright 2009 Catholic Exchange]

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  • http://arkanabar.blogspot.com Arkanabar Ilarsadin

    the link to part one has a typo in it.

  • Mary Kochan

    Thanks; it is fixed now.

  • Mary Kochan

    TO: I don’t know who! I think I may have accidentally deleted your comment when I was deleting spam comments this morning. So if you commented before 10:15am EST and your comment is still not showing up, please post again. Sorry!

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    There is a story parallel to that of the Legion of Christ that emerges from even a brief study of Mexican history: that of the ascendance of the National Action Party (PAN) in Mexican politics. I don’t mean to belittle the Legion by comparing it to a secular organization, but the historic parallels of both groups are striking:
    — Both emerged from the extreme violence of a Marxist government in Mexico that was directed against the Church and primarily against those living in the central westerns states of Jalisco and Michoacan. This “war,” called the Cristero War, was really an anti-Catholic pogrom whose goal was to destroy the Church as a viable institution within Mexican society. The Church resisted. People fought back. Finally, the Vatican brokered a peace. Maciel grew up in the middle of all this. So did the founders of the PAN. In many cases, they would have been the same people, seeking a religious haven in the Legion of Christ and an opportunity for political expression within the PAN.
    — Both have followed a trajectory of faithful opposition within their various fields of competence. The PAN opposed the dictatorial PRI party in Mexico for decades and finally won the presidency in 2000. Current Mexican president Felipe Calderon is a member of the PAN. The Legion has sought a path of orthodoxy in the middle of a Church many of whose members have untethered themselves from the teachings of Christ.
    — Both are human institutions, and both are rooted in a sense of Catholicism as important to each individual person. For the Legion, this latter is obviously more important than for the PAN, but the PAN has always considered Catholicism to be an important part of the identity of its individual members. It was founded, after all, as a means of lawful political resistance to a virulently anti-Catholic government in Mexico city.
    — Both have seen the emergence of wildly popular personalities within their respective organizations. For the Legion, Maciel’s formative experiences of viewing governmental purges of the Church within his own communities no doubt strengthened him as an individual. Obviously, these same formative experiences did not convince him to live a moral life. But the strength of his personality and the importance of that strength within the Legion can perhaps be understood in this light.
    — The formative experiences of both panistas (members of the PAN) and at least the older Mexican Legionaries are rooted in their lived experiences of anti-Catholic violence.

    There are two crucial differences: 1) The PAN has moved beyond its founding leadership, living some very difficult times in the process. But it now exists as an institution within Mexican society and politics. As such, it is dependent upon competent leadership to continue. But it is not dependent upon the personality of any particular leader. 2) The PAN is a secular organization (despite its historical identity with the catholicity of its members), and the Legion is a religious organization within the Catholic Church.

    These two crucial differences suggest that the Legion can reform itself if it chooses to do so and if we Catholics lend our prayerful support in helping it to re-root its purpose as a transparent organization within the Church. If a secular group like the PAN could do this, despite living a similar history, then certainly a Catholic group can do the same. But it won’t be easy.

  • elkabrikir

    Excellent remarks in the article.

    NFPDad, thank you for your insights and connections. I think you’re on to something.

    The only time I heard MM speak, he gave his testimony of watching a young friend’s martyrdom. It was a moving account and I thought provided enough “seed blood” to begin many movements.

    It’s amazing how interconnected events are in life. As Genevieve pointed out, LC/RC filled the vacuum caused by failures of leadership post Vat II.

    I’m very sad right now and hurt for my friends, who I believe were brainwashed as RC and still think these revelations will be used by “enemies” of LC to hurt them.

    BTW: in all seriousness, is paranoia a hallmark of cults?

    Thanks to CE for dealing with this. The Holy Spirit is using this crisis to tell us all something about ourselves.

  • gskineke

    I think “sincerity” is the element about which we are really arguing. The secular elements surrounding the foundation of the Legion are clear. The Mexican political scene gave impetus to the Legion and the Church’s identity crisis in America gave it legs.

    The difference is WHY it was founded, and this has to do with the whole argument over the methodology. Defenders will say that it was a good idea but flawed by unfortunate defects in the founder. Others will say that a depraved man read the telltales, discovered “a perfect storm” and took advantage of it for his own ends.

    What sort of man collects attractive young boys, takes them from their families — across to Spain, and keeps them in seclusion with no accountability? It could be a man hell-bent on saving the Church. But it could also be the perfect set-up for a pedophile. Remember, he was kicked out of two seminaries previous to this — and set it all up before he was fully formed (or even ordained). Could be heroic foresight. Or it could be a brilliant cover for a sick mind.

    If you’ll think about it honestly (as parents, post-sex scandal, reading the daily news) you’ll see that both theories are plausible. Add to it the testimonies of Juan Vaca, Jose Barba et al and I find that the scales tip substantially.

  • oliviasdad

    I appreciate what you & CE are doing, really. I haven’t seen an honest forum like this anywhere. It took me over an hour to read all of part 1 postings. I don’t have any experience with LC/RC but have heard things over the years. I saw the name Juan Vaca in a previous post. My head is just spinning that this has been going on so long. I realize that we are not talking about the large majority of faithful & holy LC Priests here or the faith-filled men & women of RC… but does this sound familiar? With the Clergy abuse scandals we have had to suffer with as a Church, I feel this is the workings of the Holy Spirit catching the fish that almost got away in Father Maciel.

  • http://saintslppr.com fjindra


    I am not familiar with the structure of the RC, but you mentioned the women who you thought were being left twisting in the wind, so-to-speak. Are they maybe in what is called a “secular institute”? This is a canonically formed group within the Church, but is something different from a religious order. If they are a secular institute, they do have canonical protections. I could do some research on the relevant canons and Church documents, but I do not have them at-my-fingertips.

    To all:

    I do not watch secular news channels. How is all this coming across? Is this another media feeding frenzy? No, I am not dismissing the issue, I am asking how it is being picked up outside the Church. Do the jackals smell more blood?

    St. Benedict was “pulled” from his cave to turn around monasticism in his day (I’ve been in that cave). Maybe the Benedict from our day is more aptly named than even he knew. St. Benedict pray for us. Pope Benedict, discern and help us in the Church of today…

    Fr. Frank

  • gskineke

    Thank you, Father, but they presently are not a secular institute — perhaps they can see their way to it. The Church could help guide them in that regard.

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    The difference is WHY it was founded, and this has to do with the whole argument over the methodology. Defenders will say that it was a good idea but flawed by unfortunate defects in the founder. Others will say that a depraved man read the telltales, discovered “a perfect storm” and took advantage of it for his own ends.

