Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Leadership development: Marcial Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ

 While reading Shellie Karabell's article on "Leadership today: less charisma, more consensus," I found myself thinking back on what I wrote about leadership in my forthcoming book reflecting on my experience with the the Legionaries of Christ and Fr. Marcial Maciel.

Leadership’ implies certain characteristics, if the leader is to have the ability to motivate a group of people to obtain a specific result. It’s often a combination of personal qualities, and demands of the situation. Management isn’t the same thing as leadership. Management is about getting people together to achieve goals or desired objectives. Managers make plans, organize, direct and control. Leaders listen and observe, they articulate their own values and visions, without imposing them. They set the agenda. They focus more on substantive improvement, rather than managing change.

"Charisma' is one of the first words that come to mind when speaking of leaders - after all, the best ideas in the world won’t get a leader very far if he or she is not compelling enough to get people to listen. At a time of crisis it is tempting to entrust our hopes to a few charismatic individuals. (Think Barak Obama, and Ronald Regan.)

‘Charismatic’ leaders believe strongly in themselves, as opposed to believing in others. Their personality traits set them apart from ordinary men. As a result, their followers treat them as if they have exceptional qualities, often considered exemplary. They regard the individual as a leader. Heroism and extraordinary achievements can be the basis for charismatic leadership. Alternatively, it can come from exemplary character or, sanctity beyond the ordinary.

Going forward,  it's important we ask ourselves what kind of systemic cultural drivers led to some of the crises we’re facing today.

In the old days, we developed potential leaders by teaching them some skills and theories. Many supplied their own charisma. Today's leaders face global responsibilities and very complex situations. To lead well, they first need to understand their own motivations. They need to understand their "dark side" - the aspects of their personalities which come to the fore in times of stress and frustration. Otherwise, leaders, especially the charismatic ones, fall victim to the temptations of pride.

Developing new leaders involves aspects that go beyond effectiveness skills.First, there is the question of meaning. How can we help leaders become more mindful, more aware of what they represent, of how they articulate and embody a set of values for their organization? Then there is the issue of ethics - how do we ensure leaders develop a sound moral compass?

Think of the challenges faced by a contemporary leader. They include the complexity of cultures, and the ability to consider overwhelming amounts of data. Add to these the emotional intelligence required to handle the anxiety arising from the need to act decisively but inclusively, to encourage change while upholding values, to be self-confident while knowing they do not have all the answers. Gianpiero Petriglieri, Affiliate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD, suggests that this may be too much of a burden for one person. “What we need to develop,” he says, “are what I’d call leadership communities, rather than great leaders.

The question we need to ask is, ‘what do we need to know and how can we provide opportunities for these kinds of leadership to be developed? This I think, is an especially pertinent consideration for senior leadership within the Catholic Church in the light of the unfolding clergy abuse scandal.

The sheer cognitive complexity and emotional intensity of the challenges that the Pope, Bishops Seminary directors and Religious superiors face today means that we should be devising a more robust system of leadership development within the Church.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Why does the Vatican not react more forcefully?

Frank Bruni reported on the Vatican for The New York Times from 2002 to 2004. On March 26, he wrote an insightful piece in the New York Times which I think is a fairly accurate explanation of the very complex reactions of the Vatican to the clergy abuse scandal. Here are Bruni's conclusions:

In the German, Irish, American and other abuse cases, the decisions by church officials not to involve the police and courts and not to conduct public, transparent inquiries weren’t simple matters of coddling individual priests and bishops or blunt acts of criminal evasion. They were motivated by an array of factors, chief among them a belief that handing secular critics ammunition to be used against the church would jeopardize its outstanding work.
“For the whole life of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, they have dealt with this question of scandal as if it were a sin in and of itself,” Mr. France said. “You can go back to the year 400 and see writings in the Catholic magisterium about avoiding scandal.”
Partly because of that, and partly because of its resistance to yielding to secular expectations, the church has not made gestures that a corporation or government in its embattled situation would feel compelled to make. Cardinal Brady has not been stripped of his leadership position. And in a public letter of apology to the people of Ireland, the pope did not call for, or specify, disciplinary action against any of the many church leaders who covered up an epidemic of abuse there.
But when an institution is girded so thoroughly against threats from without, can it address and remedy the threats from within? The persistence of the child sexual abuse crisis, intensifying once again, suggests that the church’s defensive posture may in fact be a self-defeating one.

Will Legion of Christ leadership obey the Vatican?

Sandro Magistro, avid commentator on all things related to the Legionaries of Christ and their disgraced founder Fr. Marcial Maciel, suggests that real renewal will be impossible for the Legionaries as long as the current leadership remains in power. I suspect Sandro is just restating the obvious - and I am not sure what, if any, new information he has to suggest the leadership will not easily relinquish control. In general, he is usually well informed. My understanding is that the most expected outcome of the Apostolic Visitation will involve a change in leadership. Here is a portion of Sandro's comments - you can see the complete text here.

ROME, March 29, 2010 – At the end of April, the five bishops who have completed the apostolic visit among the Legionaries of Christ as ordered by the Holy See will present to the Vatican authorities the contents of their reports, delivered in mid-March.

A previous, long-ago apostolic visit among the Legionaries, between 1956 and 1959, ended with absolution.

This time, however, everything gives the impression that will not be the case again.

It is likely that the Vatican authorities will put the Legion under the command of an external commissioner endowed with full powers.

And he will have to be obeyed by the current heads of the congregation, who are the real obstacle to any movement toward renewal, no matter how slight.

But this leadership group is anything but resigned to giving way.

Freed from the annoyance of the visitors, and not yet subjected to the command of the commissioner, during this interim period which they are hoping will last for "several months" they are doing everything they can to consolidate their power and win the support of the majority of the 800 priests of the Legion, and of the other religious and lay members.

On March 25, during the annual meeting in Rome of the territorial directors with the director general and his council, they released a statement in which for the first time they publicly describe one by one and "reprove" the sinful actions of their founder, Marcial Maciel (1920-2008), ask forgiveness from the victims, and affirm that they can "no longer look to his person as a model of Christian or priestly life."

But how trustworthy is this distancing of the Legion's leaders from their founder, and in particular from the "sudden revelation" – or so they say – of his misdeeds?

George Weigel comments on the media coverage of clergy sex abuse

George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, is the author of The Courage To Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church (Basic Books).  He has just published an excellent piece on how the media is construing the worldwide sexual abuse scandal. The original can be found at First Things, published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, "an interreligious, nonpartisan research and education institute whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society".
Here is the article in its entirety
Scoundrel Time(s), dated Mar 29, 2010. 
The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague; its manifestations run the gamut from fondling by teachers to rape by uncles to kidnapping-and-sex-trafficking. In the United States alone, there are reportedly some 39 million victims of childhood sexual abuse. Forty to sixty percent were abused by family members, including stepfathers and live-in boyfriends of a child’s mother—thus suggesting that abused children are the principal victims of the sexual revolution, the breakdown of marriage, and the hook-up culture. Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft reports that 6-10 percent of public school students have been molested in recent years—some 290,000 between 1991 and 2000. According to other recent studies, 2 percent of sex abuse offenders were Catholic priests—a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared (six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members).

Yet in a pattern exemplifying the dog’s behavior in Proverbs 26:11, the sexual abuse story in the global media is almost entirely a Catholic story, in which the Catholic Church is portrayed as the epicenter of the sexual abuse of the young, with hints of an ecclesiastical criminal conspiracy involving sexual predators whose predations continue today. That the vast majority of the abuse cases in the United States took place decades ago is of no consequence to this story line. For the narrative that has been constructed is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure, the safest environment for young people in America today) than it is about taking the Church down—and, eventually, out, both financially and as a credible voice in the public debate over public policy. For if the Church is a global criminal conspiracy of sexual abusers and their protectors, then the Catholic Church has no claim to a place at the table of public moral argument.

The Church itself is in some measure responsible for this. Reprehensible patterns of clerical sexual abuse and misgovernance by the Church’s bishops came to glaring light in the U.S. in 2002; worse patterns of corruption have been recently revealed in Ireland. Clericalism, cowardice, fideism about psychotherapy’s ability to “fix” sexual predators—all played their roles in the recycling of abusers into ministry and in the failure of bishops to come to grips with a massive breakdown of conviction and discipline in the post-Vatican II years. For the Church’s sexual abuse crisis has always been that: a crisis of fidelity. Priests who live the noble promises of their ordination are not sexual abusers; bishops who take their custody of the Lord’s flock seriously protect the young, and recognize that a man’s acts can so disfigure his priesthood that he must be removed from public ministry or from the clerical state. That the Catholic Church was slow to recognize the scandal of sexual abuse within the household of faith, and the failures of governance that led to the scandal being horribly mishandled, has been frankly admitted—by the bishops of the United States in 2002, and by Pope Benedict XVI in his recent letter to the Catholic Church in Ireland. In recent years, though, no other similarly situated institution has been so transparent about its failures, and none has done as much to clean house. It took too long to get there, to be sure; but we are there.

