Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Canon Lawyer and The Monk

Over the past several weeks, Canon Lawyer Pete Vere has been exchanging comments with me on other blogs. Pete Vere grew up in Northern Ontario, where he attended French Catholic schools. He is a revert from the SSPX schism, one of the youngest canon lawyers in North America, and a doctoral candidate with the Faculty of Canon Law at Saint Paul University. He took it upon himself to rewrite my version of the "The Monk Who Stole The Cow."  You can read Pete's version here. Unlike me, Pete applies the fable to Fr. Maciel and to the Legionaries of Christ. I use the fable to suggest that we can succeed despite adversity and, maybe, even because of it. The characters in my version are not intended to depict any person living or dead. Pete is a vocal critic of Fr. Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ reaction to the scandalous life of their founder.

As an Irishman I think I have a sense of humor. One of my favorite authors G.K. Chesterton said:
"There are two ways of dealing with nonsense in this world. One way is to put nonsense in the right place; as when people put nonsense into nursery rhymes. The other is to put nonsense in the wrong place; as when they put it into educational addresses, psychological criticisms, and complaints against nursery rhymes." (ILN 10-15-21)

There is no better tool than a sense of humor to keep a firm footing and avoid slipping into an abyss of despair. I've found that to be true in my life. Another of my favorites acknowledges the power of humor to overcome adversity: Victor Frankl, renowned Psychiatrist, holocaust survivor and author of "Man's Search for Meaning." He wrote: "I would never have made it if I could not have laughed. Laughing lifted me momentarily. out of this horrible situation, just enough to make it livable. survivable."

So, I thought I'd re-write Pete's version of my story. I am not laughing AT anybody. I want to laugh with you. A sense of humor  reflects the ability not to take oneself too seriously and it is usually indicative of the ability to learn from mistakes. So here goes. My edits to Pete's version are in italics:

"A monk and his abbot were passing through a poor farming village atop the cliffs of Ireland when they came across a humble cottage owned by an impoverished Catholic family with three children. Nevertheless, the family took the monk and abbot in for the night. The family shared with the religious what meager milk and cheese the family had, produced from a single cow. This was the only farm animal the family could afford, and they relied upon the cow for their subsistence. Nevertheless, despite their poverty, the family was happy, knowing God was with them and provided for their daily needs.

The following day, as the "good" religious left the village, the abbot ordered the monk to return to the cottage and push the cow off the cliff. The abbot was widely reputed for his "holiness" and claimed "never to have said no to the Holy Spirit." Therefore the monk obeyed as an ever-obedient co-founder. After all, being pushed off the cliff was the cow's vocation "from all of eternity."

About five years' later, at a village two counties over, villagers discovered that the abbot had a certain unnatural affection for cows. What the penitential books at the time referred to as "unspeakable" sins involving farm animals. Given that this was medieval times - not the modern era where folks are somewhat more civilized - the villagers responded by pushing the abbot over the cliff. But that's a story for another time...

The monk narrowly escaped the peasant uprising. He made his way back to the initial village under the cover of darkness. Seeing the cottage where he had stayed five years ago, and given the cold wet snow outside, he knocked on the door to request shelter and food for the night. He could not help but notice, as he waited for someone to answer the door, that the cottage was even more beaten up and weather-worn than he remembered it five years ago.

An older man answered in threadbare clothing. He had lost some weight, most of his hair, and his skin was wrinkled with worry. Yet the biggest change was in his eyes: Gone was the spark that had made the family happy, despite the poverty in which they found themselves. "What do you want?" the old man grumbled.
"I'm a poor monk seeking food and shelter for the night," the monk said. "You hosted my abbot and me several years ago." "Oh, you," said the poor man.

"Look, I have nothing to give. It seems that everywhere you went cows kept falling off cliffs," the peasant continued. "After our cow fell off the cliff, the baby died for lack of milk. This broke my wife's heart, and she died about a year later. She died angry at God for having taken away our baby after showing you and your abbot some Catholic hospitality."

"That's blasphemy!" the monk said. "Your wife should have been more charitable with God, not to mention forgiving of our abbot. Then God would have blessed her with the serenity not to give in to the sin of bitterness." "Well she might have endured this crisis," said the farmer, "but for the fate of our middle son. See, he was over in the next village begging for moldy and half-rotten potatoes - of which we ate a steady diet after our cow died - when he witnessed you pushing another cow over the cliff. You did so at the urging of your abbot. Horrified, my son ran to the bishop's house only to catch your abbot offering the bishop a gift of freshly butchered steak."

"My son reported what he had seen to the bishop. But your abbot denied everything and both you and your abbot claimed my son was lying out of jealousy for your meal of steak and fresh milk. It was his word against yours. That of an impoverished young boy against two men of the cloth. So the bishop believed you. He reported everything to the Prince, who also believed you and the bishop. The Prince then ordered my son's cheeks branded with a red hot poker ending in the letter 'L' - a sign to all who come across him that he was a liar. Additionally, my family was ordered to turn over our remaining possessions - minus this cottage - to you and the abbot, as restitution for having accused you of pushing cows over cliffs. We never ReGAINED these possessions."

"Well let's not talk about past misunderstandings," said the monk. "Let's talk about happier things. How is your oldest daughter doing? The Abbot sensed God had called her from all of eternity to a vocation as Consecrated Wench. She would not say no to God, would she?"