    I tend to discount both of these hypotheses. The Legion was founded in Mexico City in early January 1941. The politics brewing in Mexico at the time were not happy politics. Mexico had not yet allied itself with the U.S. in World War II. Indeed, the U.S. had not yet entered the war, and German operatives were attempting to convince Mexico to at least maintain its neutrality in the war – as Spain officially did throughout. All of this was on a backdrop of a nation which had itself emerged only recently from its own internal wars that had begun in 1911. The population of Mexico dropped from about ten million to about eight million from 1911 to 1920 (the years of formal conflict of the Mexican Revolution), which probably means that three or four million people died during that part of the war. Political violence continued throughout the early 1920s. The Cristero persecutions began in 1926 and officially continued through 1932. By then, the whole world was in the middle of a very deep economic recession, and Mexico could not hope to do much rebuilding of its shattered nation in any short period of time. Moreover, the anti-Catholic purges would have continued in a minor degree – and without official support – for some time after 1932. That is how things are in war, and not just in Mexico.

    In 1935, Lazaro Cardenas – a hero of the Mexican Revolution who was a general by his early twenties – essentially wrested the presidency from the puppets of one Plutarco Elias Calles, who had been the effective dictator of Mexico since 1924. But though Cardenas had no wish to continue the conflict with his own people, we cannot forget that in 1937 Pope Pius XI published “Firmissimam Constantiam,” which until very recently was still published on the Vatican’s web site under the name, “Nos Es Muy Conocida” (It Is Well Known to Us). That encyclical letter begins thus:

    “There is well known to Us, Venerable Brethren – and it is a great cause of consolation for Our paternal heart – your constancy, that of your priests and of the great part of the Mexican faithful, in ardently professing the Catholic Faith and in opposing the impositions of those who, ignoring the divine excellence of the religion of Jesus Christ and knowing it only through the calumnies of its enemies, delude themselves that they are not able to accomplish reforms for the good of the people except by combating the religion of the great majority. But unfortunately, the enemies of God and Christ have succeeded in overcoming many lukewarm and timid souls who, although they adore God in the intimacy of their consciences, nevertheless, either through human respect or through fear of earthly evils, have become, at least materially, cooperators in the dechristianization of a people that owes to religion its greatest glories (http://tinyurl.com/d4usct – will redirect to the Vatican’s web site).

    In 1938, President Cardenas expropriated the oil industry in Mexico. This was wildly popular with the Mexican people and probably led to a significant drop in whatever anti-Catholic violence that might have continued in the western highlands of Jalisco and Michoacan, if only because this measure alone united many political factions in Mexico.

    While all this was going on, in 1936 Spain entered into its own Civil War, which lasted until 1939. Mexico certainly accepted tens of thousands of refugees from this war, though the number was probably much higher. Many of these Spanish expatriates were devoted Catholics. This fact, coupled with the rather intimate knowledge of the Spanish Civil War that floated around elite Mexican circles at the time probably served to further reduce the official ire that might still have been directed against Catholics.

    All of these factors conspired in such a way that by 1941, the internal situation in Mexico (following another presidential succession in 1940, this time to a technocrat named Manuel Avila Camacho) would have only just begun to reach what might be termed “normality” – and this all on the eve of the Second World War with German and Allied diplomats each seeking to bend the Mexican State into an alliance that might (on the one hand) create significant problems for a formal U.S. entry into the war or (on the other hand) create significant pressure to push the U.S. into the war.

    This is the historical backdrop of the founding of the Legion of Christ. Obviously, context alone cannot allow one to draw firm conclusions, but this sort of context can at least help us to formulate reasonable hypotheses. Mine, therefore, is this: Maciel founded the Legion to serve as a bulwark for the Catholic faithful in Mexico. His “reading of the times” would most likely have been limited to his experiences of sometimes violent repression in his home country, together with the knowledge that Mexico would likely soon have to make a decision one way or the other about World War II. I think he simply saw a window of opportunity to do something for the Church and did so.

    He likely would have come into contact with some Spanish ex-patriots during the early years with the Legion. This is enough to explain the connections to Spain. Moreover, it is difficult for Americans to comprehend the rose-colored glasses with which the Mexican elite viewed Europe at the time, even after World War II. Moreover communications were slow. Phone service was sporadic where it existed. Communication by letter could take a month or more to cross the Atlantic. What sort of accountability could you expect? You saw an opportunity for your child, seized it, and prayed for the best.

    Whether Maciel had evil intentions prior to taking those children to Spain is unclear. What ought to be perfectly clear is that their parents would have seen their departure to Spain in much the same light as American parents do today when their children take the opportunity to study abroad while in high school or college. It was a perfectly normal thing to do, if you could afford it.

    That is part of what makes this so sad. I don’t think Maciel had any intentions grander than building up the Church at the beginning. I think he slid into his sins as time went on. And I think he got away with it because the leadership vacuum in the Church that elkabrikir speaks of is actually older than the Second Vatican Council. Indeed, it is that leadership vacuum (which continues today in some quarters) that allowed the Council to be so broadly ignored in the years immediately following its conclusion.

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    To give you some idea of the difficulty of communications, when I was studying in Guatemala in 1992, I probably had no more than three or four telephone conversations with my parents over a three month period. None of those conversations lasted more than a few minutes. The calls were expensive then and would have been even more expensive and difficult between Spain and Mexico in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s or 1970s. Moreover, the only phone I had access to in Guatemala was at the school where I studied. For every call, I had to make prior arrangements and call collect — an even more expensive way of communicating. In addition, a letter could take two weeks to travel between Guatemala and the United States.

    When I was courting my wife in 1994, via mail between central Maryland and Mexico City, we would cross-ship letters because it usually took two weeks to travel that circuit one way. Phone calls were still ridiculously expensive (I can remember thinking that 69 cents a minute was dirt cheap), so our telephone conversations, though they occurred every two or three days, rarely lasted more than five or six minutes.

    Whatever judgments we make (and in this as in all things, we have a solemn obligation to judge the fruits), we simply cannot project twenty-first century technologies and habits onto the Mexico of 40 to 70 years ago.

  • elkabrikir

    NFPDad: what a fascinating history lesson!

    How do you know all this stuff–a very technical term: stuff!

    The Church truly is a living organism, isn’t it? It IS a giant family, for you can look at its history and, like any family’s history, and see a cause and effect pattern among the members and between the generations.

    Thank God, the Holy Spirit is constantly breathing new life into us!

    “Breathe of Life, permeate every cell.
    Breath on us, resuscitate that which is dead.
    Perfume us, that we may spread the fragrance of
    the True, Good, and Beautiful”

  • Mary Kochan

    NFPdad is one of CE’s treasures. He never ceases to amaze me.

