Monday, February 22, 2010

Will the Legion be dissolved?

Is something in the wind regarding the future of the Legion of Christ? Consider this:

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. [...]

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. [Link in original--E.M.]

Should the Legion be dissolved? Are there institutional problems that run too deep to be fixed otherwise?

I'd say, yes. But if you're not sure, take a look at a letter from a French Legionary priest:

“Yes, my mail is checked. So what? Yes, the apostolic work is intense and tiring. So what? Yes, I get up early, I pray three hours a day, I live a disciplined life. So what? Yes, I am under obedience, that is, I freely renounce my own ability to make decisions in submission to my superior. So what? Yes, I am poor amidst the modern technological resources I use for the apostolate. So what? Yes, I am chaste and I am careful not to have preferences or special friendships. So what? Either I take this on, or I leave. Nobody is forcing me.”

“I see the Legion as a work made by human hands and therefore needs to be purified and perfected. It has made mistakes, yes, and it will continue to do so. Any organization facing such a situation is entitled to differences and hesitations. Benevolent exterior criticism is also normal and understandable. All of this is now clearer than ever. And although I may be wrong, I have no fear, because I know how to tell the difference between God and his works.”

“I also believed, especially after living with Fr. Maciel for three years at the headquarters, that he was holy. Why not?”

“But,” the French priest explained, “I never put my supernatural trust in him as a human person. My faith is not affected by his disordered life, but on the contrary, it is purified. Of course I am affected by the scandal, and the cries of the victims fill me with sorrow. But all of this does not call into question God’s call.”

Fr. Durodie added, “I do not judge those Legionaries who have left to join the diocesan clergy. I give thanks to all of the others who have given me the testimony of their freedom."

“It is easier to leave the boat passing through the storm than it is to stay on board. It is easier to live a peaceful life or to journey down a long and tranquil river. But i know in the depths of my heart that God called me to the Legion." [...]

“I also thank all those who have doubted and those who have walked away from us at least for the moment: they teach me humility and the joy of living for God,” he concluded.

Let's put Father Durodie's letter in perspective (and I mean no disrespect to Father; it's just important to see what he's saying, here). The "mistakes" he refers to are not merely the sexual abuse claims made against the founder, both by numerous seminarians and by women; the "mistakes" are not Father Maciel's children, however many of them there are (and I don't know if the Legion has officially admitted to more than one--does anyone know that? If so I'll update). The "mistakes" include the culture of secrecy and dependence that allowed Father Maciel to live his horrific double life; the "mistakes" continue, to the extent that that culture of secrecy and dependence continue.

It is not that Father Durodie's mail is checked that is the problem, in other words; it is that Father Maciel's apparently was not (and more awful is the idea that it was, and that there was open collusion in a cover-up of his scandalous activities). It is not that Father Durodie is disciplined; it is that Father Maciel manifestly was not. It is not that Father Durodie is obedient, poor, and chaste--but you get the idea.

More troubling still is that Father Durodie manages, under the guise of charity, to cast aspersions on those prudent souls who have severed their ties to the Legion. He does not judge them; why, he gives thanks for them because they teach him humility and joy--but it is he who has chosen to remain aboard the boat tossed by the storm, not motivated by a craven desire for safety. It is difficult to perfect the art of the oxymoronic charitable insult (though I've known a few Southern women who had that skill down pat, bless their hearts) but Father's style here is quite familiar to those who have had any dealings with the Legion about anything at all. Those who leave the Legion always have doubts and fears (unworthy of the Legion!); those who remain always have strength of character and the deepest possible dedication to their great devotion (which is what being a Legionary is all about).

I don't wish to single out Father Durodie, who, after all, has only written what a great many probably think; there are probably a hundred or more active Legionary priests or lay people who could write sincerely in much the same vein. I must say with the deepest conviction that I believe that dissolution of the order could, for so many such men and women, only be a great mercy.


Anonymous said...

A very thoughtful commentary on this situation. You have managed to speak in truth and charity about Fr Durodie's letter. Sadly, you would be called onto the carpet by many LC/RCs and labelled uncharitable. One thing I learned when I was in RC is that "charity" means never saying that anything is bad, ever.

God bless you, CM

Carla said...

Excellent blog. In my experience - always balanced, always thoughtful, always representative of Christ. I completely agree with the assessment.
We must continue to pray for God's will and for continued growth of both those who have remained in the movement and those who have reasoned to leave it.

formerly RC

Clare Krishan said...

Pete Vere parses the apology angle here in a lyrical folk tale fashion

in response to an Irish ex-LC priest's appeal for, yes that famed quality, 'charity' so many disquieted Catholics are apparently detrimental in exercising.