The peasant's daughter, when she thought her father might want to be a nun, took the next boat to the US where she got a job as a bar maid in Queens, NY. She made a small fortune and married an Italian. Soon after, the opened their own restaurant which they called "The Gaelic and The Garlic." The remained Catholic but they didn't go to Mass most Sundays. They did however have their children baptized and to went to Church at Easter and Christmas. They lived happily ever after and had beautiful children.

 The Prince is another story. Eventually he drummed up the courage to ask for the hand of a beautiful princess in marriage. She thought about it for an instant and then said, "No!" The Prince lived happily ever after. Thus the Prince lived the shortest fairy tale known to man.

."Well let me in and I will keep you company," said the monk. "It is your duty as a Christian to forgive."

"Let's make a deal," said the farmer. "I'll forgive you, and offer you room and board for the evening, if you apologize for pushing my cow over the cliff and the pain it caused my family."

He closed the door and left the Monk in the cold. Then he ran out to the back and got a shovel. He ran around the side of his hovel, crept up behind the Monk and whacked him over the head. The Monk eventually recovered, left his order and went on to be a successful Canon Lawyer.

"Oh look, here comes a follower of St. Ignatius. I wonder if he needs room and board?" said the peasant. "After all, it's cold and wet outside."

The peasant decided he needed solace (not spiritual direction) so he invited the Jesuit in and they shared a flask of the peasant's home made (illegal) whiskey. They both got very drunk, bared their souls and sang rebel songs. They discussed the Kelly Report on the Irish scandals and wondered if the history of violence in Ireland and the power accorded to the clergy was the cause of it all? The Jesuit said he would make that the subject of his doctoral dissertation in Rome. Then he went home (with a terrible headache) and obtained scholarships for the peasant's sons to attend Clongowes - the Jesuit secondary school in Dublin. One of them was featured in James Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." Two of them ended up with business degrees and went on to make loads of money as corporate executives. They both married and divorced.

The youngest of the sons wrote a book. The theme was about how screwed up the Church (and most human organizations are.) Despite this he wrote, "God manages to write straight on crooked lines." He urged people to analyze the "big picture." "The only way to heal awful memories, he wrote, is through forgiveness. You have to find your inner Faith and be very careful of narcissistic and charismatic leaders." The book was a huge success! He moved to New York to be near his sister. He ate lots of fine Italian food, put on a lot of weight and, married a lovely Irish lass with loads of common sense. He died penniless but happy - he left all his money to Mother Theresa's congregation.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hope:the Best Gift we can Give to Those in Pain

It's not always easy to find time for a (hopefully) intelligent posting during extended business travel.
Today, I found the following from "Called to Question" by Joan Chittister ( Sheed & Ward)

It perked me up a bit. Maybe it will help you too, no matter your particular religioius faith! Searching for hope in times of adversity is a universal quest.

"I have discovered over time that the cross is supposed to take its toll on us. It forms us to find God in the shadows of life. Ironically enough, it is the cross that teaches us hope. When we have survived our own cross, risen alive from the grave of despair, we begin to know that we can survive again and again and again, whatever life sends us in the future. It is this hope that carries us from stage to stage in life, singing and dancing around dark corners.

But hope is not a private virtue. Hope makes us witness to the invincibility of the spirit. The hope we bring to others becomes the one sure gift we have to give to those in pain.

The God of the Dance beckons us out of the caves of the soul to faith and trust and new beginnings. It’s when we get trapped in the past — in its details, and its shame, and its narrow boxes and short leashes — that life stops for us. When life is defined for us by others, we limit our sense of ourselves. Then we dismiss the God of Possibility from our lives. We refuse to become the more that we are. We sit on the dung heap of our past and make it our present. We fail to believe that God is. That God is in us. That God is calling us out of the darkness into the light.

Darkness is one of the ways to God, provided we see it as leading to the light. Provided we don’t turn it into the death of our own soul."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Emotional Intelligence

Executive leadership skill differs from the leadership required at lower levels of organizations. First, executive leaders create and articulate visions. Second, executive leaders must lead people to engage in those visions. Research is clear that the emotional intelligence of leaders greatly influences their effectiveness in the latter task. Thus, emotional intelligence is a great career asset for motivated leaders.

I don't think there is enough emphasis place on the teaching of emotional intelligence in our schools (US and Mexico.) I certainly never experienced much of it in the Legion. The lack of this "intelligence" goes a long way to explaining the inadequate responses given by some Legionaries.... which may explain a lot about the Marcial Maciel debacle.

My book is not about Marcial Maciel, nor the Legion of Christ - rather, it relates my story and my experience with a narcissistic and charismatic leader. My editor says that "the book" will be of interest to general audiences who like to read auto-biographies, to the business community and to anyone who would like to know more about the early days of the Legion of Christ. Many of my postings here refer specifically to the Legion and to Marcial Maciel - both topics are incidental to my stories. They played a large part in shaping my company's approach to international management consulting and to the impact of culture on business decisions. Maybe that's why I value emotional intelligence so much and why it has become such an important part of my professional life.