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    I do think I have one figure in error. The population of Mexico dropped about 10% from about 10 million between 1911 and 1920. That suggests a total death toll of 2 million, not 3 to 4 million as I had originally stated. But it was still an unmitigated disaster that spawned many more years of violence and war.

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    2 million dead because of a net drop of 1 million means that total deaths had to exceed total births by 1 million. So my figure of 2 million dead assumes 1 million were born during the same years. Again, I apologize for the confusion.

  • deirdrew

    As painful as this is, I am glad it is coming to light. We have been impressed for years by the LC (and given money) and yet troubled by the rumors for so many years. We must pray for Mexico (and of course the Church and the US…). There are many terrible things happening in Mexico now, and Glenn Beck on FOX has said that he thinks it may soon implode (or words to that effect). Corruption is indeed rampant. Drugs and money are powerful intoxicants. We do need to look at the people who did not understand how pro-abortion and pro-infanticide Obama is, and where indeed are our bishops?! Also, groups who claim to be ‘Catholic’ comprised of excommunicated priests and religious who are fooling the American people need to be dealt with. Pray Pray Pray!

  • deirdrew

    Fr Frank, I have hardly seen anything on this in the media. I have seen some things about the Pope ‘rehabbing’ a bishop, and all sorts of things associated with that, on Drudge. I only stumbled across this story today…but I’ve read rumors of this for years. Pres Obama’s embrace of a trillion dollar left wing liberal agenda is the big news for the last week or more….

  • deirdrew

    I have to ask one more question. What is the policy of the Church when a priest ”falls” and has a relationship with a woman that results in a pregnancy and birth of a child? I am confused when I read that a priest has not married the woman. That there is even any discussion of his remaining a priest, apart from his involvement with her. I am of course interested in the welfare of a woman that has fallen to the charms of a priest. Too often, the Church only seems interested in the priest and his vocation. The woman is left to her own devices. But when a child is involved, I think the only responsibility that the priest has is to the child, not to the Church. I mean, the priority, # 1, 2, 3 and 4 -is to the child. The child is the innocent. His role in the Church, his vocation, his commitment and promise to celibacy and to the Bishop are important. Is the priest ”better” for having avoided a pregnancy? You cannot divorce the discussion of a priest falling, of him violating his commitments, without also including the welfare of the woman and possibility of children. This is getting cumbersome, I know, but if Marciel hid the woman (women?) and child, perhaps it is because of the structure of the Church. Not to blame the Church, but to open the Church to the ‘transparency’ that is supposed to exist. If a priest has a child with a woman, what is the expected path? No one can compel marriage, but to have a child be born out of wedlock is a punishment far to harsh on the innocent child.

  • GaryT

    I too am puzzled about this. When a priest fathers a child, he is somewhat stuck between reonouncing his fatherhood to his congregation or renouncing his fatherhood to his child. However I agree that the choice ought to be clear. One must always live with the consequences of ones own actions. The Catholic Church cries out that men need to take responsibility for their children (biological) and I would think this must apply to priests as well. While there can be other priests to step in for another priest, nobody else can be the father’s child.

  • http://saintslppr.com fjindra

    Status of the child? Sorry, I do not have a canon law degree, and have not been privy to an occurrence like this in my experience as a priest, though I have wondered the same thing. Personally, I would think the responsibility to the child is paramount – but that is my uninformed and uneducated opinion (as I tell my parishioners: “red flag – personal opinion here!”). I honestly do not know what the Church does with these situations. I agree with you Deirdrew, the child’s welfare – physical, emotional, and spiritual – are important and the Dad should not be allowed to turn away (“red flag”).

    Fr. Frank

  • Mary

    Not Cardinal George – he is a bit tarnished by handling of the sex abuse scandal.

    I fear that many posters here are getting a very “lite” idea of the warped character of Legion/RC spirituality, practice, and structure from the remarks of the board participants. It’s a shame that the Legion forced the shutdown of the discussion board that for years carried personal testimonies and descriptions. All that material lost….

    Suffice it to say this: I am an orthodox Catholic theologian, a veteran of the culture wars in the Church and conversant with authentic Catholic practice and spirituality, and I can say that I didn’t see anything good in the Legion or RC except some lip service to orthodoxy (which I have seen minimized for the rich or the new, with whom one could avoid pesky things like contraception). What everyone here remarks as good could be remarked in any organization: good sweet girls are in Mormon polygamist camps, good well-meaning people were in Communist cells, and many organizations have enthusiasm. I feel bad for the people trapped by their formation, which lingers far longer than most victims suspect. But the solution is not to let everyone down gently, nor to let them simply change directions. The outsiders brought in must include cult experts, former members, and anyone who can bring a learned and detached objective eye to the enterprise (and that would require some extreme familiarity).

    I think that many ex-members still hold what they believe to be Catholicism, but it isn’t. And many have thrown out Catholic things because they thought they were part of the Legion.

    It is a mess. The first thing to do is freeze the assets and appoint a financial investigator. And I include the many layers of corporations. Yes, a recession will hit their outreach efforts. All the better, as they should not be allowed to do any recruiting or apostolate except among themselves. Then they should be studied organizationally and practically, not using their “for the public only” documents but there internal ones, and with interviews of former members. Then there should be a formal education of the entire order and movement on what has been found and what is wrong and what is the right way to do things.

    The easier way would be to just fold. However, this is a great learning moment for the Church at large, because the Church was content with this organization as long as it brought in bodies and cash. “Vocations” and money bribed nearly everyone. The Church needs to learn what can happen behind closed doors and closed books, so that she can begin to make sure that her own laws (at least) are followed in all of the many movements today.

  • tisha

    I have been following this discussion, and that of Part One, closely since yesterday. I have read, but not posted. I just have such mixed feelings about LC/RC and Fr. Maciel. As a former RC member, I look back on my time with RC with both good and bad memories….as we do with so many things, I guess. I can relate to both those who defend RC/LC and those who criticize it. I’m confused. I swing with each post/comment that I read. That’s about as clear as I can be about where I am with this right now.

    I did, however, come across this article on zenit.org, written by Father Thomas Berg, who is an LC priest and the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person.


    In this article, he offers apology and a personal comittment to acts of reparation for those harmed by Fr. Maciel’s “moral failings”. It may not be tantamount to a public apology from LC/RC itself, but it IS an indication of what some others have been saying, and I observed first hand, ……that very comitted, devout and even holy men and women are involved with LC/RC, which makes me wonder if it’s the body of those movements or the administration (for lack of a better word) of these movements that is the problem.

    And that, in essence, I think, is the basis of my confusion. It seems that there is a dichotomy between some very devout and good members and then others who, while they may say the devout things and appear devout in public, are encouraging, fostering and aiding in the abuse of those who trust them.

