Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cultural differences: High Context and Low Context

Culture consists of learned ways of acting, feeling and thinking, rather than biologically determined ways.
In my last post, I promised I'd mention the general terms "high context" and "low context" to categorize one specific area of cultural differences.

A high context society or group consists of members who have close connections over a long period of time. Because of these connections, many aspects of their behavior are not made explicit. Members, generally,  know what to do and what to think based on years of close interaction with each other. A good example of a high context environment might be your family. What are the characteristics of "high context?"

  1. Strong boundaries: group knows who is accepted as belonging and who is considered an "outsider"
  2. Less written and "formal" information and rules. Not as much verbally explicit communication,
  3. People "know" what the other person means. They read hidden "cues"
  4. A host of ties and connections with others
  5. Long lasting relationships
  6. Knowledge is situational, relational.
  7. Activities and decisions and activities based on interpersonal, face-to-face relationships.
  8. Sometimes an authority figure dominates

      Mexico and Latin America tend to be high context cultures. Some college dorms are high context.

      Now, let's take a look at a "low context" society or group of people.

      They are societies where people tend to have lots of short-duration connections. Sometimes the connections are based on pragmatic reasons. Behaviors and beliefs tend to be spelled out explicitly so that newcomers know how to behave. The letter of the law takes precedence over the spirit of the law. Here are some more characteristics:
      1. Rule oriented: people play by clearly defined external rules (think American football!)
      2. Time is "linear": time, space, activities, relationships happen in sequence
      3. Knowledge and information is codified, public, external, and accessible  to all
      4. Interpersonal relationships can be intense but short term
      5. Knowledge is meant to be shared: it is transferable
      6. Responsibilities are shared, work is task-centered. 
      7. Decisions and activities are action oriented. What matters is getting something done.
          The United States and most of northern Europe is low context. Think of the clearly posted signs and instructions in airports and train stations.

          The concepts of "high" and "low" intersect on a bell curve. Every group has a little of both. However, the distinction is useful to understand the extremes of the curve - this is where cultural differences reside. The distinctions are useful to understand how differing cultural points of view arise. That is, I think, what Fr. Alvaro Corcuera  meant in his recent letter to members of the Legion of Christ. The trick is to understand cultural differences are not problems to be solved. They are dilemmas which need to be reconciled.

          Friday, January 29, 2010

          The influence of culture on the Legionary debate

          A recent letter sent to members of the Legion of Christ Director, Fr.Alvaro Corcuera, L.C., urged members to be charitable towards each other during their internal discussions regarding the future of the congregation. Read the complete letter here.

          I dedicate a good portion of my management consulting to cross-cultural communication in business. When writing my forthcoming autobiography, I found myself reflecting on what I know about culture and how cultural differences play a major role in the Legion - Maciel debacle. I don't recall seeing any serious references to the influence of culture on the heated debates about the Founder's misdeeds. That is why I note a particular phrase from Fr Alvaro's letter. I should mention, as an aside, I've known Alvaro since he was a nine year old kid. In my opinion he is a great priest, an unusually "warm" human being, compassionate and charitable. Here is what he wrote:

          “These are differences that more or less run along cultural and linguistic lines, with some English-speaking Legionaries calling for an open discussion about the errors of Fr. Maciel and a change to the “internal culture” of the order. On the other side, many from Spanish-speaking countries think the sins of the founder should be left in the past and that the evils should be corrected “by the faithfulness of the members to the foundational spirit.”

          In my work with multinational corporations I find the simplest way to approach the complex, ignored, nature of culture is to use metaphors. The popular, over-worked, "iceberg" metaphor still works well. The "tip" of the iceberg is the superficial behavior we observe. The large mass, below the water, represents the forces that shape the behavior of a group of people. In a nutshell, those "forces" are the shared values, beliefs, and assumptions of a group of people. In turn, geography, history and religion shape the values, beliefs, and assumptions. I suppose you could say the iceberg metaphor implies danger, the need to have a skilled pilot to avoid running afoul of the hidden mass of ice, out of sight, below the water.

          Take a moment to apply the iceberg metaphor to better understand Fr. Alvaro's remark about "English speakers calling for open discussion" and the different point of view from people from "Spanish speaking countries." Culture is the lens through which we view events. The first step is to at least be aware that my "culture" (shared values, beliefs and assumptions that shape the behavior of a group) is a tinted lens through which I see the world. People from a different culture see the same happenings with a different tint. Not good or bad, just different.

