Friday, March 5, 2010

An Adventist Pastor reflects on the Legion of Christ

Bill Cork is pastor of the North Houston and Spring Creek Seventh-day Adventist churches in  Texas, and a chaplain in the Texas Army National Guard. He grew up Adventist, served as a Lutheran pastor, became a Catholic and eventually returned to his Adventist roots. He has just written a thoughtful piece on the Legionaries of Christ and the scandals surrounding their founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel. You can see his posting here.

Bill raises the interesting question of "Charisms of Founders.' "If Maciel had no spiritual gift," "If his spirituality and his order was a cloak for his secret sins."  Excellent questions.

I knew Maciel from 1962 to 1982. My take is that, at least, during that time the congregation was not a cloak of his secret sins. He did indeed seem to have a spiritual gift - a gift that was sanctioned officially by the Church.  I commend Bill for his pastoral and charitable tone - unlike some Catholic blogggers who seem steeped in bitterness and hell-bent on retribution, Bill asks good questions without a hasty rush to judgment on all things Legionary.

In the history of the Catholic Church we have had several "unholy Popes." We accept they were sinful men but that God, somehow, used them to do good - at the very least to pass on the "apostolic succession." Thanks to the internet we probably know more about the private life and alleged sins of Fr. Maciel than of any other Founder in the history of the Church.  Hopefully the Apostolic Visitation, currently being conducted on the Legion will provide some answers to Bill's questions. If not, history will eventually render its judgment. Right now we are all feeling more heat than light.

Here are some of Bill's comments:

"Because of Catholic theology about charisms of founders, this all has grave implications for the order he founded. If he had no spiritual gift, if his spirituality and his order was all a cloak for his secret sins, if all the manipulation and control and secrecy was rooted in his own duplicitous life–is there anything good to be saved?

There is a lot of anger surrounding these questions among former members of the Legion and Regnum Christi–rooted in the grief that comes from realizing that they were betrayed and hoodwinked and manipulated by a consummate professional. These members were (and are) good people, sincerely desiring to follow Christ. They were attracted to the Legion and Regnum Christi because it seemed to be the real thing. Here was an order that affirmed the validity of Vatican 2, professed faithful obedience to the pope, taught Catholic theology without apology, and had evangelistic zeal. It seemed to be just what the Catholic church needed in the wake of the chaos that followed Vatican 2. During the pontificate of John Paul II it was lifted up as a shining example of the “new evangelization.”

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