Thursday, April 8, 2010

Legionaries of Christ: Leadership challenge

I was a legionary from 1962 - 1982, when the congregation was really just getting off the ground. During that time and despite close collaboration with Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder, I never saw anything to make me suspicious of the awful things we now know about him. I’ve checked with many of my peers (ex LCs) and they all share this perception. This must sound hard to believe in the light of what we now know. However, that’s why I am forgiving of those who openly defended Maciel before the facts were proven. Was I aware of his flaws and him manipulation before I left? Sure. But I honestly never saw anything nor heard any credible rumor to alert me to what I now know.

Whatever demons drove the man must have gone into overdrive from the early 1980s onward - maybe the fact that he was allegedly abused as a young child, plus the combination of a narcissistic personality combined with his charisma and the adulation of his followers led him to believe that he was beyond good and evil. May the Lord have mercy on him. His victims are Legion.

I fear that the legion debacle may be just the tip of the iceberg. The Vatican has never been immune to influence peddling (what government/politician is not?) It does not have 21st century management systems in place and its ability to manage public relations is woefully deficient.

There remains an underlying clericalism in the Vatican and the Church despite the winds of change ushered in by Vatican II. This clericalism is something of a tribal mentality, common to many religions, an urge to protect our own against the “world.”

In the early days at least Maciel saw the imperative of getting “lay” people more involved in the workings of the Church. He talked of the “people of God journeying together towards the Father.” The vision seemed right, the implementation obviously wrong. But through Regnum Christ, the lay movement of the Legion, tens of thousands of committed lay people are now involved on a level unheard of before Vatican II.

Bottom line, to remedy what ails us we need to move away from the “clerical” model that has plagued our Church. It is no longer enough to blame the Pope, the Bishops and the clergy. If the Maciel scandal helps the Church face these huge issues, then he may have served a useful purpose after all. The challenge facing Pope Benedict is one of leadership. May the winds of the Spirit be at his back.


Anonymous said...

"If the Maciel scandal helps the Church face these huge issues, then he may have served a useful purpose after all."

Oh, well then thank God for Fr. Maciel!

Perhaps it would also serve a "useful purpose" if someone murdered all the cardinals who accepted bribes from Fr. Maciel?

the Monk said...

One of the reasons we have "dogma" in the Church is because we've had heretics who helped us clarify our thinking and purify our beliefs. Not sure why it would occur to you to murder all the Cardinals? I don't think you'd get away with blaming that on Maciel ;-)

Anonymous said...

Interesting how you seem to think the perversion started sometime in the 80's when Maciel got full of himself. ! But that does not explain the "Great Blessing " nor the abuse of minor's way back into the 60's! Or the first investigation
Did you notice anything about his closeness with a selected, chosen few who were always with him, from what we read ?

The Monk said...

No. I don't know where you get that I think his perversion started in the 1980s. I said something went into overdrive after I left. I don't believe it started then - I think it just got more bizarre.

What you term the "Great Blessing" was before 1962 - in the fifties, I think.

I was not aware of the abuse of minors in the sixties (I'm not denying it) - I thought the first credible allegations happened before 1962. Please let me know if I am wrong.

About the selected chosen few you mention - if you are referring to victims of abuse, no I never saw anything. I worked for a while with Fr. Vaca. He never said or indicated anything to me and I never saw anything strange between him and Maciel. I also worked - for a much longer time - with Juan Manuel Fernandez and continued as his friend after he left the Legion. He never mentioned it and I never saw anything suspicious (with regard to abuse.) Likewise, Fr. Miguel Diaz. The other (original) victims had left before my time.

Please do not construe this as my denying abuse. Most categorically I am not. I am giving you a truthful answer to what I think is an honest question. I was particularly close to Maciel during the founding of the Irish Institutes (Mexico City and Monterrey), the Anahuac University, Mano Amiga and the Alpha Omega family center (he entrusted the design of it to me and a few others.) I served as his driver and I traveled with him in commercial and private planes. Never saw or suspected anything with regard to the abuse of minors. That's why I am sympathetic to "outsiders" who defended him. It's also why, I think, those who actually knew him personally (at least in my time)are quite flabbergasted with the revelations. It's no longer a question of not believing them - it is trying to understand how he managed to pull off such massive deception. Hope this answers your question.

Anonymous said...

Well answered Monk, just proves how adept he was at deception and how , from that prespective, it is understandable so many looked up to, and even were in awe, of him.
These poor victims have no one to turn to, have no shouder to cry on, and no doubt were totally committed to a much higher ideal in giving up everything material and emotional to serve God.
What becomes of them? Can they be convinced even now that Maciel was as devious as he appears to have been ? Do some of them still doubt the allegations, do you think ? Or athey too brainwashed ?