These facts have not sunk in, however, for either the attentive public or the mass public. They do not fit the conventional story line. Moreover, they impede the advance of the larger agenda that some are clearly pursuing in these controversies. For the crisis of sexual abuse and episcopal malfeasance has been seized upon by the Church’s enemies to cripple it, morally and financially, and to cripple its leaders. That was the subtext in Boston in 2002 (where the effort was aided by Catholics who want to turn Catholicism into high-church Congregationalism, preferably with themselves in charge). And that is what has happened in recent weeks, as a global media attack has swirled around Pope Benedict XVI, following the revelation of odious abuse cases throughout Europe. In his native Germany, Der Spiegel has called for the pope’s resignation; similar cries for papal blood have been raised in Ireland, a once-Catholic country now home to the most aggressively secularist press in Europe.

But it was the New York Times’ front page of March 25 that demonstrated just how low those determined to bring the Church down were prepared to go.

Rembert Weakland is the emeritus archbishop of Milwaukee, notorious for having paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to satisfy the demands of his former male lover. Jeff Anderson is a Minnesota-based attorney who has made a substantial amount of money out of sex abuse “settlements,” and who is party to ongoing litigation intended to bring the resources of the Vatican within the reach of contingency-fee lawyers in the United States. Yet these two utterly implausible—and, in any serious journalistic sense, disqualified—sources were those the Times cited in a story claiming that, as cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [CDF], Joseph Ratzinger, later Benedict XVI, had prevented sanctions against Father Lawrence Murphy, a diabolical Milwaukee priest who, decades before, had abused some 200 deaf children in his pastoral care. This was simply not true, as the legal papers from the Murphy case the Times provided on its Web site demonstrated (see here for a demolition of the Times’ case based on the documentary evidence it made available). The facts, alas, seem to be of little interest to those whose primary concern is to nail down the narrative of global Catholic criminality, centered in the Vatican.

The Times’ descent into tabloid sourcing and innuendo was even more offensive because of recent hard news developments that underscore Pope Benedict’s determination to root out what he once described as the “filth” in the Church. There was, for example, the pope’s March 20 letter to the Catholic Church in Ireland, which was unsparing in its condemnation of clerical sexual offenders (“. . . you betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals”) and unprecedented in its critique of malfeasant bishops (“grave errors of judgment were made and failures of leadership occurred . . . [which have] undermined your credibility and effectiveness”). Moreover, the pope mandated an Apostolic Visitation of Irish dioceses, seminaries, and religious congregations—a clear indication that dramatic leadership change in Ireland is coming. In framing his letter to Ireland so vigorously, Benedict XVI succeeded in overcoming the institutional Vatican preference for the subjunctive in dealing with situations like this, and the pleas of Irish bishops that he cut them some slack, given the intense pressures they were under at home. That the pope rejected both curial and Irish opposition to his lowering the boom ought to have made clear that Benedict XVI is determined to deal with the problem of sexual abuse and episcopal misgovernance in the strongest terms. But for those obsessing over whether a pope had finally “apologized” for something (as if John Paul II had not spent a decade and a half “cleansing the Church’s historical conscience,” as he put it), these unmistakable signals were lost.

Then there was the March 25 letter from the leadership of the Legionaries of Christ to Legionary priests and seminarians and the Legion-affiliated movement, Regnum Christi. The letter disavowed the Legion’s founder, Father Marcial Maciel, as a model for the future, in light of revelations that Maciel had deceived popes, bishops, laity, and his brother Legionaries by living a duplicitous double life that included fathering several children, sexually abusing seminarians, violating the sacrament of penance, and misappropriating funds. It was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger who, as prefect CDF, was determined to discover the truth about Maciel; it was Pope Benedict XVI who put Maciel under virtual ecclesiastical house arrest during his last years, and who then ordered an Apostolic Visitation of the Legion of Christ that is currently being concluded: hardly the acts of a man at the center of a conspiracy of silence and cover-up.

While the Vatican has been far quicker in its recent response to irresponsible media reports and attacks, it could still do better. A documented chronology how the archdiocese of Munich-Freising handled the case of an abusing priest who had been brought to Munich for therapy while Ratzinger was archbishop would help buttress the flat denials, by both the Vatican and the archdiocese, that Ratzinger knowingly reassigned a known abuser to pastoral work—another charge on which the Times and others have been chewing. More and clearer explanations of how the canonical procedures put into place at CDF several years ago have accelerated, not impeded, the Church’s disciplining of abusive clergy would also be useful.

So, of course, would elementary fairness from the global media. That seems unlikely to come from those reporters and editors at the New York Times who have abandoned any pretence of maintaining journalistic standards. But it ought not be beyond the capacity of other media outlets to understand that much of the Times’ recent reporting on the Church has been gravely distorted, and to treat it accordingly.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Why I write about the Legion of Christ and Fr. Marcial Maciel

In response to a comment of mine on another blog, I was asked: "Why do you write about the Legion when you claim that you have put it behind you?" That's a fair question! Here is what I wrote in reply:

When I came back from Gabon, Central West Africa, in 1982 I got together with Paul Lennon, Peter Cronin and a few others to start a "network" for former Legionaries. Peter (deceased) asked me to write a few pages about my Gabon experience for the eight or so of us who were in contact. I did. Personally, at that time, I wasn't interested in an "anti-Legion" campaign (it just wasn't for me - I'm not quibbling here about the need for it) so, after Peter died I went on with my life. I had little or no contact with former Legionaries of Christ except for a few close friends who felt as I did.

We all lamented the lack of an "alumni group" for former members. For the most part we didn't "hate" the LC - don't forget I'm talking 1983. I felt the need to set up a financial foundation to help those who left, help with resume writing and job-hunting skills etc. Maybe I didn't try hard enough but I was quickly caught up with developing my own career and taking care of my family.

For me, life went on and I think I got things in perspective, made my peace with my past and let go of the anger.

My father, was quite well known in Ireland - for years many of his colleagues implored him to write a book about his life. He never did - something which I greatly regret. Along my journey, I estimate that I have addressed some 40,000 people in the conferences, training and team-building that I've delivered. Over the years I've been asked the same question - "why don't you write a book?"

Four years ago, I dug up what I wrote after Gabon. My job at a multinational was eliminated. I found myself writing at 4:30 AM. I finished and put the manuscript away for three years. I thought it was better to let it sit for a while. Then the revelations about MM hit the fan.

I decided to publish because I thought there might be some value to my stories - an eye-witness account to the early days of MM (there were only 10 LC in Mexico when I first went there.)  It's a fairly neutral account of my personal experiences - I don't pretend to judge or offer advice. I just tell my story. The editor and publisher think it interesting for people who like auto-biographies, for business people interested in leadership, for anyone interested in the LC, for Catholics, and for the general public.

In the last couple of years, I've journeyed through some LC related blogs to catch up with contemporary perceptions of the LC and check the reactions to the awful revelations about MM.

When I see the opportunity to contribute a complementary opinion I do. My perspective may be different to those who have not long experience with the Congregation - I experienced the early days (1962) and I left, breaking all ties, 27 years ago. Hence my hurt is not as fresh and I didn't live RC. I do a lot of business in Mexico, I'm Irish and I've lived in 6 countries.

My intent to be helpful in terms of sometimes offering alternate opinion.That's why I write a blog. I try to be sincere. I visit and participate in other blogs to make sure I don't get locked into my particular way of thinking. I don't pretend to condemn nor defend the Legionaries of Christ or their founder Fr. Marcia Maciel.

Sinead O'Connor and the Pope's Apology

Last night Anderson Cooper conducted an excellent interview, with Irish singer and mother of four, Sinead O'Connor.  See the interview here.

I have to confess that for an artist sometimes denigrated as being outrageous, (she tore up a picture of Pope Paul 11 on Saturday Night Live) she surprised me by presenting her case rationally and eloquently in her down-to-earth Dublin accent.

Sinead's article in the Washington Post is worth reading in terms of background. Here is some of what she relates:

I experienced this  [humiliation of children] personally. When I was a young girl, my mother -- an abusive, less-than-perfect parent -- encouraged me to shoplift. After being caught once too often, I spent 18 months in An Grianán Training Centre, an institution in Dublin for girls with behavioral problems, at the recommendation of a social worker. An Grianán was one of the now-infamous church-sponsored "Magdalene laundries," which housed pregnant teenagers and uncooperative young women. We worked in the basement, washing priests' clothes in sinks with cold water and bars of soap. We studied math and typing. We had limited contact with our families. We earned no wages. One of the nuns, at least, was kind to me and gave me my first guitar.