Marcial Maciel: Mexican Phenonomon

By and large, I don't find uninformed speculation about the legacy of Marcial Maciel and the future of the Legionaries of Christ very helpful. Every blog is entitled to its opinion. All of the ones who mention Marcial Maciel or the Legion of Christ attract a disproportionate amount of bitter comments relative to the amount of fair and balanced analysis. Given the hurt that some experienced directly from Maciel and the legitimate anger and consternation expressed by others in the light of the revelations and the inadaquate Legionary response I am not surprised. There is a time for righteous anger. I don't know how long a dead horse needs to be flogged. Time will tell.

However, as a frequent business visitor to Mexico I can say that the vast majority of the "comments" I read on these blogs are vastly out of touch with public opinion (at least in Mexico City.) I work with business people and academics. On every visit I do my best to get a sense of people's opinions. My contacts range from CEOs to taxi drivers, to RC members and people who scarcely are aware of the Legion. I read the papers and watch TV.

My take is that the Legionary public relations efforts in Mexico have been well managed: full disclosure, immediately, to reputable reporters by spokespersons representing the LC/RC. Indeed, to my knowledge, no news outlet has been excluded. Reporters are given frequent briefings as their request or when there is a new "revelation." I can attest to this. That is, I think, why the Mexican press response, in general has been measured.

On the other hand, public relations has not been well managed (by the Legionaries) in Rome, Spain and the US as far as I can tell. I suspect they either do not have competent advisors or they do not listen to them. Hence a different response.

For instance, I now know the context in which Fr. Alvaro's infamous "e-mail warnings" letter was written - and how his message was grossly misinterpreted on the blogs and their comments. At worst, this was bad public relations management. Therein lies a caveat -  one thing is inept public relations, another is wild speculation and judgment of his intent based on incomplete information  and distorted speculation.

Based on what I hear in "informed" circles here is the anticipated outcome of the Vatican investigation:
  • A special, extraordinary LC General Chapter will be convened.
  • Current LC leadership will be replaced 
  • Governance will be entrusted to a Vatican designated "outsider." 
  • Constitutions, Rules, finances will be revised and reformed as needed
  • Some new "scandals" may come to light (already know for the most part - but we may have official confirmation)
  • The LC and RC will adhere to Vatican decisions; the good works will continue
  • When the scope of Maciel's transgressions came to light (no one has ever seemed to have the "complete" picture - many knew of individual pieces of the puzzle) current LC leadership approached the Vatican, asking for help. In part, this resulted in the current Visitation. LC and RC have collaborated fully. no one seems to doubt full compliance with Vatican decrees and advice.
  • There will be no massive exodus of LC priests.
The above is my "speculation."

I would add that the LC and Maciel are not well known in the United States. Hence the reaction there is quite different. In Mexico, the Congregation has had time to be known and trusted by Mexican public opinion. The works of apostolate that they have achieved are astounding in their impact and scope relative to the time frames. Despite the dismay and disgust with the revelations about the founder, I think the Mexican people has long experience distinguishing the message from the messengers. They have been betrayed by clerics, politicians and foreign governments throughout their long history. They know that not even all our Popes were "men of God." They are more inclined to follow the spirit rather than the letter of the law. This is very different to a more "fundamentalist" US approach. Mexicans choose the good and reject the evil because their faith is rooted in a deep spirituality. History has taught them to discern. They have long experience choosing to see God write straight on crooked lines. In the States, we have much to learn from the Mexican people - not the least of which is their long term perspective: this too shall pass....  In other words, the LC and RC will survive this crisis - renewed, chastened and reformed. What they do with their "second chance" is up to them. I, for one, wish them the best. The Church needs them.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Legion of Christ:The Stories behind the Story

Jorge Bernal is the first Bishop produced by the Legionaries of Christ. Since the 16th of July, 1970 he has served the diocese of Quinana Roo in south east Mexico. Before becoming a Bishop, Jorge worked in the formation of future Legionaries at the Apostolic School in Tlalpan. He was ordained a priest in 1957 at the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. He was one of the first graduates of the Legionaries "Apostolic School" (Junior Seminary) system to be ordained.

I knew him well when he worked in Tlalpan, Mexico at the Legionaries "Apostolic School." I admire his work in the diocese of Quintana Roo, one of the youngest "states" in the Mexican Republic. When Monsignor first went there it was designated a "Territory," not a "state." The conditions were harsh, the people poor, the climate hot and humid. Quintana Roo was the first "mission terrritory" entrusted to the Legion. The well known tourist resorts of Can Cun, Cozumel and the Mexican Riviera are thriving developments in Quintana Roo. Most, if not all, the parishes in the state are run by the Legionaries of Christ.

A few days ago someone sent me the following story:

A young couple showed up at the Cathedral in Chetumal - the capital of the state - to meet with Bishop Bernal in preparation for their forthcoming wedding. When they entered the dimly lit Church they were not quite sure where they were supposed to go. They saw a man sweeping the aisle of the Church. They approached him and asked where they could find Mons. Bernal. The diminutive man replied, "He'll be right with you. Please take a seat while you wait." Then he headed to the sacristy carrying his mop and broom.

A few minutes later Monsignor Bernal emerged from the sacristy wearing his clerical garb and his pectoral cross (worn by Bishops.) He walked to where the couple were sitting. "Good morning, I apologize for making you wait." Then he sat down beside them. That was when the couple realized that he was the same person they had seen sweeping the Church a few minutes before.