          In my next post, I'll refer to the general terms "high context" and "low context" (popularized by the US anthropologist, Edward T.  Hall)  to describe broad-brush cultural differences between societies. I think they useful to better understand the "software of our brains" (Hofstede) so we can approach culturally based disagreements with more light and less heat.

          Thursday, January 28, 2010

          Live Your Passion!

          We live a mediocre life until we discover our purpose.  When we find the purpose for our existence we discover we are greater than our wildest dreams. Life presents itself as abundant and full of opportunities.

          Make the effort to look deep inside you, realize what is your life’s purpose and your meaning of life.

          Then, live your passion!

          Vince in Bono Malum. Defeat evil with good

          Evil in itself cannot transform itself into good. But evil does, in countless ways, present fresh occasions for grace. Grace has the power to transform our experience even the experience of evil, and turn it into an effective means of doing good.

          For grace to achieve this transformation within us, we need to be humble. This may mean letting go of our negative feelings and prejudices so that we make room for God’s grace to fill us.

          Our pride blocks our ability to bring good out of evil.  When we are not humble, rash judgments, prejudice, refusal to forgive, indifference to the good of others, grudges, fill us. They leave no room for the healing power of grace.

          Wednesday, January 27, 2010

          Charismatic Leaders

          From my upcoming book:

          "When I have decisions to make about which path to follow in my life, whether in my relationships or at work, I must constantly question my perceptions and attitudes. Am I choosing what is good for me in the long-term or am I falling under the beguiling spell of a message that is appealing to my emotional needs and my anxieties?

          Charismatic leaders are "heroes of management.” It is easy to be swept away by their positive influence without paying much attention to their "dark side" and the potential harm it can do to followers and to the organization.
          Because of their extreme confidence and their ability to manage perceptions, charismatic leaders can easily foster corruption in their organizations. Maciel was a master at manipulating the personality and will power of his closest collaborators."

          Friday, January 22, 2010

          Marcial Maciel. Was he Corrupted by Power?

          As I've written in other posts, my book about my legionary life tells of  my experiences. Those expereiences are colored by what I have learned about leadership and leaders working as a management consultant. How leaders get their power, how they manage it and how their power affects others is of interest to me. It seems that power corrupts, but it corrupts only those who think they deserve it

          The following citation is from the Economist, referring to the eye-opening research of Dr. Lammers and Dr. Galinsky.  Does power corrupt? How did Fr. Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ manage the power bestowed on him?

          "People with power that they think is justified break rules not only because they can get away with it, but also because they feel at some intuitive level that they are entitled to take what they want. This sense of entitlement is crucial to understanding why people misbehave in high office. In its absence, abuses will be less likely. The word “privilege” translates as “private law”. If Dr Lammers and Dr Galinsky are right, the sense which some powerful people seem to have that different rules apply to them is not just a convenient smoke screen. They genuinely believe it.

          What explains hypocrisy is less obvious. It is known, though, from experiments on other species that if those at the bottom of a dominance hierarchy show signs of getting uppity, those at the top react both quickly and aggressively. Hypercrisy might thus be a signal of submissiveness—one that is exaggerated in creatures that feel themselves to be in the wrong place in the hierarchy. By applying reverse privileges to themselves, they hope to escape punishment from the real dominants. Perhaps the lesson, then, is that corruption and hypocrisy are the price that societies pay for being led by alpha males (and, in some cases, alpha females). The alternative, though cleaner, is leadership by wimps."

          Thursday, January 21, 2010

          Devin Rose has just finished the first draft of an apologetics book focusing on ecumenical issues that divide Protestants and Catholics.

          The working title is 50 Roads to Rome: Arguments for the Catholic Church from Faith and Reason.
          In it he presents fifty different arguments supporting the Catholic Church’s claim to be the Church that Christ established, specifically targeted toward Protestantism (versus, say, Eastern Orthodoxy). Each argument is easily understandable for lay Catholics and Protestants alike, drawing on history and those Christian beliefs that we share to demonstrate that the Catholic Faith is both the most reasonable and the most faith-full.

