Thursday, January 14, 2010

It has been almost a year

I know I'm late to this, but I was encouraged to read about Father Richard Gill's decision to leave the Legion of Christ. Patrick Madrid posts here, and the Life-after-RC blog has Father Gill's letter announcing his decision.

I especially liked this part of Father Gill's letter:

The news of the various scandals regarding Fr. Maciel was truly shocking and horrendous for us and the whole the Church. In dealing with them I have tried my best to be honest and candid whenever I have spoken to you all about them and never knowingly misled anyone. I have believed that a rigorously honest approach to this terrible series of events was the only way to proceed. Furthermore, I felt that if done so, and counting on the help of the Holy See, it could even lead to true healing and renewal for the Legion and the Movement, even in spite of the truly serious questions it raises about the charism of the congregation.

I’m leaving more because the manner in which the Legion has handled the revelations since the Vatican took action against Fr. Maciel in 2006 has left me often frustrated and totally distracted. I’ve tried my best to communicate with the superiors over this past year, and they have been gracious and generous taking the time to listen. I believe I have had the opportunity to get my point of view across to them.

I have participated extensively in the Apostolic Visitation and gave my best input to Abp. Chaput on multiple occasions. He has been gracious, fair and objective. I feel I have done all I can in that regard.

My conclusion is that the reforms needed in the Legion (which the scandals have made clear) simply won’t happen in the foreseeable future with the current leadership’s approach to the matter.

It's an amazing thing for a man who has been a Legion of Christ priest for so many years to write, and I think Father Gill shows courage in writing it. I'm sure God will be with him.

That said, it is depressing to realize that it has been almost a year since the first allegations that Fr. Maciel had fathered at least one child and had used Legion money and resources to cover up a sinful and duplicitous lifestyle were breaking. What has changed since then, aside from the names of those who have left the Legion, or Regnum Christi, or any of the numerous apostolates/businesses the Legion owns or operates? Very little, that I can see. The Legion still recruits young men to be priests; the Legion still encourages young woman to become consecrated lay members (not religious, as they have no canonical status as such from what I understand); the Legion seems to think that business as usual ought to and will continue now and forever. Certainly they didn't appear to hesitate to buy a college when they were in the middle of an apostolic visitation. They still own many media outlets, including the popular Faith and Family magazine/blog and the National Catholic Register, among others.

What is worse than the "business as usual" attitude is another one I've encountered, often from Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi members who post online. There are some variations of it, but in general it goes like this:

  • Father Maciel was a flawed vessel. Like all of us, he was subject to temptation, and he sinned. So did many saints. (Some go further, and say that Fr. Maciel may yet be canonized, despite all, because if he sincerely repented and lived out the end of his life in a state of holy penance...etc. But this opinion is rarely voiced when outsiders might hear it, except by the rash but zealous member.)
  • Despite Fr. Maciel's flawed vessel status, the Holy Spirit chose him and worked within him to create this great new work of holiness, the Movement (e.g., Legion of Christ). The work remains one of great holiness, and the Movement must still be fostered, encouraged, and spread exactly as if Fr. Maciel were beatified, instead of proving to be a flawed vessel.
  • The proof that the Legion is a work of great holiness is its charism. That charism is described variously as Love, Charity, bringing Christ's Love/Charity to the world, etc. (However, since all Christians may properly be said to have the vocation to present Christ's charity to the world, the Legion still doesn't seem to articulate well exactly what the charism is--that is, how are they to bring Christ's love to the world. The Sisters for Life do this in pro-life ministry, for example, and the Benedictine Monks at Clear Creek Monastery in Oklahoma do this by embracing the monastic life.)
  • Those who leave the Legion, attack it, criticize it, or otherwise denigrate it have shown themselves unworthy of Fr. Maciel (though a flawed vessel) and his great gift to the Church and the world. They need many prayers, as the state of their souls must be dark indeed to cause them to set themselves up against God's great work of holiness in the world, the Movement.
  • The greatest victims of Fr. Maciel's imprudent and sinful (objectively) actions are those in the Legion who must now bear up under the weight of unjust suspicion and renewed attacks by the Devil against the great work of holiness that is the Legion, and who must also explain over and over that Fr. Maciel was a flawed vessel, but the Legion is not flawed in any way, as how could it be? since it is such a great work of holiness, etc. ad infinitum.
This is not the sort of attitude that would foster any real reform, is it? Sadly, I suspect--though I do not know for sure--that among the rank and file of ordinary Legion priests and ordinary Legion consecrated women and ordinary Regnum Christi members, it is an attitude that is all too prevalent.


Anonymous said...