As I said, I know Monsignor Bernal. As I said, I have not seen or heard from him in many years. The story is entirely believable and quite typical of his approach to being a shepherd of souls. He is a very special man.

This little incident in the Chetumal cathedral is typical of the little untold stories one does not hear about the Legionaries of Christ. Do the Legionaries have major challenges, defects and huge obstacles to overcome in the light of the scandalous revelations about the founder's double life? You bet.  Meanwhile, men like Jorge Bernal and his missionary priests do the Lord's work to the best of their ability, ministering to the poor and the tourists in Quintana Roo.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Art of Shameless Self Promotion

Copyblogger Nathan Hangen has an interesting posting on the art of self-promotion. Read his full posting for more detail and a plan for undertaking this important business task - without crossing the line to the slippery slope of self-adulation. Here is the part of his comments that caught my eye:

"The reason that self-promotion works and self-adulation doesn’t is because self-promotion is the art of spreading ideas, concepts, and a greater vision. Self-adulation is just the promotion of accomplishments, deeds that have already been done.

When you promote ideas, you give people something to cheer for. You give people a cause to support. People, in many ways, are selfish. They promote the things that make them feel good. Your accomplishments aren’t likely to make them feel good, but your ideas do.

There are fans out there for every self-promoter. Your task is to find them. That, and to make it easy for them to bring a friend."

Was Fr. Marcial Maciel a Vampire?

I write as I travel on business. Some of my postings have been mentioned or commented on at blogs such as life-after-rc and ex-lcblog.  When I get back to the office I hope I have time to address some of them. Amongst them are thoughtful comments ranging from people who are hurt, outraged, and disappointed by Marcial Maciel the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. I saw one comment comparing Maciel to the "undead" vampires of medieval fame!

When I learned of the dark side of Maciel, I found myself remembering that even in the ranks of the Popes we Catholics have produced there were some nasty specimens. How quickly we forget!

For instance, Pope John XII was Pope from December 16, 955 to May 14, 964. He was accused of multiple diabolical acts by his enemies. He was said to have given lands to his many mistresses that include his father’s concubine and even his niece. He made the sacred palace into a whorehouse and ordained many incompetent people into a bishop that include a 10-year old boy. His enemies accused him further of committing multiple murders. Pope John XII was eventually killed by a man who caught him in bed with his wife according to allegations. Albeit, the pope was never seen to have done such evil acts but his accusers confessed with certainty. Scholars remain uncertain regarding the true story of this beleaguered Pope.

Christians follow Jesus, the manifestation of the Triune God, who is pleased to work through fallible human beings. I believe He also works through these flawed human beings without making them perfect. After all, to make a human perfect, whether he wills or not to be perfect, is to make him not free and not human.

God works through sinful people whether no matter how we flawed humans judge them. Such is life. That's as much as I have time for now!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Legionaries of Christ: An Inside Look

I am using this blog to remember and reflect on some of my personal experiences with the Legion of Christ. You may have have stumbled on to this page and know little or nothing about the Legion of Christ. Check this link so see a short news report that will give you a quick overview: in my opinion it is a "fair and balanced report" (even though its not from Fox News!)

Twenty eight years after leaving the congregation, I've decided to publish my memoirs. My memoirs - in other words, I'll tell my stories, share my experiences and emotions and maybe give some insight into why guys like me joined the youngest founder in the history of the Church to "establish the Kingdom of Christ." Actually, deciding to join a religious congregation was the easy part. Staying the course and eventually deciding to leave was the hard part. The Legion becomes the "family" of the Legionaries - they do not make it easy to leave. For those of us who did move on to a new life and career, I think it is fair to say that "leaving" is a harrowing and gut wrenching experience.

The now disgraced founder, Marcial Maciel was a masterful manipulator of people. Charismatic and narcissistic. A deadly, powerful combination. The web is replete with blogs mostly criticizing him and the congregation he founded. Knowing what we now know about Maciel he is indefensible. Those who did not personally experience his charisma must struggle mightily to understand those of us who did. How could we possibly not have had some glimpse of the double life he led? How can we possibly hope that there is still some good in the congregation he founded? How can we wonder if the Church can  "afford" to simply disband one of the most vibrant forces it has produced in recent years?

My experience with Maciel began in 1962, when he was 42 years old. He was still relatively unknown at the beginning of his journey. When he sent me to Mexico in 1965, there were no more than 20 Legionaries in Mexico.  By the time I left the congregation, the Legion had gained the enthusiastic support of Popes, politicians, business people, world leaders, entertainers, and tens of thousands of committed Christians who joined Regnum Christi the world-wide lay movement which is part of the Legion. I want to contribute what I believe is an "untold story" in those early years - the personal story of an Irish Legionary who was close to Maciel trying to relate personal experiences of what it was like before the awful revelations about Maciel.

The priests and seminarians who continue in the Legion must be heart-broken, furious, disappointed, bewildered, sad and totally disoriented. I am sure the same goes for the tens of thousands in the Regnum Christi.  Even though they (the Legionaries) turned their backs on those of us who left the congregation my heart goes out to the good guys who remain. The rank and file mostly have limited and controlled access to the media and the internet. They have trained themselves to be impervious to 'outside" opinion. Despite considerable pressure from advisers, the media and public opinion they have not reacted pro-actively to the scandals. Thus they compound the notion that they are robotic, brain-washed people. I still believe that they are much better than the image they project.