    Is this an example of how God, in His infinite mercy, wisdom and love, can bring good fruits out of even evil acts? And, if so, does that mean that evil is tolerable to some degree? Or should the good fruits be thrown in the fire along with the bad? I see a tendency in so many areas (society, the Church, my job, even myself) to throw away the baby with the bathwater. Just dump it all if there is a rotten part. And I don’t think it’s right to do that. But, then, who determines what is baby and what is bathwater?

    Ach, can you see the circles I’m going in? Better quit now before I REALLY go spinning off….

  • Mary

    Re: taking the children to Spain. Maciel was kicked out of 2 seminaries for secret reasons. He gathered these children together when he was still an “unofficial” seminarian self-studying books given by his bishop. He was never in a real seminary, and he had his faculties to hear confessions revoked by his bishop , either because he did not take the requisite exams in moral theology or perhaps in response to charges of molesting boys, which were made by the father of two boys before he even went to Spain. Why would anyone take a crew of 10-12 year olds across the ocean, if not to evade oversight? Then he got kicked out of quarters in Spain. Yes, times were different, as one poster says. One could easily move from one place to another to escape whatever one wanted to escape. And collect cash from rich ladies in Mexico to give to cardinals in Rome to help assure approval of the order. The story is labyrinthine and awful. It is far more than his having sired a child, far more than aggressive recruiting practices.

  • Mary

    By Cardinal George being “tarnished”, I do not mean to imply anything morally wrong, only that his handling of sex abusers has not been without severe critics, and seems to indicate that he might be not be the person to take charge of an investigation or reformation of an order.

  • dismus

    The LC took me in as a teenager. They fed and clothed me. They showered me with love and guidance, at a most tumultuous time in my life, some 30 years ago. I have nothing but love for the Legion of Christ.

    When it came time for me to leave, I was counseled, and my superiors sent me on my way with money in my pocket, and their blessings. No threats, no locked doors, no hushed secrets. (at times I wish they had made it more difficult for me to leave, secretly!)

    I spent nearly 3 years with them, and count them as the best years of my life, in terms of closeness to Christ. Nothing, not even an errant founder, can take away the love I feel for the Legion, nor the amazing charity I witnessed in all of brothers and superiors.

    I saw abject sadness in the faces of Fr.s Jonathan Morris and Thomas Williams on the Raymond Arroyo show. I have heard it in the voices of Legionaries I have spoken with. These guys are in shock, as are the thousands of faithful Regnum Christi. They’ve lost a founder, and as a consolation, they get to shoulder his blame. Quite naturally, they will have to make some type of amends to everyone who feels the Legion or RC owes them an apology for whatever malfeasance or inconvenience they’ve suffered at their hands. I am sure they’ll do so eagerly.

    We can clamor for an investigation, which will never be responsive enough, nor candid enough for some of us. I doubt the Holy See is going to give us a New England style witch hunt, even if we offer them pay per view.

    Better still, we can remain patient, persevere and deepen our faith, and offer our humble prayers for all these souls, under so much pressure and spiritual assault.

  • Mary Kochan

    No, dismus, there does have to be an investigation because the order cannot continue under the reality or even the suspicion that leaders are complicit in these crimes. Please do not call that a witch hunt. That is not what it is. 1. The Church has to know if these leaders can be trusted with souls, authority, money, etc. 2. The people have to know that they can trust the leaders.

    Yes, we have to pray but the Church has to act to clean up this mess.

    And no one is making the members shoulder his blame. They are his victims too. However, among the leaders are some who abused funds, power and people. They are to blame for their own actions.

  • Mary Kochan

    Spanish news reports are now saying that the mother of his daughter was only 15 when she was impregnated. http://www.canonlaw.info/blog.html

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    The canonlaw.info article links to an SDP Noticias article that reports, “It is said that the daughter of Father Maciel, who is now twenty years old, wants to sell her story. For this reason the order [i.e. the Legion] is coming out now, in order to reduce the impact of this revelation and to prevent greater damage being done.” SDP Noticias appears to be a Mexican news outlet.

    A link to the source article is http://tinyurl.com/c4c4so (will redirect to the SDP Noticias article). If you can read Spanish, please be warned that some of the comments attached to the article use vulgar language.

  • Mary Kochan

    So which was it? An internal investigation they launched to get to the bottom of things as they claimed last week? Or the threat that it was going to be exposed and the desire as much as possible to control the message?

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    By Cardinal George being “tarnished”, I do not mean to imply anything morally wrong, only that his handling of sex abusers has not been without severe critics, and seems to indicate that he might be not be the person to take charge of an investigation or reformation of an order.

    How about Archbishop Gomez of San Antonio, and formerly auxiliary bishop to Archbishop Chaput in Denver? George Weigel’s First Things article suggests a need to know Spanish, Italian, and English (among other things: http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=1311). Archbishop Gomez knows at least Spanish and English, may indeed know Italian — and could probably draw readily on help from Cardinal Dinardo of Galveston-Houston (who speaks Italian but not much Spanish).

    Archbishop Gomez, moreover, is from Monterrey but his episcopal experience (and credibility) is in the U.S., so if he found any intrigue in the Mexican trail he would neither be baffled by it nor cowed by the authorities there.

    It is clear from these discussions that a native understanding of Mexican Spanish and Mexican religious customs is an absolute requirement if we are to get to the bottom of anything.

  • daughterofthechurch

    I believe the following explains part of why the LC/RC members have a hard time facing the whole truth about all of this; that it is so much bigger than Fr. Maciel.

    The Truths We Want to Deny by Sharon Begley

    If someone’s self-image as competent and smart is challenged by the truth that he made a mistake, he is more likely to deny the truth.

    A man who resented his parents’ favoritism toward his younger brother was receiving psychotherapy in Boston for relationship problems. His therapist thought they were making progress, but she knew a problem loomed. Pregnant, she worried that her fragile patient might view her maternity leave as abandonment or rejection. She held off revealing her situation until she was six months along, last year. “Have you noticed anything about me?” she asked. The patient said he had not, so she told him she was pregnant. Looking at her bulging abdomen, he said she couldn’t be; he was a keen observer of women’s bodies and had made a habit of scrutinizing her because he worried this would happen. No, he said; you’re not pregnant.