An Grianán was a product of the Irish government's relationship with the Vatican -- the church had a "special position" codified in our constitution until 1972. As recently as 2007, 98 percent of Irish schools were run by the Catholic Church. But schools for troubled youth have been rife with barbaric corporal punishments, psychological abuse and sexual abuse. In October 2005, a report sponsored by the Irish government identified more than 100 allegations of sexual abuse by priests in Ferns, a small town 70 miles south of Dublin, between 1962 and 2002. Accused priests weren't investigated by police; they were deemed to be suffering a "moral" problem. In 2009, a similar report implicated Dublin archbishops in hiding sexual abuse scandals between 1975 and 2004.

....Why was such criminal behavior tolerated? The "very prominent role which the Church has played in Irish life is the very reason why abuses by a minority of its members were allowed to go unchecked," the 2009 report said...

...To Irish Catholics, Benedict's implication -- Irish sexual abuse is an Irish problem -- is both arrogant and blasphemous. The Vatican is acting as though it doesn't believe in a God who watches. The very people who say they are the keepers of the Holy Spirit are stamping all over everything the Holy Spirit truly is. Benedict criminally misrepresents the God we adore. We all know in our bones that the Holy Spirit is truth. That's how we can tell that Christ is not with these people who so frequently invoke Him.

Irish Catholics are in a dysfunctional relationship with an abusive organization. The pope must take responsibility for the actions of his subordinates. If Catholic priests are abusing children, it is Rome, not Dublin, that must answer for it with a full confession and in a criminal investigation. Until it does, all good Catholics -- even little old ladies who go to church every Sunday, not just protest singers like me whom the Vatican can easily ignore -- should avoid Mass. In Ireland, it is time we separated our God from our religion, and our faith from its alleged leaders. ...

There is much that the Irish singer says that I do not agree with. However, I respect her perspective and feel that it is worthy of consideration. Of course her opinions are colored by her experiences - but, to my way of thinking, that is what makes them valuable. She makes a compelling case for why victims require "acknowledgment" of their abuse. That alone is a powerful message. Sinead's perspective is useful in the context of abuse in general, of the Irish Church in particular and of the Vatican role in the investigation of Marcial Maciel, the founder of theLegion of Christ.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Media and Blog reactions to Legionaries of Christ statements

The 25th of March is an important day for me - apart from being the feast of the Annunciation, it marks an important anniversary for me. I think it an interesting quirk of fate that 28 years after leaving the Legion of Christ I get to read two important documents, released on March 25th,  expressing apology and recognizing grievous errors. To celebrate, I took a little jaunt through the news-media and a few blogs to see how they reacted to the news.


(Reuters) - Here is an excerpt from their factual statement:
An influential Catholic priestly order whose late founder was discovered to have been a sexual molester and to have fathered at least one child apologized on Friday to victims whose accusations were ignored.
The order later found that he had lived a double life for decades and the revelations dealt a severe moral blow to the priestly order and its lay branch, Regnum Christi, which has tens of thousands of members.

In a statement believed to be unprecedented in the history of a Catholic religious order, the Legion disowned its founder: "We accept that, given the gravity of his faults, we cannot take his person as a model of Christian or priestly life."

While heading an order of priests who take vows of celibacy, he had a mistress with whom he fathered at least one child in Mexico and perhaps had two other children by another woman.
Catholic News Service says:
ROME (CNS) -- Top officials of the Legionaries of Christ acknowledged that the order's founder, the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, sexually abused young seminarians, and they asked forgiveness for failing to listen to his accusers.
The statement asked forgiveness from "those whom we did not believe or were incapable of giving a hearing to, since at the time we could not imagine that such behavior took place."

"If it turns out that anyone culpably cooperated in his misdeeds, we will act according to the principles of Christian justice and charity, holding these people responsible for their actions," it said.
FreeMalaysiaToday reported:
ROME: The Legionaries of Christ apologised today for the "reprehensible actions" of their late founder Marcial Maciel after a Vatican probe concluded he had molested seminarians and fathered children.
Last year the conservative order confirmed a report in The New York Times that Maciel had secretly fathered a daughter.

"Though it causes us consternation, we have to say that these acts did take place," it said.
The Legion of Christ is present in 22 countries, notably Mexico and Spain, and runs 12 universities. It counts 800 priests, 2,500 seminarians and 70,000 lay members."

Greg Krehbiel
Is the Legion of Christ still up to their old tricks, or are they finally learning? The answer: I’ve been following these clowns for many years now, and while I hope they are stumbling their way to stage 1 in their recovery, there’s another plausible interpretation to this.
The Legion has a history of making pre-emptive leaks and “news releases” to undercut something that’s brewing in the background. (They did it several times when the controversy about Maciel was heating up a few years ago.)
Anna Arco's Diary
 Anna starts with the heading "Maciel can no longer be considered a Christian model" Then she goes on to conclude:

At the heart of the matter lies the question, will the Legionaries of Christ be disbanded, supressed or reformed?
Landon Cody posts the documents without comment

Giselle posts Giselle posts Fr.Alvaro's letter and the Communique. She parses the letter and predictably concludes:
"In summary, that many men and women are under his theological guidance and spiritual headship is deeply troubling. The theology is unsound, the reasoning is flawed and the direction he insists upon is unconscionable. I trust that the proper authorities in the Church can read this for themselves and come to reasonable conclusions about the nature of this group. Prayers for the victims, the blinded members, and especially the anguished family members on the outside who cannot reach their loved ones. God will not be mocked, and one day the truth will out. Come Holy Spirit." With regard to the Communique she says: Obviously written under duress, saying the right words (usually) but with little acknowledgement that the mission itself is flawed. The accompanying letter to members makes it obvious that the obtuse way that they cling to their methodology as it stands corrupts their understanding of the faith. Carrying on without correcting that is the problem. The victims will be making their response known shortly. I'll let you know what they say."
Pete Vere I think is traveling - or re-writing the "Monk who stole the cow story" yet again :-).
I'm sure he will have much to say,i nspired no doubt by the "Five-Saint Novena for LC Resistance" he is praying.

There you have it. Different strokes for different folks. The news is still fresh, so expect lots more comment.

My initial reaction to the letter from Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, Director General of the Legion of Christ

Fr. Alvaro Corcuera is the "General Director" of the Legionaries of Christ.

I first met him when his parents enrolled him in the second grade, elementary school, at the Irish Institute in Mexico City which I had just helped open in 1966. My abiding memory of Alvaro, from those early days, are his sensitivity to the needs of others, the warmth of his personality and emotions and the little temper tantrums he use to throw when he was teased. I remember talking to him about those tantrums. I suggested that if he could learn to control them, when teased, it would help stop the teasing. By the end of third grade he didn't throw those particular tantrums any more.

To my recollection, he was never a great soccer player - but the Irish Institute was a very small school so everyone got to play when we competed against other schools. Alvaro always played his heart out. He gained the respect of his peers and his teachers for his determination and loyalty. I find it quite amazing that 44 years later I have such good memories of his contribution to the spirit of our school.

His parents were amazing people, highly regarded in Mexican society. I remember how closely they collaborated with the Irish Institute in the education of the two sons they entrusted to us.

When I returned to Rome to continue my studies I lost touch with Alvaro. Later, I heard he had joined Regnum Christi, the Legionaries lay movement.I wasn't surprised although, like most of my Legionary peers at that time, I was not quite sure that the RC was all about. Then I heard that Alvaro had decided to become a Legionary priest. I guess I wasn't surprised - but I admired him for abandoning the life of privilege which he probably would have lived as a member of a distinguished family to become a priest.

My career took me to New York and then Gabon. Meanwhile, Alvaro continued his studies in Rome. He was ordained in 1985, three years after I left the Legion.

I have had no contact with the Legion since then. However, when I read that he was elected General Director in January of 2006, I wrote him a short congratulatory e-mail. He responded immediately. Much to my surprise, his words moved me to tears. Suffice it to say he was very gracious as he described the impact I had on his life and vocation to the priesthood. Over the next few years, we exchanged infrequent and inconsequential e-mails. I have never met him since I left the Legion.