They will do what the Pope tells them to do after the Apostolic Visitation. Of this I feel very sure. Therein lies a different story - the Vatican ultimately pulls the strings and I have no doubt the Vatican is advising the Legionary brass. There is a sad case to be made that the Vatican is coming across as out of touch with common Christians. The hierarchical structures of the Church made it easy to conceal scandals. Religious arrogance and paranoia persuaded the powers that be that scandals should be concealed. This does not justify the attitude of current Legionary leadership - but they are so imbued with loyalty to the establishment it is easy to see how they struggle to react.

Maybe we have reached a moment in history when we need to reexamine our notion of "ministry." I've always supported the notion of celibate priesthood. Today, I'm not so sure. The model, from where I sit, no longer seems to be working. I don't pretend to know the solution. But I do know it's time to wake up, smell the coffee and do something meaningful. Marcial Maciel could not have done the good he did without the Vatican. How was the Vatican so royally duped and, more importantly, what if anything has it learned?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Marcial Maciel. Impenitent? Dementia?

An article published in the Spanish "El Mundo" describes the final moments of Marcial Maciel's death. The newspaper seems "reputable." I have no idea as to the credibility of the sources for the story. I've heard, on good authority, that Maciel suffered from dementia  during his final months. If that is true, I  want to take it into account as I ponder the (alleged) manner of his dying. I've seen various reflections on "El Mundo's" reporting on blogs I respect. One in particular caught my attention and I hastily posted a comment. My intent is not to be polemic. I guess I want to be sure that I still believe in a merciful, loving God who will judge me by the actions dictated by my conscience and not by the theatrics of my final moments .Here is what I said. Am I wrong in my reaction?

"I just left a comment about this at Seems to me that we are judged on the totality of our lives and not any particular statements or rituals as we actually kick the bucket. Moreover, it seems certain that MM was suffering dementia during his last months. Believe me, I am no fan of MM (I'm blogging about my forthcoming book at One thing is to abhor the man and his actions - another is to opine on how merciful God may, or may not, have chosen to be with him. The only place we know for sure that we meet God is in the depth of our conscience. I still believe in a merciful, loving God. And His designs are inscrutable. MM never hesitated to tell me I would go to hell if I "betrayed" my "vocation." That did not make it easy to leave after 20 years! But he (MM) was in no position to know how God will finally judge me or anyone else - and, I suggest,we are in no position to diagnose how God has dealt with MM. Based on all the evidence we have, we must condemn the sins of MM. Whether he is now in a hot or temperate place is up to God's mercy - and, so far in my experience, the good Lord is not a lawyer and had his own peculiar take on the Law. Am I wrong?"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Devil of a Dilemma

A couple of months ago I had dinner (my treat in an expensive restaurant picked by guest) with a former peer of mine who is still a Legionary of Christ. He is mightily respected in his field. It was fun catching up for the first time in 27 years.

After dinner, he drove me back to my hotel. I asked, "Fr. X, how are you doing. I mean how are you really doing in the face of all these terrible revelations about Fr. Maciel?" He thought for a long minute, looking in to the distance. Then he turned to me and said, "Jack, when the founder was alive, the devil tried to destroy the Legion. Now that the founder is dead, the devil is trying to destroy us again." We said goodbye. I am still pondering his reply. He doesn't think he is wrong. And I don't think he is entirely right. That's the makings of a dilemma!

José Sánchez del Río and Marcial Maciel

José Sánchez del Río was born in Sahuayo, Michoacan, 28 March 1913. He was murdered on 10 February 1928, during Mexico's religious persecution known as The Cristero War. I remember hearing this particular story from Fr. Maciel. I was reminded of the details when this "saint of the day" posting:

The Cristeros were a large group Mexican Catholics opposing the repressive regime of Plutarco Elías Calles.
A year before his martyrdom, José Luis joined the army of Cristero General Prudencio Mendoza, based in the town of Cotija, Michoacan.

The martyrdom of José Luis was witnessed by two children, one of them was seven years and the other nine. Both of these children founded religious congregations. One of them is Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ.

Maciel said the testimony of his friend Jose Luis influenced his vocation. I remember him telling us "Jose Luis was captured by government forces. They wanted to make an example of him to frighten Cristero supporters. They asked him to renounce his faith in Christ, on pain of death. Jose did not accept. His mother, "filled with anguish encouraged her son."

How could I forget the following graphic detail, which of course inspired us to soldier on for Christ: "They cut the skin on the soles of Jose's feet and forced him to walk through the town toward the cemetery "

Jose cried out with the pain, but he persevered. Occasionally the soldiers stopped and said, "If you shout 'Death to Christ the King'" we will spare your life. "Say 'Death to Christ the King'."

Jose replied: "Viva Cristo Rey" (Long live Christ the King!.)

When they reached the cemetery, before shooting him, they gave him one last chance to deny his faith. He refused. They shot him. He died, uttering one last cry of "Viva Cristo Rey!"

The other child witness was the nine year old Enrique Amezcua Medina, founder of the Priestly Confraternity of the Operators of the Kingdom of Christ, with houses of studies in Mexico, Spain and operations in several other countries.