    Denying the evidence of your eyes is the most extreme form of the coping mechanism called denial. But denial comes in milder forms as well. Parents refuse to believe their child is on drugs; that baggie under his bed contained oregano. A husband maintains his wife cannot be cheating; those late nights she spends with a friend are purely platonic. A wife denies that her husband is gay; he’s just been too tired for sex with her these last few years…

    …People resort to denial when recognizing that the truth would destroy something they hold dear(RC/LC/MM). In the case of a cheating partner, denial lets you avoid “acknowledging evidence of your own humiliation,” says New York psychoanalyst Leon Hoffman. Short of catching a spouse in flagrante delicto, evidence of infidelity is usually ambiguous. “It’s motivated skepticism,” says psychologist Peter Ditto of the University of California, Irvine. “You’re more skeptical of things you don’t want to believe and demand a higher level of proof.” Denial is unconscious, or it wouldn’t work: if you know you’re closing your eyes to the truth, some part of you knows what the truth is and denial can’t perform its protective function.

    One thing we all struggle to protect is a positive self-image. “The more important the aspect of your self-image that’s challenged by the truth, the more likely you are to go into denial,” says Ditto. If you have a strong sense of self-worth and competence, your self-image can take hits but remain largely intact; if you’re beset by self-doubt, however, any acknowledgment of failure can be devastating and any admission of error painful to the point of being unthinkable. In their new book, “Mistakes Were Made,” psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson argue that self-justification and denial arise from the dissonance between believing you’re competent, and making a mistake, which clashes with that image. Solution: deny the mistake…


  • Greg Fazzari

    The Legionairres of Christ Priests are some of the finest I’ve every been around. Their retreats are exceptional.

    I have been loosely associated with the RC movement for several years. I have read several of Fr. Maciel’s writings and found them very moving.

    At the same time, some members I knew started Catholic schools around the corner from diocesan Catholic schools – this was bothersome. I have always been impressed with the passion of various RC members, but the direction they went in seemed questionable at times. I also noted the attraction LC Priests had to those who had money – but this is somewhat understandable as they try to grow.

    There is a distinct difference between charismatic grace and sanctifying grace. There is obviously some very good things about the Legion and RC, how else would we account for the many good fruits. I trust the judgment of Pope John Paul II and of Pope Benedict. I feel perfectly comfortable following their lead on this.

    The founder was a fallen man like the rest of us. It is amazing that in spite of this, much good fruit has come. I pray the same can be said of the rest of us.

  • Mary Kochan


    The early Church had a lot more growingto do than they did and James was pretty forceful about the money angle:

    My brothers, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
    For if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please,” while you say to the poor one, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?
    Listen, my beloved brothers. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? But you dishonored the poor person. Are not the rich oppressing you? And do they themselves not haul you off to court? Is it not they who blaspheme the noble name that was invoked over you? However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors — James 2: 1-9.

    I don’t have any trouble accounting for good fruit by the fact that the members were all baptized and confirmed with Holy Spirit indwelling them. of course there are good things in there — some of the people of God are in there! You could take them and put them in a concentration camp and point to the barbed wire and say, “There are some good things in there.” So what?

  • Greg Fazzari

    The early Church was started by a group that basically lived with Christ for three years. Yet the eventually leader denied him and all of John desserted Him in His time of need. Lots of good fruit came from them as well. I take great solace in that, especially as I look at my own life.

    I’m a better person and a more devoted follower of Christ having known several Legion of Christ Priests. The writings of Fr. Maciel have been a good source of spiritual nourishment as well. The fact that this has happened in spite of the shortcomings of His instrument does not suprise me. It is in God that I trust.

    However, due to the remoteness of where I live, I never really delved deeply into the Regnum Christi stuff. I attended the retreats yearly and have a men’s group that has been meeting for many years that follows the RC format loosley. There may be aspects of RC I do not know about…so I do not claim to be an authority.

    The spirituality seems very solid to me.

    Isn’t it amazing how Christ uses weak instruments such as ourselves to build up His Kindgrom. This might serve as a reminder that though Christ may be giving us Charasmatic grace to help build His Kingdom, we should never consider ourselves as worthy instruments. Nor make the mistake of confusing the Charasmatic grace given for the sanctifying grace we need to transform ourselves.

    Hopefully our friends at Catholic Exchange will not make the same mistake.

  • Mary Kochan

    Greg, the holiness of the priests is not now, nor has it ever been the issue.

    The methodology of the group and whether it respects Christain freedom and is honest is the question. Was the methodology created to further the spiritual growth of members, or was that a ruse for covering up crimes of the founder? Those are legitimate questions that have nothing to do with the holiness of the priests you know.

    In fact the reason everyone is so upset over this is because of the harm it can do and has done to good holy people.

    Also, just because a person is holy (i.e. is pursuing the developemnt of Christian virtue in his life) does not mean that his judgement in every area of life is perfect.

    And being amazed at what God does through weak instruments is not an answer to corruption in the Church. We can be amazed all day long that a pedophile became a priest and offered the sacrifice of the Mass, but when we find out he is molesting boys, we break the spell of our amazement long enough to get him the heck away from kids. We can marvel that an embezzler was a wonderful pastor, but when find out that he has his hands in the Church till, we gather our wits about us and get him away from the money. And we might even stop staring in wonder long enough to see them both in prison.

  • Joantp5

    I start off by saying that I consider myself a faithful Catholic and I love our faith. I am very confused. I have been following along these last few days. I have had only a small amount of contact with RC/LC, two days of recollection over a period of a year. I admit, at the second recollection, I did feel a bit pushed to jump in and go on retreat. I have received the National Catholic Register and still do receive Faith and Family magazine. At one time we gave to the Mano Amigo Project. We were called and asked if some seminarians and priests could stop by and talk to us about futher giving. We felt a bit pushed and did not do that. So, I am an outsider, but have been impressed by the faithfulness of those who are members.

    Here is my question. Why are we only hearing about all of this now? Yes, I had heard about what had happened with Father Maciel in 2006. If this information was known by the Church, why did we have to wait for the authorities of LC to admit this? Were not people being hurt? Why does the Church affirm this movement if there are things that are done in a manner that is so unhealthy, I just don’t get it.

    I don’t know if I am the only one who is wondering this, but I want to be able to trust the Church. Should we not be able to trust if the Church says that it has approved the statutes of this or that movement, charism, etc.? Am I naive and looking at this in the wrong way?

    To Greg above; You say: “The early Church was started by a group that basically lived with Christ for three years. Yet the eventually leader denied him and all of John desserted Him in His time of need. Lots of good fruit came from them as well. I take great solace in that, especially as I look at my own life.” Peter repented. The thing that no one has heard is that Father Maciel repented, admitted his mistakes. This is huge. Yes, we all make bad choices, but we must repent, especially if so many others are involved, as in LC/RC. This repentance needed to be public. I don’t think that ever happened.

    My prayers are for all of our brothers and sisters involved in LC/RC and for our Catholic Church.

