Monday, April 12, 2010

It always comes back to the charism

Sorry for the late blogging today--I had a date with destiny, otherwise known as a dentist appointment. (Those of you have less than cooperative teeth understand the "destiny" thing; those of you who are in your mid-forties and have had fewer than four cavities your whole lives just skip over it, please.) Three fillings and one sore mouth later, all I can think of is that I'm really glad it's over. For now. Until the next dark shadow or tiny crack or sinister sticky place shows up on some future visit...

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.


Anonymous said...

It seems to me, what is unique is the mastery of manipulation using psychological and spiritual knowledge and skill but with something terribly wrong!

Anonymous said...

See this yet?

"Commissioner seen as likely outcome of Legionary investigation"


Deirdre Mundy said...

Hmm... if their charism is "Biggering," perhaps Maciel took his 'Rule" from the Lorax? via the St. Francis Method?

1. "You never can tell what some people will buy"

2. "I biggered my money, which everone needs."

3. "Business (Apostolate?) is business, and business must grow."

Except, of course, the Onceler was repentant as he saw the wreckage he'd left behind.

Laurinda said...

I never heard of the Legion before all of this came out. I live in Austin, TX now, are there any Legion organizations here? I haven't come across any. What about Northern KY or Cincinnati where I grew up?

Great posts, btw, you've explained your opinions on the matter thoroughly.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Laurinda-- I know they're pretty concentrated geographically.

I'd heard of them in College (U of C) but only as a joke... that there was this order called the "Millionaires of Christ" and they claimed to be the 'new Jesuits.' The joke was that they were looking to buy property around Hyde Park, and around the same time Jesuit house burnt down. So the gag was that they'd tried to burn out the competition with Arson.

Note to conspiracy theorists: It was faulty wiring IIRC... Luckily, noone was physically injured, though some rare books were destroyed and one of the Fathers lost his entire thesis and all backups. :(

Anyway, we never encountered RC until we moved to La Porte county--apparently the Legion deliberately set up a stronghold here b/c we're right over the border from the Dioceses of South Bend (where they're banned) and Lafayette (where they're heavily regulated).

They're really a pretty small bunch... smaller than the Redemptorists, even. And smaller than Schoenstatt or Communion and Liberation and Opus Dei. But big enough that their problems are international.... at least when the Charismatic communities melted down, individual bishops could handle everything!

Jeannette said...

In Cincinnati, there's Royalmont Academy, in Mason of course. Dierdre, I'd assumed the Legion was banned in Lafayette-in-Indiana because they aren't in Carmel (except that this spring's Indianapolis Pure Fashion show is in a Carmel hotel), and I know Bishop Higi didn't much like them; also the diocese had a huge abuse scandal in the late '90's and Bp Higi doesn't like ado. Do you know more?

Deirdre Mundy said...

Jeanette-- no, I was going off of your info! I KNOW they're in our diocese b/c of the ban in SB, though.

Our bishop was considering banning them in 2004 or 2005.... but apparently Cardinal George talked him out of it? (We tend to follow Chicago's lead around here..)

The Apostolic school is as far east as it can be and still be in our diocese, and I know from RC friends that the priests out there are VERY CAREFUL not to cross into SB's area...

Though, honestly, I don't think the LC have made many inroads to the WEST of us either-- the center of our Diocese is pretty heavily Opus Dei (They have a retreat house over that way...) And I think there's some Schoenstatt to the south. (It's funny how lay movements seem to fall out geographically.... maybe the movement-inclined often join whichever is closest?)

Anyway, the priests around here still seem to be pretty supportive of RC-- the pastor out at John Kanty (The parish closest to the Apostolic School) had one of the priests out to give a lenten mission to the parish AND wanted him to give a short reflection to all the homeschooled kids at the monthly social.

Of course, a number of the priests around here don't use the internet, so I'm pretty sure they don't know the depths of the problems....

Will Duquette said...

Again, I have no interest in defending Maciel, LC/RC, or Maciel's "charism", whatever it might supposedly have been. It may well be that the best thing to do is to dismantle LC/RC completely, and divest all LC/RC ministries that can possibly stand alone--and I'm saying "it may well be" because I have no personal knowledge of LC/RC.

I'm simply taking exception to the statement you make that all the good ever done by the Legion of Christ has necessarily evaporated, that it has been utterly poisoned by its link with Maciel and his evil ways. And that's rank hyperbole at best. Any objective good done by members of the Legion in the past remains good. Any objective good being done by members of the Legion in the present remains good.

This may not be sufficient reason for the Legion to remain in existence. The Legion might be fundamentally flawed and need to be suppressed. But good remains good.

Red Cardigan said...

Will, all due respect, but I think you are misreading me.

If individual LC priests or RC members have innocently and without any knowledge of Maciel done what is good under the misguided notion that they were serving God *through* obedience to Maciel, then that is fine--it does not cease to be good.

But the argument being made in the Legion is that the Legion itself is and must be good--because, they say, look at all these good things the Legion has done! I look, and I see schools where up until very recently Maciel's picture adorned the walls and wild theories about his innocence remained rather common; I see publications that were studiously silent about the accusations against Maciel or, worse, spun his acceptance of the life of prayer and penance as the punishment of an innocent and Christlike figure; I see Legion money going to pay off Maciel's women and children; I see Legion finances and Legion influences used for *decades* to hide the truth about Maciel and bash his victims as liars and evildoers, while forbidding their members to discuss any of Maciel's failings on the grounds of "charity."

