Thursday, February 5, 2009

More Thoughts on the Legion

I will be blogging about other things, soon I promise. But because of a few reactions to the post I wrote below, as well as some things I've been discussing with friends and family, I wanted to offer a few more thoughts.

First, I don't want people to think that all LC/RC programs or materials ought instantly to be suspect, and I certainly think there are many good people who have become involved in some way with the Legion. However, I do think that given the seriousness of the situation involving Fr. Maciel and the wholly inadequate Legion response, those who are involved with the Legion should keep their eyes and ears open as these events continue to unfold.

And they will, though one of the grave disappointments so far is that the Legion appears to believe that the matter is closed. Fr. Maciel did bad things, they reluctantly admit, but we still cherish him as our founder and though we are sad we are all ready to move on and put this behind us. Lest anyone think I'm mischaracterizing the Legion response, consider this:

The pain the Legionaries are experiencing now “is so great precisely because this is something we did not know before,” Scarafoni said.

However, he said, “We are serene. Certainly, it is a time of great trial for us and in the face of this there is great suffering.”

Scarafoni had told the Mexican news agency Notimex that the Legionaries were living through “a process of purification.”

He told CNS, “When you are faced with such great pain, it means that you must grow, you must be better, you must be purified spiritually because you must continue to move forward motivated by even higher ideals. This is especially true when you are faced with the unexpected.”

At the same time, he said, “there is much gratitude. Our gratitude to him remains very strong because we have received so much that is good from him. This is something we cannot and will not deny.” [...]

Religion News Service reports that Scarafoni said the Legion had no plans to apologize to any alleged abuse victims or offer them pastoral care. "They have surely found a way by now to receive adequate care," he said.

That last is particularly outrageous. There were victims--how many we don't yet know, aside from the woman who has a daughter by Fr. Maciel--but the coldness and hardheartedness of dismissing their suffering by saying that surely by now they've received care completely boggles the mind. Nothing the Legion is doing is in any way good if this is the attitude they take in the face of terrible suffering inflicted upon innocent people by their own founder.

And there are rumors that the mother of Father Maciel's young daughter might have been only fifteen years old at the time she became pregnant; these will have to be taken seriously, as the impregnation of an underage girl adds statutory rape to Fr. Maciel's potentially criminal conduct. The Legion keeps insisting on "privacy" for Fr. Maciel's child and her mother; while I would never want to inflict more suffering on these women, the details could be the difference between an adult relationship--terrible, but not criminal--and an abusive one with a minor, which could involve the Legion in some liability, even after Fr. Maciel's death.

In fact, the Legion could be liable in some sense anyway, if Fr. Maciel was consipiring with other Legion members to use Legion funds, in secret, for the support of these two women (and, we must fact the possibility, perhaps others).

In other words, it is extremely premature to talk of moving forward, putting this all behind them, and the like, on the part of the Legion. The situation has yet to be fully known or understood; it cannot and will not be swept under the rug so that the Legion can go on its merry way, pretending that their founder was a misunderstood saint who unfortunately had some minor personal failings.

Further, the stubborn clinging to the notion that Fr. Maciel's great gifts and the "charism" he gave to the Legion (though no one seems to know exactly what that "charism" is, making it easily the most undefined charism of a religious order ever to be given as a gift of the Holy Spirit, as they claim it was) is going to have to stop. There is every possibility that Fr. Maciel spent much of his life in an objective state of serious sin (does anyone really believe he fell into sin only once, somewhere in his late sixties, and that one instance happened to produce a child?). It is looking increasingly silly to read things like this, from Legion documents (found on their website and elsewhere):

"469. Since it has been ordained by God that the person and life or Our Father Founder cannot be separated from the life and spirituality of the Legion, we the Chapter Fathers recognize the necessity to carefully gather and conserve all material dealing with the person, life, work and word of Our Founder.""

"6) What formation did you receive to prepare you to be a founder?
Certainly, there is no such thing as a program of studies to become a founder. As with the prophets or apostles, when God chooses someone for a mission, he prepares him and engages him to carry out his work; the founder is only an instrument in his hands. But the Church definitely requires certain studies of applicants to the priesthood. Father Maciel did some of his priestly studies at the Montezuma seminary and completed them later on in Mexico City under the care of Bishop Francisco González Arias, bishop of Cuernavaca, who presided over the tribunal of his theology exams and ordained him a priest on November 26, 1944.