  • Joantp5

    I add to my above comments. Not only should there have been a repentance on Father Maciel’s part, there needed to be a turning from his evil ways!

  • Greg Fazzari

    All the above has been done. Fr. Maciel was silenced. There was an investigation. ANd now, Fr. Maciel is dead and has been eternally judged.

    I’m presuming there has been and will continue to be a thorough investigation of the order. I very much doubt that this is the end of the Legionairres. Too much good happening there.

    Although I agree with many comments made about these very good articles, it seemed too one-sided. The fruits of the Legionairres are irrefutable…and according to Someone we both trust, fruits are an exceptional form of judging the character of a movement.

    The actions and inactions of the Vatican speaks volumes at this point.

  • Mary Kochan

    Greg, I acknowledge the fruit of good works of the people in the LC/RC and the evident sincerity and personal holiness of many of them.

    I also acknowledge the fruit of the hundreds if not thousands of damaged people, the abuse victims, the people duped or decieved into giving money, the young people manipulated into “vocations”, the families and friendships rent by their Methodology.

    Now for some reason, because I acknowledge both things, you call me one-sided, whereas you who acknowledge only one, are supposed to be… what? You want to logically explain this?

  • Renee

    I was never incorporated into RC, although I have very good friends who are in “the Movement.” I was first exposed to RC while I was in college. I was attracted to the orthodoxy of the members and their strong desire to spread true Catholic teaching. I really wanted to be a part of that; I think most people who are attracted to RC are (in some sense) starved for friendship with others that have a strong Catholic identity. I was involved with their chastity task force to some extent, read at least one of Maciel’s letter (can’t remember the name of it), went to a few talks by a consecrated and even had a one-on-one conversation with one consecrated to discuss how I would go about joining RC. I was always strongly invited to go on retreats (especially the Easter one) but never did. I had heard about the Maciel allegations and, when I asked about them, was told that people were just trying to hurt their founder because of all the good work he has done. I didn’t think anything else at the time.
    My fiance (husband now) had zero desire to join and I met more and more good Catholics who had bad run-ins with the Legion. I ended up not officially joining. Two things always made me very uneasy about RC/LC:

    1. Their total veneration and dedication to Maciel (which had been discussed at length here and elsewhere). One anecdotal story about this: As a theology teacher, I run into students from time to time who are RC. I made a comment about the Legion in passing once and one of my students got excited that I knew who the Legion was and whether I was a member of RC. I said that I wasn’t. She then began saying how great RC was and how “our founder is so great. He is such a holy man. He is so holy. He is even more holy than the Pope. He is so holy!” The love and admiration for their founder just didn’t make me comfortable. It was different than, for instance, the admiration that most faithful Catholics have for Mother Teresa or JPII.

    2. I disliked their discernment methods and their talk of people always “running away from their vocation.” I couldn’t believe that people who you had never met in your life could be so bold as to tell you what vocation they think you have.

    Whatever anyone’s history (good or bad) with LC/RC, the biggest issue, I believe, is what happens to the order and how the order is to continue in their charism. This is a big issue for the Church as a whole, not simply for LC/RC. Anyone who suggests otherwise (that this is a Legion issue and others should “mind their own business”–as was suggested elsewhere) is only feeding the claim that the Legion is elitist and only about themselves. Maciel was not just an ordinary priest who had human failings–“inconsistent with the life of a priest”–Maciel was a founder! Anyone who wants to downplay Maciel’s double life or say that it was just a tragic misstep and let’s move on does not understand the connection of the founder’s spirituality and life with the charism of the Order, especially an order that makes such a big deal over their founder’s writing (that they only read those writings and the Gospels–Church fathers, anyone?). This is why the lives of religious founders are so important, I think, and it is such a big deal when founders are canonized or beatified (St. Josemaria Escriva and Blessed Basil Moreau come to mind). This is the issue that needs to be settled through a massive reform for the health and life of the Legion if it is to best serve the needs of the Church.

  • http://www.debramurphy.com Debra Murphy

    Thank you all for a lively and important discussion. I am encouraged that the revelations about Fr. Maciel’s double life are finally beginning to throw light on the larger question of what the revelations—the fact that they were covered up for so long, and that many who tried to get the word out earlier were dismissed or villified—also reveal about the LC/RC “methodology”.

    But I think there is a larger question still. In 2004 I published a novel, one of whose leading themes was the potentially tragic effects of affiliation with a fictional lay Catholic apostolate whose ostensibly laudable mission was overshadowed by an organizational culture of manipulation, coercion and deceit. Interestingly, though I have never had an LC/RC affiliation, and based the group’s particulars on a wide range of sources, Catholic and otherwise (none of them LC/RC), I’ve been asked by readers on more than one occasion whether I based my fictional group on the Legionaries, so similar did they seem.

    The fact is, whatever the motives, goodness and generosity of many many members, some of the darker sides to the LC/RC’s “methodology” would seem to resemble practices that can be studied (and have often been condemned) in groups ranging from overly controlling charismatic communities of the eighties, to Traditionalist societies, to parishes under the shadow of abusive priests, to polygamous sects, to the New Age cult that was founded last Tuesday in Big Sur. The theologies and spiritualities of the various groups may be quite different, and the degree of personal damage suffered may range from faith-testing to completely toxic, but the techniques of manipulation and control are surprisingly similar. There truly is nothing new under the sun.

    What this suggests to me is that if the promise of the new ecclesial movements is to be fulfilled, it is not enough for the Church to come to the rescue ad hoc, and worse yet, years after the fact, when so much damage has already been done. There need to be preventative measures in place—a Church-wide “methodology”, if you will, or protocol for spotting abusive situations in the making, and dealing with them before the reach the point of meltdown and scandal.

    Just my $.02, but a good start might be a place (office, person, ombudsman) in every diocese or religious institute where Catholics can go to air concerns without fear of reprisal; can go to take counsel with a spiritually mature priest or laymen who is trained in Canon Law, who understands the Do’s and Dont’s of the Internal and External Forums, and who does not answer to the “locals”, whoever they may be. Such a person or office would be better able, it seems to me, to spot the emergence of troubling patterns in a parish, lay group, diocese, or religious institute; for finding ways to help the groups (and their leaders!) make adjustments earlier on, before they become entrenched “structures of sin”.

  • Greg Fazzari


    You must have information that I simply do not.

    I know of 4 young men that tried the legionairres seminary. Two are on their way to becoming Priests. One left because he did not like the military-like aspect of the seminary, and the left because he did not like the physical/athletic side. I did not get the impression that the two that chose not to continue became damaged. In fact, one of them is currently in another seminary.

    I do not know of the thousands of damaged people… If this happened, I’m suprised that the Vatican has done nothing about it.