So, yes, I see what has been done by the Legion, as an institution, under the name of "Legion" and under the guidance of Maciel, as so fundamentally flawed that it cannot be called good. That individual members have at times managed to do good *in spite* of the grave institutional flaws of the Legion and its unshaken committment to Maciel is a sign of God's mercy, but it is not a sign of the goodness of the Legion--far from it.

Beth said...

I believe there are plenty of good and sincere members in the LC and their ministries-no doubt.

I am not too confident that the Church will really clean house on this one--we will see.

At the very least--all of Maciel's pictures and writings should be removed from the LC.

Imagine what is is like for decades forming your spiritual life around this man and his writings. Investing your life in this group because of him. There is such a strong cult of personality associated with the LC.

I am hoping that there are adequate resources and information provided to those who are in psychological turmoil. My guess is there is not because the leadership is not healthy and individuals on the inside are not given access to all the info they need to make choices.

Are members still meditating on his readings? Admiring his pictures on the wall? Are there still new seminarians entering their seminary? Don't you think they should put a hold on any additional ordinations/vows until they get something settled? Have the number of kids entering their high school dropped?

TROLL said...

So much of what MM wrote was derivative. Charism. A gift of the Holy Spirit.

Who speaks for the Holy Spirit?

Until I hear someone who has authority speak on it, I regard the various naive and ill informed opinions in the blogosphere as only so much hot air.

And no, canon lawyers are not specialists in this area.

Anon out of RC said...

Troll -
The Pope does have authority and he already said "independent of the person of the founder" in 2006 and the LC/RC did not do that.

He invited Maciel to a life of prayer and penance and we hear that he may not have even been saying Mass in his last years and wanted the Normas with him on his deathbed...not sure that is prayer and penance and with the facts we have from Maciel's life - I am not sure he was capable of prayer and penance.

...soooo for me the Pope already spoke for the HS and I participated and watched a group still revere Maciel even though he blasphemed our Lord with his claim that he was an innocent victim keeping silence to his accusers like Christ. We chose Maciel over the Pope's word in 2006. No excuses - we were blind to the truth that this man might be guilty because we were so enthralled with him as a future saint and our movement because we were doing so much "good" for the church and we were not willing to search out the truth.

It feels great to admit it, strip myself from that methodology and move on in peace with Christ and his Church.

TROLL said...

Anon out of RC, I don't really give a fig about what MM did. He is dead, and I suspect there is not much left of him where they laid him to rest. I was never that interested in MM, and found the fuss around him to be quaint and a bit old fashioned in a nunny kind of way. That the idol had clay feet is no surprize, though I am appalled by the degree of corruption to which he sank.

The deathbed story is just so soapy I don't know how you can take it as anything but the cheapest sensationalism to sell newspapers. I don't give it credence and find it highly amusing that this is what you use as the substance of your argument.

Really, now. You have not lost any of your credulity. You have simply switched your object of fascination.

The foibles of his followers in having difficulty accepting that he did not live up to his image don't particularly bother me either. Reality checks are hard, and denial is so often the first response that it has become #1 on the list psychologists use. So that people fell into that category does not bother me either.

You are right that the Pope made an exception for the Legion and the movement. After all, Jesus did say that "wherever more than two of you are gathered in my name, there I shall be also". Jesus didn't make an exception for sinners there either.

I am not about to read something into the Holy Father's words that he did not intend. When he will make a declaration, he will be clear in what he says, as has been his life-long practice in the numerous tomes he has written.

However, I am there for the community and the friends that I have within it. There are sure some die-hard idealists in there. I am not going to join the mob in throwing stones at them. In the deep messes of life, people need a friend. Jesus' message was to love, and I certainly am not going to let some big mouths in the blogosphere turn me away from doing just that.

I am sure that Benedict will be sensitive to the international dimensions of this situation, and will not be easily swayed by some pushy gringos who want their way at all costs irregardless of consequences they have no capacity to measure.

If you feel great, no longer being part of it, well good for you. Some of us learn our freedom via the hard knocks in life. That is a gift. Eventually you might even feel some gratitude for it.

It really WAS about Maciel said...

"The deathbed story is just so soapy I don't know how you can take it as anything but the cheapest sensationalism to sell newspapers."

The problem with your argument is that Maciel's entire LIFE was so soapy that nobody ever would have believed it (and indeed, the likes of Neuhaus, Glendon, etc, vociferously denied such a seedy soapish story could POSSIBLY be true). So that holds no water.

I'm glad you never believed in Maciel. But many of us whose children lived, breathed, and measured every action by "What Would Maciel Do?" for years in the LC schools find small comfort in the fact that some people weren't as damaged by this LC outfit.

So glad you are self-satisfied and ready to be critical of all those who were deeply damaged by this group. They were just fools all those years, unlike you, apparently.

Your RC charity shines right through.

Newsflash: It's not just about you, and how undamaged you are, and how much you like this outfit, and how stupid everybody else was to believe what this outfit taught about Maciel, and how annoying all those bloggers criticizing the Legion are. It's about real people and real children who have been severely misled and damaged by this racket that calls itself an order of Catholic priests.

TROLL said...

Ooooh, the usual Knee-jerk response. I have never pretended to be an exemplar of RC charity, so your insult is wasted on me.

You`ll have to be more creative next time.

And they really ARE Catholic priests, legitimately ordained. I somehow don`t see that changing.

Suburbanbanshee said...

You know what's interesting? Nobody has dug up another founder.

I find that really interesting, because a lot of these creepy organizational guys leech and Iago-fy other people's ideas.

Of course, it's possible that the Legion really is Opus Dei's evil twin, and that Maciel was inspired to build his organization by stuff he'd heard about Opus Dei's growing popularity.