On December 24, 2010, in Rome Cardinal Velasio De Paolis C.S., President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See and Pontifical Delegate for the Legion of Christ ordained 61 Legionaries of Christ to the priesthood. The ceremony was attended by family members, friends, fellow Legionaries, and Regnum Christi members who gathered in Rome for the occasion. By ordaining so many priests in these difficult times, once again, the Legion has demonstrated that it is still a force to be reckoned with in the Catholic Church.
What sort of priests will these men be? Will they be able to separate themselves from the dysfunctional legacy of their founder, Fr. Maciel? Will they be open to their families, their parishes and brother priests members of the diocesan clergy? Will they work in collaboration with the Bishops? Will they trust their fellow Legionaries? Will they continue to ostracize former Legionaries and Regnum Christi members many of whom they never knew but on whose shoulders they will build their new apostolates? Will they follow their vow of obedience in a psychologically sound way? Will they seem more "normal" and less "robotic" than some of their predecessors? Will they reach out to the victims of Maciel's physical abuse? Are they aware of the dysfunctional aspects of MM's legacy? Do they know they are not alone in their work? Will they welcome help and positive criticism?
Perhaps the beginning of an answer is to be found in a letter and progress report made public on December 14, 2010. The Legion of Christ has always been a proud, self-confident organization that has had to bite the dust thanks to the deceptions of the founder. They are going through a difficult time; how they react is not indifferent to the Catholic Church. Perhaps the Legionaries AND the Vatican will learn a very valuable lesson from this whole debacle. If they do and if they are humble perhaps so much suffering will not have been in vain.
Father John Connor, LC and Father Julio Marti, LC, territorial directors respectively of the Atlanta and New York territories issued an introductory letter to introduce a new 10-Point Progress Report that they will use in their territories to mark progress on the Legion’s commitments to improvement. Interestingly, "the report focuses on how we do things rather than the objective results of our efforts." This is important because a key element discussed by both the Vatican and the LC leadership in recent months is the concern that they have often sought results – at any cost.
The report presents information according to the commitments made by the Legion earlier this year in the March 25 letter from the order’s superiors, and includes key issues for improvement raised in the Vatican’s May 1 communiqué. It will be updated periodically.
At a recent event that I attended, hosted by the Legionaries of Christ, I noted that Fr. John Connor was the only one of the 50 or so Legionaries in attendance, who seemed humble enough, or savvy enough, to publicly mention in his speech that the Legionaries are going through a difficult time. His comments were a refreshing oasis in a desert of denial. This letter reinforces the initial impression I had of his intervention. I suggest that the letter and report are well worth reading and I truly hope they reflect a new "attitude" and bode well for a better New Year for the congregation and those whose lives they affect.