Friday, September 10, 2010

Another book about Fr. Marcial Maciel founder of the Legionaries of Christ

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 Several readers of my book "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and almost lost his mind" compare it to another book, written by former Legionary Paul Lennon. Paul wrote a gracious review of mine on Amazon.  So, I'd like to publish here what I said about his book.

The same song on different instruments  May 25, 2010

Paul Lennon, in "Our Father Who Art in Bed" mentions two Legionary companions of his, a Spaniard and an Irishman. According to Paul, both were sent to Gabon in Central West Africa "to learn their lesson." I am the Irishman in question now writing a very belated review of Paul's book.

First I should say that although I read and enjoyed Paul's heart-wrenching memoir, I hated the title. Like Paul, I too had serious difficulties with Marcial Maciel the founder of the legionaries of Christ. Although my fellow Dubliner joined the legion a couple of years before me, he left shortly after I did. During our time in the congregation we sometimes existed in parallel universes - I was assigned to work with our most affluent supporters while Paul toiled in the heat and humidity of our missions in Chetumal, Mexico. Our careers overlapped for a short time in Mexico City, where Paul headed "The School of Faith." He didn't live in our community but he joined us most days for our midday meals. That's where I came to appreciate his intellect and his passion for the underdog and downtrodden. At that stage in our lives neither of us talked to each other about our doubts and nascent rebellion against the Legion.

After I published my memoir of my time in the Legion, Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind I re-read "Our Father who Art in Bed." I felt as if I were hearing my own song, played on a different instrument. Our experiences are very similar but told from very different perspectives. Unlike me, Paul actually met some of the victims of Maciel's abuse. Characteristically this "fired him up" - as it should have - and he became an ardent crusader against the abuses of the founder and the dysfunctional aspects of the congregation we both once wanted to love. Meanwhile, I was busy taking care of my new career, playing financial catch-up to support my growing family. Back in 1998 when Paul was meeting with some of the victims, I was quite oblivious to the awful allegations being made about Maciel. If I knew about them, I would not have believed them. Like Paul, I had no personal inkling at all of the level of Maciel's abuse while we were both in the Legion. I chose not to be part of Paul's crusade, hanging on to the positive aspects of my experience in the Legion. History, of course, has vindicated Paul's brave position. This makes his book even more gripping - he is the "naive and sentimental" poet recounting his life, unafraid to reveal the raw emotions he felt. "Driving" our community cars and buses was what distracted me in the Legion. For Paul, I think it was soccer. I was exposed to the debonair side of Maciel the brilliant entrepreneur. Paul was quicker to pick up on the Machiavellian manipulation.

Paul's book is a must read. Indeed, in a fantasy world if we could collate the different chapters in our books, I think the readers would get an even more complete picture of the disgraced fraud to whom we both showed so much loyalty. Meanwhile, to quote the American dentist who revised Paul's teeth, deprived of dental care for so many years in the Legion, saying, "You must come from very good stock!" I suggest the same can be said for his mind, his heart and his soul. His is a seminal book, based on real-life experiences. He could have called his book "Scoring goals on a bumpy pitch!" And then I would have no quibbles.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I too have been repulsed by the title of Lennon's book. I don't want to know the sordid details of abominable acts. Just knowing they took place is enough.

However, I am going to take a second look at the book, based upon your review.

irishmexican43 said...

Thanks, Jack, for the plug.
I believe the title, very shocking, may have misled a lot of people and scared them off; they are expecting lurid details of sexual depravity; but its not about that; it is a very personal memoir that is more critical of Marcial Maciel and the Legion of Christ. Personally, I believe Maciel was more than a pedophile; he was a psychopath who founded a very strange religious order. But above all this is the personal story of "a Naive and Sentimental Dubliner in the Legion
of Christ"
Paul Lennon

Anonymous said...

It is also the paraphrasing of the Lord's prayer which is blasphemous. The title is totally offensive.

Anonymous said...

It's ironic how outraged some feel at a "blasphemous" book title, yet some do not feel outrage at blasphemous, reprehensible, evil, fraudulent, deceptive or cult-like conduct of a group of priests. Weird.

Anonymous said...

What is weird is how some people think that associating the Lord's Prayer with "reprehensible, evil, fraudulent, deceptive or cult-like conduct of a group of priests" is OK.

Anonymous said...

Relax. It's called a "play on words".

"Our Father" = Nuestro Padre

"Forgive us our trespasses" includes all our trespasses, including the "reprehensible, evil, fraudulent, deceptive or cult-like conduct of a group of priests"

"Deliver us from evil" includes deliver us from the legacy of scandal and harm perpetrated by MM and certain members of his LC/RC family, deliver us from the black eye on the Church, deliver us from the lost faith, the lost innocence, and the lost trust.

There's a lot more Mr. Lennon could have put into the title, but it would have been oddly long. I wouldn't read too much "blasphemy" into his choice of title, he is an exemplary man.

Anonymous said...

"I wouldn't read too much "blasphemy" into his choice of title, he is an exemplary man."

A gut reaction is a gut reaction. Eliciting a negative gut reaction of repulsion and shock is very poor marketing. Somewhat similar to receiving a dead foot in the mail. It's not going send most people rushing off to buy the product.

irishmexican43 said...

What's in a title?
A lot, it seems.
It is hard to get some people beyond that title; they are easily 'scandalized' and consider it "blasphemous"...really strong language.
I invite all to go beyond the "face meaning" of the title. Fr. Maciel was/is called "Nuestro Padre" i.e. "Our Father" by Legion/Regnum members and followers. Unfortunately, English does not allow the distinction that the Spanish language does, where the Our Father begins with the words "Padre Nuestro", in the opposite order, thus avoiding the "blasphemous" connotation.
Maybe in the next edition I will just drop that title and stay with the subtitle.
Thanks for all the comments, pro and con. However, I would prefer that you all read the content and not get stuck on the title. I believe Jack's comments have helped this process.
Actually, the best thing to do is to read the two memoirs side by side. They only two by former members that have appeared in English up to now. Many more testimonies as needed to flesh out the LC experience for the US audience.
REGAIN, INC, has a good number of testimonies which help to balance the glowing panegyrics on official Legion and Regnum Christi blogs and webpages.

Anonymous said...

"It's not going send most people rushing off to buy the product."

I doubt Mr. Lennon wrote it to get rich.

Anyone who reads it does so because they have an interest in the subject matter. They likely won't be swayed by a title.

I personally snicker at the thought of seeing MM's reaction to the title of the book. But that's just me. And remember, our own distinguished blog-host here has reminded us before of the importance of laughter as a way to get over ourselves. Good advice.

Anonymous said...

I'm satisfied with Irishmexican's second comment. A better title will not deter the potential readership, myself included.

irishmexican43 said...

as an Irishman I have to have the last word.
Soon after publishing "Our Father..."
I re published it under another title.
I thought "Our Father Maciel, who art in bed" to be less "blasphemous"; this may have appeased some potentially scandalized potential readers.
I tried.
Keep comparing these two memoirs, the only two authentic ones to appear in English on experience inside the Legion of Christ. Ever! during the past 50 years! Doesn't that demonstrate the control and the muzzling of active and former members? And disaffected former "consecrated" Regnum Christi members have not gone public at all.

irishmexican43 said...

Less Blasphemous titles has flowed from my pen:
"Legion of Crisis, Benefactress, Mrs. Malaprop Meets Mexican Mole" Fictional emails on Legion fundraising; and
"Fr. Marcial Maciel, Pedophile, Psychopath and Legion of Christ Founder, from RJ Neuhaus to Pope Benedict XVI"