I did have some time over the weekend, though, to think about what I wrote on Friday about the Legion, and in particular this bit, which a commenter thought was going too far:
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.I didn't, and don't, think that it's going to far to say that, at all. Right now, as Rome has not yet spoken about the Legion, and as the verdict of history is still quite a long way off, it is possible. At the very least, it is not only possible, but quite plausible, that in order to do any real, lasting good the apostolates and ministries of the Legion will have to cease to take their identity from the Legion--and that the Legion itself will need to be so radically and entirely reformed from the ground floor up, so to speak, that what we call the Legion today will bear no resemblance whatsoever to an organization with a similar name that may replace today's version and then begin to grow.
Why would any such thing be necessary? Why can't the Legion simply, as they have (at last) done, acknowledge the deeply evil reality of Maciel's duplicitous and manipulative life, and then continue as they have been to do the work of the Movement to build the Kingdom, etc.?
The bottom line is this: it always comes back to the charism, and the role of a founder in conducting that gift from God, through the order, to the world. It is quite true that some orders had multiple founders, and that some of the oldest orders were founded by men or women whose names were not recorded by history--nevertheless, the process by which a charism is given to a religious order is usually held to be as follows:
1. God decides to give a special gift to the world.
2. He chooses some person(s) to whom to give this gift, which at its heart is the gift of an inspiration to found some new religious family. This gift is many things: a way to holiness, a special focus on some aspect of the work of Christian life, a particular way of living and of prayer, and so on.
3. The founder, in fidelity to this gift, begins a new religious order. His followers absorb everything they can of his spirit, his rule of life, his path to holiness, in addition to whatever special characteristic or particular mission the founder has given them.
4. When the founder dies, whether he has lived a life of heroic sanctity (and thus may be canonized) or of the ordinary struggle of good and evil, the charism he has passed on will still be seen and valued as a great gift from God, a true path to holiness, an important ministry or work of Christian life, with special insights into prayer and holy living.
Now, no one in the LC/RC would disagree with what I have written in points one through four above. They would put it this way: Yes, God decided to give a new gift to the world, the Legion. And God chose Father Maciel to be the conduit of this gift. Maciel received this gift and faithfully set about communicating it to his followers; he explained that their special work was to be to build up God's Kingdom by way of the Movement, he wrote about Legion spirituality and prayer, and he set himself up as the model of the "perfect Legionary." Alas! Somewhere along the way Maciel fell into grievous sin and did not repent publicly of it (when he must have known his type of sins would become public sooner or later, creating scandal). Now, as was said in a recent Legion letter, the Legion will suffer the misfortune of never being able to point to their founder as the other religious orders do. But he is still the founder; there is still a charism; and each and every Legion member, priest, "consecrated" lay women, or other lay people, must firmly repeat that they are grateful to God for His great gift of the Legion, which for mysterious reasons God chose to give to the world in the person of that "flawed vessel" Maciel.
To the observer outside the Legion, though, this is just an extended exercise in "begging the question." So, Father Maciel received a valid charism from God, did he? When did this happen? Was it when he was in his twenties and was kicked out of a couple of seminaries for reasons that still remain murky? Was it when he was being privately tutored for the priesthood by one of his four bishop-uncles, having failed to find a seminary that would accept him? Was it when he was allegedly abusing drugs, a problem that he is alleged to have had most of his life? Was it when he was sexually abusing seminarians in a degrading and sickening way, a problem which began in the 1940s--and remember, Maciel was only ordained in 1944--or when he was conducting sexual affairs with women and fathering children? Was it when he was abusing those same children?
Are we to believe, in fact, that God looked down from Heaven upon Maciel and waited for a moment of true contrition and sorrow for his sins after a good confession and then, like lightning, sent down the charism upon a man God knew would exploit, manipulate, harm, and debase others through this very "gift from God?" Are we, in other words, to believe that God looked beyond all the potential good shepherds available in the world in the early 1940s and chose, as His conduit for this great gift of the Legion, a man who was carnal, sinful, unrepentant, manipulative, a con artist, a born huckster, untrustworthy, untruthful, arrogant, luxurious, and without even the common measure of moral sense or capacity for guilt? Does God ever choose sociopaths to start religious orders--has He ever, in all of human history, done so?
It seems highly unlikely to me. It seems even more unlikely when I consider the still-growing list of Legion affiliates (apologies to those who have added entries lately; I haven't had time to update, but will soon)--where, in all of that, is there a coherent and unique manifestation of some unique way of living the Christian life that can be called the order's charism? The only thing I see that is unique about the Legion is that it is awfully good at increasing the power of the Legion--and no order has ever had such a self-focused charism. "We exist to grow ourselves bigger and bigger!" is a lousy charism--heck, it would be a lousy corporate slogan, even if it's true more often than not in the secular world.
But the conclusion those two thoughts lead me to is something the Legion absolutely cannot and must not accept--because my conclusion is that there is no charism, and thus there is no Legion. All that is left is the slowly decaying structure Maciel set up himself to hide his own grave sins while ensuring that he would have all the money, power, prestige, and sex he so desperately craved (see, again, that link above to "sociopath"). If anything good is to come out of the Legion, that good must be in the future, when the order has been totally, radically, ruthlessly purged of anything associated in any way whatsoever with Maciel, and re-formulated with a new founder and a coherent, visible charism (perhaps, if God wills it, the order will begin anew as an order dedicated to serving, educating, and helping the poor, forgotten, and oppressed, and will be strictly forbidden to minister to the rich).
In the meantime? Everything the Legion touches is, to me, suspect. No matter how nice it all looks or pleasant it all sounds, it is founded on a lie--the lie of the charism, the lie of the Founder, the lie of the man who wanted, with God, to be called "Nuestro Padre." While I am deeply sympathetic towards the plight of innocent people who have ended up depending on the Legion for their very bread, this sympathy I have does not permit me to forget that what remains of the Legion is a hollow facade, built on nothing; either the collapse will come, if the order fails to do what Rome wishes, or they will be painfully torn apart and rebuilt for the sake of the real Kingdom, not the Kingdom of Maciel. I see no other alternative; I see no pleasant, vague brushing aside of the "deficiencies" and "sad failings" of "our Founder, Nuestro...that is, our founder." There would be no justice in such a pretense, not for any of Maciel's victims, not for anyone involved at all, in fact.