          He is looking for ideas:

          1. What you would like to see in such a book (specific topics, format, etc.)?
          2. Any thoughts you have on how to build interest in it (other than the blog)?

          Sounds like a very worthwhile endeavor and Devin is eminently qualified. I wish him every success!

          Managing disagreements: Legion of Christ and Business

          Writing a memoir about my life in the Legion of Christ and my transition to the world of international management consulting causes me to reflect on lessons I've learned on my journey. Here are some universal principles which help manage interpersonal disagreements at work. Some of them I learned in the Legion; at the time I didn't realize how well they relate to survival in the corporate world.
          1. Never react in anger
          2. Focus on the issues
          3. Keep your mind open.
          4. It’s not all about you … or him, or her
          5. Walk a mile in the other person’s shoes
          6. Be reasonable and respectful
          7. Trust yourself
          8. Be assertive, not aggressive
          9. Don’t air your criticisms in public
          10. Agree to disagree but support the winning plan

          A Strategic Inflection Point for the Legionaries of Christ

          Andy Grove of Intel discusses "strategic inflection points" in the preface to his book "Only The Paranoid Survive." The book describes a rare event: in the world of business: a successful company changes its business model. It's full of common sense.

          Beyond his worries about products, service and competitors Andy Grove is concerned about the impact of "Strategic inflection points."  Read Andy's words and think about the Legionaries. In the wake of the revelations about Fr. Maciel and in the throes of an ApostolicVisitation it seems to me that the Congregation and its men are going through an inflection point. How they react and adjust will determine their future.

          "An 'inflection point' occurs when the old strategic picture dissolves and gives way to the new.

          "A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. That change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end.

          Strategic inflection points can be caused by technological change but they are more than technological change. They can be caused by competitors but they are more than just competition. They are full-scale changes in the way business is conducted, so that simply adopting new technology or fighting the competition as you used to may be insufficient. They build up force so insidiously that you may have a hard time even putting a finger on what has changed, yet you know that something has. Let's not mince words: A strategic inflection point can be deadly when unattended to. Companies that begin a decline as a result of its changes rarely recover their previous greatness.

          But strategic inflection points do not always lead to disaster. When the way business is being conducted changes, it creates opportunities for players who are adept at operating in the new way. This can apply to newcomers or to incumbents, for whom a strategic inflection point may mean an opportunity for a new period of growth." (italics are not in the original).

          Tuesday, January 19, 2010

          Christmas in Uganda

          Br Russell Ward is studying to be a missionary priest with the Legionaries of Christ in Cheshire, CT. He tells a touching story about his little brother, Nate, on the Regnum Christi website. The story resonates with me on several levels. When I was a child I wanted to be a missionary in Nigeria. I ended up serving as a Legionary in Mexico and, for a few years, in the United States. Before leaving the Legion, I went to Gabon in Central West Africa on a one-way ticket. During my twenty years in the Legion I visited with my parents for no more than twenty days. I am glad the Legion is easing the family-visitation restrictions. I wish Nate were around when I was a Legionary! I have paraphrased the original:

          "My family came to visit me for a few days one summer. After Mass one morning, all the brothers were walking out of the chapel, and Nate was pointing at a few of them and asking me who they were. He pointed to the only African brother in our community, Br Otti Okello from Uganda, and asked me who he was. “That’s Br Otti Okello,” I said. “He’s from Africa.” “That’s far away isn’t it?” he asked. “Yeah, pretty far away.” “Does he ever get to go home like you?” “Well, he hasn’t been home for a long time. I think it costs a lot of money to fly to Africa.”

          “I can get the money for him,” Nate replied.

          “I don’t know, Nate. That is a lot of money.”

          “How much?”

          “Maybe around a thousand dollars.”

          “I think I can get it.”

          That was the end of our short discussion, and the visit with my family went on. By the time they left, I had forgotten entirely about the conversation with Nate.

          After he had the money, my family asked me what to do; I had little clue what to do next. I told them to get in touch with Br Otti’s superiors since he had moved on to the center of philosophy in New York. That is what they did, and after a month or so Br Otti gave me a call. “Br Russell, I hear your little brother has done something amazing for me.”

          “Yeah. Can you believe that? I don’t know how he did it, but are you going to be able to go home?”