    This commentary keeps jumping between the reality of the sins of Fr. Maciel, and an attack on the Legionairres “methodology”. I’m getting confused as to what we are discussing.

  • Mary Kochan

    You need to spend some time here: http://www.regainnetwork.org/

    And here: http://www.life-after-rc.com/

    The Church’s charism of infallibilty does not cover how she deals with abuse victims — if you haven’t noticed. Look at how many cases were botched in this country.

  • Greg Fazzari


    We all can take solace in the fact that in the eternal order, justice will prevail. Don’t go looking for heaven (including perfect justice) on this side of death…it just doesn’t exist.

    On the other hand, we need to find ways to root out weeds without destroying the entire field in the process…especially a field that shows great yield.


  • Mary Kochan

    Agreed. That is the whole point.

  • Mary Kochan

    Great letter from Fr. Thomas Berg (this man has a real pastoral heart). Please share with all RC members:

    Dear everyone—

    Christ’s peace.

    I write to you this Sunday morning with my heart in my hand. I know personally that so many of our priests, section directors, have been working for hours on end, meeting with groups of RC, first to break the horrible news and then to accompany them, often themselves reduced to the point of tears. Then there have been the endless follow—up phone calls, private conversations. Believe me, we have all been trying to do everything possible to reach out to all of you personally.

    But my heart aches because our best efforts have not been enough. I want to reach out to you as a brother and friend this morning and try to assure you, if nothing else, that we are here. I know further efforts are underway to attempt to respond more adequately and formally to the confusion you all feel, not to mention the hurt and betrayal. I beg you, in the midst of such pain and hurt, please bear with your directors.

    At the same time, however, I also beg you forgiveness for the disastrous response which this crisis has received from our upper LC leadership. There is no other way to say it: in so many respects, Legionary superiors have failed, and failed miserably to respond adequately to this crisis, and not surprisingly, have engendered in many of you and understandable lack of confidence. Those are the facts and your reaction is natural and reasonable. With all my heart, on their behalf, I apologize. Our superiors are human instruments; I know in their hearts they have trying to do the right thing, under inhuman pressure. Please understand that.

    I am not making any excuses, however, for the fumbled media responses (which I believe have been too often unfairly attributed to Jim Fair our communications director who needs your prayers and has earned a very high place in heaven for what he has had to endure this week), for the appearances of being less than forthcoming, for the lack of information, for the confusion of messaging. For that, there is no excuse in a way, and tragically is largely due to the ineptness of many of those in leadership positions to respond with expertise and diligence in a crisis management situation like this.

    But it is more than just crisis management. The thing I am most pained about—I share this as a brother—is the near absence of but fleeting suggestions of sorrow, and of apologizing for the harm done, both to alleged victims of Maciel, and, frankly, to all of you. I am deeply, deeply sorry, and I personally apologize with my heart in my hand to each and every one of you.

    I understand your feelings of betrayal. For twenty-three years I have loved and tried to follow Christ in the Legion. I can say before God, in spite of my many human frailties, I have been faithful. I have also, more than many of you to be honest, gone out on limb after limb, trying to defend Maciel. I have lived my priesthood always with that cloud hanging over me, always having to essentially apologize for being a Legionary. You feel betrayed? You feel rage? I can only say that the rage, and raw emotions that I have felt these past days (the hardest days of my entire life, emotions like I have never experienced) are only a glimpse of the unspeakable hell that victims of priest sexual abuse must go through. My thoughts and my heart have been so often with them these days…

    I know that many of your are utterly confused about what you are feeling and about where we go from here. In no particular order, let me offer my advice and counsel as follows:

    1. Most of you are going through the stages of mourning. Understand that and know what that means. This is a very useful site: http://www.cancersurvivors.org/Coping/end%20term/stages.htm

    2. Keep talking to your section directors. Let them know how you feel. Let them know if you are satisfied with their response to you.

    3. Many of you might find it to be a wonderfully freeing and healing experience to offer acts of reparation for those suffering the effects of priestly sexual abuse. You might also find it healing to reach out to persons who, in any way, have found themselves hurt by their experiences with the Legion or RC.

    4. For your own spiritual needs right now:

    a. Remember you are free to speak with anyone, inside or outside the Movement about your pain, your reactions to this tragic news, and for ease of conscience to speak to whomever you believe can best help you at this time. I would encourage you to reach out to and find guidance from priests whose holiness and sound judgment you trust, whether Legionaries or not.

    b. Your spiritual experiences—even when they came through the letters of the Founder—are valid, and real. God was working through those instruments. The sad revelations about Maciel do not change that. Try to thank God for the past, and sing his praises for the way he has done in your lives through RC. Prayer of thankfulness will help you. Prayer of thanksgiving for this deliverance he has given us now, and for the purification which we are undergoing will also be very helpful.

    c. If you still find the letters of the founder helpful in prayer, feel free to use them. But it is certainly OK to leave them aside. Remember that in many ways, the spirit and charism we have lived is Pauline. Continue to nourish your spirit on the letters of St. Paul.

    d. In your meditation, go back to the bedrock truths of your life and ponder them serenely before God and let him use that meditation to soothe your hearts: the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Redemption, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, your Baptism, your call to a more deeply committed Christian life, and a loving meditation (“Mary meditated on all these things in here heart”) of all the wonders God has done in your life.

    e. I also recommend using The Better Part by Fr. Bartunek, and any other spiritual writings be Legionary priests. You might find those helpful. Your section directors should also be able to point you in the direction of other sources on which to nourish your souls. Share your ideas with each other.

    Finally, I encourage you to speak to Legionary leadership, and even in the form of petition letters, demand nothing less than full transparency regarding the case of Fr. Maciel. Demand that Fr. Alvaro seek an independent third party investigation (perhaps in the form of a temporary review board or Visitation team from the holy see) into uncovering any Legionaries who may have been accomplices to Maciel. Demand that a similar body guide Legionary leadership in introducing any needed reforms into the internal culture, methods and religious discipline of the Legion.

    And remember: “Entrust your life to the Lord, and He will act.”
    Let’s pray for each other. With all my love, gratitude to all of you for your fidelity.
    In Jesus,
    Fr. Thomas Berg, LC

    P.S. Please spread my message far and wide to as many RC members as you can.

  • gskineke

    I have just parsed this very deceiving letter (link corrected):


  • katievs

    I agree with gskineke. Fr. Berg’s letter is more worrisome than consoling.

