Friday, March 26, 2010

Compare and Contrast

Gisele at Life-after-RC has the text of two different documents up on her site today. One is the Legion's communique to the world in which they admit that Maciel abused young men and fathered children. The other is a letter from directed to their own members, written by the General Director, Father Alvaro.

I thought it might be interesting to compare the two. For the purpose of this comparison, excerpts from the Communique will be in red. The letter from Father Alvaro will be in green. My own comments will remain in normal font.

We had thought and hoped that the accusations brought against our founder were false and unfounded, since they conflicted with our experience of him personally and his work. However, on May 19, 2006, the Holy See’s Press Office issued a communiqué as the conclusion of a canonical investigation that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) had begun in 2004. At that time, the CDF reached sufficient moral certainty to impose serious canonical sanctions related to the accusations made against Fr Maciel, which included the sexual abuse of minor seminarians. Therefore, though it causes us consternation, we have to say that these acts did take place. [...]

We later came to know that Fr Maciel had fathered a daughter in the context of a prolonged and stable relationship with a woman, and committed other grave acts. After that, two other people surfaced, blood brothers who say they are his children from his relationship with another woman.

We find reprehensible these and all the actions in the life of Fr Maciel that were contrary to his Christian, religious, and priestly duties. We declare that they are not what we strive to live in the Legion of Christ and in the Regnum Christi Movement.

It is, of course, 2010. Why has it taken the Legion four years from the time they admit the CDF had reached moral certainty of Maciel's crimes until now, to admit all of this publicly?

From Fr. Alvaro's letter to members we get different words:

As you will see, the communiqué is devoted almost in its entirety to topics that in one way or another we have been talking back and forward on for over a year now. We have done so with some of you individually, and with others in larger meetings and gatherings. On several occasions I have also made sure to write to all of you together. We have prayed together many times. I also know that the Legionaries and consecrated members who serve you have done their best to be available to you, and to answer your questions and concerns as we got a better understanding of what was happening.

It has been a very painful time for everyone, even traumatic. The sudden uncovering of some facets of our founder’s life that were so removed from what we lived by his side, was a totally unexpected surprise for us all. We were not prepared for it. We all had to go through a process of gradual assimilation, in many cases a necessarily slow one, requiring an uncommon store of human and spiritual resources, which each one has been finding in prayer, in conversation with Christ in the Eucharist, by staying close to the Blessed Mother, and in conversations with your directors, spiritual guide or your section members, family members and friends.

As is natural, in this process of facing the historical reality and its consequences, each one has followed his own path depending on his sensitivity, cultural background and spiritual foundation. And it is just as natural that everyone is not at the same point. Some, having received a special help from grace, can say that this is now behind them, while another will still need time and prayer to finish processing and give closure to this chapter in their conscience. We have to be very considerate in respecting and understanding each one’s individual pace.

Notice the time discrepancy, first of all? The public communique says that "at that time," referring to 2006, the Legion accepted that the CDF had moral certainty of Maciel's abuse of seminarians. But in the letter from Fr. Alvaro, mention is made of "topics" the Legion has been discussing "for over a year now." True, four years is over a year, so I suppose I have no grounds for a legitimate complaint here, right?

The other thing that's noticeable is the difference in the denunciation of Maciel. The communique is fairly straightforward, here; but the letter still refers obliquely to "some facets of our founder's life..." Gravely sinful conduct persisting over decades isn't really just a "facet" of someone's life, in my way of looking at things. Doubtless, though, I merely lack charity.

Let's move on:

Once again, we express our sorrow and grief to each and every person damaged by our founder’s actions.

We share in the suffering this scandal has caused the Church, and it grieves and hurts us deeply.

We ask all those who accused him in the past to forgive us, those whom we did not believe or were incapable of giving a hearing to, since at the time we could not imagine that such behavior took place. If it turns out that anyone culpably cooperated in his misdeeds we will act according to the principles of Christian justice and charity, holding these people responsible for their actions.

My biggest quibble here? "Once again..." For some victims, this is the first apology they've ever heard.

Second biggest: "If it turns out that anyone culpably cooperated in his misdeeds..." If? IF? How about, "When we figure out who was helping Maciel cook the books, skim off funds for his illicit families, cover up his trips to visit them, and otherwise aid and abet him in his life of crime, that person will be handed over to civil authorities, even if he's highly-placed and well-regarded in the Legion."


In recent days, I have been thinking through all of this with the general counselors and the territorial directors. Together, we have seen that once we have all read and assimilated this page in the life of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, our task is to take a step forward, individually and as an institution, to close this chapter of our history and open a new one

It is true that we are still awaiting the results of the apostolic visitation, whose operative phase has ended. Undoubtedly, our attitude is one of complete openness, and we will embrace supernaturally and with docility whatever the Holy Father sees fit to ask of us. But until that moment comes, which is presumably still some months away, we want to get moving, so to speak, to set out again on our way with faith and humility, and throw ourselves back into working with all our ardor in the mission the Lord has given to us at the service of the Church. The attached communiqué, besides what it means in itself, is also in function of this goal of institutional re-launching.

Our job is to...think about this sad reality, assimilate it, and get back to work. Victims? What victims?


For his own mysterious reasons, God chose Fr Maciel as an instrument to found the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, and we thank God for the good he did. At the same time, we accept and regret that, given the gravity of his faults, we cannot take his person as a model of Christian or priestly life.

