Or, as William Shakespeare put it: "The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones." (Julius Caesar)By now, a year and a half after the well casing of Marcial Maciel's double life finally blew apart, wrecking the Legion-of-Christ rig he had constructed to house and conceal it, and gushing a torrent of nauseating revelations into the public consciousness, we all have a bad case of Maciel-fatigue. I know I do. I'm sick of it. (And if you aren't sick of it, watch the video at the bottom of this post and I predict you will be. Sick at heart.)And yet, we should shake off the fatigue, brace ourselves, and take stock of just how widespread the damage could become that this man (and whoever knowingly abetted him in his depredations) has inflicted on the Church.How bizarrely ironic that the order Maciel established to be a vanguard of joyful, militant, conquering supporters and defenders of the pope should now be one of the present pope's biggest headaches. This thought undoubtedly torments many Legionary priests and affiliated laypeople who've been wondering whether to abandon the burning rig or stay put and, hoping against hope, wait for the fire that threatens to consume everything to be extinguished.In my estimation, amidst all the uncertainty, at least one thing is certain: The Legion of Christ as we have known it is over, and it's not coming back. [...]What's really strange, and I mean "strange" in the most baleful and sinister sense, is how Fr. Maciel's cerement-swathed hand reaches out from the grave to besmirch the memory of Pope John Paul II — the pope he feigned such adoring dedication to for all those years. While he surely harmed many men, women, and children by exploiting and devouring their trusting innocence and generosity in order to sate his own appetites, it seems that what distinguishes him as a truly implacable sociopath whose life was "devoid of scruples" is that he preyed upon even his own children.The more it goes, the more it seems as if the trail of destruction lying in the wake of this man's astonishing 87 years of bustling activity on this earth doesn't just diminish, but dwarfs, whatever good he may have done along the way in the greedy, grubby pursuit of his goals.
One of the most frustrating things, according to those who were once in the Legion/Regnum Christi and have now left it, is how the habit of pointing to the fruits of the Legion has continued even in the face of the allegations that Maciel not only fathered children out of wedlock, but molested at least one of his own sons. "But look at all the good the Legion does!" is a refrain common to the pro-Legion side of things.
It's natural to want to defend an organization or individual priests one has had good experiences with. But real reform of the Legion requires the willingness to move beyond that, to be willing to see the ways in which the bad formation, bad principles, bad practices, etc. might have tainted even those things one personally experienced as good.
And that's especially hard, given fallen human nature. We tend to get defensive about things we like; we tend to react as though we ourselves are under attack. This has happened, astonishingly enough, in parishes where priests were removed for credible allegations of sexual misconduct, even with children--whole parishes would defend the priest being removed, and brush aside questions of serious wrongdoing as though what really mattered was that Father instituted hand-holding during the Our Father--or that Father finally banned that liberal practice. Abusive people are extremely good at the diabolical art of manipulation, after all, and gaining all that support was probably always a kind of "Plan B."
If the garden-variety abuser could do that much, how much more did Maciel do! He began creating a kind of self-hagiography from the get-go. He created structures that were (arguably) designed to help him hide his more nefarious activities, and instituted disciplines that kept anybody from questioning him. He encouraged a multiplicity of "apostolates" and "works" to keep everybody busy--often doing duplicate work--but apparently kept things in a state of confused entanglement all the while. And, as has been pointed out here and many other places on numerous occasions, all of the Legion works and apostolates seemed at all times to have one overarching goal: to grow the Legion. It wasn't said that way--it was said as if "growing the Legion" meant "bringing about the Kingdom," that all that was necessary to create the Kingdom of Christ on earth was for the Legion to be as big, as powerful, as financially productive, and as untouchable as possible.
I think it's fair to say that Maciel did not, himself, really do any good at all--any lasting, permanent good, that is. What he did was create, for his own purposes and his own ends, the illusion of good--the better with which to entrap souls, supply himself with victims for his perversion as well as with wealthy donors to furnish him with a luxurious and devious lifestyle, and bring about not the Kingdom of God, but the kingdom of Maciel instead. The more we learn about the way this man conducted himself here on earth, the more we can see the evil of that way--but how, then, to pretend that that way can produce anything really good, anything really beautiful, anything really lasting or geared toward God's greater glory?
I think it's time to stop all such pretenses. What will emerge from the ruins of the Legion will, as Patrick Madrid said, be very, very different from what exists now--or it will simply cease to be.