          “Of course. I will be visiting for a couple of weeks in December. You know, I always loved to study physics, but I wished I had studied better the art of practical physics which your Nate has mastered, that is, the physics of charity.”

          Br Otti went home for his family visit before Christmas."

          Legionaries of Christ: outplacement services up in the air?

          When I decided to seriously consider whether or not I should leave the Legion, Fr. Maciel sent me off to Africa. After much prayer, deliberation, and consultation I made my choice. We parted on amicable terms. Later on, I asked Maciel for a small loan to help me start a new life. All I owned was a dark blue suit and a pair of Olin skis. His refusal to extend a loan became a "defining moment" in my relationship with him. And with the Legion. So much for exquisite charity...

          A new movie "Up in The Air," starring George Clooney, deals with the topic of job-loss and corporate firings. It explores the range of raw emotions that pour out of soon-to-be-former employees. Since leaving the Legion I have had the experience of sitting on both sides of the table - I have been laid off and I have laid people off. The emotions resonate with me. At one time I worked for an outplacement company. The details in the movie are not completely accurate but it does capture the reality of what is done and how it is done.

          A movie about someone who impersonally fires strangers for a living is a front-runner for film industry awards makes a thought provoking statement on today's corporate culture. For me, it was  a troubling reminder of how the Legion treats "former" Legionaries. It is an indictment of what is wrong with how corporations treat their workforce.At least the corporations offer outplacement services. Former Legionaries are left to their own devices. They deserve better.

          Sunday, January 17, 2010

          Legionaries of Christ: gratitude for their service

          I know it is a bit of a stretch to link the following comment from Mama's Little Ditty, a blog with the uplifiting mission of exploring and sharing the beautiful side of life, to a phrase from the story (see sidebar) about The Monk Who Stole The Cow: "With a heavy heart, the Brother returned. He worried about the future of the family because he knew they depended on the cow to survive." Then again, maybe there is a connection. After all it is the "Year for Priests." So here goes.

          Mama's Little Ditty says  "In spite of the personal difficulties I have had with the movement over the years and the terrible scandal which is cutting to the core of the unity of the order, I am profoundly grateful for those who have given their lives in service to Christ through the Legion. I pray that this turbulence will not shake their faith but renew in them a commitment to the truth of Jesus Christ and his Church."  My sentiments entirely.

          Friday, January 15, 2010

          Haiti: How You Can Help

          American Red Cross Doctors Without Borders Operation USA
          Americares International Medical Corps OXFAM America
          CARE International Rescue Committee Partners in Health
          Catholic Relief Services Haitian Ministries Save the Children
          Convoy of Hope MADRE UNICEF
          Direct Relief International Mercy Corps World Vision Int'l

          59 new Legionary priests: beautiful video

          Take a look at this beautiful video to get a sense of the "upside" of the Legion of Christ which we don't hear so much about in our blogs. I am curious to see how many blogs that thrive on criticism of the Legion will  post it. The background lyrics are from "St. Patrick's Breastplate" an ancient Irish prayer. What would we do without YouTube?

          The Legion of Christ: does it have to be black or white?

          When I was a Legionary, I worked for a number of years in the United States at a time when most people here knew very little about us. Not long after I arrived I started to notice that many, perhaps the majority, of our Legionary recruits (this was before Regnum Christi) came from conservative Catholic families. What else would I expect? That's where vocations come from.
          In my experience, North Americans (or is it just Conservatives?) tend to see the world as either black or white. I guess the same is now true for "liberals." You are either one thing or another, not many shades of grey. I worried that the influx of right of center young men would not be good for the Legion. Time will  tell. I write about it in the book.

          A commentary by Giselle reminded me of my early concern. She writes about a later time, but I suspect her comment supports what I suspected: seeing the world in simplistic binary terms can get one into a lot of trouble.

          In Giselle's words: "As a relatively new convert, I saw the world in simplistic binary terms -- those who worked for the Kingdom and those who opposed it. Meeting the Legion only confirmed my nascent views (though I think most young adult see the world as pretty black and white). I didn't take the articles seriously because the authors were associated with the National Catholic Reporter (and I was a Wanderer reader at the time).
          I still see the world as a battle between good and evil, but now realise there is far more grey -- not that actions aren't good or bad, but that culpability is harder to gauge, and is God's purview, not ours"

          Business as usual for the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi?