The Irish Institute of Mexico City celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2006. It so happens that my work as a management consultant requires lots of business trips to Mexico. I vaguely hoped, against hope, that I would be invited to the ceremony. In fact, I let my hope be known to the organizers of the gala celebratory event which took place in the historic "Chapultepec Castle." After all, the founders of the school were Fr. Amenabar from Torrelavega, Spain, Fr. John Walsh, from New Ross,Ireland, Jose Luis Diaz from Mexico and myself. When Fr. Amenabar became ill and could not continue as Director, Fr. Maciel sent me back, from Rome, to "fix everything that was wrong with the school." So I was very involved with the Irish Institute.

I was disappointed but not surprised when I was not invited. However, I was curious about the event and asked many friends who were there to give me their impressions. And here is the point of my talking about this: one and all were captivated by the warmth and interpersonal relations shown by Fr. Alvaro who came to preside the event. The often repeated comment which caught my attention was "he is a real person! So warm! Not robotic!" I got a kick out of that because it was what used to be said about me when I was a Legionary.

As the awful revelations about Fr. Maciel the Founder of the Legionaries became known I felt sorry for Alvaro. I couldn't help but think that he too is a victim. Hindsight is a great teacher but my guess is that Alvaro had to face some terrible dilemmas. His detractors are many. I suspect that most of them do not know him and do not know the sort of man that he is. I find myself thinking of this as I reflect on the letter he sent with the Legion's communique which came out yesterday (see my previous post.)

When Fr. Alvaro says in his letter "(God) He could have redeemed us by simpler paths, but he chose to have his Son laid low and humiliated to show us that if the mystery of iniquity is great, that of his merciful love is greater still" I think he clings to his deep Christian faith and belief in God's merciful love.

I personally relate to to his words "It has been a very painful time for everyone, even traumatic. The sudden uncovering of some facets of our founder’s life that were so removed from what we lived by his side, was a totally unexpected surprise for us all." I understand that people who did not know Fr. Maciel react completely differently to those of us who did. I absolutely condemn his behavior, knowing what I know now. But I understand the pain of those who for many years had no reason to suspect the reprehensible behavior that we have learned about.

My experience corroborates Fr. Alvaro's comment "As is natural, in this process of facing the historical reality and its consequences, each one has followed his own path depending on his sensitivity, cultural background and spiritual foundation." The Legion's awareness of cultural differences is long overdue - part of Maciel's legacy was to obliterate cultural differences in the name of "catholic" "integration." Alvaro goes on to acknowledge that those who have been affected by Maciel are "not [all] at the same point." So true! I see such a wide spectrum of reactions in Legionaries, former Legionaries and Regnum Christi members. We have all been affected - but we have been affected in different ways. And we are all at different stages in the "healing" process and in the management of our anger.

The last comment that I'll refer to here is "Together, we have seen that once we have all read and assimilated this page in the life of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, our task is to take a step forward, individually and as an institution, to close this chapter of our history and open a new one." I take this comment at face value. I am willing to give the Legion the opportunity to collaborate with the Holy Father, implement the recommendations that he will make following the Apostolic Visitation. They have a lot of work to do, many people to reach out to and they need to change their attitude.

I've written the above as one who has been deeply hurt by the behavior of Fr. Maciel and the "institutional conduct" of the Legion of Christ especially with regard to their treatment of former members. I don't need prophetic gifts to know that Fr. Alvaros's words will be mercilessly parsed, criticized and butchered on other blogs. That will be corroboration of his comments about everyone being at a different stage in the healing process. Personally, I choose to believe in the transformative power of God's grace. I know that the only way to heal hurt memories is through forgiveness. Through their communique and the Director General's letter the Legionaries have spoken. Many will say that their message is way overdue. Maybe that doesn't matter any more. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow may not come - all we have is today. In short order we'll see, by their deeds, how sincere Fr. Alvaro and his team really is.

Letter from Fr Álvaro Corcuera, LC, Presenting the Legion of Christ Communiqué

Link to Legionaries of Christ website where the original is posted.

Thy Kingdom Come!



Rome, March 25, 2010
Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

To the members and friends
of the Regnum Christi Movement

Very dear friends in Christ:

 Today, the solemnity of the Annunciation, offers me the occasion to send you my warm greetings. We are celebrating the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God, who wished to take for himself our human nature to expiate our sins and open for us the way back to the Father. Mystery of God’s infinite love. He could have redeemed us by simpler paths, but he chose to have his Son laid low and humiliated to show us that if the mystery of iniquity is great, that of his merciful love is greater still.

 We are practically on the threshold of Holy Week. Within a week we will enter the Sacred Triduum to accompany Christ in his so scandalously incomprehensible “hour.” The “hour of the powers of darkness” (cf. Lk. 22:53). The hour of his exaltation on the cross. The hour also, of his triumph and glorious resurrection.

 As we contemplate these ineffable mysteries we discover a hushed, motherly presence: Mary most holy. In Nazareth, Bethlehem and on Calvary, Mary is present not as a spectator but fully immersed, playing an active role in the mystery. Mary invites us to enter in, like her, accepting the part Christ wants to assign to us, because we too are co-protagonists.

 This is the context in which I want to present to you the communiqué that is being released along with this letter.

1. As you will see, the communiqué is devoted almost in its entirety to topics that in one way or another we have been talking back and forward on for over a year now. We have done so with some of you individually, and with others in larger meetings and gatherings. On several occasions I have also made sure to write to all of you together. We have prayed together many times. I also know that the Legionaries and consecrated members who serve you have done their best to be available to you, and to answer your questions and concerns as we got a better understanding of what was happening.

 It has been a very painful time for everyone, even traumatic. The sudden uncovering of some facets of our founder’s life that were so removed from what we lived by his side, was a totally unexpected surprise for us all. We were not prepared for it. We all had to go through a process of gradual assimilation, in many cases a necessarily slow one, requiring an uncommon store of human and spiritual resources, which each one has been finding in prayer, in conversation with Christ in the Eucharist, by staying close to the Blessed Mother, and in conversations with your directors, spiritual guide or your section members, family members and friends.

 As is natural, in this process of facing the historical reality and its consequences, each one has followed his own path depending on his sensitivity, cultural background and spiritual foundation. And it is just as natural that everyone is not at the same point. Some, having received a special help from grace, can say that this is now behind them, while another will still need time and prayer to finish processing and give closure to this chapter in their conscience. We have to be very considerate in respecting and understanding each one’s individual pace.

2. In recent days, I have been thinking through all of this with the general counselors and the territorial directors. Together, we have seen that once we have all read and assimilated this page in the life of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, our task is to take a step forward, individually and as an institution, to close this chapter of our history and open a new one.

 It is true that we are still awaiting the results of the apostolic visitation, whose operative phase has ended. Undoubtedly, our attitude is one of complete openness, and we will embrace supernaturally and with docility whatever the Holy Father sees fit to ask of us. But until that moment comes, which is presumably still some months away, we want to get moving, so to speak, to set out again on our way with faith and humility, and throw ourselves back into working with all our ardor in the mission the Lord has given to us at the service of the Church. The attached communiqué, besides what it means in itself, is also in function of this goal of institutional re-launching.

3. I think that if we contemplate the Blessed Mother’s example we will find in her the attitudes that ought to be ours in this historic time in which it is our lot to live. From the Annunciation in Nazareth to the mortal scene on Calvary, we see that Mary’s soul is filled with theological faith, hope, and love. These are the three virtues that God asks us to cultivate intensely. Faith that sheds light on the past. Hope that arms us with courage for the future. Love that commits us in the present.

4. Faith that sheds light on the past

 So many things happened that turned Mary’s life upside down, without her being able to understand them. Beginning with the angel’s message itself, passing through countless surprises, setbacks, mishaps and adversities, and ending in the tragic denouement – foretold certainly, but nevertheless defying all understanding, so contrary to what you could reasonably expect would be the destiny of one who was nothing less than the Son of God. What did she do?  How did she react?

 “His mother carefully kept all these things in her heart” (Lk. 2:51). She meditated on them. From the angle of faith. She meditated without understanding. She talked them over with God, not asking for reasons or explanations. She simply knew that everything was part of his plan, that he knew what he was doing and why. That was enough for her, even if she understood nothing. She meditated on it all, not to lock herself in fruitless moaning or to give herself to self-pity. It was to understand God’s plan better. To ask him for the strength to accept it. And to give herself docilely, humbly, and joyfully to fulfill it.

 On Calvary, at the foot of the cross: silence and trustful prayer. Once again, she understood nothing. It was so cruel, so degrading, so impossibly evil. But though her eyes were fogged with tears and her mind stunned with confusion, her soul radiated faith. She knew that God was carrying out his plan. And once again, she answered, “Yes.” And she went on meditating. She meditated, believing. She believed, trusting.