"«There are thousands and thousands of postcards, letters, cards ... Written at airplanes and airports, at waiting rooms, in the bed of a hospital, in the silence of a chapel ...Father Maciel offers a treasure of spirituality on each page, and outlines the charism of the Legion of Christ and of the future Regnum Christi Movement. His letters reveal him to be an integral priest, as a founder and confessor, as a friend of Christ, and as a son of the Church. And his memorable and expressive words are charged at the same time with sweetness and energetic strength, with sincerity and humility. They reveal the human being who smiles or cries while he writes to his men;, the priest who loves and forgives; the father who instructs, corrects, and encourages his children, and who prays for them” (The Legion of Christ: a History. By ANGELES CONDE - DAVID MURRAY). "

And from the official letter Fr. Alvaro wrote to Regnum Christi members:

As regards truth, the first thing we see in Christ’s presence is that he is the Truth, which leads us to look at everything through him. In the present case, regarding the person of our Father Founder, I cannot but recognize all the good I received through him. Through the charism he passed on to us, many people have received from God what has given meaning to our lives: love for Christ, the Blessed Virgin, the Church, the Pope and souls. These are our loves. On a personal level, I am grateful to him for being the instrument God used to give my entire life meaning, seeking eternal salvation, the path to God. This is the truth I experienced, and it would be impossible to find enough words to thank him.

It is also true that he was a man, and these things that have hurt and surprised us—and I don’t believe we can explain with our reason alone—have already been judged by God. It is true that we are going through much suffering and a great deal of pain. As in a family, these pains draw us together and lead us to suffer and rejoice as one body. This circumstance we are living invites us to look at everything with much faith, humility and charity. Thus we place it in the hands of God, who teaches us the way of infinite mercy.

Faith, humility, and mercy ought first to be displayed to the victims of Father Maciel, before the Legion starts talking about practicing them internally--or cultivating that attitude toward Fr. Maciel's memory, as I suspect is being suggested here.

This is not over, no matter how much the Legion would like to pretend it is. A more forceful response, clearly distancing the Legion from the grave evil found in the life of their founder (whose title ought no longer to be capitalized, at the very least), is the minimum necessity for the Legion to remain any semblance of integrity throughout this crisis. Anything less suggests that they are not taking this seriously, and plan to change absolutely nothing--despite the extreme likelihood that there are other living members of the Legion who knew about Fr. Maciel's sins, and have helped and may even be continuing to help cover them up.

That's why those involved, however tangentially, with the Legion need to be careful. A healthy organization would react with horror to what has so far been revealed, and promise a thorough investigation--or beg Rome to conduct one on their behalf. An unhealthy, cultish organization will circle the wagons, say vague things about "sad" and "inappropriate" behavior, insist despite it all that their Father Founder was a great gift of the Holy Spirit to the whole Church and that nothing has changed that, and insist with tight lips that it's all in the past and it's time to move on. You can see for yourself which path the Legion and its affiliated organizations have so far chosen to follow.


Hélène said...

Several of the RC commenters on various blogs have said that it is very sad what he did, but the only sinless founder was Jesus. After all, MM was only a human with original sin, just like everyone else and every other founder.

A big difference though is that MM encouraged people's devotion to him, or at the very least ALLOWED it, all the while knowing what a farce it was. However, from the writings of other founders I gather that if people praised them, they would humbly say that they were sinners and that they need prayers just like everyone else. Furthermore, even though many of them were grave sinners before their conversions, none of them (that I know of) engaged in sexual sin after their foundings. Denying or ignoring these facts is just another symptom of the brainwashing that the RC/LC have suffered.

Sr. Lorraine said...

It has struck me too that the Legion's response so far seems to be limited to the idea that MM was human, so we shouldn't really be too surprised. Nothing much to see here, folks, keep moving on....
But in reality, his "charism" was so entwined with his own personality that this situation can't be so easily dismissed. While the members of the Legion who have been deceived deserve our prayers, even more do the victims of MM. The Legion's statement that they must have already received adequate care by now is truly outrageous. They need to acknowledge and apologize to the victims, and root out anyone in the order who was complicit in MM's crimes. The holiness of the Church demands it.

Maria said...

Ridiculous. When all this first broke, I truly felt sympathy for those in the Legion who have been terribly hurt by this revelation. A similiar situation happend in my life on a smaller scale; it was beyond devastating to discover a model of holiness was such a sexual predator. I can imagine the pain and agony they feel right now.

But not apologizing to the victims?!?! Beyond the pale. They are obviously in denial. I pray the scales fall from their eyes.

Anonymous said...

I have been appalled by the lack of transparency and total heartlessness towards the victims of a predator.

But what is particularly shocking is a point brought up to me by a mental health professional. It seems that sociopaths, predators who prey on helpless victims, are often brilliant and charismatic. They use their high intelligence and charm to entangle their victims. They build "lairs." Is it not possible (and becoming fearfully probable), that the "good" Father created the Legion and its entire cult-like culture as a safe place for him to rape children of both sexes and steal money, all while living in the glowing adoration of his minions.

It sickens me that even in the face of the truth, these poor, deluded followers think they can salvage something from this.

I'm tired of hearing them prattle on about the great "good" this man accomplished. They seem to forget the victims, the followers who DO see the harm and are sickened, and the many who will lose faith in the Church and clergy altogether.

This scandal, combine with the the Bishop denying the holocaust... a very hard time for our Church, and certainly not a "good fruit" in any sense.

Anonymous said...