A Faith and Family reader made a comparison between Tiger Woods (who was being discussed by a Faith and Family blogger) and the Legion. Danielle writes:
I am neither unable nor unwilling to talk about the Legionaries of Christ. Circle Media, which is the publishing arm of the Legionaries of Christ, owns Faith & Family—as well as the National Catholic Register, Circle Press, and Catholic.net.
The Legionaries of Christ have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Faith & Family over the years because they believe in what we do. It is only because of the generosity of the Legion that Faith & Family magazine and this website exist as a means of support and encouragement for Catholic families, and I am deeply grateful for their support.
But Beth wants to know how we can deal with the terrible truths about Fr. Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ ... Quite simply, I can’t.
I cannot come to terms with the monstrous things I’ve read and heard about Maciel’s double life. I cannot reconcile the good things we do at Faith & Family, the dedicated men I know who are Legionary priests, and the many good men and women I know who are members of Regnum Christi with the evil things that man wrought throughout his life.
As with all sexual abuse scandals within the Church, the truth about Maciel’s double life is deeply wounding, and I can’t make sense of it. I’m not sure how any of us could. But I do know that the evil doings of one man do not negate the good work we have done and continue to do at Faith & Family.
There is more; read the rest here.
Let me say again that I don't wish any criticism I have here to be taken as a personal attack against Danielle or some kind of unfair bashing of Faith and Family. But I think that those of us who are taking a more cautious, "wait and see" approach to any of the Legion's many works and affiliates during this time while the future of the Legion is uncertain may find this way of looking at the matter a little frustrating.
For instance, the "generosity of the Legion" may indeed have been poured out upon things like Faith and Family, K4J, Familia and other programs. But as reporter Jason Berry has been writing, the "generosity of the Legion" was also responsible for buying goodwill and a lack of criticism of the Legion from among the powerful in Rome; it was responsible for supporting Maciel's secret families and children; it was responsible for purchasing a good image and sufficient media to create a view of Maciel as a persecuted saint, and to cast his accusers in the role of Judas--or to insinuate that they were faithless, crazy, diabolically-influenced, or all three.
And then there's that talk, as is usual, about the good Legion priests and the good Regnum Christi members and even the good that Legion works (specifically Faith and Family) do--and no recognition of the problem that an order which gets its charism from a sexually-deviant con man who lived a lavish, luxurious, sinful life while expecting his seminarians and lay followers to give themselves heart and soul (not to mention financially) to the Legion and the Movement and the Kingdom must sooner or later face: the prospect that there has never been any lasting good done by the Legion which can outweigh the deep, pervasive, significant harm, the spiritual rot and corruption, and the number of souls potentially at risk of eternal damnation because of Maciel and because of the way in which he created and used his religious movement. To put it bluntly, it is entirely possible that any good the Legion ever did is now so clouded with the sins and evils of Maciel as to be vanishing away completely--while the evil that Maciel did will live on long after his death. Pious platitudes about God drawing straight with crooked lines will not cut it anymore--God may draw straight with crooked lines, but God does not mistake a rotten twig for a writing implement in the first place.
And that is what strikes me when I hear, as I have heard and read before, this idea that the evil done "by one man" does not detract from all the good being done by so many. There have been lots of times in history when "one man" has not only done a great deal of evil, but founded and established a culture in which evil could thrive, even if evil was not the original intent of those identifying themselves with the founder. In fact, there are many such people in history; some combination of wrong ideas and dysfunctional practices modeled after a person's life and work that has eventually led to egregious evils being adopted and accepted by the group as something normal or even good. To give just one such example, consider the early Mormon practice of polygamy. Even though mainstream Mormonism now rejects that practice, plenty of small offshoots insist that polygamy is the right thing to do--and they can point to founder Joseph Smith and to the actions of other early Mormon leaders in support of their claim that polygamy or plural marriage is a true Mormon practice.
What does all of this boil down to, for me personally? (I wish to be clear: what I choose to do about the Legion may not be what anyone else chooses to do; each person must consult his/her own conscience, and if necessary his/her own spiritual director.) For me, it means that there were three kinds of activities going on in the Legion during Maciel's lifetime:
--works that were actively evil (e.g., abuse, concealment of abuse, restriction of legitimate criticism, spiritual blackmail, ill-formation to prevent disclosure, the unjust taking over of other people's apostolates or ministries, stolen vocations, bribery, flattery and appeals to pride especially of rich potential benefactors, the payment of money to Maciel for his sinful lifestyle and to continue keeping that lifestyle secret, and many other similar things)
--works that were of dubious morality (e.g., the careful crafting of the Legion's image so that it appeared to be an orthodox and pious order that was prospering under the direction of a "living saint")
--works that were good, but which were used by the Legion to further the first two types of works (and here I would include things like Faith and Family; how easy for Legion leadership, when asked to comment on Maciel's "retirement," to say, "Oh, he is like Christ, accepting a (likely unjust) punishment without complaint. But we know the charges against him are all balderdash! Why, look at this lovely magazine full of traditional Catholic themes and ideas--how necessary such a thing is for the world! And look, here, at these wholesome boys' clubs and girls' clubs--why, what a counter to our evil secular culture, and how blessed the people who have found there way to such safe harbor for their children!" etc. ad infinitum.) It is simply the reality that the "good things" funded and financed by the Legion were used to deflect attention and criticism from the bad--is it really the case that this is no longer true? Or has the order become so accustomed to answering legitimate criticism with what amounts to, "Yes, but look over here! See the good?" etc. that they don't even recognize this for the manipulative tactic it is?
Since this is my personal evaluation of the problem, using the ordinary gifts of discernment and prudence God gives each of us, I am still inclined to avoid all of the Legion's works until such time as real change is shown to have been ordered, implemented, and successful in rooting out the types of dysfunction I've listed here. I respect those who choose otherwise, of course, and I join Danielle in waiting to hear from Pope Benedict XVI as to the future of the Legion of Christ.