 I think this is the kind of faith God is asking of us. Perhaps we will never come to understand the reason for so many things that have come to light. Nor why God chose such an instrument to establish the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. Why will the Legion and Regnum Christi not be able to present the figure of its founder like other congregations and movements? God knows. We have to accept it with faith. And with faith and humility recognize that, in spite of such a great mystery, God is wiser than we are. Once again, his warning is proven true: “My ways are not your ways” (Is. 55:8).

 God asks us for faith to believe firmly that “all things work for the good of those who love God” (Rom. 8:28), and therefore, that he is preparing us for a special outpouring of grace. We have to trust that he, who has allowed things to happen this way, is sufficiently good and powerful to draw greater benefits from them. In part, we already see them. I am sure we will see many more. The Catechism teaches us that “In time we can discover that God in his almighty providence can bring a good from the consequences of an evil, even a moral evil, caused by his creatures” and that “from the greatest moral evil ever committed - the rejection and murder of God´s only Son, caused by the sins of all men - God, by his grace that ‘abounded all the more’ (cf. Rom. 5:20), brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our redemption.” At the same time, it warns us that “but for all that, evil never becomes a good” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 312).

 With faith, we must discover and accept that above all the vicissitudes that shape our past history, it is divine Providence that is really guiding our destiny. Faith helps us to truly believe it, though at times it might seem we are moving in the wrong direction, though at times our eyes might see no more than the often clumsy action of human freedom. In this past year, many factors have determined the course that the Legion and the Regnum Christi Movement have followed. One of these factors has been the actions of their directors. From a human perspective, you might think that they were more or less appropriate, or inappropriate. As I examine my own actions, given the responsibility I have, I can assure you that at all times I have tried to proceed with greatest purity of intention and maximum prudence. I have asked the Holy Spirit daily for the gift of counsel which, as you know, enlightens and perfects the virtue of prudence. I have used the help of my general counselors, of many men of the Church, and yours. We have tried to make every decision and take every step in the presence of God, trying to discern how Jesus Christ would act. But I am not infallible. I don’t know if I got it right. For certain, not in everything. The other directors also may very well have committed some mistakes among countless wise actions. But what is without doubt is that God can write straight with crooked lines. In spite of the great limitations and defects of his instruments, God has guided our trajectory in the past, and he will continue to guide us in the future. Mary’s faith assures us it is so.

5. Hope that arms us with courage for the future.

 Mary also gives us an example of hope. She never gave in to the temptation not to trust. There were terrible moments in which the future seemed to offer no way out. The angel told her she would be a mother and virgin, and she was well aware of the suspicions that this could stir up. She was told that they had to leave in haste for Egypt, fleeing from Herod’s hatred; and it is easy to guess the uncertainty and anxiety that flooded her spirit. She was told that a sword would pierce her soul and she must have endured many years under the anxiety of the prophecy that would be fulfilled. Below her Son’s cross, she was told of a new, universal motherhood…. But she learned to place herself time and again in God’s hands, with limitless hope. And God did not disappoint her hope.

 Like the Virgin Mary, we too must look to the future with great hope in God, letting no storm rob us of the optimism which is proper to the one who knows, like St Paul, that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and that all is loss compared to the experience of Christ’s love, which is the only reason for our existence.

 Trust follows faith. If we truly believe in God, his Providence, his infinite wisdom and goodness, we cannot but grasp his hand and place all our trust in him, only in him. Nothing in the future can make us fear.

 Looking to the future with theological hope means facing it with a deep sense of responsibility. It is God who willed to bring forth the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, so as to give the Church a group of apostles to humbly and passionately cooperate in the great mission of evangelization. He is not going to abandon us. He will not let us down. All he asks of us is to be holy, consistent, and responsible, so as not to let down him, the Church, society and souls.

6. Love that commits us in the present.

 Mary did not only believe and hope. Above all, she loved God. Out of love, she accepted his will at all times and she gave herself to fulfill it diligently, never thinking of herself, her comfort, her reputation, or her welfare. She cared only about loving God and doing his will.

 This is the commitment God is asking of us too, at this time. If faith shows us that all things work for the good of those who love God we have to love more, we must love without limits. And we will see how much good God will put into this world. This is what he asks of us, that we not limit or dilute our love, that we nourish it more and more every day in prayer. Let this be one of our main resolutions: to be prayerful men and women, people with a deep interior life.

 Love moves us to continue serving the Church. Unselfishly, not for the benefits it brings us.

 Love moves us to continue making a reality of the beautiful and fruitful charism that God gave us. Out of love, we seek to make it bear fruit. Out of love, we want to share it so that many others will be spiritually enriched with the gifts that we have received from him, and we will thus reach the final goal of our lives: heaven.

 Love moves us to continue walking together, supporting each other, giving our mutual understanding. Out of love, we seek to strengthen even more our unity and family spirit, the priceless treasure that gives such peace and serenity to our communities and teams.

 Love moves us to remain beside all our companions in Regnum Christi, our friends, families, benefactors, and all those whom God places on our path, so that we will be for them a Simon of Cyrene to help them carry their cross as they follow Christ.

7. Dear friends and Regnum Christi members, these thoughts are the fruit of long and deep reflection done together with the general counselors and the territorial directors, and I invite you to take them to Christ who is present in the Eucharist. There, with our hand in Mary’s, let us meditate on these things, renew our “yes” – one that is clearer, more consistent, more long-suffering and also more joyful. And let us pray that he will grant every one of us, like Mary, the grace to accept his plans with luminous faith, to look toward the future with unbreakable hope, and to commit ourselves to living in charity in every present moment.

 Very united in prayer and in the mission entrusted to all of us, I remain your affectionate servant in Christ,

Fr Álvaro Corcuera, LC

COMMUNIQUÉ from the Legion of Christ

The following is posted on the Legionaries of Christ website. I think it is an important message so I am posting it in its entirety.

March 25, 2010
Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord


As we are gathered for the annual meeting of the territorial directors with our general director, we wish to write to our brothers in the Legion of Christ, to the consecrated and all the members of Regnum Christi, our families and friends who accompany us at this juncture in our history, and also to all those who have been affected, wounded, or scandalized by the reprehensible actions of our founder, Fr Marcial Maciel, LC.

It has taken us time to come to terms with these facts regarding his life. For many, especially the victims, this time has been too long and very painful.

We have not always been able, or found the way to reach out to everyone in the way we should have, and in fact wanted to. Hence the need we feel to make this communiqué.

1. Regarding some facts in the life of our founder, Fr Marcial Maciel, LC (1920-2008)

We had thought and hoped that the accusations brought against our founder were false and unfounded, since they conflicted with our experience of him personally and his work. However, on May 19, 2006, the Holy See’s Press Office issued a communiqué as the conclusion of a canonical investigation that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) had begun in 2004. At that time, the CDF reached sufficient moral certainty to impose serious canonical sanctions related to the accusations made against Fr Maciel, which included the sexual abuse of minor seminarians. Therefore, though it causes us consternation, we have to say that these acts did take place.

Indeed, “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, […], mindful of Father Maciel’s advanced age and his delicate health, decided to forgo a canonical hearing and ask him to retire to a private life of penance and prayer, giving up any form of public ministry. The Holy Father approved these decisions” (Communiqué of the Press Office of the Holy See, May 19, 2006).

We later came to know that Fr Maciel had fathered a daughter in the context of a prolonged and stable relationship with a woman, and committed other grave acts. After that, two other people surfaced, blood brothers who say they are his children from his relationship with another woman.

We find reprehensible these and all the actions in the life of Fr Maciel that were contrary to his Christian, religious, and priestly duties. We declare that they are not what we strive to live in the Legion of Christ and in the Regnum Christi Movement.

2. The Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement in the face of these facts

Once again, we express our sorrow and grief to each and every person damaged by our founder’s actions.

We share in the suffering this scandal has caused the Church, and it grieves and hurts us deeply.

We ask all those who accused him in the past to forgive us, those whom we did not believe or were incapable of giving a hearing to, since at the time we could not imagine that such behavior took place. If it turns out that anyone culpably cooperated in his misdeeds we will act according to the principles of Christian justice and charity, holding these people responsible for their actions.

We also ask our families, friends and benefactors to forgive us, and all other people of good will who have felt that their trust has been wounded.

In addition, as members of the Mystical Body of Christ we feel the need to expiate his sins and the scandal they caused, making reparation with a Christian spirit. We ask all the members of our religious family to intensify their prayer and sacrifice.

It is also our Christian and priestly duty to continue reaching out to those who have been affected in any way. Our greatest concern is for them, and we continue to offer them whatever spiritual and pastoral help they need, hoping thus to contribute to the necessary Christian reconciliation. At the same time, we know that only Christ is able to bring definitive healing and “make all things new” (cf. Rev. 21:5).