    It seems to be sincere. Who, who reads it, can doubt that his spiritual anguish and desire to help others in this terrible situation are genuine?
    Still, as a whole the letter indicates that he is very far from coming to grips with the depth and extent of the fraud and manipulation that has been perpetrated by the Legion on the Church as a whole and on many thousands of innocent faithful as individuals. What right does he have to apologize on behalf the current leaders of the Legion and make excuses for their failures? Is this a moment to be urging the LOC and RC rank and file to trust and think well of their leadership? To turn to their writings to recover serenity? He writes as though taking it for granted and wanting everyone to believe that LOC is essentially good and that, notwithstanding Fr. Marciel’s missteps and sins, all this will eventually be sorted out and the Legion will carry on as before.
    But that is just what has been dramatically called into question this week. CAN a religious order founded and designed by a serial abuser, who wrote its laws, established its methods, and placed himself at the center of its devotions–who used its structure and its members to enable and cover up his many crimes and misdeeds–can such an order be saved? SHOULD it be saved? This is the real question. Fr. Berg doesn’t seem to realize that yet.
    I am sorry for him. It will be extremely painful when he does realize it.

    Let’s keep in mind that, besides the particular moral crimes that have come to light this week, on top of the allegations of decades that he routinely molested seminarians, abused drugs, and embezzled funds, there are hundreds and hundreds of testimonies from people who experienced the Legion first hand that its ordinary methods and practices are extremely problematic: financially suspect, canonically off, and psychologically abusive. (All of these witnesses have routinely been dismissed and calumniated by LOC and RC members.) The Vatican has already imposed changes to some of its central and routine practices, especially its rules against raising criticisms.

    To me it seems clear that every single member of LOC and RC has been brainwashed to a greater or lesser extent. They will need detoxing as well as healing from the pain of their shock and disappointment.
    This is much more serious than the scandals and problems that led to a shakedown of the covenant communities some years ago, which was so devastating for so many. In most of those cases–at least the ones I am familiar with–the leadership was guilty of being over zealous and overly controlling. A few illicitly enriched themselves financially. But those communities were generally founded by good people who went overboard in responding to an outpouring of divine grace. This is a very different case: a case (the evidence seems to show) of a criminal, pervert, and megalomaniac, who created a vast international organization deliberately exploiting the Faith, the sacraments, and the faithful to empower and enrich himself, and to feed his sick appetites.
    Everyone who ever gave money to the order, never mind those who joined it, and bound themselves to it spiritually, is his victim.

    We know “God’s arm is not too short to save.” He can bring good out of this situation too.
    I hope one of the goods will be much greater vigilance on the part of Catholics. Much more resistance to conformism. Much more courage in speaking up when we see wrong. Much less misplaced deference to those who abuse their authority in the Church (or arrogate to themselves authority they do not really have).

  • katievs

    Fr. Berg’s letter seems to be sincere. Who, who reads it, can doubt that his spiritual anguish and desire to help others in this terrible situation are genuine?
    Still, as a whole, I agreed with gskineke. The letter indicates that he is very far from coming to grips with the depth and extent of the fraud and manipulation that has been perpetrated by the Legion on the Church as a whole and on many thousands of innocent faithful as individuals. What right does he have to apologize on behalf the current leaders of the Legion and make excuses for their failures? Is this a moment to be urging the LOC and RC rank and file to trust and think well of their leadership? To turn to their writings to recover serenity? He writes as though taking it for granted and wanting everyone to believe that LOC is essentially good and that, notwithstanding Fr. Marciel’s missteps and sins, all this will eventually be sorted out and the Legion will carry on as before.
    But that is just what has been dramatically called into question this week. CAN a religious order founded and designed by a serial abuser, who wrote its laws, established its methods, and placed himself at the center of its devotions–who used its structure and its members to enable and cover up his many crimes and misdeeds–can such an order be saved? SHOULD it be saved? This is the real question. Fr. Berg doesn’t seem to realize that yet.
    I am sorry for him. It will be extremely painful when he does realize it.

    Let’s keep in mind that, besides the particular moral crimes that have come to light this week, on top of the allegations of decades that he routinely molested seminarians, abused drugs, and embezzled funds, there are hundreds and hundreds of testimonies from people who experienced the Legion first hand that its ordinary methods and practices are extremely problematic: financially suspect and psychologically abusive. (All of these witnesses have routinely been dismissed and calumniated by LOC and RC members.) The Vatican has already imposed changes to some of its central and routine practices, especially its rules against raising criticisms.

    To me it seems clear that every single member of LOC and RC has been brainwashed to a greater or lesser extent. They will need detoxing as well as healing from the pain of their shock and disappointment.
    This is much more serious than the scandals and problems that led to a shakedown of the covenant communities some years ago, which was so devastating for so many. In most of those cases–at least the ones I am familiar with–the leadership was guilty of being over zealous and overly controlling. A few illicitly enriched themselves financially. But those communities were generally founded by good people who went overboard in responding to an outpouring of divine grace. This is a very different case: a case (the evidence seems to show) of a criminal, pervert, and megalomaniac, who created a vast international organization deliberately exploiting the Faith, the sacraments, and the faithful to empower and enrich himself, and to feed his sick appetites.
    Everyone who ever gave money to the order, never mind those who joined it, and bound themselves to it spiritually, is his victim.

    We know “God’s arm is not too short to save.” He can bring good out of this situation too.
    I hope one of the goods will be much greater vigilance on the part of Catholics. Much more resistance to conformism. Much more courage in speaking up when we see wrong. Much less misplaced deference to those who are found abusing their authority in the religious life.

  • Joantp5

    I believe that George Weigel has answered my question, above, in his article, Saving What Can Be Saved, posted on the First Things website:


  • katievs

    It might help the healing process if RC and LOC members make a point of thinking of all the people in their lives who raised concerns and/or tried to warn them that something was off.
    They should find those people and say: “You were right about the order; you tried to warn me; I didn’t listen; I even accused you of being unchristian and uncharitable. Thank you for caring enough to try! You deserved a better response from me. I’m so sorry!”

    My experience of the fallout from the covenant community shake ups was that those who recognized not only that they had been psychologically abused, but that they had actively participated in and advanced an unwholesome culture and approach to the spiritual life, were the ones who recovered quickest and most completely.
    The ones who insisted that the communities were essentially a work of God; that only a few immature members had gone too far; that the charges had been absurdly exaggerated and came mostly from former members who had serious personal problems (which we can’t talk about)…are the ones who are still stuck in the pathology.
    The “theme of the moment” should be a strict accounting, not a defense of all the good fruit and the wonderful people in the Legion. Enough of that. No one denies it.

  • Mary Kochan

    Right on. This business of offering vague prayers for “alleged” victims is bunk if it is not accompanied by efforts to be reconciled with real people in your life that you have estranged or disrespected. But when you are making up with them be sure to say, not only “I am sorry” but “I am a victim too.” If you do this you will find an outpouring of generosity.

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