          I saw the following on Erin Mannings blog. She lists the "attitudes" from Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi members who "post on line."  She concludes that these are not the attitudes that will foster any real reform. She says, "Sadly, I suspect--though I do not know for sure--that among the rank and file of ordinary Legion priests and ordinary Legion consecrated women and ordinary Regnum Christi members, it is an attitude that is all too prevalent."  She suspects, she does not know for sure, attitudes prevalent among the rank and file.

          I was one of the early Legionaries. I was a member for twenty years and I knew Maciel better than most of his latter day detractors. I submit that the statements  collected by Erin, in context, contain at least as much truth as falsehood. Maciel was a flawed human being, he founded a Congregation which has done a great amount of demonstrable good and led tens of thousands of people to a deeper relationship with Christ and the Church. Later, we found out he was not the man we thought him to be. So, my question: does God write straight on crooked lines..... or does He not? How about letting God be God?

          Here are Erins' Attitudes:

              * Father Maciel was a flawed vessel. Like all of us, he was subject to temptation, and he sinned. So did many saints. (Some go further, and say that Fr. Maciel may yet be canonized, despite all, because if he sincerely repented and lived out the end of his life in a state of holy penance...etc. But this opinion is rarely voiced when outsiders might hear it, except by the rash but zealous member.)
              * Despite Fr. Maciel's flawed vessel status, the Holy Spirit chose him and worked within him to create this great new work of holiness, the Movement (e.g., Legion of Christ). The work remains one of great holiness, and the Movement must still be fostered, encouraged, and spread exactly as if Fr. Maciel were beatified, instead of proving to be a flawed vessel.
              * The proof that the Legion is a work of great holiness is its charism. That charism is described variously as Love, Charity, bringing Christ's Love/Charity to the world, etc. (However, since all Christians may properly be said to have the vocation to present Christ's charity to the world, the Legion still doesn't seem to articulate well exactly what the charism is--that is, how are they to bring Christ's love to the world. The Sisters for Life do this in pro-life ministry, for example, and the Benedictine Monks at Clear Creek Monastery in Oklahoma do this by embracing the monastic life.)
              * Those who leave the Legion, attack it, criticize it, or otherwise denigrate it have shown themselves unworthy of Fr. Maciel (though a flawed vessel) and his great gift to the Church and the world. They need many prayers, as the state of their souls must be dark indeed to cause them to set themselves up against God's great work of holiness in the world, the Movement.
              * The greatest victims of Fr. Maciel's imprudent and sinful (objectively) actions are those in the Legion who must now bear up under the weight of unjust suspicion and renewed attacks by the Devil against the great work of holiness that is the Legion, and who must also explain over and over that Fr. Maciel was a flawed vessel, but the Legion is not flawed in any way, as how could it be? since it is such a great work of holiness, etc. ad infinitum.

          Marcial Maciel is not the founder of the Legionaries of Christ!

           I have almost finished my book about my twenty years in the Legion of Christ. I met Marcial Maciel when he was 42 years old. He most certainly was the founder of the congregation when I joined. As I write, the Legion is going through a rigorous audit by the Vatican. Allegedly the findings will be published in March. I say let's wait for the results before spouting more diatribes against the Legion. At this stage of the game, what is to be gained by relentless attacks?
          The following is my translation and slight paraphrasing of a note on a Spanish language blog called "Todo Maciel." I don't think it is an exaggeration to say the blog is anti-Maciel and anti-Legion. That's not a problem. It is a problem when bloggers (myself included!) let emotion get in the way of facts and substantial analysis. Here is the excerpt which caught my attention:
          "Maciel is not a real religious founder. The Legion is the work of a group of co-founders. Maciel should be consigned to the History of the Church as a "pseudo-founder."
          For the Church, a founder is a person inspired by the Holy Spirit which leads the creation of something new in the history of salvation: a new way of following Christ, certain pastoral priorities, a peculiar aspect of evangelization (charisma). Well, Maciel meets the last two requirements: he istarted something new that has led to a new organization, but does he not meet at all the first and fundamental requirement: to be inspired by God."