Some, not all, you listed in your bullet points was also present after the abuse scandal. They minimized what was done, etc. I think it is part of the grieving process but they have to get to the next step and accept their founder was not only very sinful, he was leading a double life and using them.
This is only going to happen if those in charge call what he did what it was instead of inserting these light words every now and then. They may very well be shell shocked too.
It will be there leader who brings them into acceptance, then past it.

I didn't know that about the women - not religious - consecrated lay.

Another thing that I personally think helps is to remove FR when you refer to him.

Deirdre Mundy said...

One thing that drives me nuts about the 'flawed vessel' thing is that it's used to avoid the seriousness of the situation.

It's true that we're all flawed vessels (except for the Virgin Mary!) and that the Holy Spirit works through flawed vessels-- but when the Holy Spirit is present, he also transforms.

PETER was a flawed vessel-- he denied Christ at the Crucifixion. But he repented, allowed God's grace to transform him, and became our first pope and Martyr.

AUGUSTINE was a flawed vessel-- just look at his youthful sins! But he was honestly searching for the truth, repented, allowed God's grace to transform him, and became the brilliant Doctor of the Church we all know and love.

St. Teresa of Avila was a flawed vessel-- she was vain and had a temper--- but she gave herself to Christ, repented...and well... you see the pattern.

It's true that all Saints are flawed vessels, but not all flawed vessels are saints. Repentance comes first.

And looking at the pattern of Maciel's life, and the dishonesty and self-indulgence that seems to run through it from his earliest days until his death.....

He may have repented on his death bed. We can pray that he did...

BUT... there are no signs of that repentance and transformation BEFORE his death. So we can be pretty sure that he was NOT cooperating with the Holy Spirit in the way that most founders and foundresses of religious movements do.....

And if he wasn't working with the Holy spirit, how can we say that RC/LC have a charism?

In fact, how can any Catholic have been called by God to them? Were those LC priests actually called to a different life, and simply sidetracked into LC when they would have really blossomed as Franciscans or Dominicans?

I'm sure the CDF will sort everything out-- and that Benedict and the Holy Spirit will come to a good solution....

But, in the meantime, there's no good defense of Maciel's legacy-- and I think a lot of the people insisting that everything is JUST FINE are speaking with the voice of emotion, not reason....

Because there's a LONG WAY between a 'flawed vessel' like Padre Pio, and an unrepentant sinner.

(One piece of evidence for the lack of repentance during Maciel's life-- he allowed his followers to hail him as a saint, and he claimed he 'never said no to the Holy Spirit'-- contrast with other founders, who constantly proclaimed their own sinfullness, and who credited God alone with any good that somehow managed to result from their efforts---)

I'm praying for everyone I know who's involved in this-- the LC/RC who are still involved have a long messy slog ahead....

Geoff G. said...

This is a total and complete tangent, but this particular sentence leapt out at me:

the Legion still encourages young woman to become consecrated lay members (not religious, as they have no canonical status as such from what I understand)

My father (whose position with respect to the RCC is rather like my own; I discovered this Christmas that he had decided to raise my sister and I as Catholic and even thrown himself into the Church when we were kids despite having lost faith in it before we were born) were having a discussion over the holidays in which he lamented the loss of female religious.

The elementary school we both attended in Wisconsin is instructive. When he attended, in the late '40s and early '50s, almost all of the teachers were nuns. When I attended, in the late '70s and early '80s, a little less than half were. Now, all of the teachers are "civilians" (even the principal) and the former convent on the parish's property has been converted into the local office for Catholic Charities (also run by laypeople).

Likewise, the small village in northern Michigan where my family has been summering for decades has a very strong Irish Catholic community. One of the houses in town was an informal convent next door to the local parish. And yet, by the '80s, it was essentially a retirement home. Now the parish rents it out to vacationers.

Obviously, we have all been aware of a crisis in vocations for a long time now, but the focus has been placed on the shortage of priests. But nuns seem to have disappeared from our communities altogether, and, even if we are a couple of apostates, my father and I both found that regrettable.

Anonymous said...

•The greatest victims of Fr. Maciel's imprudent and sinful (objectively) actions are those in the Legion who must now bear up under the weight of unjust suspicion and renewed attacks by the Devil against the great work of holiness that is the Legion.

Dear God, that is the saddest excuse for child sex abuse that has ever been stated. What the hell is that about. !!!!
What about his numderous victims....want to tell them that!

Anonymous said...

The Legion was set up for a fraud and by a fraud. Let's never forget that. They/Maciel successfully targeted a certain type of Catholic that would aid them in becoming even more successful frauds. I pray daily for the people unknowingly involved.

Anonymous said...

We need to wait for the results of the Apostolic Visitation and stop gossiping about the situation that the LC and RC are going through. There are a lot of good catholics among them that are suffering with this revelations. Negative comments only add to their suffering.
God Bless You!