The remains of little Jose Luis rest in the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in his hometown. He was beatified on 20 November 2005 in the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. People have given him the title of "The Martyr of Sahuayo" and "The Martyr of Christ the King."

Valentine's Day: The Dublin Connection

Growing up in Dublin, I often atteded Mass at the Carmelite Church at Whitefriar Street. This church was about a 15 minute walk from my home.

In 1836, some relics were exhumed from the catacombs of Saint Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina, in Rome. They were identified with St Valentine. Pope Gregory XVI had them placed in a casket, and sent them, as a gift to the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin.

Many tourists visit the relics on St. Valentine's Day, when the casket is carried in solemn procession to the high altar for a special Mass dedicated to young people and all those in love.
According to legend, St. Valentine, a Roman priest martyred in 269, while awaiting execution, restored the sight of his jailer’s blind daughter.

A second legend says, he penned a farewell note to the jailer’s daughter, on the eve of his death.

He signed the letter, “From your Valentine.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

China, The Legion of Christ, Google and the Dalai Lama

In another posting, I commented on Fr. Alvaro Corcuera's mention of "cultural differences." He is the head of the beleaguered religious congregation, the Legion of Christ. I have suggested that the color of our "cultural lens" affects the way we react to how the Legion is managing the awful revelations about it's founder, Marcial Maciel. As a management consultant, I spend a good deal of my time on corporate cross-cultural communication issues. Now that I am about to publish my memoirs) which address my relationship with the Legion and with Marcial Maciel) I find myself thinking more about the cultural perspectives involved in reflecting on the story of a Mexican priest who rose from an obscure provincial town to ultimately rattle the foundations of the contemporary Catholic Church. The following comments are my paraphrase of a posting by my good friend Dean Foster. Dean discusses the US relationship with China with his usual insight. I'd like to suggest that some of what he says about China can serve to shed some light on the Legion of Christ debacle. I leave it to you to make the connections.

"China has been lashing out with a series of explanations, threats and blusters in response to criticism from the West of its Internet policies, which include ubiquitous government monitoring of websites and Internet traffic, and the automatic shutting down of Internet sites it deems worthy of such action

From a Western perspective, these actions are an affront to democratic principles of free speech, and a challenge to U.S. Internet companies like Google, who need China as a market but are stuck in a cultural and ethical dilemma over free speech and government intervention.

The rising tensions between the U.S. and China over both the Internet and the Dalai Lama can be better understood if we look at the issues through the cross-cultural lens.

The greatest imperial triumph of China was the unification of this enormous country, and the greatest threat to imperial control was restiveness in the provinces.  The single most important job of the Emperor was to exercise authority over the land in order to keep the country unified, and in order to maintain his authority.  This legacy has created an intense sensitivity on the part of Chinese leadership to any challenge, real or perceived, to their authority.

The emperor was dependent upon a vast hierarchy of officials and warriors to administer his rule and provide information back to him.  This cultural legacy remains as a driving force behind Chinese decision-making today.

Therefore, when the West criticizes a particular Chinese activity, such as the government monitoring of websites, or its efforts to maintain control over what it perceives to be restive outer provinces, such criticism is interpreted in China as an attack against a primary cultural requirement: the maintaining of centralized control in order to maintain the integrity of the country.  The greatest challenge to Beijing is its own perception of being challenged.  And when the U.S. criticizes China, it only hardens the Chinese to resisting, with increased intensity, any policy the U.S. or the West is trying to advance.

When we understand why these issues provoke such intense Chinese reactions then we need to find another way to advance our agenda with China.  Behind-the-scenes, ongoing diplomacy is far better than grandstanding in the harsh light of public policy announcements.

Taking advantage of opportunities that allow the West to publicly acknowledge China’s autonomy can be profoundly effective. From a Chinese perspective, it builds Chinese “face” to the world, a cultural concept that is outside of the West’s cultural legacy, and therefore something we don’t do very well.  But it is immensely important in China.  We need to find more reasons to publicly support China when it acts autonomously than to criticize it when such actions go against our own policies or beliefs.  The West doesn’t have to change its agenda, but like any good Western businessperson in China knows, it does have to change the way it goes about advancing it.  Understanding the cultural legacies that lie at the heart of Chinese behavior can go a long way to avoiding the increasingly slippery slope of U.S.-China relations."

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Irish Institute Mexico City

Recently, stumbled across the website for the "Irish Institute" of Mexico City.
It is a prestigious school for boys (now with a separate section for girls.) I spent many hours at meetings in the little conference room with the horse-shoe table!
 A quick reading of the site (in Spanish) says that the school was founded in 1966 by Fr. Marcial Maciel. Factually correct. I think it a shame that there is no mention of the first Legionaries who helped get it going! Fr. Juan Manuel Fernandez Amenabar, now deceased, was the first Director. He didn't speak a word of English but he was an extraordinary priest. I will be forever grateful for the positive impact he made on my life. Can you say, "joie de vivre?" That was Juan Manuel! The first two Irish founders were Fr. John Walsh, from Wexford in Ireland and yours truly. Jose Luis Diaz was seconded to us from the Instituto Cumbres. When we opened for business in February, 1966 the school had 80 students in elementary school.