For his own mysterious reasons, God chose Fr Maciel as an instrument to found the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, and we thank God for the good he did. At the same time, we accept and regret that, given the gravity of his faults, we cannot take his person as a model of Christian or priestly life.

Christ condemns the sin but seeks to save the sinner. We take him as our model, convinced of the meaning and beauty of forgiveness, and we entrust our founder to God’s merciful love.

3. The apostolic visitation

We wish to express our gratitude to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, not only for renewing “his solidarity and prayers in these delicate moments” (cf. Letter of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, SDB, to Fr Alvaro Corcuera, March 10, 2009), but also for offering us the Apostolic Visitation as a means to help us “overcome the present difficulties” (ibid.). Thus we hope to take the necessary steps to reinforce our foundations, formation and daily life as Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi members.

We thank the five apostolic visitators, Bishop Guiseppe Versaldi, Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez, Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati, SDB, and Bishop Ricardo Watty, MSSP, for all the work they have done with such dedication and fatherly concern.

We will embrace with filial obedience whatever indications and recommendations the Holy Father gives us as a result of the apostolic visitation, and we are committed to putting them into practice.

4. Looking toward the future

In the time since January 2005 when we held our last General Chapter and Fr Alvaro Corcuera, LC, was elected as our general director, we have striven to guide the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi in fidelity to all we have received from God and has been approved by the Church. Humbly and gratefully we acknowledge the blessings and fruits that the Lord has granted us up to now, and we accept our responsibility to deepen our understanding of our history, charism, and spirituality.

We face the future with hope, knowing that our one support is God. We trust totally in him and in his all-powerful love which, as St Paul says, “makes all things work for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28). We know that as we follow this path we will be aided by the Holy Spirit and the Church’s motherly guidance.

Our purpose as individuals and as an institution is to love Christ, live his Gospel, and extend throughout the world his Kingdom of peace and love. We know that if we are to do this we must constantly renew ourselves as individuals and as a community, in fidelity to the tradition of consecrated life, the better to serve the Church and society. The past months have helped us to reflect on our identity and mission, and they have also moved us to review various aspects of our institutional life, humbly and in all simplicity.

We are resolved, among other things, to:
- Continue seeking reconciliation and reaching out to those who have suffered,
- Honor the truth about our history
- Continue offering safety, especially for minors, in our institutions and activities, both in environments and in procedures
- Grow in a spirit of unselfish service to the Church and people
- Cooperate better with all the bishops and with other institutions in the Church.
- Improve our communication
- Continue our oversight to insure that our administrative controls and procedures are implemented on all levels, and to continue demanding proper accountability
- Redouble our dedication to the mission of offering Christ’s Gospel to as many people as possible
- And above all, seek holiness with renewed effort, guided by the Church.


We cannot end this communiqué without thanking the thousands of Legionaries, consecrated men and women and all Regnum Christi members who have given and continue to give their lives to God in the service of the Church and society with absolute generosity, and all those who work in our centers and works of apostolate. Thanks to you and your work, we can say that today Christ is more known and loved in the world. We also express our gratitude toward every person that has always been there to support us with their faith, prayers and suffering united to Christ’s.

Signed today, March 25, the solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord. Through the intercession of his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, may the Lord grant us the grace to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of the Love of God made man, and to live and share it with renewed fervor.

Fr Álvaro Corcuera, LC, general director
Fr Luis Garza, LC, vicar general
Fr Francisco Mateos, LC, general counselor
Fr Michael Ryan, LC, general counselor
Fr Joseph Burtka, LC, general counselor
Fr Evaristo Sada, LC, general secretary
Fr José Cárdenas, LC, territorial director for Chile and Argentina
Fr José Manuel Otaolaurruchi, LC, territorial director for Venezuela and Colombia
Fr Manuel Aromir, LC, territorial director for Brazil
Fr Rodolfo Mayagoitia, LC, territorial director for Mexico and Central America
Fr Leonardo Nuñez, LC, territorial director for Monterrey
Fr Scott Reilly, LC, territorial director for Atlanta
Fr Julio Martí, LC, territorial director for New York
Fr Jesús María Delgado, LC, territorial director for Spain
Fr Jacobo Muñoz, LC, territorial director for France and Ireland
Fr Sylvester Heereman, territorial director for Germany and Central Europe

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Driving straight on crooked lines

"Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: how an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind" is the title of my forthcoming memoirs.

Driving the Legion's Mercedes Benz bus around Europe and serving as driver to Fr. Marcial Maciel, Legionary superiors and a couple of Vatican Cardinals had quite an impact on how I lived my life in the Legion.

Then again, my time in the Legion had quite an impact on the rest of my life. Anyway, thinking of driving and relating it to an old saying is how I came up with the title.

"God writes straight on crooked lines" is a saying used in Portuguese and Spanish. I have also seen it attributed to Thomas Merton.

Personally, I never heard it used by Legionaries of Christ to defend themselves or their founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel.  But, then again, I lost contact with the Legion after I left.

I have noticed that people who comment on other blogs which reference the Legion of Christ and their lay movement, Regnum Christi seem to be particularly allergic to the phrase. Even though it expresses hope in the goodness and omnipotence of God, the naysayers seem to get upset. However, the saying itself is part of Christian folklore.

Here is an example of how Mary Beth Bonacci writing on Ignatius Blog understands the meaning:

"The thing about God and His writing is that we have to turn our crooked lines over to Him.  That isn't always easy.  Sometimes the crooked lines are our "fault"--we're living the consequences of our own decisions or sinfulness.  Other times the crooked lines appear through no fault of our own.  But either way, we naturally want what we want.  When our lives don't go the way we expected them to go, we tend to want to wallow in it.  We don't want to give up our own dreams, our own pictures of how we expected our lives to look."

She continues: "It isn't easy to "let go and let God."  It's hard to wrap our brains around the idea that He loves us more than even we do, and that in taking away something we want, He will often give back something still more beautiful.

But we have to let Him

There's a real power in our powerlessness before God.  When we go to Him and say "I give this situation to you. I trust you and I trust in Your love for me," He swings into action. That doesn't mean we become passive and stop doing what we need to do in the world.  But we turn the outcome over to Him, in full confidence in His love.

That's when He writes straight with the crooked lines of our lives."

Sister Sharon Schmitz, of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas writes: " 'God writes straight with crooked lines.'  I heard that line many times in my childhood/teen years, and at the time, it seemed to mean:  "Don't judge.  God can touch the least effective life and instill great meaning into it."  Not too long afterwards, I was on a sabbatical year and received a phone message asking me to consider teaching a course to prisoners.  To make a thirteen-year story short, I accepted that invitation and, as Robert Frost's poem says, "that has made all the difference." ... Fifty years later, the "line" God weaved with my life has taken me through nursing into theology and then into ministry with incarcerated women...God has written straight with the crooked lines of my life and ministry, and I couldn't be more pleased."

My memoirs tell my story - "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines" is not about the Legion of Christ or its founder. It's the story of my experiences as a Legionary in Ireland, Spain, Mexico, Italy, the USA, and Gabon. The title, I hope, speaks to hope and our ability to triumph over adversity.

Benedict XVI accepts the resignation of Irish Bishop

Today Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of Bishop John Magee of Cloyne, in Ireland. Bishop Magee stepped aside after it became known he did not follow proper child protection guidelines.

"To those whom I have failed in any way, or through any omission of mine have made suffer, I beg forgiveness and pardon. As I said on Christmas Eve 2008 after the publication report of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, I take full responsibility for the criticism of our management of issues contained in that report," Dr Magee said.

Bishop Magee once served in Rome as personal secretary to Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II.

Last March, the Voice of the Faithful, a lay group based in Boston, praised the Bishop for stepping down saying he is “an example of accountability for bishops everywhere”.

Meanwhile,  the abuse scandals continue to spread in Europe.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Time to convene the Third Vatican Council?

I didn't have time to post very much last week. Apart from business projects that sucked up most of my time, St. Patrick's day provided me with a bit of distraction and the opportunity to catch up with friends and family in Ireland.

A hot topic of conversation is the letter which Pope Benedict just wrote to the people of Ireland concerning the atrocious clergy abuse that has come to light in my island of saints and scholars.

The positive comments about the letter that I've heard refer to:

  • The Pope's words of sorrow and admiration for the abused, expressed plainly in readable, non-convoluted, intelligible language
  •  Frank language used when he addresses priest abusers
  •  His encouragement of innocent priests, suffering by association
  • His unequivocal plain talk when addressing priest abusers
  • His acknowledgment that some of his fellow bishops failed, “grievously,” made “serious mistakes,”     responsible for “grave errors of judgment,” and “failures of leadership.”
  • Encouragement to the Irish bishops to “co-operate with the civil authorities.”
  • Call for “decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency.”
However, my early impression is that the pope's apology will not contribute much to diminish the anger that Irish people, especially the young, now feel towards the Catholic Church. Therein lies an interesting question, the answer to which is also relevant to the Vatican’s handling of Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ and to the anticipated outcomes of the recent Apostolic Visitation.

