Friday, September 18, 2009

Dissolution or re-founding?

America magazine is reporting that sources close to the Legionaries in Spain say the current visitation will end in either dissolution of the Legion or the re-founding of the order:

The result of Rome's investigation (known as an "apostolic visitation") into the Legionaries of Christ will result in either the dissolution or the re-founding of the order, according to sources close to the Legionaries in Spain. There, a Basque bishop, Ricardo Blazquez, is in charge of the visitation; in the US, it is being led by the Archbishop of Denver, Charles Chaput. Their main task, apparently, is to assess whether the order's members will be accepting of whatever Rome decides.

Dissolution would mean the houses, universities and other properties of the Legionaries would pass into the hands of the dioceses where they are located.A new institute could then be founded.

Fr Marcial Maciel founded the Legionaries of Christ in Mexico in 1941. The Legionaries have 3,250 male members, of whom 850 are priests. The order also has about 1,000 consecrated women, and some 60,000 members of Regnum Christi, the lay branch.

According to a former Legionary quoted by the Spanish religious journalist Jose Vidal, the ordinary priests and members of Regnum Christi, want a root-and-branch reform --if necessary, by means of a dissolution -- in order to give a new institute a fighting chance. But the order's leaders are fighting a defensive rearguard action, arguing that they knew nothing of the double life led by Maciel, and were therefore neither accomplices in his abuses nor did they attempt to cover them up.

While the leaders admit that Maciel had a mistress and a child, and are keen to distance themselves and the order from him, they are treading carefully, aware that no order has ever survived the repudiation of its founder.

Read the whole thing.

According to the article, the Americans in the Legion are in favor of quick action, including a change in leadership, but the Spaniards want to retain the present leaders--though at this point arguing that none of them had the slightest inkling of Maciel's double life is a pretty hard sell.

A re-founding of the order, with a new founder and new leadership, would allow the Legion to continue its work--but I still think they need to develop a much clearer articulation of a charism, and embrace some specific practical work in the Body of Christ. So much of what they do seems not to be unique and to be oriented more toward the perpetuation of the Legion than toward any specific work of charity. I could see them adopting a specific mission to educate, for instance, but they would then need to accept diocesan oversight of what they do, whether in school buildings or working as parish education facilitators.

Some former Legion members don't appear to think this will be enough; dissolution is the only possible cure for the Legion's ills, to them. It may prove that this is true--but a lot will depend on how willing the Legion is to accept Rome's decisions regarding their future with equanimity, trust, and a spirit of sorrowful penitence for the harm done in the name of their order and their once-revered founder.

7 comments:

Deirdre Mundy said...

The big question I have about an immediate refounding is: how will they find a new founder/group of founders?

I mean, the current crisis pretty much demonstrates what happens when you found a religious institute without the help of the Holy Spirit, right? But how will they determine who ought to refound or what the new constitutions/charism/mission should look like? Charisms aren't usually imposed from the outside, or even figured out right away. Instead, you get someone inspired to live a certain life (I.e Francis: Radical Poverty. Mother TeresaL: Love the poor! Dominic: Preach and reason with heretics!) and an order grows out of that over time...

So wouldn't a dissolution necessarily PRECEDE a refounding? I mean, if the Legion is in such bad shape, can changing the leadership really be enough? They'd still be without a 'founder'......

Not that a handful of Legionaries couldn't start over and try to create the community they WISH they had, but it doesn't seem like something that can be forced from the outside.......

Daddio said...

My uneducated opinion:
The Pope should dissolve the order and ask them all to become diocesan priests. Those who truly believe in their founder's alleged fidelity and service to the pope - the "new Jesuits" - will gladly obey, and the rest will leave.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Daddio-- But Diocesan life is a different bird than religious life. Some of these guys might be called to AUTHENTIC religious life--they just got sidetracked by Maciel. Instead of forcing them to incardinate, it might be better to have them go on leave and maybe do retreats/discernment with other orders? Some might be best suited to Diocesan life, but others might be happier as Dominicans or something.....

Forcing them all to go Diocesan wouldn't necessarily help anyone... it's true that Dioceses need more priests, but they need priests who've been called to the Diocesan life, not just any warm body that can hear confessions and say Mass!

thomas tucker said...

I can understand that, but maybe what they are called to do is whatever the Pope asks them to do.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Realistically, I can't see the pope making a blanket statement like "You are now all Diocesan" precisely BECAUSE he understands the difference between Diocesan and religious life. Also, a lot of these guys have been in the Legion since they were 12--if it gets shut down, they'd need a lot of help and decompression time-- I'm not sure Diocesan life would be helpful for that-- they haven't really been trained for parish work, after all.....

Peter Vere the canon lawyer suggested at one point that they all get sent on retreat to the Benedictines for a few months or a year......

Thomas Tucker said...

That makes sense.

Jeannette said...

I hope something is done for the 3gf's too; they aren't being looked at because they're RC, not LC, but they're completely unable to function in the world. Since they have no canonical status, they're just considered laity though.