Saturday, February 20, 2010

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.


Anonymous said...

One small point you don't seem to take into account is that Mexico is overwhelmingly Catholic and those 'touched' by the pederast's outfit are a tiny minority -thank God! Therefore to most Mexicans it is either a non-issue or, as simple Catholics -and citizens-, we just feel offended and scandalized by the monster's life of deceit. There is no love lost for the "millonarios de Cristo", believe me.

Anonymous said...

Dear Monk, if your speculation is correct, there are hopeful signs fro the future for the Legion. However, I just can't stop caring that the Legion has still not apologized to the victims who were branded as liars for coming forward to expose Maciel as their abuser. For me, that is still a glaring moral shortcoming on the part of the Legion. I don't see it as something the Vatican is going to enforce ("invite them to apologize?")nor would it have any meaning if the Vatican did force an apology.

I continue to be frustrated by the apparent attitude of the Legion, when asked about an apology, that it has nothing to do with them, and let's move on. At the same time, we (RCs) were told by Fr Bannon last spring that they were trying to find the vicitms, that an apology was in the works. Later, we were told that the Legion was going to apologize, but only in private, and that it would be up to the victims to decide if they wished to go public about any apology received. At the time, I felt that was inadequate, as the defence of Fr Maciel, calling the vicitms liars, was very public. either way, they have not recieved an apology.

I am all for the Legion moving forward under new leadership. But do you not think there is still a need to go back and repair damage? and if they can't do so, what does this say about them?

I just don't want the possible refounding of the Legion to be construed as a fresh start, in which all debts are cancelled. I feel there is a debt owed to these victims.

What are your thoughts? Are you ok with no apology?

Anonymous said...

Wow - you are really out of touch. Seriously. There is NO WAY the Legion can be trusted. Just because Mexico is accustomed to such deceptions doesn't mean the Vatican will just let it go.

Anonymous said...

Mexico IS NOT accustomed to 'such deceptions'. Yours is a stupid, ignorant comment.

The Monk said...

Again for the record: a heartfelt apology and restitution is way overdue. I am disturbed by the lack of sincere, unadulterated apology. Indeed, that would have been a smart move in terms of "damage control!"

Has the Vatican told the LC to hold their horses (apology) until after the AV results are out? Feasible! Why? I'm not sure, but when it comes to restitution... we are talking a LOT of money. Personally I can't fathom why Fr. Alvaro would not apologize - I still believe he is a sincere, warm, good priest. He is NOT the "typical robot wearing a double-breasted suit." I know him since he was in second grade elementary school.

I have never suggested that Mexico is more susceptible to deception than anywhere else - to the CONTRARY - one of the Anonymous posts here totally misunderstands me - or I didn't make my point well enough. Mexico and Ireland have a lot in common - a robust, long tradition of Catholicism in the face of persecution. I think people in both those countries are used to having to distinguish between the wheat and the chaff. Ireland is trying to sort their scandals out even as we speak.

Mexican Catholics are wise and utterly faithful to the Pope (and to Our Lady of Guadalupe!) Mark my words, they WILL make sense out of all of this AND they will be part of the solution. They are far less likely to be duped - because, I believe they see the big picture - Christ operating through a flawed Church. (I'm talking 2,000 plus years... not just the latest fly in the ointment. If my perception makes me stupid and ignorant, so be it. I can't help saying such words add more heat than light to an already contentious debate :-( Peace!

Anonymous said...

Seems to me you are more interested in humouring the Mexican public than in discerning the true sentiments of the people.
Your assessment of the Irish people is so far of the mark it does'nt even register. You're talkling from emotional preception, not objective knowledge.
First you say you talk from "informed" sources, but then it's just "your impressions" what is it ?

Are you just looking for some PR work with the LC ?

The Monk said...

Dear Anonymous -
I have objective knowledge of Mexico, its people, culture and the role Mexico plays in the global marketplace. I lived there for more than 10 years. On average, I visit Mexico (not just Mexico City)about once a month on business. I've been interviewed on Mexican radio, TV and in major business magazines with regard to my field of expertise (intercultural communications and management.) I consult to multinational corporations. I don't mean to brag and I may know something. But I think it's fair to say I have some objective experience and informed sources. I also have imp0ressions, perceptions and opinions.

With regards to Ireland, I don't pretend to be totally in touch. I am Irish born, have family there, do business there and one of my early jobs had me involved in conflict resolution between the North and South. I am a frequent visitor. I could give you more personal detail, but a blog is not the place for this.

I have no interest whatsoever in doing PR work for the Legion. Never did up to now (except when I was "in") Hardly likely to start with what I now know!

You flatter me by suggesting I am in a position to humor the Mexican public. Thank you!

That's my sincere response to your anonymous post. Perhaps you would like to share something about yourself so that I can better evaluate your critique? Thank you again.

Anonymous said...

Would my critique carry more pondus if I had a CV similar to your impressive achievements.
Not all of us can boast of such success so I must decline the comparison
I have, however, shared something about myself with you, my opinion of your dogma !

The Monk said...

Well, anonymous, thanks for pulling back the veil, just a bit. Dogma?
I appreciate the compliment about my "impressive achievements." However, to my mind a man is measured from within - not from his achievements. MM had great achievements.

I welcome further constructive comments. We don't have to agree - it's enough to respect each others opinions. I'll take your last comment as a good start. Peace!

Anonymous said...

You say "the good works will continue."

One little problem...there are no good works by the legion! There are only good works done by others that were taken over by the legion.