Later, we opened the secondary and high schools. Fr. Amenabar's legacy includes the roof top swimming pool. During the 10 years I was there, we interacted a lot with Fr. Maciel, the Founder of the Legionaries
My memoirs are almost ready for publication. There are lots of fun stories about those days! The Mexican Olympic Swim Team trained in that pool for the 1968 Olympics!

Toyota and the Legion of Christ

Ever since the Toyota acceleration "scandal" hit the media, I've wanted to comment on it. Why? Because I see a parallel with the Legion of Christ in the wake of the Fr. Maciel scandal. This morning, I read the following. It seems to me that Wharton management professor Larry Hrebiniak's comment provides food for thought about the Legionary debacle!

Professor Hrebiniak says "Toyota has not been aggressive enough in coming forward to calm consumers' fears. "This is a very serious issue, and they know it is going to hurt them and their quality image so they are trying to downplay it." When a business makes a mistake, he notes, it is best to be upfront because delays and uncertainty only make matters worse in the long run. He cites the famous case of Johnson & Johnson, which acted swiftly to remove all Tylenol products from store shelves following the deadly 1982 tampering case. The company's strong response restored goodwill toward Johnson & Johnson and helped it retain market share. In the case of Tylenol, he adds, the company had no time to plan a strategy to meet the problem.

"What bothers me most is that Toyota had clues there were quality problems -- not only general quality problems, but that there was an accelerator problem," he says, adding that the company should have been able to take that information early on and develop a proactive approach, rather than reacting to regulators and bad press, according to Hrebiniak."

Substitute "Legion of Christ" for "Toyota." That's my point.

Why I became a Management Consultant

This snippet from Steve Tobak caught my eye:

"If you think you’re working for a crappy company with bad managers, they don’t have a problem; you have a problem.

So solve it. Quit and go somewhere else.

Better still, try the DIY Management method. If you have a fire in your belly to fix management problems, try your hand at it. Become a manager. Become a VP. Become a CEO. Then you can become a consultant who fixes management problems."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Finding your true purpose in life

I'd like to refer back to a comment on an earlier post "Some Characteristics I've Seen in Leaders."

"Identify your passion....Some people spend their lives searching for their passion. It's not very easy to do. It's a lot easier to identify what isn't than what is."

I suppose it's easy to spout platitudes like "identify your passion." What does that mean? The comment got me thinking. What career will best allow you to follow your heart's desire? What leisure will fuel this same fire? What location will best facilitate it? Good questions all! The challenge is to identify your "heart's desire."

What is the guiding force around which we can build our lives? True passion transcends our activities. We say we are passionate about reading, mountain biking, running or cooking. I'm pretty passionate about my motorcycle! Activities are not a bad place to start but to find the real deal, we need to delve deeper. What is it I love about motorcycling? Is it the freedom, the speed, the adventure, the "becoming one with the machine?" The answer to "why do I love that activity" can point us in the right direction.

A "life passion" probably transcends personal pleasure. To my mind, it should involve others. Hopefully, helping to make the world a better place. I love to deliver keynote speeches; I have enjoyed writing my memoirs. I truly love to teach - especially at the college level. Why? In my case, I think it has to do with helping people become the best version of themselves. Maybe others can learn from my mistakes.

On the positive side, I've been blessed with unique life experiences. I have lived in Ireland, Spain, Italy, USA, Mexico and Gabon. On business travel and vacations I guess I have been to at least seventeen countries. I speak some foreign languages. Thanks to others, I received a splendid education. I have known and observed some amazing people. In other words, I believe I have something to share. These experiences are too valuable for me to keep them to myself. I suspect that is why I love to teach. It's my way of giving back.

A young friend of mine climbed Mt. Everest without an oxygen tank - the youngest climber in the world to do so. He says he learned a lot and he wants to share it. Meanwhile, he works as a flight attendant in Europe. His job keeps him close to the mountains he loves. One day he'll share his stories. His activities and choices suggest to me that his passion is climbing mountains. I must ask him why he climbs! Then we'll discover his true passion.

I guess our true passion is what gives meaning to our lives, unifying our activities, guiding our decisions often on an unconscious level.

Years ago, I worked for an outplacement firm helping senior executives adjust to "being fired." Many of them cranked out their new resumes in 30 minutes. When I counseled them, I'd go back to those resumes with them digging ever deeper. What did you do? How did you do it? What results did you get? Why did you do what you did? Eight hours later, the executive would have a powerful resume - and, most times, an inkling of his or her passion in life.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

An Exorcism for Fr. Marcial Maciel?