          Wednesday, January 13, 2010

          Holy See Attempts to Bring Good out of Evil

          Bringing "good out of evil" is the underlying topic in my forthcoming book.
          The following, excerpted from Dr. Jeff Mirus makes a good point:
          "If there were ever an institutional need to bring good out of evil, this was it [Legionaries of Christ]. In March 2009, Pope Benedict ordered an Apostolic Visitation of the Congregation. Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI had previously expressed their gratitude for the outstanding work of the Legion of Christ in many areas. Clearly the Holy See hopes to see that work continue by investigating the Congregation, effecting any necessary changes, and setting the Legion on a more fruitful path. Just as clearly, the Holy See does not wish to see the sincere and devout priestly members of the Legion and the many wonderful lay members of Regnum Christi shattered spiritually and left by the wayside after such a series of devastating upheavals in their spiritual lives. To its credit, the Legion has welcomed Vatican intervention and guidance, and has offered full cooperation at every turn"

          Making a success of failure

          An article by Schumpeter in the Economist online reminded me of the situation of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi - the phrase about "the enlightened attitude of putting resources back to productive use as quickly as possible" is key.
          I hope this is what the Apostolic Visitation does with the tarnished Legion...

          "The American model has seldom looked so tarnished. America’s unemployment rate is 10%. Soup kitchens are doing a flourishing business in New York and other great cities. Companies that were once a byword for swashbuckling entrepreneurialism have bitten the dust.
          America’s enlightened attitude to corporate bankruptcy is designed to put economic resources back to productive use as quickly as possible. This means distinguishing between potentially viable companies and terminally ill ones."
          As Schumpeter says, "it beats flagellation!"

          "Salterio de mis dias" No big deal?

          Spiritual writes including some founders of religious orders mostly try to shed some light of give their particular take on the teachings of Jesus which are expressed in the Gospel and the "apostolic" tradition. Sooner or later they begin to repeat stuff that was already written.
          That's why I don't get too excited about the revelation that Maciel plagiarized a Spanish text called "El Salterio de mis Dias." All founders are influenced by their "Sitz im Leben," roughly translating to "setting in life." I am not saying its OK to plagiarize - but, in the light of all the other sordid revelations I don't think it's worth going in to a feeding frenzy over this one. I wasn't a huge fan of the "Salterio" - but I'm guessing that more people read Maciel's version than the original. Was that all bad?
          God manages to "write straight on crooked lines." Bad people can do good deeds just as good people do bad things. Maciel was a disaster. The miracle is that God seems to have used him to bring a lot of people closer to Christ. Go figure!
          The Legion of Christ is, I hope, trying to investigate as much as it can about the life and times of their founder - a painful undertaking. Like having to rifle through the most unsavory, unknown aspects of a bad parent's life.
          Who knows what else we will hear. Does it matter? The damage is done. As the Christophers used to say "better to light a candle that curse the darkness." I'm waiting to see if the ApostolicVisitation can "fix" the Legion. I hope they don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. I'm rooting for them.

          When I publish my book my point of view will, I hope, by optimistic and motivational - I'll choose to see the glass as half-full. Good people trapped in a bad situation can turn adversity into positive change.

          Respite from the main-stream media?

          Gary Stern comments on the lack of media coverage given to the debacle regarding the Legionaries of Christ.I must say I have been surprised how it has flown under main-stream radar. Let's see what happens when the results of the Apostolic Visitation  (currently underway) are published in March.

          From Gary Stern: "One can argue that the tale of Maciel and the Legionaries is a microcosm of the larger sex-abuse scandal. Allegations of abuse were made and the church—in this case, the POPE—either looked the other way or ignored the evidence. What did he know? When did he know it?

          Stern gives the facts in a nutshell:
          • "Pope John Paul II was enamored with the Legionaries, a fast-growing, very traditional Catholic order of priests that was founded in 1941 in Mexico by Marcial Maciel. 
          • The pope ignored allegations by about a dozen former seminarians that Maciel had sexually abused themIn 2006, Pope Benedict XVI publicaly retired Maciel from ministry, without saying why. But it was obvious.
          • This past February, the Legion itself disclosed that Maciel had fathered children and lived a “double life.” The Vatican is now investigating the order."

          Jack, I thought you were still in Africa!

          This posting by Patrick Madrid caught my eye this morning. Twenty years after I left the Legion I bumped into a Legionary colleague as we picked up our baggage at Mexico City's airport. "My God, it's Jack!" he said when we recognized each other. "Where have you been? I thought you were still in Africa!"