Christ condemns the sin but seeks to save the sinner. We take him as our model, convinced of the meaning and beauty of forgiveness, and we entrust our founder to God’s merciful love.

This is so...amazing. Visit Father Z.'s website for his pithy comment on the last sentence of the first paragraph, here. But notice what this betrays--the Legion is still clinging tight to Maciel as its founder. If he's not the founder, then who is, and where did the charism come from? They can't answer that, so they have no choice but to cling to Maciel, despite what they call "...the gravity of his faults..." But can a sexually deviant con man possibly found a valid order? I suspect that's what Rome will be pondering.

We get a different take on this in the letter:

On Calvary, at the foot of the cross: silence and trustful prayer. Once again, she understood nothing. It was so cruel, so degrading, so impossibly evil. But though her eyes were fogged with tears and her mind stunned with confusion, her soul radiated faith. She knew that God was carrying out his plan. And once again, she answered, “Yes.” And she went on meditating. She meditated, believing. She believed, trusting.

I think this is the kind of faith God is asking of us. Perhaps we will never come to understand the reason for so many things that have come to light. Nor why God chose such an instrument to establish the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. Why will the Legion and Regnum Christi not be able to present the figure of its founder like other congregations and movements? God knows. We have to accept it with faith. And with faith and humility recognize that, in spite of such a great mystery, God is wiser than we are. Once again, his warning is proven true: “My ways are not your ways” (Is. 55:8).

There's a pretty obvious difference between Mary at the foot of the Cross and the Legion at the edge of the gaping chasm left behind by their reprobate of a "founder." Mary knew her Son was innocent. But that kind of thing, the magnitude of that being glossed over in this way, gives a glimpse at the kind of thinking some find so terribly unsettling about the Legion even now.

I can't help but notice the sad childishness of the complaint, here: "Why will the Legion and Regnum Christi not be able to present the figure of its founder like other congregations and movements?" I wonder if Maciel's children were ever sad that they couldn't see their father more often, or, perhaps couldn't call him "Daddy" in certain public places. To say that "God knows," is to say that God alone understands the mystery of iniquity, which is true enough--but if we're not looking for such a deeply spiritual insight, the real truth is that this question is painfully and sadly simple to answer: Because your founder was a sexually deviant con man who used you, and everything he created, to fuel a life of narcissism, power, and pleasure. Your own future as a movement is more seriously in jeopardy than you can still seem to bring yourselves to believe.

One final comparison:

We are resolved, among other things, to:
- Continue seeking reconciliation and reaching out to those who have suffered,
- Honor the truth about our history
- Continue offering safety, especially for minors, in our institutions and activities, both in environments and in procedures
- Grow in a spirit of unselfish service to the Church and people
- Cooperate better with all the bishops and with other institutions in the Church.
- Improve our communication
- Continue our oversight to insure that our administrative controls and procedures are implemented on all levels, and to continue demanding proper accountability
- Redouble our dedication to the mission of offering Christ’s Gospel to as many people as possible
- And above all, seek holiness with renewed effort, guided by the Church.

A nice, clear plan of improvement, right? Some of it may be worded oddly (e.g., how do you "honor" the truth about your history in a case like this, exactly, other than by being excruciatingly truthful about it all?). But it's not bad for a start.

Trust follows faith. If we truly believe in God, his Providence, his infinite wisdom and goodness, we cannot but grasp his hand and place all our trust in him, only in him. Nothing in the future can make us fear.

Looking to the future with theological hope means facing it with a deep sense of responsibility. It is God who willed to bring forth the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, so as to give the Church a group of apostles to humbly and passionately cooperate in the great mission of evangelization. He is not going to abandon us. He will not let us down. All he asks of us is to be holy, consistent, and responsible, so as not to let down him, the Church, society and souls.

This is a little...less clear. Does trust really follow faith? I think that trust precedes it, and follows knowledge. I know my husband, therefore I trust him, therefore I have faith in his fidelity and trustworthiness. Placing faith before trust is making it blind, isn't it?

What is also less clear, here, is what Father Alvaro means by "responsibility." Are the members to see themselves as responsible to and for the Legion and Regnum Christi? Are they being asked to be "consistent" to their promise to serve the Legion? Because given that the Legion has finally admitted publicly that their founder was a sexually deviant con man, you think they'd be vocal about respecting the consciences of those who no longer wished to remain in the Movement.

My final conclusion here is that while the public communique is on the right track, it is disappointing in many aspects, including the stunning understatement of Maciel's unfitness to be considered a model of holiness (no, really?). I will grant that the letter to the Legion is intended to be directed at members, not the world at large, and so it is proper for some of its tone and directions to be different--yet the examples I've highlighted show some of the extremely problematic thinking still coming out of the Legion.

I do trust that the Church will do the right thing as regards the Legion. I think the greatest and most charitable thing that could be done would be to dissolve it and allow it to be reformulated under a new founder, with a much clearer charism, a much more specific ministry, and much better spiritual formation--not to mention transparency, clarity, and the shedding of anything Maciel created or instituted.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"At that time, the CDF reached sufficient moral certainty. .. Therefore, though it causes us consternation, we have to say that these acts did take place."

What they don't mention is the mockery they made of the CDF's certainty from that time to this week. Maciel the innocent martyr leaving the CDF as Pontius Pilate.

Their leadership are children in grown bodies without a clue as to how much Maciel deformed them.