On Sunday night, January 31st, 2010 I read the online "supplement" to the Spanish newspaper "El Mundo." I still have not quite figured out what I read. The report is not easy to digest! It marks the second anniversary of the death of the founder of the Legion of Christ. Let me share my paraphrase of some of the content, which I'll translate from the original Spanish. I have added no comments of my own. Time will tell - or will it? - if this is more sensationalist reporting. To my mind the tone is not particularly polemic. "Inquiring minds want to know." However, if Maciel suffered from senile dementia as he approached his death, a version I heard from sources I respect, then anything is possible. Whether the intimate dying moments of a troubled soul, surrounded by members of his "family",  is fair game for the media is another question entirely. Here is the summary of "El Mundo's" report:

The El Mundo reporters affirm that
  1. Maciel died in Jacksonville, Florida in a luxurious Legionary home despite conflicting press reports that he died either in Houston, Texas, Washington, Cotija (his hometown in Mexico), or Jacksonville.
  2. Something horrible occurred in the room where he died on January 30, 2008
  3. Slightly over a dozen people accompanied him in his final moments
  4. The man who died had, at least,  five separate identities:
    • Raul Rivas, lover of Norma Hilda and father of their daughter
    • Jaime Alberto González Ramírez, father of three children in Cuernavaca, by a different lover
    • Father of a son in England
    • Father of a daughter in Switzerland
    • Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ
  5. The cause of his death is unclear - some say it was the result of liver cancer, others that it was the outcome of open heart surgery in Houston in 2003, others senile dementia.
  6. Ten or eleven Legionaries resided at the Jacksonville home with him. On January 30, 2008, they were joined by Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, Director General of the Legion, Fr. Luis Garza Medina, Vicar General, Fr. Evaristo Sada, Secretary General, Marcelino de Andrés in executor of a trust for the children, Fr. Alfonso Corona, a Legionary Superior, and Fr. John Devlin, personal secretary to Maciel, Norma Hilda Sr. and Norma daughter.
  7. As an extra precaution, an exorcist was also present. Why?
  8. During the two years prior to his death, Maciel seemed to have lost his faith. He did not go to Mass, he did not pray. Some Legionaries who were with him say he "felt repulsed by the Legion."
  9. The reporters speculate: anecdotal information suggests strange occurrences at the house where he lived in 1946 - apparitions of "balls of fire" and "rabid dogs"... does this mean demonic connections?  Someone must gave taken this seriously in order to have an exorcist present at the home in Jacksonville.
  10. Six months before his death, Legionaries brought Maciel to a trusted hospital in Miami, where he spent three days. On the second day, both Normas showed up to take care of him, with his consent, much to the consternation of the Legionaries. Upon his discharge, he wanted to leave with the women. A call to Rome got Fr. Luis Garza on the next flight to Miami, following consultation with Fr. Alvaro. Fr. Luis gave Maciel an ultimatum: leave with me within the next two hours or I will call the media to let them know who you really are. Maciel gave in.
  11. Before his death, Maciel's health deteriorated. His Legionary caretakers found it difficult to deal with their founder as a frail, elderly person. His last hours were especially difficult for them - Maciel refused to go to confession; he did not want - nor did he believe in - God's forgiveness.
  12. Fr. Alvaro persuaded Maciel to examine his conscience. Fr. Alvaro has shared some details: Maciel died with a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe in front of him. On a piece of paper, he wrote - in Latin - "and the Word was made flesh." Only those who were in his death chamber with him know for sure if he repented, confessed and was absolved.
  13. Fr. Alfredo Torres, 83 years old, the only remaining survivor of the co-founders says "we can go either of two ways - the Church or the street. I will always follow Christ's Church. I accept whatever the Pope says, no matter what he decides. When asked if the reporters should publish details of Maciel's confession - or lack thereof - and whether they should mention the presence of the exorcist, Fr. Alfredo said, "Go ahead, you have to make a living. It will make the people who were involved reflect on what happened."

    The report goes on to speculate whether or not the directors of the Legion will indeed "reflect." It says that between 100 - 150 Legionary priests await the outcome of the Vatican's "Apostolic Visitation" the results of which are due in March. Based on the outcome they will remain in the Legion or choose to leave.
    The reporters state that Fr. Alvaro has sent a letter to the Mexican lawyer representing the three Mexican children who claim Maciel is their father in which he acknowledges that the middle child is indeed Maciel's.   The Bahamian trust fund left by Maciel for them has already been made available to them.

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Some characteristics I've seen in Leaders

    One of the interesting things about writing a memoir is you reflect on the "story behind the story" of your life.

    During the past several years, I've tried to identify some of the characteristics I came across in people that I have met. Characteristics that relate to success.

    Many of them were "famous" leaders (including a Pope, CEOs of international business empires, Ambassadors, Justice of the US Supreme Court, Cardinals, Prime Ministers, Toreros, Indy-car and Formula 1 drivers, Athletes, and Politicians). Others were not so famous - but they were leaders nonetheless (including Terrorists, Peasants, Physicians, Nurses, Missionaries, Teachers, Parents, Students, Priests, Nuns, Ministers, and Rabbis).

    My list is not all inclusive. take a look and think of the ones I've missed. I don't suppose that any one of the people I've met had ALL of the following attributes; here they are in no particular order -

    1. Be yourself. Don’t try to impress. Be open. Honest.
    2. Identify your passion.  Know what you love and care about. Act on it.
    3. Communicate. You can’t love someone without knowing them; you can’t know someone without loving them.
    4. Thoughtful. Your ability to think distinguishes you from other animals. Use it!
    5. Believe in yourself. Help others achieve and succeed.
    6. Be Assertive, not arrogant. Maintain enough self-doubt to be objective.
    7. Humility. You do not have all the answers. God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason
    8. Courage. Act on beliefs, intuition, passion. Take the risk
    9. Sense of Humor. Not the same as telling a joke. Willingness to laugh at yourself. Don't take yourself too seriously
    10. Integrity. Take the Golden Rule seriously.