In Ireland, the sticking point with the Holy Father’s letter seems to be related to the fact that he chooses to blame the sex abuse scandals on secularism and moral relativism, on the falling off of religious devotion and the failures to adhere to canon law. This is not unusual for the former Cardinal Ratzinger who has a history of seeing things from his unique, frequently rigid perspective.

My take is he is missing the mark – at least in terms of how he frames the problem for the public.

I finished high school in Ireland in 1962. At that time traditional moral absolutism reigned supreme in Irish Catholicism. Attendance at Sunday Mass and weekly confession were the hallmarks of Catholic practice in those days. I knew three of the Dublin Archbishops who allegedly covered up clerical abuse in the period covered by the Murphy Commission. By no stretch of the imagination would I describe John Charles McQuaid, Dermot Ryan, or Desmond Connell as moral relativists or secularists. Au contraire!

A second sticking point and one which concerns me the most is that I can’t find any reference in the Holy Father’s letter which might suggest that the Vatican itself played any role or bears any responsibility in the tragic events exposed by the Murphy Commission. In his letter, the Pope doesn’t even mention why his nuncio in Ireland or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith refused to cooperate with the Murphy investigation or with the investigative committee of the department of Foreign Affairs of the Irish government.

The Holy Father urges the implementation of church guidelines, and continued co-operation with the civil authorities. The fact that, at this stage of the game, he makes no mention of the systematic concealment of serious crimes from the police is upsetting, because it starting to appear that this concealment seems to have been a practice, approved by the Vatican, all over the world. As the international breadth of the scandals unfolds surely it’s time for the Pope to examine his own Vatican procedures and bureaucracies?  As he writes to the people of Ireland, Pope Benedict himself is being criticized for concealment of abuse in his native Germany.

On this blog, I try to see the glass as half full. I prefer to “light a candle rather than curse the darkness.” I have expressed by hope that the Legionaries of Christ will accept whatever recommendations Pope Benedict will make to them when he gets the results of the Apostolic Visitation.

Sometimes, I have allowed a glimmer of doubt to emerge in my musings. Does the Pope and the Vatican “get it?”  I think that is why I react when people choose to pile on the criticism of the Legionaries and their disgraced founder. It’s hard to admit the problem is much bigger than one priest and one congregation – and seems to be getting bigger by the day. The “apology” to the victims of Marcial Maciel recently offered by Legionary superior Fr. Evaristo Sada was widely criticized as insufficient. But at least he didn’t blame the sins of the father on secularism and moral relativism.

Did the Pope do a better job in his letter to the people of Ireland? Does his language offer any insight into what he may recommend to the Legionaries of Christ?

Pope Benedict, after meeting with the Irish bishops had an opportunity to reach out, as the major representative of the Catholic Church to ask humbly for forgiveness to those wronged by clerical abuse. Somehow, I do not feel that he made the most of the opportunity. Maybe he is afraid to contemplate any dilution of a very traditional notion of absolute, infallible authority? Maybe he doesn’t get it? Maybe he doesn’t quite know what to do?  I don’t know what the answer is. If I were Pope, I think I would convene Vatican Council Three.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

You know you are Irish when...

  1. You will never play professional basketball
  2. You swear fluently
  3. At least one of your cousins is a fireman, cop, bar owner, funeral home owner or holds political office
  4. And you have at least one aunt who is a nun or uncle who's a priest
  5. You think you sing very well
  6. You have no idea how to make a long story short!
  7. There isn't a big difference between crying and laughing
  8. You spent a good portion of your childhood kneeling in prayer
  9. You're strangely poetic after a few beers
  10. Some punches directed at you are from legacies of past generations
  11. Many of your sisters and/or cousins are named Mary, Catherine or Eileen ..... and there may be one with the full name of Mary Catherine Eileen
  12. You may not know the words, but that doesn't stop you from singing
  13. You can't wait for the other guy to stop talking before you
    start talking
  14. You have Irish Alzheimer's... you forget everything but the grudges!
  15. Childhood remedies for the common cold often included some form of whiskey
  16. There's no leaving a family party without saying goodbye for at least 45 minute
  17. At this very moment, you have at least two relatives who are not speaking to each other. Not fighting, mind you, just not speaking to each other.
 Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010



Bruno was born of an aristocratic family. You could see this in the way he carried himself, in his serene and confident look, in the way he elegantly folded his long legs as he sat by the bay window in our home.  Bruno, in his early years must have been forced to flee from something or somebody because he ended up at the North Shore Animal League where we rescued him in 2001.

We left the task of naming him to our youngest daughter. She agonized over myriad choices. None seemed to fit Bruno’s haughty bearing, athletic personality and his colors. A few days later, on October 6th, at Sunday Mass, it was the feast of Saint Bruno. Somewhere between the reading of the Gospels and the final blessing our new dog got his name. Saint Bruno is the founder of the Carthusian order who was noted for his learning and for his sanctity.

Like his sainted namesake, our Bruno was attracted to the eremitical life inasmuch as he did not crave the company of other dogs. He eagerly embraced a life of relative poverty, manual work, contemplation and didn’t follow any written rules. He garnered the affection of all he met. Again, like Saint Bruno, he will not be formally canonized because of his aversion to public honors. However we will remember him every day and especially on October 6th.

When I decided to write my book “Driving Straight on Crooked Lines,” Bruno kept me company in the early morning hours as I stole time from my regular workday to pen my memoirs. He kept reminding me to live in the moment and not to obsess about the past or the future. He constantly pointed out that life, in all its splendor, is lived in the here and now. The past is gone, the future has not yet come – Bruno showed me how to live in the present moment.

As he transitioned from a playful two year old to becoming a most loyal senior citizen he taught me not to take life too seriously in my hectic world. He showed me that true joy is found in the everyday, mundane details of life. He had a way of looking at me that said “You know, for all its ups and downs, life is pretty doggone good!”

Bruno, like all dogs who adopt humans, showed me how to be more human. He gave me an example of carefree joy, unwavering loyalty, and unconditional acceptance showing me that life isn’t all about me. You can get self-involved when you try to write a book, when you lose your job or you worry about your pension funds in a global recession.  That is until you have to walk, feed, belly scratch and play with your genuinely aristocratic buddy who insists on reminding you of the common courtesies so often forgotten in this man-eat-man world.

Bruno started failing a couple of months ago but he never complained. In fact he was as kind as could be with our grandchildren and enjoyed their company more than ever. Except he was more content to sit with them than to steal their soft toys.

Yesterday, my youngest daughter and I cried softly in our veterinarian’s office as we said goodbye to our friend Bruno. We’ll remember the lessons he taught us and be forever grateful that he adopted us. I think of Saint Bruno's words in a letter to his friend "The loyalty you have shown during our long and mellowed friendship is all the more beautiful and remarkable in that it is only rarely found."

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Pope, the Rider and the Elephant

Chip and Dan Heath’s new book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, shows how to speed up change processes by using psychological research on how the brain works. The book is about change. The authors drive many of their conclusions from a basic premise: our minds are driven by two components. One of these is emotional and the other is rational.

The authors relate a great story from the psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who talks about a human riding atop an elephant.

The story likens the emotional mind to an elephant and the rational mind to a rider. The force and power of the elephant directs most of our behavior, while the rider represents the rational (analytical, planning) mind sitting passively on top of the elephant thinking he's steering. The elephant has a six-ton advantage in deciding where to go! In order to achieve change, the rider needs to know where to go – and the massive elephant needs to be motivated.

The danger is when, intellectually, we decide change is needed and we set out a rational path to achieve it. Formal, executive power can help smooth the path for the elephant – but executive power alone won’t motivate the elephant. Before using power, it’s important to first align the rider and the elephant. Without motivation the elephant won’t follow the path. To change, people have to believe that they can successfully make the required change. Otherwise, they are not motivated.

I'll continue with this analogy next time. The Heath's book offers lots of good insights about the power of emotional intelligence.  In the case of the Legion of Christ, I suppose I could liken the "formal power" to the Vatican's Apostolic visitation and the recommendations that will ensue. Those recommendations will mandate a path and prepare an environment.

For the Legionaries to go down that path, forsaking Fr. Maciel, we'll need to have rider and elephant aligned. They will have to believe that they can succeed - and for that they will need our support. Judicious support now - not later. That's if we really want to help them change.

