I was a legionary from 1962 - 1982, when the congregation was really just getting off the ground. During that time and despite close collaboration with Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder, I never saw anything to make me suspicious of the awful things we now know about him. I’ve checked with many of my peers (ex LCs) and they all share this perception. This must sound hard to believe in the light of what we now know. However, that’s why I am forgiving of those who openly defended Maciel before the facts were proven. Was I aware of his flaws and him manipulation before I left? Sure. But I honestly never saw anything nor heard any credible rumor to alert me to what I now know.
Whatever demons drove the man must have gone into overdrive from the early 1980s onward - maybe the fact that he was allegedly abused as a young child, plus the combination of a narcissistic personality combined with his charisma and the adulation of his followers led him to believe that he was beyond good and evil. May the Lord have mercy on him. His victims are Legion.
I fear that the legion debacle may be just the tip of the iceberg. The Vatican has never been immune to influence peddling (what government/politician is not?) It does not have 21st century management systems in place and its ability to manage public relations is woefully deficient.
There remains an underlying clericalism in the Vatican and the Church despite the winds of change ushered in by Vatican II. This clericalism is something of a tribal mentality, common to many religions, an urge to protect our own against the “world.”
In the early days at least Maciel saw the imperative of getting “lay” people more involved in the workings of the Church. He talked of the “people of God journeying together towards the Father.” The vision seemed right, the implementation obviously wrong. But through Regnum Christ, the lay movement of the Legion, tens of thousands of committed lay people are now involved on a level unheard of before Vatican II.
Bottom line, to remedy what ails us we need to move away from the “clerical” model that has plagued our Church. It is no longer enough to blame the Pope, the Bishops and the clergy. If the Maciel scandal helps the Church face these huge issues, then he may have served a useful purpose after all. The challenge facing Pope Benedict is one of leadership. May the winds of the Spirit be at his back.