          My forthcoming book covers this ingrained behaviour which is the subject of Madrid's comments:

          "Historically, the Legion has been very intent on preventing the news of defections from the order by its priests and seminarians from becoming known among the rank and file membership of the Legion and its lay affiliate, Regnum Christ. The euphemism that "Father So and So has been reassigned to a different front" has long been a standard opaque response given when someone inquires as to why a certain LC priest is suddenly no longer around.

          With Father Gill's open letter explaining the reasons for his leaving to seek incardination as a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, there can be no doubt as to why he left and where he went. I suspect that more than a few of his LC confreres will follow his lead and that of other Legionaries who exited before him because the scandals and the mishandling of the scandals which have engulfed the order over the past year.
          It's such a crying shame that so many such good men have been caught up in the putrid machinations of the founder of this religious order - so many excellent years in the prime of their priesthood spent grinding away in a system that, it now appears quite clearly, was orchestrated by the founder primarily as an engine of cash, pleasure, power, and influence for himself. " See the full article

          New York Regnum Christi Director moves to Archdiocese

          BaptistPlanet reports: Father Richard Gill, who with other highly respected members of the Legionaries of Christ (LC) called in February for an authoritative intervention by the Holy See, has announced he is “leaving” his post as head of Regnum Christi (RC) in New York to become a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

          He writes that after 29 years with LC and “having “participated extensively” in the Apostolic Visitation:

             "I’m leaving more because the manner in which the Legion has handled the revelations since the Vatican took action against Fr. Maciel in 2006 has left me often frustrated and totally distracted. I’ve tried my best to communicate with the superiors over this past year, and they have been gracious and generous taking the time to listen. I believe I have had the opportunity to get my point of view across to them …

              My conclusion is that the reforms needed in the Legion (which the scandals have made clear) simply won’t happen in the foreseeable future with the current leadership’s approach to the matter."

          Tuesday, January 12, 2010

          Healing painful memories

          If you know anyone in the Legion or Regnum Christi, this is the time to support them. Most most members  are sincere Catholics who are trying to live a Catholic life. We need to reach out to them and let them know we are praying for them. We also need to reach out to former members of the Legion and Regnum Christi who raised concerns and were, at best ignored, at worst condemned....

          Our memories are a core part of who we are. One of the lessons I learned is that the best way to heal painful memories is through forgiveness. Now that Fr. Maciel has gone to meet his Maker, I prefer to hold on to the memories, not the pain.

          Monday, January 11, 2010

          59 Legionaries Ordained on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

          December 12, 2009. Rome, Italy. On the morning of December 12th, in the basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, Bishop Brian Farrell, LC, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, ordained 59 religious from the Legionaries of Christ to the priesthood.

          About 4,300 guests attended the ceremony, including relatives, friends, Legionaries of Christ, and Regnum Christi members

          The new priests hail from 11 countries, with half (29) coming from Mexico. A total of 9 are from the United States, 7 are from Spain, and 3 are from Canada. There are 2 German, 2 Brazilian, 2 Italian, and 2 French priests, and one priest from Venezuela, one from Vietnam, and one from the Czech Republic. Their ages range between 30 and 40, with the exception of two who are 50 years old. All have spent between 10 to 14 years in preparation for

          ordenaciones sacerdotales 2009

          the priesthood, dedicating themselves to their spiritual, human, intellectual, and pastoral formation. These 59 new priests bring the total of Legionary priests to 860 worldwide.

          Legionaries face disaster

          The Legionaries of Christ, a hitherto dynamic conservative order of 800 priests and 70,000 lay affiliates, is on the verge of falling apart following reports that its founder, the late Fr Marcial Maciel, fathered at least one child at a time when he was demanding the strictest moral standards from his cult following. (Damian Thompson, Daily Telegraph, February 4, 2009)

          Legion jolted by revelation that founder Marcial Maciel led a double life

          The Legionaries of Christ, an influential Roman Catholic religious order, have been shaken by new revelations that their founder, who died a year ago, had an affair with a woman and fathered a daughter just as he and his thriving conservative order were winning the acclaim of Pope John Paul 11 (February 3, 2009, New York Times)