Otherwise, lecture them, berate them, condemn them, seek to disband them and anything else we can think of to sap every last ounce of motivation from them so that the elephant never goes down the path chosen by the "formal power."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Equity and Charity

An anonymous comment on my last post prompts me to suggest the following:

First this, from John Paul 11:
 "Because the 1983 Code (of Canon Law) is necessary for the Church, how important are Canon Lawyers who are thoroughly acquainted with the new legislation, who can help interpret it accurately and in conformity with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, and who can apply it with equity and charity. This is the great challenge and responsibility that belongs to those who render a vital service to the Church by properly relating it to the life and mission of the Church." (Bolded italics added.)

John Paul continues:
 "A true understanding of the role of Canon Lawyers within the ecclesial community can follow only from an appropriate consideration of the purpose of the law itself and of the Code that enshrines it. My apostolic constitution “Sacrae disciplinae leges” [16] points out, the purpose of the Code is “to create such an order in the ecclesial society, that, while assigning the primacy to love, grace and charism, it at the same time renders their organic development easier in the life both of the ecclesial society and of the individuals persons who belong to it.” In this sense the Code is an “indispensable instrument” of the Church’s life and vitality."

With all due respect to the Vatican, I don't think their English translation of the Pope's own document does justice to what he wrote in the original Latin:

"Quae cum ita sint, satis apparet finem Codicis minime illum esse, ut in vita Ecclesiae christifidelium fides, gratia, charismata ac praesertim caritas substituantur. Ex contrario, Codex eo potius spectat, ut talem gignat ordinem in ecclesiali societate, qui, praecipuas tribuens partes amori, gratiae atque charismati, eodem tempore faciliorem reddat ordinatam eorum progressionem in vita sive ecclesialis societatis, sive etiam singulorum hominum, qui ad illam pertinent."

Here is a more accurate translation (italics mine):

Canon law "is in no way intended as a substitute for faith, grace, charisms, and especially charity in the life of the Church and of the faithful. On the contrary, its purpose is rather to create such an order in the ecclesial society that, while assigning the primacy love, grace, and charisms, it at the same time renders their organic development easier in the life of both the ecclesial society and the individual persons who belong to it."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

We cannot eliminate suffering

I just came across this quotation from Pope Bendict's encyclical "Spe Salvi." I confess I have not yet read the full document but this observation on suffering caught my eye:
We can try to limit suffering, to fight against it, but we cannot eliminate it. It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness, that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater. It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love (n. 37).

Beyond the Pale

I've had some exchanges with Pete Vere most recently with regard to his comments about Maciel's alleged "final impenitence."
 He says: "To answer Monk's question, is it beyond the pale to speculate about Maciel's visible actions alleged on his death bed?  I would agree if  Maciel was merely a lone individual acting out his perverse fantasies - or nightmares, when one looks at the situation through the eyes of his victims.
However, Maciel was the founder of a large religious order and its lay auxiliary. He offered the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christ his (not His) methodology as a sure means of holiness and path to eternal salvation. Let's assume, for the sake of the argument, that LC and RC are reporting accurate membership numbers. That's 72,000 souls who have staked their eternal fate on the spiritual path revealed to them by Maciel."

I guess my objection to Pete's line of reasoning is when he states "Maciel's visible actions alleged on his death bed."   "Alleged" by whom? The only report I've seen is from a Spanish newspaper called "El Mundo." That's not sufficient, in my judgment, to propagate what is essentially a rumor - especially with the "pondus" attributed to Pete's profession as Canon Lawyer.

Pete gets he right when he states later on: "Of course nobody but God is competent to judge Maciel's eternal destination. And given that Maciel's canonization is unlikely in the future, we will never know in this lifetime where he ended up in the next."

I agree with him when he urges us to "pray that he made his peace with God in his final moments. More importantly, let us pray that his victims make their peace with God before going on to the next life."

With regard to "72,000 souls who have staked their eternal fate on the spiritual path revealed to them by Maciel" I think he is completely off the mark. In my experience with RC members I think it's gross overstatement to suggest that they "stake their souls" on Maciel's spiritual path.

What I am saying here is not to be construed as a defense of Maciel, the Legion or the Regnum Christi. I am as repulsed by MM's repugnant behavior as anyone. While the AV is still underway, and until I hear their results and recommendations I prefer to hold my fire. Despite my disagreements with the LC, as I write, they are still considered a bona fide religious congregation in the Catholic Church. Even though they were never there for me, after I left, I fail to see what good can be achieved by me ripping them asunder before all the facts about them are in. That's not the same as defending them. I believe they will be "re-founded" with a new name, constitution, outside governance and canonical structure. Maybe they can survive.  I am not sure how many souls have been lost to their "methodology." Perhaps Pete does? Meanwhile, I do think we can negatively impact an already super-sensitive situation in the Church with intemperate remarks. And we need to pray for the men and women of the LC/RC.

Marcial Maciel is a different kettle of fish. I have enough "facts" and personal experience to condemn him and repudiate his behavior. But propagating allegations about his "final impenitence" is still beyond the pale.

Lawyers in Mexico Legion of Christ sex abuse case resign

I just checked Mexican lawyer Jose Bonillas's Spanish language blog for any updated comment on the following news story. As of this morning, there is nothing new. Withdrawing from this particular "case" (no charges were filed) enhances his firm's credibility in my view. According to news reports, he continues to support the family.


"MEXICO CITY — A Mexican lawyer said Monday he has resigned from handling the case of a woman and her sons who claim the males were sexually abused as boys by the founder of a conservative Roman Catholic religious order.

Lawyer Jose Bonilla said he and a team of other lawyers who had represented the family would no longer do so, after one of the sons acknowledged he had asked the order for $26 million to keep quiet about the case.

"I know they were sexually abused by their father. This is a truly grave, lamentable situation," Bonilla said. "I always told them ... that they have a right to damages for moral and sexual abuse, but they have absolutely no right to ask for money from anybody in exchange for their silence."

While saying his team could not be part of that, Bonilla said of the family, "I wish them well in this fight with all my heart."

The case involves the Rev. Marcial Maciel, the deceased founder of the Legionaries of Christ."

Jose Raul acknowledges asking the Legion of Christ for $26,000,000

From the Post-Bulletin, E. Eduardo Castillo, AP story:

"MEXICO CITY — A man who says he is the abused son of the founder of a conservative Roman Catholic religious order acknowledged Friday he asked the group for money to keep quiet.

Jose Raul Gonzalez said he asked The Legionaries of Christ for $26 million because the Rev. Marcial Maciel had promised him and his brothers a trust fund when he died and as financial compensation for Maciel's alleged sexual abuse."

Monday, March 8, 2010

We are shaped by our past

Writing my stories about my time in the Legion of Christ and my personal experience with the Founder,  Fr. Marcial Maciel made me aware that our past never leaves us.  I think that the ability to reconcile myself with my past is an important part of psychological well-being. It is important to be able to celebrate one's past. My "past" is the warehouse of memories that have formed me, shaped me, and prepared me for worlds far beyond the one in which I grew.

The following quote from  a new book by Sister Joan Chittister and Archbishop Rowan Williams hits the nail on the head:

"The past is even more than its treasury of the yesterdays that marked us with their sadness and deprivations and struggles and lingering flashes of the first meanings of love. The past is all we know of the possibilities we each harbor within us. The past burns into our flesh, like a flaming brand, the awareness that what we have survived before, bested before, done before, we can do again.

The best proof we have against destruction and despair is our memories of having wrestled with life before now — and prevailed. These are what sustain the young woman, a long-ago incest victim, who begins to recognize as part of her healing that, whatever the trauma she’s been through, she is, after all, a survivor. These are what go with the man who withstood taunts about his thick glasses from the other children in school to become the class valedictorian years later, who knows that he has been freed of any allegiance to the emotional control of others. These are the mainstay of the young widow who was raised by her widowed mother and knows that she can do it, too, and that her children will be no worse developed by the specter of the broken family because she herself is not.

Why bother to remember the past? Because the past is the one proof we have that the present is possible.

In the final analysis, then, the past is an alleluia for graces then unknown and now full of meaning. “Even though you intended to do harm to me,” Joseph says to the brothers who, out of rivalry for their father’s love, sold him into slavery in Egypt, “God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.”

Every moment of life is an alleluia moment for the past. One of the major graces of life is to come to realize that."

from Uncommon Gratitude: Alleluia for All That Is by Joan Chittister and Archbishop Rowan Williams (Liturgical Press)

Like everyone else, some of my memories are painful. I have found that the only way to heal painful memories is through forgiveness. Without forgiveness there is no reconciliation.