Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Some Legion of Christ matters

Archbishop Velasio de Paolis writes to the Legion and Regnum Christi. The letter may most charitably be characterized as a call to get back to business as usual, with a brushing aside of the inconvenient fact that the order was founded by a sexually deviant con man who preyed both physically and financially on a whole lot of innocent people, and permitted a culture of abuse to rise up around him, leaving many unanswered questions as to how many other prominent Legion priests knew about Maciel's double life and what they might have done either to facilitate it or to cover up for him.

Life-after-RC expresses some disappointment with the note.

For myself, I find this passage of the archbishop's letter to be all but incomprehensible:
Most of the Legionaries, faced with the situation of the Founder, have reacted positively, reaffirming their gratitude to God for their vocation and discovering so much good the Legion had done and is still doing. Moreover, the Legion has been approved by the Church and it cannot be said that it is not a work of God at the service of his Kingdom and of the Church. The Founder’s responsibilities cannot simply be transferred onto the Legion of Christ itself.
Um...excuse me? What does this even mean?

Are we to take it that most Legionaries, having discovered that their founder really was, as had been disclosed by his victims years ago, a sexually deviant con man with a penchant both for illegal relationships with adult females and the victimization of little boys (allegedly even his own sons) reacted by...wait for it...praising God for the gift of their awesome vocations and all the good that the Legion and Regnum Christi has done for the sake of the Kingdom? Because, if so, that's really, really disturbing. What, no moment of reflection, no sorrow and grief over the founder's sins and betrayals, no weeping for the innocent victims and their great losses, no self-examination to be sure that one's own vocation was not merely the result of a twisted pride manipulated by an organization structured to exploit such pride while hiding bad things from its members? Nothing could possibly be a greater indictment of the whole Movement than this.

And that second bit, about the Legion being a work of the Church and the "...Founder’s responsibilities cannot simply be transferred onto the Legion of Christ itself..." again, what?? A founder of a religious order is not just some guy. He's the one with the charism (and the Legion's remains in grave doubt), the one with the mission, the one from whom everything about the order is taken. And the Legion's founder was a sexually deviant con man/pedophile/womanizer/etc. who lived, according to the Vatican's statement on the subject, "a life devoid of scruples and of genuine religious feeling." But somehow this man managed to receive a genuine charism and found a genuine order anyway?

I realize that things move very slowly in Rome, and that a pastoral concern for those still tied to the Legion (whether canonically as priests, or merely emotionally as "consecrated" women or lay members) may sometimes make letters like this one very opaque to those of us outside of the Legion. And there are bound to be times when things seem to be moving in the wrong direction, too.

But I think the most valuable thing so far to come out of Rome's scrutiny of the Legion has been the statement I referred to above. Should any person be pressured to join, remain in, support, or contribute to the Legion, to Regnum Christi, or to any of its many works and branches, the ability to give an answer which says, in effect, "Why should I have any interest whatsoever in an order founded by a sexually deviant pedophile/womanizer con man whose life was, according to the Vatican, '...devoid of scruples and of genuine religious feeling...'? There are better places to put my talents and treasure to work," is truly invaluable.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update, and the gracious outrage.

priest's wife said...

I had two friends who were discerning a religious vocation- one skinny and pretty, one overweight. RC ignored my overweight friend and tried to get the skinny one to join up. The non-perfect friend became a Carmelite! Yay! The skinny one got married

Anonymous said...

Excellent observations, Erin. There is a lack of insightful information from a Catholic perspective on responding to the crisis. You have really nailed this one, and I expect others could benefit from your writing.

If you haven't already, I think its time to collect your thoughts on the Legion and think about publication. Or at the very least forward them to Jason Berry, a reporter and author who is expert on this situation, and a Catholic.
There are lots of folks out there who could benefit from this wisdom.

Paul Pfaff

Red Cardigan said...

Thank you, Paul--I'll consider it.